Title of Show: Chelsea Birkby: No More Mr Nice Chelsea Venue: Just the Spare Room, The Caves Time: 3.40pm Dates: 4th – 28th August (not 15th) Photographer: Chris WR Cox Links: Chelsea’s Profile and Social Media
Tell me about your 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe show.
It’s an hour of stand-up where we’ll explore what it is to be ‘nice’, and whether that’s what we really want anyway. Covering things ‘nice’ people don’t talk about like sex, drugs and rock n roll (well, Nickelback). I used to be known as sweet and innocent, but now I’m trying to embrace my dark side and be hostile to the audience but I keep forgetting and saying sorry. It’s smart and silly, so you’ll enjoy it whether you love Albert Camus or Mr Blobby or if you just like jokes.
You discuss some personal issues on stage as part of the show. How easy is that? When retelling a story what’s more important – the truth or the punchline?
You’re right, it’s a very personal show and includes things I haven’t told my family, which I am sure is absolutely going to be fine with no repercussions.
My view is you can have truth and punchlines, they make each other richer. As I was growing up, humour allowed me to express truth where I otherwise wouldn’t be heard, because I was, like many of us, a uniquely misunderstood teen. So, first I want people to laugh, but at bits that reflect how I see things. Secondly, I mostly want people to compliment my outfit.
Do you consider yourself to be a contemporary philosopher?
Only at about 3am chatting with the remaining people at a house party. But otherwise absolutely not, no, no, no and nor would any of my seminar leaders back at uni. I have my favourites, and I keep up with pop-philosophy, like the other day I bought a Jean Paul Sartre biography, a book on stoicism and ‘how to be Instagram famous’ guide, and I told the cashier ‘it’s not for me’, and then immediately admitted ‘actually, it is’. Maybe hell is other people?
And often before I write a bit, I question if I’ve done the required thinking and hit the books. It’s important to me that you might not know that through my stand up, though, but Simone de Beauvoirs in there, if you’re looking for her.
On your website you state, “My housemate said sex is the most vulnerable you can do with another person but then he’s never been to clown school.” Tell me about learning clown.
You’ve been on my site! Did you like the design?
Very much so!
My two weeks studying with Philippe Gaulier were life-changing and liberating and, most of all, really fun. Some of my favourite things he said, were “when you accept you don’t know what to do you are beautiful”, “smile to the God of fun” and “the clown exists because he has a great dream: to make the audience laughing. It is an emergency”. I loved the insults just as much, like after one a very poor performance, Philippe asked us “when we watch her do we say ‘yippee, I want to see her again’ or do we say “I put her in the bin. And the bin is smelly. It smells of fish for 100 years. And she dies in there” through to the very simple but effective “it is horrible what you did” and “be careful, because it is not funny at all”. It reminds me how important playing and pleasure are, and the sheer joy of being an absolute idiot who knows nothing (Clown Socrates?).
Finally, ask and answer a question of your own.
Chelsea, what shows should I be seeing this year?
This fringe has so many newcomers, 2022 is practically the Edinburgh fringe debutant ball. There are plenty of ones to watch to look out for, Jamie D’Souza’s show ‘Stop drawing willies on my poster’ is an hour of the finest jokes and see Celya AB’s ‘Swimming’ for a hilarious and classy show. But I also suggest you go and see the independent or unusual shows as well. I can’t recommend enough Ben Lund-Conlon’s show about the statistical analysis of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Good Kids ‘Appetite’ for songs, sketches and big laughs.