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I TALK TO Maisie Adam

18 months ago Maisie Adam decided to become a comedian and this year she's one of the many promising newcomers debuting their first hour at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

© Steve Ullathorne

I caught up last year's So You Think You're Funny winner to find out more about her debut hour Vague as well as how her unconventional route into comedy has actually better prepared her for the Fringe.

For someone who's only recently decided to become a comedian, you can't complain about the start you've had can you?

It's been all 100 percent unexpected and I can't believe how fast it's taken off! Going from my first gig to So You Think You're Funny which I entered just to gage where I was on the scale. I thought if I could get to the semi-finals that would be good to put on the poster.

So to win was just unbelievable!

And the prize was to put on an Edinburgh show this year. Do you feel ready or has it all come a bit too soon?

Completely! When I entered, I knew that that was the prize. Part of the reason I entered was for the title and the exposure, but also to get a run at the Fringe. It's so expensive to put something on at the Fringe so I didn't think I'd be able to do it unless I'd applied for something like that.

There were a few prizes but that was the one that I was most chuffed to have got really. It was only after that that I was saying "I can't wait to go up next year with a show" and loads of people were like "You're going up already?! Within the next year?!" and I was like "Yeah, of course. Why wouldn't I? That was the prize."

It was only then that people told me others take a year or two to warm up to it. But to be honest with you, if I did do that, I'd just spend all of this August thinking "Why aren't I up there with a show?"

I've got something to say and I'm ready.

What is it you've got to say?

It's about when I was 14, and I was diagnosed with epilepsy. And those years between 14 and 18 where you just want to do everything that your friends are doing.

Those reckless years, having your first night out together, your first holiday with your mates, festival, all of that... but trying to navigate that recklessness of youth whilst balancing this condition. A condition that asks you to be a lot more sensible and not drink alcohol, make sure you get eight hours sleep and to not have late nights.

I did it last night and people were coming up to me after the preview and telling me that it was totally relatable. Even though they weren't also epileptic which was a big relief.

There's a lot of nostalgia in it, a lot of looking back on those great teen years and also university and young adult life as well. It recaps for me the last ten years.

How did you come up with the title, Vague?

It comes from when I was diagnosed and I asked the doctor "What can I expect?" because I had no idea what being epileptic meant and he said that I would experience "vague episodes from time to time" which I thought in itself was pretty vague information.

What on earth is a vague episode? I think it's fair to say that everyone has probably had a vague episode in their whole life. You can call anything a vague episode in your work life, in your personal life so that's where the idea stemmed from.

Have you enjoyed filling the Edinburgh hour?

I've not been that conventional in how I got into comedy so when I applied for my local Fringe, they allowed me to have a spot there and they gave me an hour-long spot. I didn't think anything of that. I didn't think that was un-normal.

When I go and see a comedian at the theatre, they do a whole show so I thought that's what you do! I had no idea that you're meant to start with five minutes, work your way up to 10 and so on. My first gig was 40-odd minutes with a bit of chat at the start or the end and then I kept working on that 40 minutes and it became and hour and I took it to every Fringe festival apart from Edinburgh last year.

So actually, I find it a lot easier to do an hour than I do five minutes. I find five minutes really hard.

So in many ways, your unconventional route into comedy has prepared you better for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe than the conventional route?

Literally! I honestly think that if I had gone the conventional way and did five-minute spots and working my way up to 10, I don't think I would have had the confidence to have done an hour.

That's not to say that I've come in brashly. I've just come in with naive confidence and it's worked!

Do you find club sets really difficult then?

The hardest set I've had to do was So You Think You're Funny because they were so strict on it being seven minutes. The moment you've perfected a five and the moment you've perfected a ten, you're then asked to do something in between and they're so strict on it!

You're on stage doing those seven-minute spots and you can see people flashing their light at the back of the stage and you're thinking "God, I've got another joke to do yet!" Those are the hard ones for me.

What was your experience of the Fringe like last year?

Well I went to the semi-final of So You Think You're Funny which was at the beginning of the month and then I came back at the end of the month. Whilst I was there I tried to see as much comedy as I could. I just saw back-to-back shows.

When I was there right at the start of the Fringe all the comedians were full of energy and really excited about doing their show. This was still in the first few days when they were doing their previews.

