CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
LM: I gig occasionally but my main focus is writing and performing one-hour shows, which I’ve been doing since 2010. My shows have never been straight stand-up; they’ve either been comedy storytelling or, like this year’s shows “Overlooked” and “The Cleek”, character-based sketch shows, both styles which work best in an hour rather than gig-length chunks.
CB:How would you describe your comedy?
LM: “Hilarious”, obviously! To be more precise, the word that keeps coming to mind is “truthful”. Each of my characters comes from something I’ve experienced or observed, some aspect of myself or someone I know, so even if I take that to an extreme or stretch it into a surreal place, it’s coming from a point of emotional truth and I think audiences connect to that. A reviewer at Brighton Fringe described the show as “ruthlessly observed”, which I quite liked. There are also a few literary references and random puns in the show, so it could be described as “clever” comedy. So, “relatable, ruthlessly observed and random”.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
LM: I don’t consciously emulate anyone or draw on specific influences, but I’ve got a lifetime of comedy fandom behind me that probably comes out in different ways. I’ll let the audience make their own comparisons!
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
LM: I always wanted to act, and I’ve always had an affinity for comedy roles, so that’s what I’ve focused on since I started writing my own material.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
LM: I have to sort of come at it sideways, without thinking of it as “writing”, because thinking of it as writing is all too daunting! When I’m working on a new idea I’ll start out in short bursts in-between other things – I wrote most of “Overlooked” in a notepad on the tube! Sometimes I’ll find myself thinking in a character’s voice while I’m doing something else – trying to sleep, walking to the shops, brushing my teeth (not all at once) – and I’ll work through that bit in my head and write it out later.
Once the first drafts of each character are all down on paper, then I need to get them up on their feet and try them out, which with “Overlooked” I did with my director Logan Murray. I’ll then re-write some bits, write some new bits, and try them out loud again. Some bits end up in the final show, whereas others get put aside for another time.
With “Overlooked”, I only typed it up at the very end of the process once the whole thing had fallen into place. It’s the first time I’d written a whole show by hand and I found it really worked for me. I can be less precious about what’s coming out, which is really important in the first draft stage particularly – not to self-edit as you go, but just get it all out there. Then the editing stage is about finding what works and cutting around them so that they can shine, and focusing on those bits until you find more. Like being a diamond miner. Except with fewer human rights and environmental issues.
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?
LM: I’m also a freelance graphic designer, which I fit around the writing and performing. It’s a constant balancing act. I wouldn’t say that one influences the other, but I do put similar parts of myself into both of them – they’re both creative and both involve different kinds of problem-solving. I think my designs all have a sense of fun to them, as well. My comedy, not so much. Wink.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
LM: The most enjoyable part is meeting people – other performers, audience, venue staff – who then become friends. The most frustrating part is the admin. Those answers also apply to life itself.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
LM: Ones that laugh loudly!
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?
LM: Thankfully, no, I’ve hardly ever been heckled. I’ve had audience members join in sometimes – answering rhetorical questions, or trying to finish punchlines – but I quite like that because I’ve obviously put them at ease if they feel like they’re having a conversation with a mate rather than watching a performance!
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
LM: Do it your way. That answer also applies to life itself.
Lizzy Mace: Overlooked at the Edinburgh Fringe:
6pm (60 minutes) | 1-25 August (not Tues 5, 12, 19) | FREE [Donations]
Cowgatehead Space 3, 65 Cowgate, EH1 1JW (venue #32)