"I don't know what I'd do in August if I didn't go to the Fringe."
Steve Bugeja has been taking a new hour of material to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe every year since 2015 and has recently finished a nationwide tour of last year's show, Almost. For his fifth hour, Single Mum, he's telling the story of his mother's love life, from the perspective of seven-year-old Steve.
I caught up with him to find out more as he reveals to me how his mum reacted to the premise for this year's show, his initial concerns over the title and I question him on whether or not he'll ever take a year off.
Every Edinburgh you do seems to go better than the last. Do you feel that too?
I guess so. I don't really look back too much on where I've come from where I'm going but each show is an improvement on the last. As a comedian I do think I'm getting better, naturally you improve the more you do something.
I just love being up at the Fringe. I look forward to it every year. I look forward to doing more ambitious shows and stretching myself. If I started selling less ticket's I'd probably be getting worried but that's not the case so I guess you're right.
Since debuting in 2015, you haven't missed a Fringe. Can you see yourself taking a year off?
I think about not going every year, but then my manager tells me I've got to go, but also I genuinely don't want to not go. I think I'd be a bit lost. I don't know what I'd do in August if I didn't go to the Fringe. I do other stuff outside of stand-up, like write scripts but I can do that as well as stand-up. I don't see it as either/or. But I know some comics take a year off so that they can do other stuff. I just try and manage my year so that I can do both.
It would be less stressful, but at the moment I can't see myself not doing it.
After Edinburgh last year you toured the show, what was that like?
It was great, I love touring. Normally the show is over after the Fringe so it was nice to be able to continue to perform it up and down the country. Also, you start to find new bits to add to it which is really nice. I love touring, it's slightly nicer than doing normal club gigs.
When did you start working on this year's show?
I started in January so I was still touring the last show which meant there was a bit of overlap which is the worst time - because you're performing the old show which is really slick and polished and then testing the new one which is really shit.
I hired an Airbnb which was basically a hut in someone's garden in Surrey and I stayed there for two days and wrote.
What can people expect from this year's show?
It's called Single Mum and it's all about me and my mum and how she was single when I was growing up and me watching her try and find a man. It's a view of my mum's love life from the perspective of a 7/8 year old who used to audition some of those boyfriends/potential step-dads.
How did she react when you told her what the show would be about?
She's not ecstatic about the whole thing. When I told her what it was about she said "Oh Steven, please don't make me sound like a tart" which is her main concern, coming across tarty. But I don't think she does, I think she comes across very well. I do just tell the story and it is true.
How much do you remember from when you were 7?
That was an issue actually. I was mis-remembering quite a lot of it so I had to painfully ask my mum. I basically took her for lunch one day and quizzed her on her dating life which is a bit weird for Cafe Rouge but we did it anyway.
I remembered all the men correctly, but sometimes I'd get the dates wrong and how long they were going out for wrong. She gave me lots of insight into some of the bits I missed when I was a kid like her going on single nights with her friends. It was very helpful and she was basically writing some of the jokes for me!
Were you worried by how people might interpret the title of your show, Single Mum?
Totally! You might read the title and go "What's Steve on about? He's not a mum. He might be single but he's not a mum." - which is why we wanted the poster to clarify it so that as soon as someone saw the poster they immediately got what it would be about.
How have the previews been going?
It's been going really well actually. I feel a lot more prepared this year because I started a bit earlier and I didn't go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival this year which knocks out a month of your Edinburgh preparation.
I've been ready since about June really. It's not perfect but it's not work-in-progress anymore, it's kind of there.
Your poster is brilliant again this year. Were you surprised by how many people tried to recreate your poster from last year?
That was nice that and completely unintentional. At the photoshoot we took loads of normal photos, serious ones and trying to be funny ones, and literally in between changing the angles I started doing high kicks because I was bored and was trying to see how high I could do it.
He managed to get a photo of me doing quite a high one and that was the best photo we took in the whole four hours! It was nice watching people try and do the high kick. I should say, I didn't see anyone manage to get a high kick as high as mine.
What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh this year?
I'm genuinely excited to do the show every day. I know that sounds really obvious, but I'm really proud of this one. I really like the ending. I think it's my best show thus far. It's probably the most nervous I've felt about a show since my first one and I think that's a good sign because I care about it more.
I'm excited for people to enjoy it really. I did a preview in Bristol the other week and these blokey lads came up to me afterwards and said "We're from broken homes as well. We've never heard anyone talk about growing up with a single mum before, we really liked that" - which was amazing. They're the sort of lads who would probably never have come to say hello to me in the first place, but we connected over this issue.
So I'm excited about that. I'm excited about people watching it who feel like that story hasn't been told that much.
Who are you looking forward to seeing perform?
So many! I'm looking forward to Lucy Beaumont coming back with her second show. I love Lucy, she's so funny. I'm looking forward to seeing Sarah Kendall's new show. I'm looking forward to seeing Laura Lexx's show, I saw hers in previews the other day, so I want to see the final version of that. Ivo Graham, Phil Wang even though he's already sold out his entire run.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
I'm still writing with Iain Stirling, the voice of Love Island, so hopefully something will come out of that. I've written a script for a kid's show which is cool and something I never thought I'd do. But after I wrote it I realised why writing for kids is brilliant, you can be as daft as you want.
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
Funny. Heartwarming. Tribute to mum.
Steve Bugeja: Single Mum runs from 1st-25th August (not 12th) at 7.30pm at Just the Tonic at The Caves (Just The Fancy Room). Book tickets here.