Andrew Dipper

Five questions for Matt Price

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Matt Price is a stand-up comedian from Cornwall who now lives in London. He answers five questions about his new Edinburgh Fringe show, The Maryhill Dinosaur.

Hi Matt! Tell us about your new show.

Maryhill is an area in Glasgow and the show was inspired by a man I know called Arthur who believed he was a dinosaur. It’s a number of stories that all happen to be on a similar theme.

If the show were a music album, then Arthur’s story would be the main track on the album. It’s a really sweet, heartwarming and true story that means a lot to me. And it’s one that I’ve wanted to tell audiences for a while because it blew my mind.

That said, I’ve found as with all Edinburgh shows that the process of putting it together and developing the vague ideas that I had around the end of last year have changed quite a lot. The main theme is my own lack of self-assertion (being the guy who gets walked all over and taken for granted) and coming to terms with that after a minor incident at last year’s Fringe.

My conclusion is a very positive one and I don’t think there is any cynicism is this show whatsoever. The question anyone reading this might have of course, is how does that tie in with a man who thinks he’s a dinosaur?

Well, surprisingly, it really does, but you’ll have to come and see the show to find out exactly how. In short, I want it to be uplifting and fun. So if you like good stories then do come and check it out.

For those who haven’t seen you before, how would you describe your work?

I always describe myself as an interactive storyteller. I haven’t always liked the “storyteller” label because it can be damaging. The rambling storyteller tag, or being someone who doesn’t tell jokes is hard to lose.

In reality, I use set up punchline the same as everyone else and I really think about how to craft what I do to make it a good journey for the audience.

As you know, club comedy and Edinburgh hours can be very different experiences and my aim has always been to entertain the people in front of me to the very best of my ability. I love my job and I love making people laugh.

I could have given a more simple answer and said, I tell true and personal stories. But I can usually do whatever is needed to make the gig work. (This is where I get struck down by the God’s of comedy now…) But what I mean is, I’m versatile. I’ve been doing this a while and I hope that an hour in my company will be good fun and I do tell a good yarn.

How did you get into stand-up?

I wanted to be a boxing writer. I spent a couple of years on the road interviewing fighters. They are fascinating people. I met a lot of people from the journeymen who lose for a living, to World Champions and everyone in between. I had a few fights myself as part of my research.

There are a lot of similarities between boxing and comedy, oddly. The language comics use is very similar, the pre-gig/fight rituals, the loneliness, the dedication and (this is getting too serious now) the heartbreak and regrets.

There is also the crazy adrenaline rush too. My book failed and I wanted to write something and comedy is a great way to get immediate feedback, assuming you actually listen to the audience of course.

To continue with the analogy, there is a saying in boxing – “It’s not why you start. It’s why you stay.” I can’t even remember why I stayed in comedy – it was 12 years ago – but I’m really glad that I did.

What kind of comedy do you like watching? Will you be seeing any of your peers in Edinburgh?

I remember listening to Sean Hughes, Alibis for life. It was the most amazing thing I had ever heard. I had no idea that comedy could have a theatrical edge to it or have a narrative.

The album was on cassette, so that’s how long ago it was, but I think it shaped my expectations and I really like anything personal with a good story. That said, I like watching anyone who is at the top of their game and it’s great to be part of a gig where you see something in the moment that can’t be repeated.

As for my peers, every year I promise myself that I will go and watch as many shows as possible and I end up seeing maybe 3 or 4 during the entire month because it’s so exhausting being in Edinburgh.

So if I’m really honest, I probably won’t be seeing much, even though I would like to. I really enjoy Edinburgh (or at least I’ve learned to pace myself and enjoy it more than the first few years I came to the festival) and I’m going to try and do a great show and come back a better comic, which is one of my goals every year.

You mention ‘Turkeygate’ in your show blurb – without re-opening old wounds, how do you think that experience has informed your new show?

Going to Turkey for a comedy tour last year was the worst and the best thing that could have happened to me. The worst aspects were of course, the weeks of nightmares afterwards and I started sleepwalking. I had various threats, both legal and physical, and not being paid a penny hurt me too. Nobody likes to be ripped off or conned and we were.

But me and my friend Colin Manford who was also out there promised ourselves that we would both grow from the experience and use it as a catalyst for something positive. And we have both managed to achieve a lot over the last year.

I did a very well received show in Edinburgh at about two week’s notice and Colin is going from strength to strength not only as a comic, but as an actor and co-promoter of Manford’s Comedy Clubs.

The biggest thing it did for me, was give me a level of self belief that I may have lacked previously. I now know that I am funny. Which sounds like an odd thing to say, but to be able to take a traumatic experience like Turkey and make it into an hour long story is one of my proudest achievements. There is something to be said for just getting on with it and that is exactly what I did.

I certainly never set out to hurt anyone in that show, it was never a revenge piece and the only person I actually named was the fake Comedy promoter who ripped us off and threatened me.

But what I would say to anyone who may be even vaguely critical (i.e. Oh God, he’s not still talking about Turkey…) is stop for a second and try putting yourself in my situation. We really thought we were going to die.

We were not paid, had no gigs in the diary when we returned. I had no choice to make something good out of a very dire situation and what was the weirdest year of my life. And I did just that.

This year’s show starts in November 2013 with a stab vest that was sent to me through the post from a friend of mine is who is, shall we say, on the dodgier side of the law. It all stemmed from me performing the last fifteen minutes of my show on the streets of Edinburgh last year because of reasons that were “beyond my control.” This led to yet another threat.

But as I say, it all has a very positive conclusion. There are no wounds from Turkeygate. It’s an incredible story and the experience made me stronger than I have ever been at any point in my life.

Matt Price: The Maryhill Dinosaur, The Counting House, Edinburgh, 1-24 August, 5.45pm, FREE,