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I TALK TO Stevie Martin

One third of sketch group Massive Dad, Stevie Martin is following in the footsteps of fellow group member Tessa Coates by heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year with her first solo show entitled Stevie Martin Vol.1.

© Idil Sukan

You're about to head up to Edinburgh with your first solo show. Why have you chosen this year?

I've always been very scared about the idea of doing a solo show and in 2015, Fest accidentally just ran a picture of me next to a feature that was about 'Top 10 Late Night Snacks' and it looked like I had a show called Late Night Snacks. So for three years it has become a running joke with Liz and Tessa in Massive Dad that I would bring Late Night Snacks up to the Fringe.

I was too scared to do it on my own. Then I saw Tessa (Coates) do it and she had a really nice time and really enjoyed it and I think it gave her a lot of confidence that she could do this on her own. So that's why I'm doing it I think.

I just want to see if I can do it! And see if I like it. Because you don't know until you try and so far I am enjoying it a lot.

How have the previews been going?

They've been really lovely. Obviously the first few times I stood up on stage and did my own material was horrible. Thankfully I never have to have that experience again because I've now done it enough times that I'm not so frightened.

I was shaking and my voice started sounding like a tiny child, but then very quickly by the third or fourth time, I really enjoyed it. And now I'm just running my hour, tweaking it, running it again, changing bits.

I'm a bit of a perfectionist so I don't think it will ever be finished in my eyes but it'll be good to get it to a stage where I don't hate performing it every night.

But all the previews have been really encouraging and really nice. If it had just been silent rooms with people walking out, I think I would have called it all to a stop.

When did you decide you'd be doing your debut hour and how long have you been working on the show for?

It was probably after Edinburgh last year so I guess the same time as everyone else. It would have been really nice if I had the idea of going up in my head earlier because I could have had two years to come up with a perfect show!

I came up to Edinburgh last year and stayed for a month and did little 10-minute spots under a variety of different names because I was frightened that people would go "Oh Stevie, it's you!" and actually come and watch it.

Oh really? I had no idea!

No... no one did! I told nobody. But I did some bizarre little gigs. One to six people in a van who were all about 18 and had no idea what I was saying so it meant that I got the real nerves out of the way before I started doing it properly.

I got the nerves out in front of people who don't know me and will never see me again because I gave them a different name.

I run a little comedy night in London and by the time I was doing that at least I was used to being on stage.

Have you enjoyed having an hour of your own to fill?

People will get bored of me right?! After 20 minutes they'll be like "Next!". Weirdly I've found an hour much simpler to fill because I'm not doing stand-up. I think if I was, maybe it would be different.

So what is your show then if it's not stand-up?

The show is basically a mixture of sketches and characters and stand-up parodies, rather than actual stand-up.

I tried a lot of different styles of comedy when I first started working on my own show because I didn't know what I was good at. I knew I liked doing sketch comedy, so should I just do sketches and just play all the characters? Should I do stand-up? Should I do characters? Should I try and do storytelling?

I basically tried all of those things and the one that from the moment I started I hated, was stand-up. I literally said "Hi, my name's Stevie..." and I couldn't. Who cares about what I'm saying? Obviously I have my own independent thoughts and things I want to take the piss out of but I just find it so much easier doing it in a heightened version of myself.

So my show is about a person who's putting on a show for you. And for a variety of reasons she might not be the best person to be doing that show. She throws a lot into this hour to entertain you.

What about the live horse that's mentioned in your blurb for the show?

Well that is for people to see when they... No, there's no live horse. I'm furious. I'm really furious. We just couldn't fit it in. Both to the stage and also into any of the sketches. I just thought it would be great to have a live horse.

Nick Mohammed's got a live elephant, so I thought a horse would be ideal this year as it's the year of live animals in comedy, but unfortunately I couldn't make my contribution to that trend.

You're in the Pleasance. Are you pleased with your venue?

Oh yeah, I love them! Massive Dad have been produced by them ever since our first year so when I decided to do a solo show, there wasn't really anyone else that I wanted.

They run a night called HUB in London so I went and did that and immediately after found Ryan who's the Head of Comedy and went "Would you like to produce me?" and he went "Yeah, let's have a chat" and I'm incredibly relieved because I wouldn't really know where else to start. I get on with him really well.

You've called the show Vol.1 - was that an easy decision to make?

