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I TALK TO Matt Forde

Since finishing Edinburgh last year, Matt Forde has hosted not one, but three series of Unspun on Dave and he's back to Edinburgh this year with his seventh hour in as many years.

As a comedian who loves to talk about politics, Matt Forde certainly isn’t short of things to talk about and with three television series behind him he’s sure to deliver his best show to date.

Unlike most comedians heading up to Edinburgh, Matt is still very much writing his show and will almost certainly continue to change it whilst up there to keep it as relevant and topical as possible.

Here’s what Matt had to say about his upcoming Fringe show cleverly titled A Show Hastily Rewritten in Light of Recent Events – Again!...

Were you pleased with how last year went considering how last minute you had to change the show because of the political climate?

Oh it was great, it was marvellous last year. I'm in a similar position this year. The way that the world's gone seems to be deliberately geared to making me have to re-write my Edinburgh show.

It's the worst side effect of this current generation of politicians. It seems that they want to deliberately sabotage my Edinburgh shows. Which is the real price to be paid for Trump and May and Brexit.

It keeps you on your toes which certainly means that the shows are very current. It's exciting. You can't really be a topical comedian and be doing old stuff.

Is it a help or a hindrance having to be so topical in such a fast-moving world?

It's sort of a mixed blessing. It's a real thrill to go on stage that day and have ultra topical material, some of which might have even been written that morning.

Equally, it does mean that I can't just write a show and then put my feet up for the month. But I think I'd rather be kept on my toes.

You first went to the Fringe in 2007 and your debut hour was in 2011. What keeps you coming back?

It is the most exciting festival in the world as a comedian. I think it's twinned with the fact that I've always had a good time up there. It brings together so many brilliant things for me really, which is the challenge of writing a new show and being able to perform it in front of so many people.

The one thing you really want as a comedian up there is to have an audience and to really enjoy it. Those months can feel at times quite long and gruelling but it combines the passion of writing new stuff and being able to put on a new show for a month.

The intensity of it is great. Every day you're performing the show again and obviously for me, every day I'm looking to make changes and bring it up to date.

It's like having a World Cup every summer. The challenge of it is what makes it exciting. You have to write this new thing, it's got to be great and you have to push yourself.

One of the most rewarding things about being a comedian is that you're constantly trying to get better. Always trying to make it as funny as possible. It's a real privilege really. It's great fun thinking about how you can make things the funniest they can possibly be.

Do you have anyone helping you with your show this year?

Yes, I write on my own and then I have a guy called Dan Atkinson who's a fabulous writer and producer and is essentially directing me and helping me out with structure and stuff like that. He's a genius.

It must be quite a luxury to have a full hour to yourself where you can do whatever you want...

Oh it's great. And that's it and I think a lot of people forget that. You're totally in control of what you do. You can out on any show you like. You can have lions and tigers in it if you get a licence... not that there will be in my show!

The only constraints you have are the ones that you put onto yourself and obviously the law. It's great fun to think about what you want to say each year and write a full show from scratch.

What can people expect from this year's show?

Guaranteed. Trump impressions, Boris Johnson impressions. Corbyn, May, Farage, the mayhem of Brexit, the mayhem of the White House. Populism and anger and comedy. Not anger from me. Comedy about it all.

It's been a dream of a year to have a show like this hasn't it?

Oh it is, but that's been true for the last three or four years really. And next year I'm sure will be the perfect year as well. It's great that there's so much to talk about.

It's hard to narrow in actually. An hour isn't quite long enough for everything. It's just quite fun to write jokes about the news!

And more and more people are invested in the news and in politics which must mean that more of your material is cutting through to audiences...

That's so crucial. That people are really tuned on to it. I get butterflies now thinking about Edinburgh and people coming to see it and you want them to really enjoy it.

If I think about all the years that I've had there, every year has been superb. It's always good fun and particularly now it's probably the most enjoyable it's ever been for me.

When did you start working on the show?

I'm writing all year round anyway but really this show has been written in the last two or three weeks so by the time it gets to Edinburgh it would have been about the month preceding it really that it's done.

It all comes together quite late, but if you're working all year round you're constantly coming up with ideas. That helps.

How have the previews been going?

I've done loads! Previews obviously, because they're previews are hit and miss. Most of it is new material so it takes a while sometimes to get what I want to say spot on and as funny as I'd like it.

So the previews can be quite rusty. You have a great one one day and think you've solved comedy, this is it, no more work required. Then you go to another place the following night and that's a different experience!

As with every year and as with every comic, it's a bit of a bumpy ride at time. But the good ones give you the confidence and the bad ones let you know where there's work to be done so there's positives to be taken from all of them really.

Great title this year. How did you settle on A Show Hastily Rewritten in Light of Recent Events – Again!?

