CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
GB: About two years on my tod. I was in a comedy trio for a bit before that.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
GB: Multi-layered (like a tiramisu) and warm (like a crumble). And words. I love words. So loads of them. I play a character called Marijana – ‘Health & Happiness guru to the stars…’ I’ve lived with her for a few years now, so she’s frighteningly real to me. She’s actually got some quite insightful stuff to say, amid all the nonsense.
(I’m going to regret those brackets)
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
GB: Barry Humphries is the dad of character stuff for me. Caroline Aherne, Paul Whitehouse, Julia Davis and Steve Coogan are the godparents. I fell in love with Russ Abbott and Brian Connolly first… Dangerous Brian and a chicken burger on a Saturday night – that was cloud nine for ten year old me. Then there are great character actors like Christopher Guest, Carol Channing, Carol Burnett, Doon Mackichan and Raquel from Coronation Street… (I know that’s the character – but she was a big one for me). And I’d like to keep Maria Bamford in a jar next to my bed.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
GB: I ran a fairly successful salon called ‘Curly Topknots’ in the late 80s. I had two little combs and a plastic phone. I’d put a bib on a doll and pretend she was Bonnie Langford in for a trim… But that was more of a sideline really. I’ve always wanted to do comedy.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
GB: I pad around the flat, in a pair of silken boxer shorts, or sit in the park opposite my house. If you go between 9 and 3 the swings are usually free. I start with little germs of ideas – scribbled on receipts and stuff and then talk to myself until it turns into something. I also watch people – and collect them, mentally.
CB: Do you gig as a comedy performer full time or is it more of a part-time hobby? If so, do you find that your main job influences your material?
GB: I still have to temp a bit. I also do voice overs, where I sound incredibly buoyant about feminine hygiene products, or talk about mobile phones in a really ‘fresh ‘n’ funky’* way… I used to be a special needs teaching assistant but had to give that up. Gigging is so nocturnal (particularly if you’re travelling out of London), I couldn’t teach on 4 hours sleep anymore. I really miss it though. In many ways, it’s the ultimate gig – trying to engage kids who would rather be doing anything other than the work they’ve been set. It’s also excellent for building resilience. I had a table of 11 year olds telling me my eggs were running out, during Sex Ed… They then proceeded to click their fingers every ten seconds – ‘That’s another one gone’. Like those Poverty adds with Bono.
*Actual direction, as written
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
GB: It can feel quite solitary at the beginning, for a solo act, until you start running into people more regularly. But it’s lovely to be able to watch stuff taking shape and meet so many brilliant brains.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
GB: I’ve learnt to make absolutely no assumptions about an audience before I’m actually up there. I am regularly surprised. But generally any audience that’s facing the right way and listening is good, with a maximum of one stag / hen do per gig.
CB: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started gigging? Do you enjoy being heckled? What’s the best heckle you’ve had?
GB: Not really. But I have been licked on the neck. Which I didn’t enjoy.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
GB: Ooh blimey. Do what comes naturally (which is not the same as easily!). Don’t try to write a certain way, or latch on to a certain trend. Your brain is the only thing setting you apart, in that no one else has it… So work with it, not against. Eat before a gig. It can get terribly bleak alternating between chicken shawarmas / chips in pitta on the way home… And don’t fret over your first death. Once it’s out the way, the fear’s gone and you can give a little bit less of a toss. Which is when all the good stuff happens.
Gabby Best will be performing ‘The Marijana Method’ at Assembly George Square from 31st July – 25th August 2014 at 14:45 (1hour). Tickets.