I TALK TO Sikisa

"I feel like my show is going to be the catalyst for a lot of drunk people in Edinburgh!"


Sikisa is a comedian, writer and producer from South London who has never forgotten her Barbadian roots and is one of the most exciting new comedians on the circuit. Which is not something you can ordinarily say about an immigration lawyer.


That's because there's nothing ordinary about Sikisa. She's hilarious, instantly likeable and fearless, which is why her debut hour at this year's Edinburgh Fringe (supposed to have happened in 2021) promises to be one party not to be missed.


Set at her own house party, Life of the Party sees Sikisa make up for lost time, having not been allowed to go to any parties until she was 18. She still lives with her mother, a very strict, West Indian woman. Never one to toe the metaphorical party line, Sikisa constantly goes against the grain, including dating outside of her race.


Away from the Fringe, you may recognise Sikisa from appearing on Jonathan Ross' Comedy Club and Sorry, I Didn't Know both on ITV, The Stand-Up Sketch Show on ITV2 and in May she was a guest on the hugely popular Off Menu podcast from James Acaster and Ed Gamble.


As Sikisa is one of my 9 exciting newcomers to see at this year's festival, I caught up with her to discuss her route into comedy, how she's bringing a party to the Fringe and she reveals the one TV show she'd love to host.


How did you first get into comedy and what made you want to become a stand-up?


I was working behind the bar in a pub in Stockwell called The Cavendish Arms and they run a show called Comedy Virgins which is an open mic night or for comedians who want to try out new material.


I'd been there for quite a while and my boss had said to me "You're slightly funny. Why don't you give comedy a go?" and at the time, we had comedians come through who are quite big now. It's like a comedy institute. Everyone has gone through there at least once, especially at the beginning of their career.


So I gave it a go and started talking about lions for five minutes. Which wasn't funny. I never really thought about comedy in general because I'm not very good at public speaking and I never understood the concept of what makes something funny.


I got the bug after about six months and from there... we're here!


What does your mother make of your comedy career?


When I first started doing comedy, my mum didn't really understand it. Because I'm an only child and we live in a council estate, my mum was very overprotective of me. Even when I would come home, the only way she would feel OK about it is if I drove. Even if I drove down the road. The pub that I worked at is a seven-minute walk down the road. But I drive.


I think it's because she has this worry - she's a bit of a worrier and I get that from her. I genuinely felt I had to do something performance-wise in order to have division from what I do during the day. What I do during the day, even though I quite enjoy it, it's not really who I am as a person.


Being able to do stand-up comedy and have the element of being happy and making people happy is something that I really enjoy. I used to want to dance. That's what I used to do, but my mum wasn't really on that vibe. It was "You're going to be a doctor, or a lawyer or dead." So I went with lawyer and that's what makes her happy.


It wasn't until I ended up as a finalist on the BBC's New Comedy Award in 2017, and ended up on the radio, that I think she thought "This is actually a thing." Then having my TV debut during the pandemic, her seeing me on TV, I could see that she was very proud. Both my parents were quite proud. We all watched it together, me, my mum and my dad.


What made you decide to do Edinburgh this year then?


I kind of had no choice. The pandemic happened. I was doing work in progresses in 2020 and was actually going to do it in 2021, but the pandemic was still around so I wasn't able to do the show, even though the Fringe was up, it wasn't the same.


I know quite a few of my friends went up and had a good time because they were only up for four or five days! So of course they had a great time.


How have you found filling the Edinburgh hour?


When you do stand-up comedy, it's very different to other forms of comedy, like sketch, because you've got people around you, a support network. When you do a whole hour by yourself, you're the only person figuring out if you can actually be funny for 45-minutes to an hour.


That was really difficult. People don't understand the jump from doing 5 minutes to 10 minutes to 15 to 20 to then an hour! That's a BIG jump.


I just needed time to get comfortable doing 45 minutes by myself and getting used to the awkward silences, because I don't have a girlband behind me like an improv or sketch group might have. I'm just by myself. I'm just Beyoncé in this moment. Beyonce's first album. Crazy in Love. That's the vibe I have.


I had an image of what the show would be in 2021 and what the show is now, is completely different.


What was it going to be? And how has it changed?


The show was going to be a lot about my relationship with people, but mainly my mum and my nine-year-old cousin. I don't have any kids and my mum's really desperate to have grandchildren because I'm an only child.


But I've got a cousin who's now 11, but in my jokes, I still reference her as 9 years old because it's funnier. She is my first godchild and seeing her grow up in a very different world to the one I grew up in, is how I imagine my mum feels about me growing up in a world that she didn't grow up in. Especially, because she didn't grow up in this country.


So the show was going to be how I've been influenced by them individually in the world that we're now living in, especially as a female black woman.


