“Female comedians are definitely marginalised” – An Interview With Edinburgh Fringe ‘Best Newcomer’ Nominee, Maisie Adam
With a ‘Best Newcomer’ nomination from both Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe and a ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ win under her belt, there’s no doubt that Maisie Adam is making a name for herself on the comedy scene, despite having only ventured into stand-up 18 months ago.
After previewing her first show “Living on the Edge”, at home in Yorkshire, Maisie has gone from strength to strength on the comedy circuit, and there’s no denying that becoming just the fourth woman to win ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ in the competition’s 30 year history is a highlight. Using personal anecdotes, including her experiences with epilepsy, along with a dash of Northern charm Maisie Adam has earned herself a huge amount of praise in what is so far a relatively short career.
Brighton Journal caught up with the lady herself to find out how it feels to lay out a struggle with a medical condition before a room full of strangers, how she’s finding her new home in Brighton and to hear her opinion on women in the industry:
How did you come to do stand-up comedy? You’re quite new to the scene, having only started in the past couple of years – was it something you’ve always been interested in doing?
I saw my local fringe festival was doing a call-out for the artist submissions, and it said something along the lines of “We’re looking for all types of performances; music, poetry, plays – even stand-up comedy!” and I looked at the last one and just thought “Why not?” So I applied for a space in the programme and they gave me a slot! I wrote as much as I could, including scribbled bits here and there of observations that I’d made, and collated it all together. I memorised it, printed some flyers, handed them out anywhere I could and then just turned up and did the show. It went surprisingly well considering most of the people there were just people from my village, who couldn’t believe I’d been so naive as to attempt an hour of stand-up comedy! I cringe when I watch it back now, but it gave me such a buzz at the time that I sent the clip to every promoter I could and booked myself in to open mics across the country.
Before turning to comedy, you were an actor – which do you prefer now? Is it more daunting to stand up alone in front of an audience rather than rely on the script of a play?
I still do some acting alongside the stand-up, but when I first graduated I didn’t have an agent so it was really hard trying to get auditions and castings. I had moved back in to my Mum and Dad’s up in Yorkshire, I was working a few temp jobs, not getting a lot of acting work and really craved that creative outlet, so that’s what pushed me to try stand-up. I definitely prefer stand-up, because it’s so much easier to control as a career; you’re not relying on anyone to get you in the audition room, to have a good director or for the script to be decent. With stand-up comedy, it’s all on you. It’s up to you to write the material, to tell the jokes well, to impress the promoters. It’s all down to you, and I like that. As for finding it more nerve-wracking, I find acting more daunting. You have to adopt a different character who might have different opinions, beliefs, morals and experiences, and you have to make that believable. I don’t find that with stand-up because I’m just being myself. It’s my stories, experiences and perspectives that I’m telling.
Your experience with epilepsy is often a feature in your shows – how does it feel to have such a personal thing laid out in front of a room full of strangers?
To be totally honest, I think I can only really talk about it through stand-up comedy. It’s something I’ve had for over 10 years, and I’m absolutely fine talking about it, but I find it easier to talk about – and I think other people find it easier to hear about – when it’s done comically. I also don’t want people to feel sorry for me, and I think when I talk about it in my stand-up sets, it makes it accessible whilst still being honest, without it sounding like a pity party. At the end of the day, a comedian’s job is to make people laugh by finding the funny in everyday things. For me, those “everyday things” come with a certain perspective because if my epilepsy, and I find there’s a lot of funny in those experiences.
“I’m not saying all women are funny, but if we had the same amount of funny women as we do funny males on the bills, the scene would be a lot better for it.”
Despite being considered a newcomer on the comedy scene, you’ve certainly made your mark so far. Last year you won ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ – one of the biggest stand-up competitions in the country. How does it feel to join names such as Peter Kay and Lee Mack on the list of winners?
It feels amazing! I remember looking up stand-up comedy newcomer competitions, and ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ was the top of the list. I read the list of winners and runner-ups and it was literally a Who’s Who of my comedy heroes. I entered it just to see how far I could get, and see what sort of stuff other newcomers were talking about in their sets. The final was such a blur, and the biggest gig I had done at that point. 300 people – including talent agents and celebrity comics – all watching us do 7 minutes of our best stuff. Aisling Bea was the compere and David O’Doherty was one of the judges, and they have both been amazing to me since I won; offering advice, checking in on me and giving me spots at their gigs for me to try new material out.
You were only the fourth woman in 30 years to win this competition. Do you think female comedians are marginalised and why do think men have so dramatically dominated the stand-up scene?
Female comedians are definitely marginalised. As much as I feel honoured to be the 4th woman in 30 years to win the the ‘So You Think You’re Funny’ title, I can’t help but think that it’s not down to there being a lack of funny female comedians in the last 30 years, it’s because the industry has been so male dominated that women have often had to work twice as hard to get the same opportunities. I’m tired of seeing TV panel shows and comedy club line ups that feature four or five straight, white blokes doing the same styles of comedy, especially when you go to Fringe shows like Brighton and Edinburgh with an amazing variety of comics. I think it’s a visibility problem; if we saw more female comedians on TV or on line ups, then more women would get into comedy and then the scene would reflect a more realistic 50/50 split. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all women are funny, but if we had the same amount of funny women as we do funny males on the bills, the scene would be a lot better for it.
“[This is] the best job in the world and I hope I always feel that way about it!”
You moved to Brighton relatively recently, and are originally from Yorkshire. What was the motive behind that move and how are you finding the city so far?
After winning ‘So You Think You’re Funny’, I found myself gigging in London a good 3 or 4 times a week. As great as my London-based friends are, there’s only so many times you can ask to crash on their sofa. I knew I needed to move down south, but I didn’t like the idea of moving to London. My brother had just started uni at Brighton so I’d been to visit a few times, and loved it from the start. Brighton also has a great comedy scene in itself, not only with Komedia but with really good small new material nights – The Caroline of Brunswick has some great nights on, and it’s so handy to have on your doorstep. I’m really loving Brighton, I wish I’d moved here sooner to be honest. There’s such a great community here, and the Fringe in May is brilliant too, of course!
Finally, what’s next?! You had an amazing run at Edinburgh Fringe this summer, but what have you got your sights set on now?
I can’t believe the year I’ve had already, and I’d love to build on it as best I can. I’m definitely going to go back to Edinburgh again next year, though I haven’t decided what my show will be about yet! I’d also like to get some more TV work, and explore comedy in different formats; podcasts, sketches, improv… there’s so much more I want to explore! I’m working on a few scripts at the moment so I’m excited to see what happens with those too. Most of all, I just want to keep enjoying it as much as I am now – it’s the best job in the world and I hope I always feel that way about it!
Click here for Maisie’s upcoming shows, and find her on Twitter at @MaisieAdam