"All I can do is write in my own voice and if people resonate with it then you've done a great thing."
In 2018, Michael Odewale was part of the Pleasance Comedy Reserve which meant that he was able to share the bill at the Pleasance Dome with three other up-and-coming comedians during last year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Now a year later he's ready for audiences to witness his debut hour, #BlackBearsMatter in which he figures out what we care about and what we are actually willing to do about it as we live in a world full of seemingly endless socio-political issues and protest movements.
I caught up with Michael to discuss how he first got into comedy and how he's feeling about his Edinburgh Fringe debut.
How did you first get into comedy?
I was just a really big fan of comedy from about the age of 15/16 and it was always on my bucket list. Then when I was in Uni I decided to try it out and I just kept going from there.
I don't think I really realised what it would be like to go up on stage and talk to people. I was just focussed on getting through what it was I had to say, but afterwards I realised that that was quite a big deal. I was never a public speaker before that.
Have you found that comedy allows you to talk about issues that really matter to you?
Yeah. I've always been interested in talking about social issues, politics, racism, sexism - all of that. And I've always been fascinated by the fact that in stand-up comedy you can say whatever you want to say as long as it's funny and I see that as a challenge when I get up on stage.
How can I break down topics and still keep people engaged and entertained at the same time?
Last year you were part of The Pleasance's Comedy Reserve. What was that experience like?
That was really fun because it was my first time doing an entire month in Edinburgh so I had to learn how to pace myself. You can't go out every night. Also, getting the chance to do 20-minutes and getting the chance to talk to people for a whole month, is a really good way of burning through material and discovering what my voice is.
Was that why you wanted to do your debut this year?
Yeah, but my feelings towards doing an hour is "Do I have something to say?" and the more I was going through material that month it became clear that there are things I'm interested in that I want to talk about.
An hour is a lot of people's time to just be talking to them so I really wanted to make it worth their while, as well as my own.
What can people expect from your show?
There are so many protest movements and social movements going on that I wanted to talk about my own selfishness and my own apathy surrounding that and explore it a bit more.
I feel like a lot of people of my generation and even older, they're just bombarded with all of these tragedies on a day-to-day basis and it's hard to figure out how to care or what to do about it. So that's what I really wanted to explore over the space of an hour.
How did you come up with the title, #BlackBearsMatter?
That's actually to do with one of the jokes in the set which talks about a very specific experience that I went through. It makes more sense once you see the show but also as a title I think it stands alone, stands out and grabs people's attention.
How long have you been working on the show for?
Pretty much since Edinburgh finished last year, so since September I've been trying to get some drafts ready. But when you think about it, this has been a build up since when I first started doing comedy. I see a comedian's first hour kind of like a graduation, you get to show off all the skills that you've learnt so it's been a long time in the making.
How have you found filling the Edinburgh hour?
It's a lot man! It's a lot. I remember a couple of years ago the idea of doing an hour on stage blew my mind. I really enjoy the space to stretch my legs whilst I'm on stage and really explore some of these themes I want to talk about.
When you're doing a club night it's a 20-minute set and you're there to impress so it's just joke joke joke. When I have an hour, it's exhausting even for the audience, but I'm really enjoying the opportunity to explore something for that length of time.
How have the previews been going?
I've done quite a few and they were a bit tricky at first because I wasn't reaching the hour. I was burning through material quite but I'm now at that stage where I'm enjoying the pacing. I'm enjoying the structure. And I'm enjoying engaging with the audience.
I can't wait to do this hour in Edinburgh and hopefully many more in the future as well.
How much does Edinburgh mean to you?
Well when I first started doing comedy, I didn't really know too much about Edinburgh at all. It's only the more I get into the industry that I found out how much of a mecca for comedy it is I guess.
I appreciate that now. For anyone to go up there and be able to talk for an hour on stage and hopefully find an audience is an opportunity you don't really get anywhere else. A lot of great comics have been through Edinburgh and come out at the other side.
What are you most looking to about Edinburgh this year?
I'm still in the process of writing a really interesting body of work that I'm excited for people to see. That's it at the end of the day. I just want people to see what I've done.
Who are you hoping will come and watch?
The show is accessible for everyone. Young people can relate to it of course but there's stuff in there for the older generations as well that they'll be able to relate to. At the end of the day, all I can do is write in my own voice and if people resonate with it then you've done a great thing.
At the previews I've had people from all ages being able to engage with the show. I'll take any audience, no discrimination!
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
Fun. Thoughtful. Engaging. Exciting. Relatable.