As one third of Massive Dad, Tessa Coates has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe festival for the past three years but this year is her debut as a solo performer.
Unlike Geri Halliwell leaving the Spice Girls to pursue a solo career or Zayn leaving One Direction to share with us his pillow talk, Tessa is still very much a part of Massive Dad but with the hilarious trio taking time out from the Fringe to pursue TV projects, Tessa felt like 2017 was the right time to make her solo debut.
You’ve been up at the Fringe three times with Massive Dad, why 2017 to make your solo Edinburgh debut?
Massive Dad aren’t doing a live show this year because we’re working on a lot of TV stuff which is a totally new step up for us and an unbelievably slow process. I guess I just wanted to get back to live comedy and I had lots of stuff I wanted to say, lots of stuff I wanted to do and I wanted a space where I could do that. This show is very different to the stuff I do in Massive Dad, it’s not me doing the same thing but by myself.
What can people expect when they come and see your show?
I’m going to call it chatting. I don’t play a character, it’s just me as I am and a mixture of storytelling and stand up. There are some characters in it.
I find it very hard to describe, to categorise what it is, I pretty much talk in the same way that I’m talking to you now. Just with more people who are slightly further away.
Why have you called the show Primates?
I’d sat on the idea for a really long time because my degree is in Anthropology, which is the study of humans, and I wanted some use out of my £20,000 of debt. I just feel that humans and evolution and sex and sexuality and gender are all really interesting things.
It was always at the top of my mind when I was learning about it that it’s not classically known stuff and I think it’s really fascinating and I’m confident that other people will as well.
How long have you been working on the show for?
So... I did my very first gig by myself in January. I went to The Cavendish Arms and did 5 minutes. Then when I told people that I wanted to do this show they were like, “What? This year?!” And I’m like “Yeah!” and they’re like “An hour?” and I was like “Yeah” and they all went “No no no, maybe next year. Let’s just take it slow.”
I want to do it and I’m ready. Of course my first show isn’t going to be the best show I’ve ever made it’s just going to be my first show on my journey to making a great show.
How are you finding filling the Edinburgh hour?
I set myself a schedule after my 5 minutes in January where I had to hit 10 minutes by a certain time, then 20 minutes and so on. I didn’t go from 5 minutes straight to an hour. When I first did my 5 minutes I thought how am I going to fill the other 55?!
I’ve been writing it down since January, but the stuff is all stuff that’s happened in my life, that I already knew or things that I found really interesting. So the stuff is all stuff I wanted to talk about and I was actually running over time which is a nice problem to have.
Also I’m a terrible chatter so my director would be like “Please script that bit and just say the words. Don’t just keep waffling on because you think it’s nice."
How have the previews been going?
I’ve done a bunch of previews and strangers have come and if you can make a bunch of strangers laugh you’re going to be absolutely fine. I keep looking at the crowd and thinking “Who are you? And how have you got here?!” But they’re there and if they’re having a nice time then I think, OK that works. And when stuff doesn’t work, I understand, I say thank you for your time and thank you for your feedback.
Do you have anyone helping you with the show this year?
I’ve got Berk’s Nest, the production company who did Richard Gadd’s show last year and they’re the best people in the whole world. There are just three of them, Phoebe, Katie and Owen. They’re so amazing, so calm, so fun and so great and I honestly could not have made this show without them at all.
You just need someone who has been paid to be emotionally invested in the show because no one is really going to care as much as your parents unless you pay them. You need someone who cares as much about what you’re making as you do and go “That bit works, that bit doesn’t. Stop being so stupid. Stop crying."
What is it about Edinburgh Fringe that makes you want to perform there?
Everyone loves the Fringe! You can’t not do it. You can’t not! I know it’s so silly because people go you don’t have to go to Edinburgh to do comedy but it’s so magical there. It’s the best thing in the whole world and it’s almost impossible to describe it. That’s why people go back year after year after year, because it’s amazing.
Last year, we just did a week of of our show at the end, Massive Lazy Girls and I actually went to South America in August and went travelling - as far away from the Fringe as you could possibly be. Then I came back in that final week feeling so calm and so separate from the comedy year that people are in. I remember sitting in the Pleasance Courtyard and that’s when I was certain that I wanted to do this.
I would regret not doing this next year more than I would doing it.
Anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing when you’re up there?
I’m a real terror with my Pleasance pass, I’ll be seeing absolutely everything there is. Regardless of what it is! I’d like to see Joseph Morpurgo’s show, Jack Barry. I really love Jack Barry. Kiri Pritchard McLean is amazing. The wrestling, I’m excited that that’s there this year.
I’ve actually really paced myself and not looked at the guide. I’m going to wait until I get there so that I have something to look forward to.
Outside of the Fringe, what are you working on?
With Massive Dad we’re writing a lot, I’m doing The Debrief Podcast, I’m still a freelance journalist and I teach English as a foreign. So I’m lowly qualified in a high number of trades. I’m doing some radio stuff, I’m in an episode of Channel 4’s Damned with Alan Davies and Jo Brand, I’ve just done Coconut for BBC Three which has just come out. And then next week Kieran Hodgson is doing a radio show and I’m playing a character in that so that should be really fun.
Finally, how would you sum up your show in just five words?
Very nice so please come.