Absolutely! They ask you for the title in February and it kind of fits with the theme. I thought, if I continue with the theme that I've got then it sticks and if I don't, it doesn't matter.

In 2015 we called our Massive Dad show Massive Dad 2.0 Step Up 2 Massive Dad because it was going to be a dance show, and then it wasn't. So we ended up with this ridiculously long dance show name which was nothing to do with the show. So I've learnt my lesson I think!

Can you see Massive Dad ever returning to the Fringe?

No. I don't think so. I think that was our Fringe done which is why we're doing solo shows. I missed being on stage because we went on a live hiatus for a little bit to work on various scripts for TV development and that's a constant process that you have to devote quite a lot of time to. We're still continuing to do that and throw scripts at people.

In the future we probably will put together a live show again but whether or not we'll take it to Edinburgh or just do a run in London, remains to be seen. But we are definitely still working very hard together and that hasn't dipped.

Although I think if you're not in Edinburgh people go "Have you broken up?".

In Edinburgh, your audience specifically choose to come and see you rather than if you were on a mixed-bill night for example. Do you find that quite daunting?

It's quite daunting yeah because Tessa sold out her whole run so if no one comes to mine then I'll know who the one in Massive Dad was that no one cared about!

What did you make of Tessa's show last year? Did you go and see it?

Yeah, I basically saw it once a week. It was lovely. What was really great about her show was that it was just like talking to Tessa. That's how she talks. She tells us stories. It was like the best of Tessa.

She's back again this year but we aren't watching each other's previews but we do watch the end show. Massive Dad are the only people that I tell not to come and watch the show before it's done because I care about their opinion a lot more than the average person because we've all worked so hard together.

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

It's a difficult one because I pretty much love everything about the Fringe. Even the bits where you're sat on a wall crying. I just really love all of it. I just don't think there's any other time in my year where I feel so fully like a comedian and every day I get to do what I want to do.

People complain about the workload and I'm doing two shows a day because I'm in two of Adam Riches' shows which alternate but that's still only two hours a day. That is fine.

But of course it's the emotional and psychological stress around it that is about 24 hours a day. I guess I'm just really looking forward to getting into that lovely rhythm by the second week where I get up, go for a run, know what I'm doing and just do the show.

If it's a good show I'll have a nice time and if it's crap then I think I maybe won't like Edinburgh anymore! (Laughs)

Oh... I'm also really looking forward to a fry-up every day at The City Cafe!

Who are you looking forward to seeing this year?

That is a good question... Lazy Susan. I always love them. They're one of my favourites. Dan Cook, who's now at the Pleasance this year and is just brilliant. He's so different and bizarre and great. Ben Target as well, he always does something interesting that you're not expecting.

Lolly Adefope I'm really looking forward to her new show. She's incredible! So so funny. Obviously Tessa's show... and Graham Dickson as well! I loved his show last year in the Underbelly and he's doing a play this year which I saw a play this year and it was totally bizarre and unique.

But I mean I'll probably see nobody because I'm really bad at watching shows when I'm in Edinburgh! There are so many. I'm already stressed.

You're back doing a podcast with Tessa called Nobody Panic. Are you enjoying it?

It's lovely to do because it's got nothing to do with comedy in a way and it's a really nice thing to do each week.

We're also doing two live podcasts at the Pleasance in Edinburgh which will be really fun! I'm trying to think when they are... I think they're the 7th and the 11th August in the Courtyard. I don't even think it's in the brochure!

The messages we get are so lovely and spur us to keep going. I think we got to number two on iTunes and when I found out I was really drunk in Disneyland Paris and it was very surreal!

I just hope that we can keep building on it and maintain the quality that we've set and making it bigger. I'd love to do more and more live podcasts.

Also what's really nice is that a lot of people who listen to the podcast come and watch my previews and they're a great audience to test material out on because a lot of them don't watch a lot of comedy. They're not industry or other comedians. They're genuine members of the general public.

Me and Tessa are doing a double preview in Streatham Space Project in July and we're able to push that one out through the podcast as it's just us on the bill and merge the two worlds together. There's just going to be a lot of very nice twenty-year-old women!

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

There is no live horse.

Stevie Martin Vol.1 runs from 1st - 27th August (Not 15th) at 6pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Below). Book tickets here.


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