Cheers mate, thank you. Well last year's show I had to rewrite after Brexit. An entirely new show in just a number of weeks. I'd already put the title in by that point because with Edinburgh you have to submit a title in like February and obviously given how volatile politics is at the moment globally, any title would have bound my hands really.

So I just as a joke I wanted a title that does what it says on the tin but also gets the message across that this is ultra topical. Because that's what people always ask me "How do you keep up with the news?" so it's about the joke.

After your many years at the Fringe, what's been the biggest thing you've learnt?

Oh wow. That is a really good question. There are big things and small things that I've learnt.

Small thing is that drinking up there is not a good idea. When I first started going, you're a new comic, you're not sure if you've got a career in it, so it's a party. And it's a great party. And it's a party every night. And it's a city full of people that will party with you every night.

But if you party every night, your body can't take it. And as the years have gone on, I really try not to drink, if I can help it, at all in Edinburgh now. It's a false economy really because you have to work every day, you're a performer, you've got to be at the top of your game and be sharp. In that regard it is like a World Cup, you have to be at your peak mentally and physically.

So I've learnt that it's not a party it is a very serious job and people have paid money to come and see the show so you have to give them the best possible show that you physically can.

I suppose the bigger thing that I've learnt is that you have to trust yourself and not get distracted by whatever the fads or the trends at the time are. Don’t try and analyse what other people are doing because there are so many different types of comedians and so many different audiences for them that you can carve out your niche.

I was never in danger of following any trends but colleagues and friends of mine had their heads turned and tried to be one comic one year and another the next. But surely if you’re doing comedy it’s because there’s something about yourself that you find funny. I just think you have to trust what’s funny about you as much as possible and build a show around that.

Can you ever see a year where you don’t perform at the Fringe?

This will be my seventh solo year and I think I’d really miss it, knowing it was happening. Especially because I do topical stuff, there’s always stuff I want to say and jokes I want to make and the thought of having a summer where I don’t do that is very hard to think of.

I love it too much, so I think I will just do it forever.

You’re also doing Matt Forde’s Political Party Podcast up there again this year. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, what is it?

It’s a live chat show where I interview a political heavyweight and deliberately different in tone to some of the political interviews you see on television, which are very necessary but often don’t show the human side of politicians. It’s about being light-hearted, teasing them, being a bit cheeky but ultimately being respectful and interested in what they’ve achieved in their lives.

On that show I’ve interviewed Tony Blair, William Hague, Jess Phillips, Tessa Jowell, Ruth Davidson... Politicians from all parties and they’re all fascinating people and I’m very excited that this year in Edinburgh I’ll be joined by Alistair Darling, the former chancellor and the man who led the Better Together campaign.

Talking about bringing out the human side of politicians, that’s exactly what you do on your Dave series Unspun. What’s it been like to have had three series of that in less than a year?

It’s amazing isn’t it?! It’s been the best thing I’ve ever done and the most exciting and the most rewarding work in my life. It’s been a great to make. The last series was on twice a week during the election campaign which was just electric, you really felt that you were at the centre of something and you were making a show that was important as well as funny.

I look back on post-Edinburgh 2016 and I can’t believe that we’ve already done three series. It’s great.

And are you looking forward to Series 4?

I can’t wait. I just love making it so much and we have an exceptionally talented group of people who help us make it and do make it. It’s the sort of thing you just want to do every day of your life really.

Do you think Unspun has influenced your Fringe show this year at all?

I’m not sure, that’s a good question. I hadn’t thought of that but I guess it’s probably sharpened up my writing because on TV there’s no room for flab. You have to get to the joke quickly. So in that regard it probably has, yes.

What are you most looking forward to about the Fringe this year?

Food. I love going for big Italian meals up there. I’m living with a friend of mine, Paul McCaffrey who’s a great comedian so I’m really looking forward to living with him.

Mainly I try to be as normal as I can up there. I get up at a normal hour, go to the gym, cook, read, watch films, do my show and maybe go and see something else and enjoy it. I think the most enjoyable thing is that the rest of the year you don’t see a lot of comedians so for everyone to be in the same place for a whole month is a real treat.

You always get to see friends who you’ve not seen in a while which is always nice.

Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to watching this year?

I go and see Jess Robinson every year. She’s a phenomenal impressionist and got to the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent this year. Her shows are always exceptional. Al Murray’s show is always a treat. He’s a genius. And Paul McCaffrey of course.

I previewed with Rose Matafeo the other night who’s superb and I realy like Rachel Parris. I’m going to try and see her. Ed Gamble’s preview was fantastic. There’s so many people!

Finally, how would you sum up this year’s show in just five words?

Hilarious brilliant amazing funny show.

Matt Forde: A Show Hastily Rewritten in Light of Recent Events – Again! runs runs Saturday 5th August to Sunday 27th August at 8:30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard. Previews 2nd-4th August.

Matt Forde’s Political Party Podcast is on Wednesday 16th August at 3pm at the Gilded Ballon Teviot.


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