Performer: David Ephgrave Photograph by: Gemma Poole Show: David Ephgrave: My Part in his Downfall Venue: Just The Tonic – Just Up The Road @ The Caves Promoter: Doggett and Ephgrave
Tell me about your Edinburgh show.
It’s essentially a one-man self-character assassination with jokes; like performing an autopsy on myself using a mic instead of a scalpel. In the show, I try to work out why a performer who’s achieved more than he perhaps gives himself credit – and who apparently refers to himself in third-person – can only ever remember the bad bits to discard the good. I also consider other culprits who’ve encouraged my negativity, from the man on the street to the reviewer in the audience to the mother in my parents.
Tell me about your first gig.
It was at junior school, where I played the theme from Blackadder on the piano while everyone filed in for assembly; I don’t why I did this, but I’m pretty sure Howard Goodall never received any royalties. I followed my debut a few months later by dancing to Hale & Pace’s 1991 Comic Relief single ‘The Stonk’ while balanced on a table in front of the whole school; my teachers must have been stuck for material.
Do you have any rituals before going on stage?
Nothing I’d admit in public. Last year, I listened to an episode of Hancock’s Half Hour before every show to get me in the mood for comedy. I also meditate, do a vocal warm-up and drink enough coffee to undo my meditation.
Tell me about your best and worst review.
They’re one and the same. Last year, a joke I wrote made it into the Daily Telegraph’s Funniest Gags list; I could finally say a minute of my show had been critically acclaimed. Chortle described my first solo show as ’forty-five minutes of meh’, which I was disappointed about as the running time was actually fifty-two.
During this Edinburgh run, do you plan to read reviews of your show?
Only if they’ve been carefully vetted by the people I trust and, even then, I’ll try not to; I’m riddled with enough self-doubt as it is to risk giving myself something new to worry about.
How do you feel about reviewers generally?
Reviewers are not on my Christmas card list. I’m not sure having someone tell you whether to enjoy a show is a necessary service. It’s all subjective anyway. All the best artists from The Beatles to Morecambe and Wise have been slated; often by critics who never walked the walk themselves. Bad reviews can stifle creativity and, at worst, make performers give up. You should only seek the opinion of those you trust and respect.
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?
As always, context is important; sometimes things get blown out of proportion by people who never saw what caused the fuss in the first place. In isolation, what he did sounds awful and tasteless, but if you watch the clip it’s relatively harmless, if misguided. Whether it’s funny is another matter. Either way, suing comics for the jokes we make risks leaving us very little to joke about.
Are there any subjects that are not suitable for comedy?
My general rule is ‘if you need to scan the room before delivering a line, you probably shouldn’t say it’. But if you approach a contentious topic with intelligence and you’re not being narrow-minded, you can potentially discuss anything.
Have you ever gone too far?
Not yet, but maybe this year’s the Fringe to do it.
Looking back over your time as a comedian, tell me about the best gig of your career.
Ha. “Career”. Some of my best experiences as a comic have happened at my own club, Mostly Comedy, sharing a bill with my heroes. There’s something very surreal about performing on the same line-up as an act you grew up watching. My favourite was when Paul Daniels played our club a few months before he sadly died; while I was onstage I spotted him walk in at the back of the room and I had a bit of an out-of-body experience. Later on that night, he asked me to set his props for him; if you told eleven-year-old me I’d ever do that I never would have believed it.