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I TALK TO Luke Kempner

Luke Kempner has been performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since 2013, twice with The Only Way Is Downton and then with a brand new hour every year since 2016. Despite the busiest year of his career so far, I'm delighted that Luke is back with a brand new show, House of Faces.

Every time we speak, you seem to have had an even busier year than the one before, with even more telly work...

Yeah definitely! It feels like this year has been the busiest year profile and career wise. I do feel like it's built each year which is great and the way you want it to go.

The Imitation Game which I filmed for ITV that comes out in the autumn, is going to be the biggest thing I've ever done. That's a panel show hosted by Alexander Armstrong for impressionists and I'm in two episodes.

The impressionists that are on it are Alistair McGowan, Rory Bremner, Jan Ravens, Debra Stephenson and then there's little old me on there! It's one of those things that's really exciting and makes you feel like you've really arrived.

I've also just finished doing The Week That Wasn't on Sky One which was an amazing experience to be part of a topical show and working so closely with Alistair McGowan and Jess Robinson and having to write topical material every day, learn new voices all the time and produce a show every week. It's been an amazing experience and a real learning curve.

Last time we spoke you said that the reason you keep coming back to Edinburgh is to develop as a comedian. You wanted to include more stand-up last year for example, how have you moved the show on this year?

Again, it's just taking another step forward. I still like the fact that I can show each side of me. I can show the side that does stand-up and my thoughts about what it's like to be a 30 year-old, but I also love my characters and I love doing sketches.

My happiest is when I'm on Big Brother doing my story with all the characters in it. I listened to a really good interview with James Acaster where he talks about how he made a decision to just do what he enjoys doing. And what I enjoy doing, is that narrative led sketch with characters and impressions.

I've got quite a few sketches in the show this year, more than last year, where they're each a little story within themselves. So that's a big part of the show but so is the stand-up.

What is the show about this year?

The whole show is about me learning about my obsession and love of TV, which is why I think your website 'I Talk Telly' would have been quite a good name! And also how I find that I can just never switch off because I'm always looking at new people on TV, always watching TV and even in my downtime I'm thinking of my own versions of TV.

What would it be like if Donald Trump suddenly did his own Celebrity Apprentice in the UK? What would it be like if the characters in Game of Thrones were on This Morning? My imagination is constantly running wild with these things and this is my show to show all of that.

Why did you decide to call this year's show House of Faces?

It's House of Faces because when I was watching Game of Thrones, there's a brilliant scene where it's the 'House of Many Faces' and Arya Stark is in there and there are just all these faces of these people in this giant almost dungeon.

For me, I was like that is what the inside of my head is like! All these different faces and all these different characters, whether they're my mother-in-law and my uncle or they're Alan Carr and Mr Carson. People always say to me "How do you remember all those voices?" and I sort of imagine it like the 'House of Faces' where I just put on that face now and do my Andy Murray impression.

I think your poster this year does a great job at showing what you've just said. You seem to take a real interest in your poster, would that be fair to say?

Yeah, it's really important to me and I've got a wonderful designer and for me it's about how do I represent what I do as a comedian? For me what I do as a comedian is I play fifty characters as well as myself. So with last year, and this year, and even with the Judi Dench show before that, yes it's all me, but it's all little different characters or versions of me.

So I do take massive care over my poster and I'm really proud of it because I think it just completely represents who I am as a comedian.

Come on then... Who can we expect to hear from in House of Faces?

There are always the old favourites; Jeremy Kyle, Alan Carr and Andy Murray. But there are quite a lot of new ones this year. There are a load of people from Game of Thrones, there's Phillip Schofield which is new this year and I'm particularly proud of, there's Prince Harry, there's the Queen, there's Meghan Markle. There's lot of Iain Stirling from Love Island...

I was going to ask you about Iain. I know how close friends you've always been with him. Is it strange to now be doing impressions of one of your best mates on stage?

It is weird. It's so weird! I remember doing an impression of Iain about four years ago and him saying to me (puts on Iain Stirling voice) "Maaaaate, it sounds nothing like me. People always think they can do it, but they can't." and I was like "Mate, one day you'll be famous enough for me to be able to do that impression." And now he is!

