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I TALK TO Pierre Novellie

He was born in South Africa, he's the ex vice president of Cambridge Footlights and most recently Pierre Novellie was one of the correspondents on hit BBC Two show The Mash Report and now he's returning to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with his fifth show in as many years.

Can you ever see yourself having a year off?

I don't know. I probably should because it's my fifth show in five years and I did four Fringes before that as well so it's my fifth show and my ninth Fringe so I think I should have a break after ten if nothing else.

What keeps you coming back to Edinburgh?

Comedian's lives are very unstructured and the Fringe is sort of like end of year exams. It's a massive incentive to produce work, improve what you're doing and try new things.

Also, it's a massive trade show which is quite strange to say. But for example, if I get seen by a TV producer in Edinburgh, me and that producer both live in London where I gig four times a week for the rest of the year and he'll never come and see me there. So there's an element of madness to it.

Does it get easier the longer you do it?

It gets easier in the sense that you get more philosophical about how the whole thing goes and you take a lot of the elements which were intimidating earlier on, live reviewers, less seriously.

Do you enjoy having that hour to fill?

With an hour you can get much deeper. A paid club set is 20 minutes as minimum. If you're doing a headline set somewhere like The Comedy Box in Bristol, it's 40/45 minutes.

You can do an hour in a club if you really wanted to, but it would still be a club audience not a Fringe audience.

What is a Fringe audience?

A Fringe audience see theatre, they know what the Fringe. If they're not from the surrounding areas they care about the Fringe because they've had to travel to see your show. So the mindset is already different.

Does that change how you put your show together?

Only your points of emphasis. For example, a literary reference - which you wouldn't include in a club set - but if you did, that literary reference would be throw away. You wouldn't lean on it as if it was going to get a round of applause. Where as at the Fringe you could maybe even lean on it.

Why did you decide to call your show See Novellie, Hear Novellie, Speak Novellie? And did you know what the show was going to be when you titled it?

I fought a good fight against pun titles for a long time but eventually we all give in and become what we hate!

I had to pick the title in January when I had a vague idea of what the show was about. I knew it was going to be satirical and I knew it was going to be about dissatisfaction with the way people do things politically now. But I didn't know any more than that and I wasn't sure how I was going to approach it.

How long have you been working on the show for?

Well, you start working on the next show pretty much as the current one is ending. Maybe you get a little break to mull things over and then you start writing new material again.

Is it difficult to come up with new material whilst still touring the old show?

Yes. I did last year's show at the Soho Theatre about a month or two ago and I almost couldn't remember any of it so had to sit and try to remember what I'd spent an entire year writing.

That was a Thursday, Friday and Saturday and then on Sunday, I had a preview of the new show and then I couldn't remember any of the new show. That was tedious, but since then I've thankfully been able to focus on the new stuff.

What is the new show about? And how have the previews been going?

The show is more satirical this year and I'm being more honest about my opinion on things.

It's about teams and about people needing to be in a group and have other groups to disapprove of or make separate.

Some audiences in previews haven't agreed with my perspective on things but it's actually surprised me how well it's gone because I was under the impression that if I bothered to do something openly satirical and about politics it would never 100% please everyone.

If you want to be a really successful political comedian you have to have a really clear identifiable team that you're with.

There are also a few bits in the show about if you're British how hard it is to try and get a perspective on ourselves. It's very hard to try and write something well enough so that people can get a feeling of what it's like to be someone else looking at them.

It's possible, but it's very tedious and even if you achieve it, it makes people angry so they need to do a version of it that doesn't make them angry.

I haven't actually had to change anything I say or think. I've just had to change how I present it.

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

In comedy they talk about how you have a year like the way you do at school. So I'm in the same year comedically as Phil Wang for example. Then you have the years above me where you have a cluster of people like Josh Widdicombe, James Acaster and Nish Kumar. This festival is the first time that the majority of the bigger shows are being performed by people in my year.

That makes you feel like you have a bigger ownership of it. If you look at the Pleasance Courtyard, I'm in there, Ivo Graham is in there, Adam Hess, Fin Taylor and they're also from my year.

Do you enjoy performing at The Pleasance?

For my money, The Pleasance is the best venue. partly because it's so well run if I'm honest. There are lots of venues at the Fringe who through no fault of their own are mouldy or underground. Some of them could be amazing but they're just not well run.

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?

I'm very keen to see Fin Taylor because he's a troublemaker and that's always fun. I think I don't clash with Mat Ewins and I did last year so I want to make sure that I catch Mat. He's on at Just The Tonic and his show is called What Sorry? My Mistake! The Doors Are Not Open; The Show Has Been Cancelled. Do Not Have Your Tickets Ready!

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

It's satire without the teams.

Pierre Novellie: See Novellie, Hear Novellie, Speak Novellie runs from 1st - 26th August at 7:15pm at The Pleasance Courtyard (Upstairs). Book tickets show.


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