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Interview: Lucy Porter on her Fringe Show Pass It On

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Lucy Porter is a comedian, writer and actress, active since the 1990s. She has done 11 solo Fringe stand-up shows with many then touring Britain and beyond. She continues to be a festival favourite, and this year she is back with Pass It On.

Both hillarious and poignant, Pass It On follows her reflection on the legacy of her parents. It also makes the case for George Michael being a fab role model and cats being conceited. Besides standup, Porter has been on tv panel shows like Mock The Week, Room 101 and QI and made radio apperances on shows like BBCR4's The News Show and The Now ShowAct Your Age and The Personality Test. She talks to The National Student about her show, about being a woman and mother in comedy and the inspiration that Edinburgh provokes. 

You’re back at the Fringe with your new show Pass It On about what our families pass on to us and what we in turn give to our children and grandchildren. What would you like the audience to take from the show?

The show was inspired by the extensive collection of hideous novelty teapots and glass clowns that my mum collected over the years, and that I inherited when she died. I didn’t know what to do with them and I was hoping I could make the audience take those away, but I’ve grown strangely attached to them now. The message I’d like the audience to take home is that we should appreciate and try to improve on our parents’ legacy. Also that George Michael was an excellent role model and cats need to be brought down a peg or two.

It has been four years since the BBC pledged to have at least one woman on every panel show after criticisms over how male-heavy they were. Do you think the inclusion of women on panel shows has improved or is there a lot of progress still to be achieved?

I found it really interesting how strong the reaction was to that BBC edict at the time - some people really did seem to think that the crops would fail and the rivers turn to blood if Mock the Week was forced to book more women. It seems to have worked out pretty well, I love seeing female comics on my TV. I do wish some shows would book female comedians rather than just women. It’s a bit galling to see a load of male comics and a female TV presenter or singer. I think there are still some people who prefer it when women are funny ‘by accident’.

Do you think starting out as a woman in comedy today is easier than it was when you did?

In terms of the attitude of audiences and bookers towards female comics, I really hope so. I talk a bit in this show about some of the challenges I faced early on in my career. I was reluctant to moan about sexism back then in case it looked like sour grapes, but I’m just generally better at moaning about things the older I get. I’m sure there are loads of different problems now but I’m not sure what they are because the young women starting out are probably also being stoic and not moaning about things. 

 

You’ve mentioned how becoming a mum didn’t change your comedy. But as a mum has any unexpected comedy material resulted that you didn’t expect? Is being a mother inherently funny?

I think being a mother is inherently terrifying more than funny. The big shock for me was how hard it was to restart my career after having kids. It was a bit like starting again from scratch, except with more childcare costs and a lot less energy. Things are getting easier now, but I’m really impressed by anyone who manages to keep their careers going whilst caring for small children, especially single parents. I think the big benefit to my comedy has been the way that parenthood has made me meet so many new people. There are a few bits in this show that were born out of conversations I’ve had at the school gates and in soft play areas and in Marks and Spencer. Not about kids but about other stuff. Before I had kids most of my social interactions were with people in the entertainment industry or audience members at gigs, and I’ve certainly realised that can be a bit of a bubble. 

 

 You’re a comedian ,but also many other things… an actor and writer of tv/theatre and more. How different is it working in these media?

 Live comedy is still my favourite medium because I love being able to see, hear, touch and - in some regrettable cases - smell my audience. I do also love radio, both as a performer and as a consumer. I’m a bit obsessed with Radio 3 at the moment because it makes me feel grown up and cultured.

 

You wrote an amazing comedy play called The Fair Intellectual Club which debuted at 2014’s Fringe before being adapted for Radio 4. You’ve expressed interest in doing more. Is there anything in the works currently?

I really wrote the play as part of my efforts to restart my career after having kids. I didn’t expect it to have such a long life or to love the process as much as I did, but it was phenomenal fun. The best part was collaborating with the amazing director, cast and crew. I subsequently took a course at the National Theatre to try and improve my play writing. I’m taking the autumn off to write something new. I don’t know what it will be yet, but I’m sure being at the festival will inspire me.

 

You’ve travelled all over the world, but like many comedians make the annual pilgrimage to Edinburgh each August. Is there something about Edinburgh that attracts comedians to the fringe and is Edinburgh the city of Comedy?

 I’m definitely addicted to Edinburgh - both the city and the festival. I think they got their hooks into me at a tender age, I was a 19 year old student and all about music until I came to the fringe. I fell in love with the city the minute I stepped off the train. I was hoping to be the bass player in a successful indie band, but diverted into comedy instead. I think a lot of comedians have a similar addiction to the festival. Edinburgh is the perfect place for it because it seems to have a limitless supply of venues - odd little rooms at the backs of pubs, lecture halls, gymnasiums and even caves. Also an infinitely patient and laughter-loving local population. 

 

Your show Pass It On is about what we have passed on to us by family and what we then pass on. With you and your husband Justin Edwards both comedians, would you like your children to get the comedy gene or there something else you’d rather they take from you?

 I’d rather they inherited Justin’s musical talents and became bass players in successful indie bands.

 

What advice would you give for a student interested in starting stand up but not sure where to begin?

 Get in touch with me on twitter and I’ll give you whatever tips I can muster. Admittedly it’s been so long since I started that most advice won’t have been relevant since the late 1990s, but I’ll give it a go anyway.

 

Finally what shows are you excited to see during this year’s fringe?

One of the women who was in my play has written a show called Ailsa Benson is Missing. That’s on at the Assembly Rooms. I’m also keen to see Laura Lexx, Sara BarronDarren Harriot and a thousand other things.

 


Lucy Porter will perform Pass It On at the Pleasance Forth until August 26th (not 13th or 20th) at 5.30pm. Click here for tickets and information. 

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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