Comedy blog

Helen Duff: Edinburgh Fringe 2017 interview

Helen Duff edinburgh frnige

A gloriously silly clown who can do a great brummie accent. Her show’s blurb also says doughnuts may be shared. So get a ticket.


Hello. How are you today?

​I am a bit woozy because I’m trying to kick caffeine before the Fringe – by which I mean give it up, rather than going around kicking all the baristas of London in the upper thigh, which I would only do if they asked – to smooth the ups and downs of my psyche and because I’ve been reading all sorts of inspiring reddits about how liberated you feel once you’ve finally slain the ​dark brown dragon. By which I hope they mean coffee, otherwise I’m on a fool’s quest!

At this stage, how closely does your programme blurb match the content of your show?

I promised doughnuts. I had grand plans to make my show respectable by including a section on demand and supply economics, telling a long extended story about my Poppa, who was a baker, and his doughnuts, made from duff dough, which everyone adored – they regularly ran out in Norwich, where Duff Dough was based – causing riots when people couldn’t get their daily Duff Dough’s duff dough doughnut delivery (though this was the 50s so people walked to get their Duff Dough’s duff dough doughnut rather than having it deliveroo’d, did you know people get SNOG deliveroo’d now? It’s totally out of hand (and probably very dribbly once it arrives)), and at some point I also thought why not chuck a bit in there about my dad moving to Australia and sending back dough but no jam and before I knew it the whole thing had become a not funny enough farce so I took it out and I’ll just have to deal with the doughnut shaped debt I owe my audience by actually making them laugh.

Have the momentous events of 2016 affected your comedy in any way?

Well yes, in the sense that before Trump I wasn’t sure whether it was appropriate to touch myself in public but now I am very aware that giving all of me a good grab is both deeply enjoyable and probably more effective than carrying a placard at a protest. It certainly gets more attention from old men at the bus stop.

Who are you sharing a flat with this festival and how will you help each other survive the month?

​I don’t know them yet – I leave everything to the last minute then scour Facebook for the scraps. Though I think I’ve landed on my feet again – I’m close to the Seat and in running distance to the sea which is very important. I find regular dips in the freezing cold water really help to remind me that life is precious and drowning in your own tears is almost definitely impossible.

Any shows you’re particularly excited about seeing?

​I could listen to John Kearns shouting at a bar of soap, Marny Godden ​making terrible tooth puns and Jordan Brookes slicing through an audience’s incomprehension for hours.

Other than the great shows, what else are you looking forward to about your trip to Edinburgh this year?

​I went to a wedding in Seville a few weeks ago where the most requested song was Sunshine on Leith. I’d like to see it and sing it and remember dancing in a disused bull ring like Ursuala the evil Octopus from the Little Mermaid. Did I mention there’s a bit about slippery fish in my show? I think it’s about me embracing myself as a pisces and finding my people.

What celebrity death hit you the hardest in 2016 (mine ​was Wogan)?

Caroline Aherne taking Mrs Merton to Vegas in 1997 seems extraordinary now (it was outrageous then). She was so clever and captivating. I am happy she was alive.

Here’s a space to write about anything you want. Go for it.

​(this is not clinically proven but) When The Going Gets Duff is guaranteed to make you more joyful, intelligent and content by developing the synaptic links between body and mind. I have been trying to find out why certain parts of ourselves are alright to touch in public and others are absolutely NOT OK – unless there’s something caught or constricted, or you work in construction / the circus or find yourself suffering with such a bad cold that you lose all control of your limbs and need to be put to bed and the only way convince people of the severity of your symptoms is if you attempt to blow your nose on your knees and miss. I’m not sure whether that last one applies, I was just really struggling to find an example of when a woman would legitimately be allowed to make contact with her crotch in public, without people building a bin around her and naming the bin something terrible like LITTLE MISS FLIRTY FINGERS. Anyway, there’s a bit of touching goes on in the show. Not in a TEASY way. Trump has taken care of that.


Helen Duff: When the Going Gets Duff
Assembly Roxy
Aug 2-27, 7.35pm
£10-£12

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