Then when I came back for the final, you could tell that some of the comedians, not all of them, had said their show 26 days in a row and they were just waiting to finish. I'm going to really make a massive effort to not be that one.

At the end of the day, the people who have paid to see your show on the 27th are just as worthy of a good show as people who have paid to see it on the third.

Who would you say has inspired your comedy?

Straight away my answer is Victoria Wood. It's got to be.

Everyone knows that she was so pioneering for her time but what I really liked about her when I'd watch her is that when the camera would pan to the audience, she'd have both men and women laughing at her material. She would often talk about things from a female perspective and men would find it funny as well. I don't think that had happened on that scale before.

She wasn't a female speaking to other females about female topics. It was inclusive and I really like that because I go and see male comics and they can talk about their male perspective and I still find it funny.

And is that something you've tried to emulate?

Absolutely. I love it when I peek through the curtain and can see men and women, young people, older people, it's brilliant! The ore diverse in every way, the better. That's validation that your making stuff relatable.

One of my biggest worries is that sometimes I read a joke back and I think "Is that relatable just for women of my age who were doing that in those years?"

How have the previews been going?

They've been going good although it's really weird, especially in this last month where we've had beautiful weather and the World Cup, I've timed some of them so badly.

I had a preview on the day of the first England game which was a hot day so I think I had about four or five people in. I did one on the same day as Meghan and Harry's wedding and the Champions League final.

It's good to do those previews to small audiences because my room in Edinburgh is a 50 capacity and I've done it a few times to 50 people, but then I've also done it as with the recent one, to five people, seven people. And I think it's reassuring if you know that your show can work, or you can adapt your show to work with seven people or a full house. I think that's what you want from Edinburgh.

I wouldn't want to go having only ever performed my show to a full room of 50 people who are up for it and ready to laugh, I'm more than aware that there might be a quiet day in Edinburgh and you have to be prepared for that.

A lot of people ask me if I'm having a day off but actually it would just take me out of the swing of things. I just want to power through it.

What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh this year?

Just being around all of that comedy and variety. The one thing I was thinking when I was there last year was that I wanted to be there for longer because there's so much to see.

I went through the programme the other day and bearing in mind I'm there for the whole month, squeezing it all in is going to be a task.

I'm also really looking forward to being around like-minded people, chatting to other comedians and getting tips and advice and getting to see their shows and chatting about them after and hearing their perspectives and their stories.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Literally where do I begin?! I want to see Suzi Ruffell. She's got a new show and I saw her last year and hers was one of the standouts for me so I'm excited to see her new show.

There are loads of really good comedians who are on at the same time as me which I'm fuming about, so I'm trying to see their previews. People like Catherine Bohart, Sarah Keyworth, Sindhu Vee, Heidi Regan who won So You Think You're Funny the year before me.

Lauren Pattison, I remember seeing her show last and just thinking "My god!" and she's had such a year after that. She just went from strength to strength so I'm excited to see her new show as well.

Elf Lyons. I quite like her quirkiness. Sometimes when you go and see lots of stand-up, you still appreciate it, but I remember seeing Swan last year and my ribs were hurting the whole way through because it was so ridiculous so I really want to see what she's bringing this year.

What are your ambitions then for the next 12 months?

I'd love to think that the Fringe wasn't the end of this show. I'd love to take it onto a tour or even a few nights at the Soho Theatre, like Lauren (Pattison) got to do which is just a massive achievement in itself. That's amazing.

I think if you have a good Fringe run, it can be so good for you to then get your name out a bit more. My mum and dad live abroad so they won't be able to come over for the Fringe but I want them to see my show so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it will get taken somewhere else after the Fringe so that they can see it when they come over in the winter.

That's mainly what I'm hoping for! But also, not to sound cliché, but just to come out of the Fringe as a better comedian. I think if you gig every day for an hour, that can only improve you surely.

This is my first Fringe, I've only ever going to have my first Fringe once in my life so I just want to enjoy it and take away as much as I can from it.

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

Nostalgic. Relatable. Epileptic. Youthful. Reckless.

Maisie Adam: Vague runs from 1st - 27th August at 4:30pm at Gilded Balloon Teviot (Wee Room). Book tickets here.


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