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I TALK TO Steve Bugeja

Since making his debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2015, Steve Bugeja has returned to every year with a brand new show and this year is no different as he prepares to perform his fourth hour, Almost.

How did last year's Edinburgh Fringe go for you?

Last year was great. Lots of people came and lots of people who had worked on Summer Camps as well which was really nice.

I took the show on a little tour around the UK which was really fun and then I went to Melbourne Comedy Festival with the show so I've done the show about 100 times which meant I was pretty sick of it by the end!

So many comedians this year who performed at the Fringe last year went to Melbourne this year. What's it like out there?

Going to Australia was incredible. I guess more comedians are hearing about it now in the UK which is why they're taking themselves out there. It's so great. It's essentially Edinburgh Fringe but in the sun and what's really different to Edinburgh in that they look after you and fly you out there and pay you which means you don't have any of the stresses of Edinburgh. It was a really luxury.

Last time we spoke you mentioned how you enjoyed the structure of having a new Edinburgh show to write in your calendar. Is that still the reason why you keep coming back year after year?

Yeah. I just don't know what I would do if I didn't have Edinburgh really. I was talking to Ed Gamble about this the other day, about not taking a break, because he's been going up for about 8 years now without a break and he said if you're not writing an Edinburgh show, you're not really a comedian anymore and I sort of agree with him. I would just be doing nothing. Watching Love Island probably.

It makes sense to write a new show every year and I love doing it and good stuff comes off the back of it. The only reason I wouldn't go up one year would be if I had something else on like being cast in a huge Netflix film for example which only films over August. That's the only time that I wouldn't go to Edinburgh.

Do you still enjoy Edinburgh as much now as when you started?

I do actually. There's definite stresses and sometimes you get a bit down about all the pressures but I actually enjoy it more now because I know how to not worry about the bad bits because there are some downs. I'm better at just moving on quickly and enjoying it.

Also, I don't drink anymore up there. The first year I made the mistake of drinking and I don't do that anymore. Not that I don't have fun, I still go out but I just don't get drunk because it just ruins days. You can't afford to do it.

Why have you called this year's show Almost?

That title is deliberately vague because I had to come up with it in February. The show is actually about me being on a flight back from Japan and I get a text message just before we take off from girlfriend saying "We need to have a chat" but I couldn't reply because I had to put my phone on airplane mode.

So I just had 13 hours where I'm having an absolute meltdown in my head wondering what's going to happen and questioning my entire life. So that's the show really. The show is basically be having an internal breakdown.

So it's quite a personal show this year?

Yeah, I think it's probably more personal this year. All my other shows have been stories that have been about me and other people, but this one is just about me really.

Have you enjoyed writing this year's show?

I have actually. I've really enjoyed it. In previous years I've been rather constrained by the story that I've chosen. But this year there's not that much of a narrative so I can choose to write jokes about anything and tie it in.

It's more fun as well because if I have an idea I can just pursue it and make it funny and put it in. Whereas in previous years I'd come up with an idea but it wouldn't fit with the show so I'd have to not do it and that was quite frustrating.

So I'm hoping it's a much funnier show because I've been able to write the best jokes I can write. So it's definitely funnier but hopefully it will still have that narrative satisfaction as well.

How long have you been working on the show for?

I'm always writing bits and bobs of routines but I properly started writing this show when I got back from Melbourne, so that's early May.

Has it been difficult to come up with a new hour whilst still having to perform your previous hour?

It's really weird because you start to really love your new jokes but then you have to go back and do the old ones which you naturally fall out of love with.

I've actually got to do Summer Camp one more time a few days before Edinburgh which I'm dreading. I have this brand new show which I've worked really hard on and am really proud of and then I've got to go back and do the old one.

But it might be quite nice. It might be quite nice to do that show again. But that does mean I have to remember it again which is not ideal.

How have the previews been going?

Really good actually! I've had lovely ones. I had a lovely one in Birmingham the other week and I'm finding this year's show much easier to preview because it is just jokes. You don't have to worry about the narrative.

The narrative is often the hardest bit to make funny so this year there's not much of that. It's just me making people laugh more, which is much easier in previews.

There have been some where there have been five people in the audience which is not that useful. This is the worst summer for Edinburgh previews because there's so much going on. The football, Love Island and it's so hot as well so why would anybody want to go in to a little room and listen to some guy do some jokes he's written.

You're back doing the Free Fringe again this year. Are you pleased about that?

Yeah, Just the Tonic are really good guys and I love the pay what you want model. I think it works really well because if people want to buy a ticket to make sure they get in, they can do that. The Fringe is so expensive so it just means you get the best of both worlds.

You get the people who can afford tickets and the people who can't. It means you get a better mix of audience than some of the pay venues. I'm in a really good room this year.

I've been in The Tron the last two years which is a good room but this year I've decided to go into the caves which are mouldy and horrible but there is only one room that I like there and it's called Just the Fancy Room and that's the one I'm in which I'm excited about.

What's your favourite thing about Edinburgh?

Genuinely, and this sounds really sad, I just love being in the same place where most comedians are. You're in the centre of a beautiful city, you get to see a show every night, you do your show and then you meet your friends.

I know for normal people, that's what their life is like. But for comedians we're always travelling so it's so nice just to be in one place for a month. It gives me the stability I need.

Who are you looking forward to seeing up there this year?

Loads actually. I'm quite excited to see Harry & Chris, I saw them do a preview and they were great so I look forward to seeing the proper show. Flo & Joan, I'd like to see them. Double-acts basically. They're the only acts I want to see!

There aren't as many of the bigger acts this year. I saw Ed Gamble preview the other day and he was great. Pierre Novellie, his new show sounds good. Adam Hess, I always love seeing Adam Hess' show. Because I'm on at 3:30pm this year I can actually go and watch so much more.

I won't go and see shows every night... that would drive me mad!

After the Fringe you're taking Almost on a nationwide tour. Are you looking forward to it?

I am. I actually love it. Being on tour is the most happy I've ever felt doing comedy.

I was a bit nervous last year about touring because you're on your own and you worry about whether or not anyone's going to come. But it's been great! People do come and they come and watch you and it's brilliant.

With the second tour, the idea is that you build on it and more people come. I'm in some lovely venues as well so it should be good!

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

Over-thinking man has funny breakdown.

Steve Bugeja: Almost runs from 2nd - 26th August (not 13th) at 3:30pm at Just the Tonic at The Caves (Just the Fancy Room). Book tickets here.

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