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I TALK TO Rachel Parris

Fringe favourite Rachel Parris is bringing a brand new show to the Fringe this year called Keynote.

Ahead of her appearance in BBC Two's new topical show The Mash Report, I caught up with Rachel to discuss what keeps her coming back to the Fringe, what her new show is all about and what audiences can come to expect.

You made your debut at the Fringe back in 2013, what keeps you coming back year after year?

I actually still really like it after all these years. It doesn't cross my mind not to because it's a bit like home now. Even before I did my debut I'd been going since 2005 with various comedy shows, sketch, burlesque... everything!

It's tradition now. My August is always in Edinburgh so it would just be strange not to do that. I would really miss it. I did have one year where I didn't do it and I missed it. It's a part of my career now, a part of what I do. Also, I think I've never quite got out of that school term time thing of having something to work to at the end of the year. And I'm nothing without a deadline.

I would just sit on my bed watching Netflix 24 hours a day if I didn't have a deadline so having this annual reason to write and rehearse and practice an hour-long show works really well for me.

You mentioned it there, an hour to yourself in Edinburgh to do what you want with is a real luxury isn't it?

Absolutely. It's a luxury and a difficulty in that I think a lot of comedians agree that an hour is too long for a comedy audience to keep laughing. Physically, it's quite exhausting to laugh solidly for an hour.

Which I think is the reason why a lot of comedians try to put a story or something a bit different into their show instead of the equivalent of their club set for an hour.

How long have you been working on this year's show for?

Less than normal. Probably about six months but there's been a lot happening for me in the last six month, lots of other projects that have all come out at the same time. So it's been a very busy period. But now I'm properly on lockdown about the Edinburgh show. I've had a rehearsal all day.

You've called your show Keynote this year. Why that title?

Someone else thought of it and I thought it was very good so they gave it to me. Because I'm doing a show about giving an inspirational speech so it goes with the "keynote speaker" but also because I do musical comedy, the "key" and the "note" fits in quite well with that. Also the show has a powerpoint element to it this year.

What is this year's show all about?

It's about the fact that in real life I got asked a few months ago to go back to buy old school and be the speaker at their prize-giving event. When I was growing up at school they'd always have someone who seemed very successful and knew what they were talking about to come and give this inspirational speech.

And now that they've asked me to do it, it's about me trying to think about what I can possibly say in that speech. So I'm  going through the tropes of different speeches like "Follow your dreams...", "Support other women...", "Don't be afraid...", "Follow your goals..." - all those sorts of things.

I'm  asking the audience to help me build my speech really and get involved. And there are plenty of songs and a few characters as well which I've not done for a little while.

So there's a powerpoint element and the music, and some big anthem numbers that I've got some choreography to. It's getting increasingly complicated as it gets on. It's going to be like a small West End musical by the end of it!

How have the previews been going?

Yeah, good thank you. The show's coming along fine and you're just adding and adding to it until it gets harder. I think people are liking it.

This week I wrote about a page of jokes that I was pretty pleased with. Pretty smug about. I thought I'd nailed this section. This is funny. Then I did them three times this week in previews and no one laughed.

I was pretty sure that was hilarious. Turns out... No. They laughed at totally different bits that I didn't even intend to be funny. So it's very important to do previews.

What's been the biggest thing you've learnt throughout your years at the Fringe?

I've learnt that it will soon be over so don't stress too much about it. I've had years where the press have loved it and so did the audiences, sellout audiences. Then I've had years where no one has come and everyone hated it... including me.

And no one except you really knows or cares how it goes to be honest. The most important thing is for you to try and have a good time and not worry about what other people think.

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

There are just so many shows that I'm excited about seeing. I'm really looking forward to seeing Anna Morris' Bithelors and Dan Antoploski as well, so the return of some of my favourite comedians which will be cool.

I'm also looking forward to doing another show that I do, Austentatious for the whole month. We had a bit of a short one last year so we're doing the whole month this year and people always say "Oh, two shows a day? You'll be knackered!" - but actually it's a nice thing to do and it keeps you a bit sane instead of just concentrating on one show.

Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?

I've got a show coming this month on BBC Two called The Mash Report. We did a pilot and every week it's going to be me, Ellie Taylor and Nish Kumar. Then there are guests every week doing different feature spots.

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

Trying to give a speech.

Rachel Parris: Keynote runs Saturday 5th August to Monday 28th August at 8.20pm at the Pleasance Dome. Previews 3rd & 4th August. No show Wednesday 16th August.


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