ED2015 Comedy ED2015 Interviews ED2015 Week3 Edition

Ally Houston: Clowning with stand-up

By | Published on Thursday 27 August 2015

Ally Houston

Glasgow-born stand-up Ally Houston reckons all comedians have an inner clown. His is called Shandy, and he’s written entire show about it. Ally’s first full hour show – which adds music and video to the stand-up for which he’d already won acclaim – debuted at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival earlier this year, and is now playing at the Fringe. We sat Ally down to talk Edinburgh, music making, and that clown called Shandy.

CC: So Shandy. The clown. Tell us about Shandy The Clown.
AH: I’m a performer and I abuse myself. Every performer has a pet clown. Mine is called Shandy.

CC: So why did you decide to build your first full hour show around Shandy?
AH: This idea of having a pet clown seemed universal to comedy performers. It’s the part of you that you have a difficult but funny relationship with. The musical side of the show was already developing, so I thought let’s do this!

CC: How do you describe the show? Part stand-up, part musical, part disturbing relationship with a clown?
AH: That pretty much describes it, yes. It twists and turns through all of those aspects, and I’m there along the way to make sure no-one gets lost.

CC: Actually, tell us more about the music. Who wrote that?
AH: The music is a collaboration between me and my old buddy from university, Gary. We used to try and write proper songs, but more often than not they’d come out as daft parodies. So we decided to put that to good use.

CC: So once you’ve totally dominated the creepy-clown-based-stand-up genre, is a career in pop or rock on the agenda?
AH: Haha, that would be telling. But I think the experience of putting on a pet clown musical for my first year at the Fringe will breathe life into my desire to just do stand-up in the future.

CC: What was it like writing your first full-hour show, how does it compare to writing stand-up for the circuit?
AH: For a show like ‘Shandy’ that has lots of different aspects, I had to write more than just straight stand-up. So I had to move from just writing jokes for a man and a mic, which is what I usually do, to writing jokes that work with the music, and the video projections, and the overall visuals.

CC: You performed the show at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival earlier this year, how did that go?
AH: It went really well, and I sold it out. People had seen little snippets of Shandy already, and knew my stand-up, and they seemed to really liked the idea of this show.

CC: Has it evolved much since then?
AH: It has lightened up a lot. The premise is dark, so keeping it accessible has been the number one priority.

CC: Do you worry that if this show goes too well, the clown will break off and go solo?
AH: I don’t want to spoil the ending of the show, but you are not far off!

CC: We’re past half way point now, how has the Fringe been going for you and Shandy so far?
AH: I don’t want to speak for Shandy, but the whole experience has blown my mind in a good way. How can you not be inspired by such a big experience?

CC: And finally, what next for you, the show and the clown?
AH: For me, back to stand up and gigging as much as possible. For the show, I love it, and it will remain in my comedy cellar. And as for Shandy… well, you can’t keep a good clown down.

‘Ally Houston: Shandy’ was performed at Just The Tonic at The Mash House at Edinburgh Festival 2015.

Photo by David P Scott