"I work all year round but you can almost be doing that and not be on the right radars."
in 2016, within the first six months of pursuing a career in comedy, Kelly Convey reached the final of So You Think You're Funny? and in less than twelve months had signed to Off The Kerb who also look after Jack Dee, Jo Brand and Michael McIntyre.
As well as tour support for Alan Carr and Russell Kane, Kelly is determined to make 2019 her year as she heads to Edinburgh with her debut hour Telephone Voice, which sees her travel back in time to her errant teenage years, through her high-flying twenties as an executive, right up to the life-changing decision to become a comedian in her thirties.
During our chat, she talks about her journey into comedy, why she prefers the longer sets and the truth behind why she thinks that infamous First Dates date went so wrong.
How did you first get into comedy? Because it all happened quite quickly didn't it?
Yeah, it went super quick! I did my first open mic night in 2016 and it was the first time that i'd ever stood on a stage and done anything like that and it was almost as if a lightbulb went off and I realised that this is what I wanted to do.
I'd had lots of jobs, lots of amazing jobs but nothing ever really fitted me like this did. From that point on I just gigged every single night of the week and within six months I was in the finals of all the competitions which the agents came to see and the following March, Off The Kerb signed me!
It took off really quickly because I started getting pro gigs really early on and when they asked me if I had half-an-hour of material I just used to say yes not really realising how much out of my depth that would take me.
But that's probably made me a much better comic because I had to run before I could walk, suck it up and get on with it. I started to develop much longer sets, it all went from strength to strength and I'm so fortunate to be signed with Off The Kerb who enabled me to go on tour with people like Alan Carr and Russell Kane.
Did Russell give you any advice ahead of your Edinburgh debut?
Russell is so meticulous with everything, down to the shape of the room, the height of the stage and so many considerations that I would actually hate to be inside his head. He's got a bazillion things going on but every time I work with him I learn something new.
I never considered that a really high stage is actually a real disconnect from the audience and whether the audience are sat on the sides or not. So this year in Edinburgh I'm on a stage - well I'm on the floor - and the room is round so that should be in my favour.
There are just so many tips from him and from Alan (Carr) actually. They're really supportive and don't even realise how much they teach me every time I gig with them. I'm just so fortunate.
Why have you chose to debut in Edinburgh this year?
I think it's the right time to do it and in the best possible kind of way, I just want to get it out of the way. Three years in, I've got my material that I've been working on, some of my jokes are jokes that I've been telling for a while now. It's funny, because I've been doing a few previews and the newest jokes are the ones that are getting the biggest laughs and I'm really happy about that.
It's time to get that story out and time to say "I'm here. This is me." because it is about how I've got to be a comedian. I honestly just think it's time to stand up on the stage and get properly and critically assessed and scrutinised because I work all year round but you can almost be doing that and not be on the right radars.
I feel like I am, but I feel like in Edinburgh you get visited by the TV lot who are not coming to my gigs in Swansea. I was actually keen to do it last year but my agent was like "Not yet mate. Not yet." and I'm quite glad that he did say that now.
I went up and did a small work-in-progress under the radar, wasn't even in the programme, and I soon learnt that I really did need to do a year up there getting to grips with how hard it is. So I'm glad I didn't do it last year but I'm glad I don't have to wait another year.
How long have you been working on this year's show for?
Well there are some jokes in there from my early days, but they have evolved and my material has definitely evolved. When I first started out I was single, whining about that which looking back is so cringey - but now it's a lot more positive, I'm in a relationship and my material is a lot broader and more people will be able to connect to it.
Before it was "I'm single. Wah wah wah." so I'd probably say the main crux of the material has come together over the last two years. The actual storyline has come about in the last year which is when I worked out where all that material is going. Where it starts and where it goes.
Have you enjoyed filling the Edinburgh hour?
I've very fortunate in that I do long sets a lot so I personally have no fear about being on the stage for that long. I know it does seem like a really long time to a lot of people and I think that's the benefit of gigging for Kerb - the length of it doesn't worry, it's the clarity of the narrative running through it that does because I want to do it justice. I want to make sure that there's a real storyline running through it and that it's not just an hour of stand-up pieced together.
How have the previews been going?
Good. The previews are coming out at about 47/50 minutes. I know there's more tweaking that needs doing. I was late in doing my previews because I've been on tour so I came in late to the game but made sure I had loads booked in in the run up to Edinburgh.
So the time I get up there it should be bulletproof. I'm feeling quietly confident.
Why have you called the show Telephone Voice?
Across the hour you learn that I grew up in a Chatham, in a working class family and I was a chav in my teenage years. I didn't really have aspirations until out of the blue I went to university and moved to London.
And when I moved to London I realised that not saying your words properly, dressing in chains and massive golden earrings wasn't actually that cool. In Chatham that was what you did but in London people would look down on you so I changed, worked as an Executive in the TV industry and it just wasn't acceptable so I would enunciate my T's and speaking in a voice to fit in.
It was only when I did stand-up that I realised that I was even doing that. I was putting on this telephone voice to appease other people's expectations and I felt that I wouldn't get respect if I spoke in my normal accent.
But when I went on stage to do stand-up, you haven't got anything to hide behind so my natural accent came out which was almost a bit of a shock to me because I hadn't really heard it in a while. In comedy it's probably better not to pretend to be someone that I'm not, people take you at face value and I'm more accepted because of who I am and the fact I come from Chatham.
So that's why I've called the show Telephone Voice, because it talks about that.
What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh?
Finishing it! (Laughs) No... just doing my show every day. I know it sounds really cheesy but to have the opportunity to build a fanbase every day and do my show, which is all mine, and become a better comedian - that's key for me.
Of course I worry about audiences but I'm sure it'll be filled. I want to grow my audience so that when I'm touring around the rest of the country and people see my name, they know who I am.
I have to talk about it... First Dates. Looking back on it, how did you find that experience?
My date went viral which was really interesting. When we were filming and went back to do the interviews, the producers and everyone kept asking me if I was OK and couldn't believe that he had said those things and i was like "Oh, he's just like most of the guys I grew up with" I wasn't upset about it.
I don't have any regrets about going on there. It's actually given me some material which is great. I'm now engaged and watched the episode when it aired with my now fiancé so it's all worked out well in the end. He was just a dick, he didn't have anything going on and I've got quite an impressive CV.
What they didn't show, was me telling him everything that I've done and he told me that all he did was sit around at home so I think he felt a bit intimidated by me because of that. So all he had left to do was try and bring me down a bit. They didn't really show that bit because that was the lead-up to him telling me that being a comedian isn't really a job.
I actually went on two dates but they didn't air the second one... which was just as bad! They didn't match me properly. I'd applied to go on there so many times because I love the show and it was such a great experience, but they didn't accept my application until I started doing comedy - suddenly they were really interested.
Funnily enough, both dates they hadn't matched me with someone that I'd asked for. So I think they were expecting some sort of funny outcome from it, but it was just a disaster. I got a great joke out of it and that's all I need.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
I've been working on a sitcom for a while but these things take a long time to happen, but that's in the pipeline. I'm trying to utilise my daytimes more and do more podcasts. I've actually got my own podcast idea that's being pitched. Everything's in pitch stage but hopefully at least one of these things takes off to keep me busy.
There's never a dull moment that's for sure! And on top of that I've just moved house and trying to plan a wedding at the same time. I already know the name of my show for next year, it's going to be Say Yes to the Stress.
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
A Chatham girl done good.
Kelly Convey: Telephone Voice runs from 31st July - 25th August (not 14th) at 7pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker One). Book tickets here.