Some people take a year out between Edinburgh Fringe shows, but not Steve Bugeja who is returning to the Fringe with his third show in as many years, Summer Camp.
And it’s not as if the pressure isn’t on. Both of his previous Fringe shows won critical acclaim and both runs sold out. This year he’s delving into his past for inspiration, that time in 2009 when he spent his summer working at a kids camp in America and he plans to take it on tour later this year.
Here’s what we had to say, when we weren’t gossiping about Love Island, about his new show...
This is your third show in as many years at the Fringe. What keeps you coming back?
I love the Fringe. It just gives my year some structure and something to work towards. I enjoy it when I’m up there although it’s quite stressful June and July. But August I really love because I love doing a show every night to people who have come to see you. And it’s nice to be in the same city for a month.
I couldn’t really imagine not doing it for the foreseeable future. Every year I never have that debate that other comedians have over whether or not they should go up this year. It’s a given that I’m going to go up and then maybe one day I’ll decide not to but I always assume that I’m going to.
To get an hour to yourself is a real luxury isn’t it?
It’s amazing. We’re so lucky. You can just do whatever you want really and as long as you’re good, people will come and hopefully they’ll come back the next year. I feel like I’ve found a bit of a rhythm now. I quite enjoy writing the shows, they’re a bit stressful, but I enjoy doing slightly different things to what you’d do in a comedy club set. That’s quite liberating.
I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t do Edinburgh because I’d just have to do the same stuff every night in comedy clubs which I think would be quite soul destroying. It’s so creatively demanding. It makes you write jokes. It pushes you and all my shows have been story shows so I’ve had to learn how to write stories over hours which is a different skill which I would never have had if it wasn’t for Edinburgh.
What’s this year’s show Summer Camp all about?
It’s pretty much all in the title! It’s about me working in a Summer Camp in the United States when I was 18 years old. It’s the story of what happened when I went to work on this camp in Pennsylvania. It’s a true story about me being out of my depth. I was 18, immature and not really prepared.
I didn’t really like children. I still don’t. At the time I thought it would be a fun summer but I didn’t really think about the children element of the camp. I thought it was just a fun holiday in America with red cup parties and American girls. I basically imagined American Pie and it did not turn out like that.
I basically had to look after children which was not my skill.
How long have you been writing this show for?
I thought of doing it last year. When I got to the Fringe I got chatting to someone who had also worked on a Summer Camp and we were saying how it would make a great show. Up until then I’d never thought about it being a whole show. I thought there’s probably some material in it but never a whole show.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that yes. You could make a whole show about it. I started writing it in December, casually, perhaps a bit too casually, and then I started writing it more seriously in February.
Then I went to the Melbourne Comedy Festival which really stopped my progress with the show because I was there for six weeks. But since I got back in May I’ve been full on writing the show.
How have the previews been going?
I did one last night actually and I’m in the middle of watching it back. They’ve been going alright, it’s getting there. It’s always the way that it starts to really come together in July and all the little things that you’ve been working on start to work.
June is a tough month where you’re just not very funny for ages. I spend so long working on the story and the structure and making sure that it all makes sense that I then forget about the jokes. So you end up having an hour that’s a nice story but not a funny one.
I try and preview as much as possible although I do think it’s possible to over preview as well. I think I’ve got twenty. So I’ve done ten and I’ve got another ten left. I think that’s about the right amount. It’s a story show so you can’t test it anywhere else.
You can’t test some of it in a normal comedy gig because it doesn’t work. I can test some of the routines which are separate but a lot of it just needs to be tested as a show. So it’s quite time intensive when you have to really do the hours on stage to make it work.
Do you have anyone helping you with your show this year?
Yeah! For the first time ever actually I’ve got a director. A guy called Dec Munro. He’s great actually. We haven’t done that much together yet but he came last night and his notes were really useful. I think he’ll really come into his own this month really.
Up until now I’ve just been doing it by myself. I mean I work with a lot of other comedians so I write a lot with Iain Stirling, but it’s never been a directing thing. It’s been more about the jokes. But he’s now in Mallorca doing Love Island.
[This is the point where we have good chat about Love Island, who we think will win etc.]
Back to the Fringe then, what are you most looking forward to about it this year?
I think just performing every night. Also, just seeing my mates because I don’t see them that much because I’m always gigging up and down the country.
I’m living with my friend Brennan Reece so that will be nice to hang out with him. Also, I’m kind of looking forward to September when it’s over so that I can go on holiday.
And you’re touring the show after Edinburgh aren’t you?
Yeah. I’ve got a tour booked in October/November which is going to be exciting. Touring is really fun because my then it’s really slick and you know it. I’m going to a lot of University towns so yeah, I’m looking forward to that. It’ll be fun.
Anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing when you’re up there?
Sarah Kendall for the last two years has been my favourite show. She’s so good, she’s bloody brilliant and I rave about her in every interview so she probably thinks I’m a weird stalker. She’s just so good at telling a story, I think she’s the best storyteller around. There’s no one better.
I’m looking forward to seeing Rhys James’ show. I always like seeing Adam Hess although I think I clash with him this year. I didn’t catch as much as I wanted to last year. I did that thing where I spent the first week getting my head down but then the second week drifts by and by the third wee you have to rush and see everyone which is a nightmare.
I saw Ed Gamble last night. It’s a really solid show. He’s just so good at jokes. It works already and he’s got a month left until he does it so I reckon that will be a good show. Chris Martin as well, he’s been in LA for a little while so it would be good to see him.
Lauren Pattison as well, I’ve heard a lot about her and I’ve seen her do sets and stuff so it’ll be nice to see her do an hour. And Tom Lucy I’ve heard a lot about so maybe I’ll try and catch him.
When you go and watch them half of you is thinking “Oh God they’re better than me.” but then if they’re not, you sit there watching them thinking “I’m better than them” and that’s kind of worse because you feel like a dick. Also, you get complacent and you end up having a bad gig that night because of karma.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
Hopefully I’l be back on Love Island Aftersun next week to really cement my reputation as a geek loser. I mainly just want to meet the contestants. Harley was quite fun to meet but I really want to meet Montana and I think it’ll be fun to meet Chris. But I think they might go all the way to the final so I might not get to meet them.
Other than that I’m doing a bit of writing for various TV shows and mainly I’m just preparing for the tour and for Edinburgh.
Finally, how would you sum up your show this year in just five words?
True story. Heartwarming and funny.