Abi Roberts Q&A
Abi Roberts and her big hair exploded onto the stand-up comedy scene in 2011, after a number of years as a musical and cabaret performer. She talks to Giggle Beats about taking two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, her experiences of the festival, plans for the autumn and more.
Hi Abi! You’ve got two shows at the Fringe this year – are you mad?
Well, you know me. I rarely do things by halves. My philosophy in life is ‘If you throw it all at the wall, some of it will stick’. And when we got the offer from Gilded Balloon to do Musical CID in the gorgeous 50-seater Turret we jumped for joy, as it’s perfect for this very intimate hour. I shall be drinking loads of water and taking vitamin supplements.
Tell us about your shows – they’re very different, aren’t they?
I’m very excited about Musical CID as it’s had a lot of attention and people saying, “I wish I’d thought of that”. We have some excellent guests on who I know and love including Seann Walsh, Mark Dolan, Katie Mulgrew, Stephen Bailey, Angela Barnes, Eric Lampaert, Romesh Ranganathan and Jo Caulfield.
It’s a lovely, improvised show in which I talk to one comedian about their record collection based on 20 questions we’ve sent them. We play snippets of their music choices and chat around them with some set piece sections and at the end there’s even a blast of a karaoke duet chosen by the guest we both sing which is HUGE fun.
I guide the guest through the answers and if they want to reveal things it’s totally up to them. The audience love it when they know something about the band or singer that’s been chosen.
Sometimes an audience member will feel particularly connected to a song and sometimes they join in! It’s really quite magical at times and a hell of a lot of fun. I find myself doing what I call ‘chair dancing’ as the stage set-up is like a radio interview but I fully expect and encourage my guests to get up and shake some booty.
Then there is my first stand-up hour at the Voodoo Rooms, Speakeasy, 4.50pm. I was going to call it A Post-Modern Thesis On Patriarchal Structures with reference to Hegelian Dialectics in Popular Culture. But instead I decided to call it Twerk in Progress as that fitted better on the poster.
It’s a very lo-fi show. There’s not a costume, projector or ukelele in sight. I have a mic, a bar stool and water, that’s it. My stand-up comedy is very much about telling it how it is. It’s a show about grabbing life and everyone else by the bollocks. As my mum-in-law Pauline used to say, ‘shy bairns get nee cake’.
In Musical CID you talk to comedy guests about their favourite music collections – are there any songs or musicians that have influenced you as a comedian?
Great question! I think as a comedian we are very close to music in that it’s all about rhythm and timing. Guitar riffs really do it for me – people like Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy or Ry Cooder. A vocal has to grab me like Aretha Franklin or someone who has swagger like Biggie Smalls. You don’t argue with that. You just say: OK, this person knows who they are and they’re not afraid to show it’. And it’s the same with comedy.
What’s your history with the Edinburgh Fringe? How many shows have you done before this?
Well, I’ve done Edinburgh 4 or 5 times with different shows, such as theatre, sketches and singing. I went up when I was at Uni in the 90’s. I was Toad in Toad of Toad Hall and Bottom in a Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a haze of green face paint, alcohol and illicit substances. I had a ball!
I also did a theatre show at The Assembly Rooms written for me by Jonathan Harvey called Taking Charlie. And I’ve done a couple of solo cabaret shows. You know, with about 20 song covers in them. TWERK is my first hour of just stand-up. No songs, no costumes, just me and my take on the world.
What’s your lasting memory of Edinburgh?
The fact that everything is being reviewed and critiqued. I mean everything. I once saw a group of people gathered round a homeless man in the Grassmarket, who happened to be sat next to a dead seagull. They were just staring and waiting for the man to move.
They must honestly have thought it was either a show or a performance art piece and I half expected it to be listed in The Skinny the next day, “The Seagull and the Hobo” – a bravura performance about the futility of existence from a fine cast – 5 stars.”
Edinburgh is a beautiful city all year round but the Fringe is a weird bubble. Food wise, there are great fish and chips in Edinburgh as a whole, but we have found a wee gem near our flat in the Meadows.
Who will you be seeing at the Fringe this year?
I’m really excited to be seeing some of my Musical CID guests doing their kick-ass solo shows: Angela Barnes; Seann Walsh; Rom Ranganathan; Jo Caulfield, who has been so supportive of the show and I’m a big fan; Al Murray’s work-in-progress show; Katie Mulgrew. We did the Glee Club in Birmingham together recently and she’s just a joy to be around. And I’m really keen to see Frank Skinner as he’s one of my all-time favourite comics. I shall also be seeing The Rubberbandits as I’m a big fan.
I will also be seeing a few of the Stu Richard’s LaughDance shows and Eric Lampaert’s Comedian’s Cinema Club shows – I’m doing both of these up at the Festival too. Watch out for the “Forest Gump” show. I’m doing that one and it will be huge fun!
What’s happening in your world after Edinburgh? Anything exciting you can let us in on?
I shall be sleeping for a week then the gigs and writing my second stand-up show starts. And there are things happening with Musical CID in 2015 which is very exciting both live and for broadcast. Watch this space!