Abi Roberts uses here experience living in the USSR in the 1990s to perform a show at this year’s Fringe about gay rights and censorship in Russia, the consequences of drinking hardcore vodka, studying opera and using outdoor loos in -20 temperatures, and seeing how Russia has changed since the 90.
Hello. How are you today?
Knackered but happy after two sold-out hour shows at Brighton Komedia and a weekend of club gigs! I’m watching Columbo which is my zen time. The next hour show is Wednesday in Plymouth at the Barbican Theatre which is also almost sold out. So I am very happy today!
At this stage, how closely does your programme blurb match the content of your show?
I’m bringing my show Anglichanka to the fabulous Underbelly this year. I bought it to the free fringe last year and it received great reviews. The show is about learning Russian, living there in the 90s whilst studying opera at the Moscow Conservatoire and going back last year to become the first comic to perform standup in both English and Russian. The show has had quite a few changes and tweaks and it’s also the hundred-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so there’s that to weave in to the narrative.
Have the momentous events of 2016 affected your act in any way?
The momentous world events of last year have meant I’ve had to be on my toes, especially with my show. Doing a show largely about Russia has really focussed my mind on the importance of freedom of speech and what a privilege it is to be holding a microphone. Although living as I do in the comfort of a relatively wealthy country, I realise how bloody lucky I am.
Who are you sharing a flat with this festival and how will you help each other survive the month?
I’m living in the same flat I stay in every year with my amazing husband who is such a great support. He also makes me laugh more than any other person alive. We’ll survive with great food from the nearby Greek restaurant, drinking lots of water and praying to the weather gods to make it not too rainy.
Any shows you’re particularly excited about seeing?
I’m very excited that Jason Manford and John Bishop are also at the Underbelly this year. They learned their skills on the circuit and then went onto to do hour shows – this is something I greatly admire..that is, someone who has earned their stripes doing live comedy over a number of years. I do greatly admire the comics who can do a Friday and Saturday to 400 people over 30 minutes and also do an hour show on a particular theme.
Other than the great shows, what else are you looking forward to about your trip to Edinburgh this year?
I’ve built up a really wonderful loyal audience for my shows over the last 4 years and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them in my show and greeting them afterwards. I’m looking forward to seeing people I don’t get to see for long in a club greenroom over a drink or several in one of the bars. I always look forward to singing a song or two with Massaoke who are a such a great bunch of musicians. I’m at the Underbelly so SPANK will definitely be on my list of shows to do as it’s always comedy anarchy.
What celebrity death hit you the hardest in 2016 (mine was Wogan)?
I was incredibly sad when Gene Wilder died. He is an alumnus of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School where I trained and I was very fortunate to meet him once when I was in the States. He was a comic genius and so brilliantly charming as the original Willy Wonka, a film I grew up watching. And in Young Frankenstein is one of my all-time favourite Mel Brooks films and Wilder shows that there is innate comic timing you just can’t learn.
Here’s a space to write about anything you want. Go for it.
Despite the doomsayers, I see a live comedy circuit in very rude health. New clubs and comedy venues are springing up everywhere. I think the public are beginning to realise that they can see better comedy in a live environment. I genuinely think we are seeing the start of a grassroots D.I.Y. revolution in comedy, with venues and acts creating a new comedy industry bottom up. I see a changeover to much more variety of comedy acts, including toward women who are, to my amazement, still considered as a genre in comedy. Women are not a genre of comedy. I am a comedian and I live or die on how funny I am, regardless of whether I have tits or not. End of.
Abi Roberts: Anglichanka
3-27 Aug, 6.40pm