That was the original show. BUT NOW the show's all about parties! The show is all about partying, all about celebrating life. I do still talk about my mum in the show, because of how she influenced my decisions in life.


It's basically about one particular house party and the interactions I have with people at house parties. The show is meant to be uplifting, there's no woe is me kind of moment. It is a party, please bring some gifts. Bring a bottle! We're just going to have fun with it.


Who are you hoping will come and watch your show?


I want everyone to come and see this show. Come and have a party! That's basically the vibe. Obviously, have your dinner, because my show's at 8.25pm, get yourself a drink, come and have a part so that you can enjoy the rest of your evening. It'll be a nice way to kick off an evening.


Hopefully, everyone will come out of it and want to go and party and have a good time. I feel like my show is going to be the catalyst for a lot of drunk people in Edinburgh!


You mentioned it earlier, you made your TV debut during the pandemic on ITV in Jonathan Ross' Comedy Club. How did you find that experience?


It was weird, to be honest, because the audience were wearing masks and socially distanced. Jonathan Ross is lovely. He made everything really comfortable, the crew were lovely and it was probably the best experience I could ever have.


It was really nice for me because a lot of my comic friends were also there doing the show. So it was a nice day for us to all be together and celebrate this achievement after a really hard time with the pandemic.


I celebrated being able to do my TV debut along with some other people on that show, like Chloe Petts who is absolutely amazing. I call her my wife. She's fabulous. Well... I call her my comedy wife, because my actual best friend is called my wife, and she'll be upset.


Where do you see that side of your career going?


I mean, I would love to be the Ant & Dec of Saturday night TV. A black version obviously. Just put both of them, into me. I want all their jobs and all their money.


I would love to do some reality show presenting. Love Island. I would love to host that show. Give me that show! Or even have my own chat show. I think that would be quite cool.


I love wrestling, so I would love to host a wrestling show. You don't hear a lot of female presenters talking about wrestling, especially in this country and I am obsessed with wrestling. I was just watching it before I came into this conversation.


But also, I want to just continue to do stand-up. I enjoy doing it. My mum was saying to me the other day, "Do you really want to be famous? Can you handle fame?" - and I said, I don't really want to be famous. I just want to be able to do a job, be good at that job and people love it.


The whole thing that comes around fame, like the mean people on Twitter, the comments, I just think it's unnecessary in this day and age. I don't understand why people have to be so mean, just because they think they've got power typing away on a keyboard.


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


I'm looking forward to being back in the Fringe. It's such a great environment to be in. The hustle and bustle. I've been in Edinburgh when it's not the Fringe and I've been freaked out. It's so different.


I'm looking forward to being able to see some of my friends' shows. Go and support them. Do my show every single day and also have some fun. The Fringe is like a comedy bootcamp so I'm looking forward to learning, as well. It will be a different audience every single day and as well as doing an hour show every single day, I'll also be doing other shows.


For example, in the first week, I'm hosting Spank! - it's their last year in Edinburgh so it's a great honour for me to be able to do that for four days.


I also know I'm going to have to look after myself because I can't go hardcore. I can't be coming in the house every single day at 3am. You can't do that.


Who are you looking forward to seeing?


There are so many people I'm looking forward to seeing, but they clash with my show. I've got one day off, but some people that I wanted to see also have that same day off. For example, Jinkx Monsoon - who is killing it in RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars 7 and I absolutely love.


After they had won their season, I wasn't really following their career. I know they had done shows here in the UK, but I wouldn't really have gone to see their show. But this season I have been like "I. NEED. TO. SEE. THIS. SHOW." - and they're doing their show in Edinburgh, but I can't go and see it.


I also want to go and see Micky Overman who is a very good comic friend and I'd love to see how that show ends up. I wanna see Jack Barry, his show has a very interesting concept. Alison Spittle. Lily Phillips. Helen Bauer. So many of my comic friends are just killing it at the moment.


A very good friend of mine, Sarah Mills, is going up and doing her show Badass about the fact that she had bowel cancer. And obviously recently, the death of Dame Deborah James was quite difficult for her. She also talks about the aftermath, her stoma bag and how that's changed her life.


Outside of the Fringe, what have you been working on? What's coming up?


I've currently got a few projects that I'm trying to finesse. I can't really say much, but I've written a couple of pilots for sitcoms that I want to try and pitch. I'm not gonna lie, I'm not very good at writing. But doing stand-up comedy, people have given me ideas of other things to think about, such as writing my own sitcom. It's a whole process. And I enjoy being able to learn about myself and how to do things.


Apart from that, I'm just aiming to get some good sleep in September. After August, no one talk to me. I'm not telling any jokes for the first week... unless you're paying me very good money to do that!

 

Sikisa: Life of the Party

Pleasance Courtyard, Below (3-28* August, 8.25pm)

*except 17 August