Interview: Fern Brady On Hosting BBC's Stand Up For Live Comedy

Interview: Fern Brady On Hosting Stand Up For Live Comedy

Fern Brady is the host of the latest edition of BBC Three's Stand Up For Live Comedy. It is available on iPlayer now here and on BBC1 on Monday, October 12 at 10.45pm too. It was recorded in Glasgow. 

As well as Brady MCing, Kimi Loughton discusses the joys of being a godmother, Andy Field casts his unique and quirky eye over everyday mundane thing and charmingly awkward London comic Toussaint Douglass enlightens the locals with joyfully absurd tales of growing up in Lewisham and life with his girlfriend



Why do you feel Stand Up For Live Comedy is an important show for right now?

A lot of people don’t realise that, because of the coronavirus, many comedians have been out of work for four or five months. It’s a hard thing to get people to care about because, of course, lots of people have lost their jobs and I sometimes feel when I tell people I’m a stand-up they think I’m just saying it and really it’s just a hobby. Programmes like this will help make people realise it’s a legitimate industry and we can’t do our job without audiences. We’re getting more support from the BBC than the government, to be honest.


How have you been keeping yourself busy over these past few months?

I started a podcast called Wheel of Misfortune with my mate Alison Spittle, who also lost all her work. I had a script I had to write as well, so I was doing that. Otherwise there were a couple of months at the start of it where I didn’t really have anything to do. I went from working every day and gigging five nights a week to just staying at home and showing my kitten how to do tricks because there was nothing else to do.


You recorded your episode of Stand Up For Live Comedy at Glasgow's BAAD. Was that your first time back on stage in front of a live audience?

For me it wasn’t but for other acts on the bill it was both their first TV spot and their first time back on stage, which is a lot to take on. I did my first gig back on stage in July and, even though I’ve been doing this for ten years, I had all the same feelings of doing a show again for the first time. I felt sick all day, I felt like I’d drank loads of coffee, and I actually started gagging before I went on stage because I was so nervous. So you have to bear in mind when you see the acts on Stand Up For Live Comedy, it’s their first time back on stage and that’s just mad.


Where was your first post-lockdown show?

It was in a car park in Tottenham. It was a drive-in gig, with the cars beeping their horns at me. Then I did a gig on a roof in Peckham. It’s been mental. There have been people organising secret gigs in back gardens and stuff, and one comedian told me his friend was in a gig in a back garden and someone complained because one of the acts said ‘F***’. This woman next door was like ‘My child is in the garden’. It’s totally bizarre. I’m back to gigging a couple of times a week now but at the same time I’m not able to get a new solo show ready. I was meant to go to Australia to do that but now I can’t, of course. One of the enjoyable things about stand-up is that when you get new material ready there’s a cumulative effect of trying and failing new jokes, then you try again the next night and get a bit better and so on and so on. Now we don’t have that. Like, if I’m gigging tonight I can do material that I know works but I’ve already done it on telly so it’s a bit like ‘What’s the point of this if I’m not getting a new show ready?’


Does Glasgow have any significance for you as a performer?

I’ve gigged there a couple of times before but the main significance with Glasgow for me is that the day before lockdown happened I’d filmed my tour show as a special there. It nearly didn’t go ahead because the film crew were coming from America and they nearly got stuck, all that week we didn’t know if it was going to go ahead, then we filmed it and the very next day I lost all my work because of the pandemic. So it was cool to be going back up to Glasgow. It was like coming full circle to go back there to do a TV show.


Are you getting used to all the precautionary measures in place nowadays?

Yes I am but sometimes, at some venues, audiences can’t cheer too much because it will propel droplets towards the stage or there have been gigs where people have had to perform behind a perspex screen, and I’ve had to do coronavirus tests. But then comedians tend to go to extreme measures to do comedy anyway so that kind of thing doesn’t bother me. 


Your co-comedians on the show are Kimi Loughton, Toussaint Douglass and Andy Field. What do they each bring to the mix?

Toussaint is from South-East London and he’s won loads of new act competitions. He was doing loads of stuff about being black and his girlfriend is white, and he’s kind of geeky and awkward on stage. He just smashed it and got a huge round of applause. Andy is also kind of a weirdo and was doing great one-liners. Then Kimi is from Edinburgh but she’s from Muirhouse, which is a really working class bit of Edinburgh and it’s good because you don’t see that represented much in comedy. There’s barely any comedians from Edinburgh and the ones who are are mainly middle class.


How does what’s been happening around the world in general and the UK in particular play into your comedy?

I had to do my old material when I first went back and it felt like deeply irrelevant, woke, hipster s***. In my head I was like ‘How is any of this relevant to the fact everyone’s lost their jobs?’ But then all the new material I wrote in lockdown was just stuff about how fat I am or going running. A lot of the other new stuff I wrote, even if it didn’t reference the pandemic, was quite dark because that was just everyone’s mood. It’s a balancing act because some audiences don’t want to hear about the virus at all, which I think is fair enough, and that’s what I enjoyed about watching the acts on Stand Up For Live Comedy. It was also just nice to watch comedy again and it’s always really nice to watch a new act doing their first TV spot because they’re so excited and so filled with nerves. It’s nice to see when it goes so well for them.


Why do you feel comedy is such a vital part of British culture?

I’ve travelled to 14 different countries to do stand-up and the UK has got by far the best stand-up scene. Well, I’d say us and America have the best stand-up in the world. I do love going to Australia to do shows but the Brits are definitely a lot darker and tend to be more ironic and sarcastic. There’s definitely a brand of British humour that makes comedians from all over the world move to the UK to do stand-up. If you look at the mix of people in London, for example, there’s Americans, Canadians, the Danish, Swedish, Norwegians - people from all over come to do comedy here. I’m friends with a lot of American comics and one thing many of them point out is that the best thing about the UK comedy scene is how you can make a full-time living from comedy here without being famous, whereas in America you make no money for years and then you make a ton of it. There isn’t any in-between.


When it comes to making people laugh, do you have boundaries you won’t cross?

This is the new question we get asked all the time, like ‘Is there anything you can’t talk about in comedy?’ No there really isn’t but there’s definitely some stuff I know that doesn’t work in some places more than in others. But a big thing I enjoy about doing stand-up is saying things to get a reaction from people. Really talented comedians can talk about anything, so long as you’re making it funny and you’re making it engaging, then you can talk about whatever you want. Toussaint did Black Lives Matter stuff in Glasgow, which is an unbelievably white city, and he got a huge applause break. 

Picture: Luke Hallam. Copyright Phil McIntyre Television

Interview supplied by publicists


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