It's weird. Even writing him into my show and writing Iain Stirling as a line in my script is so weird. But it also feels normal. It feels like I should absolutely write him in as a character. This year is the first year that I'm putting him in my show because it's so difficult with impressions to write characters that everyone knows, but this year Love Island has been bigger than ever before!

I've also got a whole bit about Queer Eye in the show but not everyone will have seen it, so you have to make it accessible to everyone. This is the first time that I can do an impression of Love Island and enough people will know what that show is about, even without having to watch it religiously.

Out of the new characters, who's taken the longest to master?

It depends really but someone like Phillip Schofield, I struggled with a little bit to find his voice. I found that I ended up talking quite a lot like Jeremy Kyle the whole time! But then I just found that (starts to put on Phillip Schofield voice) if I put it slightly further at the back of the throat, make it a little bit more concerned, then he starts to sound a little bit more like Phillip Schofield.

So he's been really fun. Having him talk to Jon Snow on This Morning, "OK Jon, so you've lost your dragon. How do you expect to get it back by coming on This Morning?" Finding those little ways in has meant that I've ended up having a lot of fun with it.

Because of what we were saying earlier and how busy you've been, has it been more difficult to write this year's show?

It's been really difficult. It's like having to put together a project that you work on for eight months, but most people have to do that without having to do a full-time job on the side of it. Which is what I've been doing.

It's been really hard to get the show ready, but because I started so early, in January, I was ahead of the game with a lot of stuff and working with Ben Clark who directs my stuff who's an absolute genius at structure and giving little tips. Having Ben to work alongside has helped me a lot and he's directed my last two shows.

The Sky show finished on Thursday so I've got a solid amount of time to work on it before I get up there so I'm confident it's going to be all good!

If next year is even busier than it has been year, can you see yourself not coming back to Edinburgh?

I will always try and make time because as I said to you last year, it just improves me as a comedian each year and my shows get better each year. This year I've really made sure that I'm not going into a show not happy with it all.

Eventually, I want to be touring the UK doing live shows. And when I did the Downton show I went over to America so I still have all those ambitions to do live comedy. That's why I come back every year, because it keeps me churning out new material.

But look, if I'm in a position next year where I could be doing this show on tour and can sell enough tickets, then that's what I would love to do.

What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh?

My favourite thing is performing comedy every night and once the show is completely in there and in your head, and you're starting to find little new things each night, and you're playing with the audience and you feel like they're in the palm of your hands, there's no better feeling.

I'm just pumped to get there now. I'm really excited to be in the same room at the same time as I was last year because it means you're not getting up there not knowing what your room's going to be like.

I had such a good time in Edinburgh last year and I'm hoping that it will be even better this year.

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?

I am looking forward to seeing my sister, Sooz Kempner. She's done a brilliant show every year. I'm looking forward to seeing Suzi Ruffell again. She just gets better and better and better.

I'm also looking forward to seeing Steen Raskopoulos because he's a really good friend of mine and I adore what he does. So they're my top three!

There's been no Big Brother this summer which has meant you've been free to watch and do some work around Love Island... Has that felt odd?

It's been really interesting because I get a lot of people online who go "Oh it's not as good as Big Brother" or "How can you watch both?" - but for me, I love reality TV. And I love all kinds of reality TV.

The thing with Love Island is that I've always watched it, but sort of a little bit in secret. Whereas this year I've been a bit more public in tweeting about it and doing videos on it because I love it and it's one of the most popular shows out there!

I've got no shame in having been on their podcast a couple of times and for me there's no crossover with Big Brother because for me they're two different shows.

Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?

I've got The Imitation Game in the autumn on ITV. I've recently filmed a short series for Comedy Central called Modern Day Horror Stories and there are some other sketch comedians in that.

And then I'm in talks with some other big shows which annoyingly I can't talk about...

You've also got your monthly comedy night, Your Comedy Friend at 2Northdown, will you continue to do that?

Absolutely man! It's been the last Sunday every month and that's been amazing to build me as a comedian. It's been really integral in me developing this year. I'm moving it to the last Thursday of every month as of September so more people can come. I can't wait to sell it out and I definitely want to keep doing it. I love it.

Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?

Inventive. Honest. Funny. Energetic. Surprising.

Luke Kempner: House of Faces runs from 1st - 27th August (not 14th) at 4:45pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Beside). Book tickets here.


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