Interview: Rarely Asked Questions – Tiff Stevenson

An iconic black and white photograph by ace photographer Andy Hollingworth did the rounds a few years ago. It featured Katherine Ryan, Sara Pascoe, Aisling Bea and Tiff Stevenson backstage at a festival, sharing drinks and smiles. Four strong, empowered funny women. Since then Bea, Pascoe and Ryan have all gone on to big things. Maybe 2017 will be outspoken stand-up Stevenson’s year. She is already doing petty well, of course, becoming a familiar face following appearances on panel shows such as 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Mock The Week. Stevenson brings her latest solo show,  Bombshell, to Edinburgh.

Tiff Stevenson: Bombshell is at Gilded Balloon Teviot from Aug 2 - 27. Tickets here.

1. What is the last thing you do before you go onstage (apart from check your flies and/or check your knickers aren't sticking out of your skirt and check for spinach between your teeth)?

Tell myself I'm the best.  A conceit that I allow myself only in the moments before I go onstage, during the set and for no more than 20 minutes after it ends.  It’s a helpful delusion of sorts which is totally unacceptable at any other point in life, to go around telling everyone you are the best, but in that window I have to believe it.

2. What irritates you?

Loads of stuff, look at the show that I'm doing on any given year and it will be in there.  At the moment the phrase 'speaking as a mother', Theresa May, and a big thing that irritates me at the moment is what people find offensive. People getting het up over language while some real awful shit is being done. 

That every year in Edinburgh people will say 'FINALLY someone talking about mental health/body image/feminism/death' as if the wheel has been reinvented when actually they just weren't paying attention.

3. What is the most dangerous thing you have ever done?

Not start a pension, be self-employed.  What was I thinking?  I've always flown by the seat of my pants.  Trying to have a career in the performing arts being a working class woman. That's pretty dangerous. When you look at the latest BBC pay report and 50% of the top earning broadcasters and performers came from private schools. Then there is the gender pay gap too.

I know we've had debates about this before but it's somehow viewed as artistically bereft to have come through the clubs and have made a living which is crazy. It closes the door to anyone who is not from a privileged background. It breeds hegemony which makes the whole scene very uninteresting in my opinion.

On the plus side, you never know what can happen and when. The acting side is very fulfilling too as you get to try on all these lives. Don't convince yourself that if you play someone who is a doctor or a hairdresser that you can actually do it though. WHICH IS TEMPTING. Then you become Gwyneth Paltrow flogging jade vagina eggs to vulnerable women on the internet!

A career in the creative arts is basically sitting at the poker table forever thinking 'don't fold, don't fold'!

4. What is the most stupid thing you have ever done?

I do a stupid thing pretty much every day.  I tried green lipstick the other day and my boyfriend said I looked like I'd rimmed the hulk.

I'm always running late, that's stupid, I'm always doing my make up on the train or in an uber, that's stupid because I've had to learn circus level skill.

5. What has surprised you the most during your career in comedy? 

How angry some of the middle-aged white dudes are.  Guys that I really liked and got on with and was keen for praise from.  Then the BBC ruling came in for one WHOLE woman a show.  These same guys were very vocal in how it now meant they would never get booked.  Even though they hadn't got booked before when there were six whole spots available to them.  Lots of people thinking they didn't get their dues when actually they were either very average or so many people were doing a version of what they do. Rather than being frustrated about young dudes coming through and overtaking them they were angry at the women.

What do they want ? Work harder, write more, be better!  Create your own thing.  Some of them have never even done the Fringe or an hour so as far as I'm concerned can't even compete with ANY of the women coming through, Or any of guys who put the long yards in at the Fringe.  Women have had to carve out our own corners which means building our own audiences and following.

Interview continues here.

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