Performer: Athena Kugblenu Photograph by: Richard Milne Show: Follow The Leade Venue: Underbelly, Clover Promoter: So Comedy and Broken Robot Productions by arrangement with Troika
Tell me about your Edinburgh show.
It’s called Follow the Leader. It’s called Follow the Leader because I think at this point in history in the western world at least, we have the worst leaders. We don’t even have good people to replace them with. But then maybe it’s a reflection of this point in history just having the worst people – so our leaders are the best of a bad bunch. I wrote the show because I spent 18 months having a go at Trump and Brexit supporters but then I flooded my kitchen in the stupidest way and I thought to myself ‘I’m an idiot too. Some people vote for despots. Others ruin their laminate. Swings and roundabouts’.
Tell me about your first gig.
It was in a freezing cold basement in central London. There were around 9 other acts and no audience. Every minute lasted an hour and I felt like a hostage! I don’t remember much laughter. I almost quit.
Do you have any rituals before going on stage?
Remind myself to smile, follow the laughter, speak slowly (because I speak so quickly if I deliberately speak slowly I end up speaking at a normal speed at which I can be understood!) and set my timer on my watch.
Tell me about your best and worst review.
I don’t read reviews any more! I just want the audience to have good time. I remember my first ever reviews were very kind though and I am glad I read them because they gave me the ego to continue.
During this Edinburgh run, do you plan to read reviews of your show?
As above 🙂
How do you feel about reviewers generally?
They are helpful for audience members who are looking for show to watch. But they are not the definitive word on anybody’s competence in any discipline. Stars sell tickets but they don’t make people laugh, that’s my job.
In April 2018, YouTube comedian, Markus Meechan (aka Count Dankula) was fined £800 for training his girlfriend’s pug dog to do a Nazi salute with its paw, in response to the phrase ‘Gas the Jews’. Do you believe Meechan committed a criminal offence, and why?
Yes. Because it’s illegal to incite racial hatred.
Are there any subjects that are not suitable for comedy?
No, but there are subjects not suitable for some comedians. Treading carefully is as much a part of the craft as running your mouth.
Have you ever gone too far?
I genuinely don’t think I have, but I used to have a couple jokes where I wasn’t sure if the audience were laughing for the reasons I intended, so I ditched them. One of them was about African dictators. Shame, because I rather liked it!
Looking back over your time as a comedian, tell me about the best gig of your career.
I’ve been lucky enough to have a few nice moments, I like playing Union Chapel in north London. That’s always a sweet gig. First time I did it I noticed a row of audience members sipping on mugs of tea and thought ‘these are my people’. And thankfully they were!