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Interview: Comedian Stephen Bailey on his 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Show 'Our Kid'

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Stephen Bailey is a five-star comedian whose 2017 Edinburgh Fringe show, the critically acclaimed ‘Can’t Think Straight’, has just seen him through a UK-wide tour. He has also supported Katherine Ryan & Jenny Eclair on their UK tours, and has recently been announced as the host of Channel 5’s ‘Celebs on the Farm’.

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Credit: Duncan Elliot

Hi Stephen! Tell us about your Fringe show this year, Our Kid.

‘The show this year is kind of about imposter syndrome, and not feeling good enough. I think most of us, whatever we do in life, are thinking something like ‘how am I getting away with this?’ And you wonder if it’s ingrained in you psychologically for being working class, because you’re told to ‘know your place’, or if it’s growing up gay, and hearing the word ‘gay’ used to refer to things as a bit rubbish, or if it’s not having the perfect body, or having ginger hair…  all these things you’re told at some point in your life are wrong. I’m covering all that, but in a more happy way – I want it to be a really funny show!’

In your show last year, Can’t Think Straight, you spoke a lot about being working class as a comedian. Is that something we can expect this year as well?

‘I like to do my shows as almost a reality show, you know, ‘this has happened in the last twelve months’ kind of thing, and do every show like a new series. My comedy is quite conversational, quite gossipy. What I found quite early on is that people buy into me. So if I talk about a guy that I went on a few dates with and I say that I hope we get together, people want to know the outcome – they message me on Facebook or Twitter.’

Do you think working class comedians are being shut out of comedy as it’s so expensive to get going?

‘I know so many comedians who claim to be working class, but say things like they can’t afford to pay their rent in Edinburgh, and they’ll have to borrow it off their Dad or something. But my parents don’t have that money – when I moved to London they were worried, and they said if I had even one month where I couldn’t pay rent they didn’t have spare money to help me out. So I’ve always bankrolled it myself, which sometimes is really hard to explain. When you’re talking to agents or producers and they say ‘oh it doesn’t matter it’s only one episode’, and you’re like ‘no, that one episode is so important to me, that’s what pays my bills.’ There is a difference, and it’s always the people who have the money who say there isn’t a difference in class.

What can we do about it?

‘Everyone’s got their own cause, whether its gay rights, race, feminism… and actually what we’re all fighting for is equality, and to be treated right, and to have acknowledgement that actually for some people, whichever of those brackets you fall into, it is harder. And it’s not one or the other, it’s not like LGBT isn’t as important as race, or feminism or whatever. It’s actually all important. You can’t disagree if someone’s not saying anything about your cause but is saying something about what’s affected them. I see that quite a lot. I think we’ve all had it tough in different ways, and I think the difference is about privilege, isn’t it? It’s not necessarily man versus woman, black versus white, gay versus straight, it’s all those different things.

Is there a different atmosphere at Fringe to on tour?

‘Sometimes with the Fringe I think people are a bit shocked by the show. Most shows are like ‘this is my show, and it is about…’ and I don’t really do that. I’m on stage and within two minutes you probably think you’re watching a drag queen who’s got no budget for a costume. I think my strength and my weakness is that I will put the audience first. If they’re not going for my show, I’ll go off on a tangent and do whatever. This isn’t a theatre piece, it’s not a TED talk, it’s comedy. They’ve essentially paid to laugh, so they’re gonna f*cking laugh if it kills me.’

Which comedians or entertainers have influenced your comedy?

‘I love American women. That’s what made me get into comedy. I love Amy Schumer, Kathy Griffin, Sarah Silverman, they’re the people I used to watch. They’re incredible, and there’s just a different vibe to them than with British comedy. You feel like nothing’s off the table with them. That’s what I really like – you think it’s very funny because it’s a bit outrageous.’

Did you decide early on that you wanted to be a comedian?

'No, I never wanted to be a comedian, or a performer in any way. I was painfully shy. People that I went to school with, or even worked at Sainsbury’s with, are so shocked that I do this. I had never been to a comedy club before I was a comedian. I only got into it because I had moved to London, and I thought I needed to make friends, I needed a hobby. And a guy I worked with said ‘you should do stand-up comedy or something, you’re really funny.’ And it stayed in my brain for a bit, and then I did it!'

So what’s next for you after the Fringe?

'I’ll be doing Zoe Ball’s chat show on a Saturday and Sunday morning until September. Then I’ve got two episodes of 'Live at the Comedy Store' coming out for Comedy Central, and it’s just been announced that I’m going to be presenting a new comedy show, 'Celebs on the Farm', on Channel 5.'

 Stephen Bailey will perform 'Our Kid’ at the Laughing Horse Free Festival  at the Free Sisters at 5.15pm, 2nd – 26th August. Click here for more info and tickets.

This article is part of our coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Click here to read other articles written by our contributors. 
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