ED2013 Comedy ED2013 Interviews ED2013 Week2 Edition

Diane Spencer: Hurricane warning

By | Published on Tuesday 13 August 2013

Diane Spencer

‘Hurricane Diane’ has hit the Fringe, as Diane Spencer takes to the stage each day to talk you through her ‘Calamity Jane Asher’ of a life. “Frequently filthy but constantly hilarious” and “a whirlwind hour of anecdotal comedy” said our reviewer after she saw the show, awarding the 5/5 rating that convinced us we really ought to be tracking down Ms Spencer and asking some questions. Fully insured, we got about that task.

CC: “Diane Spencer is a natural disaster” says your show blurb. Are you really that bad?!
DS: Ha! Probably not THAT bad, but I’ll trip over more than the average bear. I use the word “disaster” to describe a range of mistakes, from asking people how their boyfriends are only to discover they’ve been dumped, to putting so much mustard in a king prawn curry that everyone cries and I have to throw the rest away. Add into that, when it rains it pours – I’ll usually have about three whoopsies all at once, rather than one at a time. Ever seen those ‘Final Destination’ films? Sometimes I feel like fate is creeping up on me and tying my shoelaces together in the meantime.

CC: This is your third full Edinburgh show, what made you decide to focus on your personal calamities this time round?
DS: The theme came after the material really, because to write a show it’s a case of writing and re-writing, and then looking at the structure and all that. I think futility can be really funny, and I wanted to write a joyous show this year, a really gleeful, mischievous and silly show where I’m the butt of the jokes, and I could invite people into my room and my life. I wanted to create an atmosphere of welcoming inclusion, like we’re all having dinner together and I’m just telling all these disastrous stories, because you know you can trust your friend Diane to do these silly things!

CC: So, the various disastrous incidents from your life in the show – are they all true? Have you employed any poetic licence for the laughs?
DS: Yes, they are all true, but yes, I have employed a little poetic licence to tell the story. Any good story has been edited – I don’t think it becomes a story until it’s been redrafted. But I have witnesses and photographic evidence of all the events!

CC: Did you have plenty of such incidents to choose from? If you extend the show to tour, will you have to instigate a couple of new personal disasters first to provide the extra material?
DS: Ah no, there were lots of such incidents to choose from and, as always, in the writing stage some were cut out. You see what themes emerge, and then focus and clip out those that don’t quite fit. In an earlier draft, there’s a true story about the time I was asked to sit in the jump seat of an aeroplane because they had overbooked the flight. I was terrified, so when they offered me some free wine I just got drunk! I’d been to a gig and they’d paid me in two different currencies, so I was drunk in a cockpit with wadges of cash, and this was two days before September 11th! However, this story didn’t really fit in with the whole scheme of things, so I had to drop it from the show. But I keep all my jokebooks, and sometimes I revisit material and find a home for it later.

CC: As I said, this is the third full solo show, meaning last August was the ‘tricky second album’, as it were. How did it go? Is it getting harder or easier each year?
DS: It was tricky! I wanted to experiment and do some social commentary, because my favourite comedians are the ones who can make me laugh and think at the same time. I also wanted to start the show with a bang and hit the ground running, so it opened with the line “I wank too much – anyone else wank so much you get prune tip?”, then I held up a finger. The idea was, that you’re a bit shocked at the start, but by the end, you’ve gone on a journey, and you’re laughing at much more shocking material but without realising it! In the main it worked, though some people couldn’t get past that opening bit, which was a shame.

CC: You’ve been compared to Joan Rivers and Jim Jeffries, which is quite a compliment. Are there any other people you’d like to be compared with?
DS: Who would I like to be compared with? Anyone who is good! And kind and funny, please. That’s my aim, though we’re all only human.

CC: How is your Fringe going? Any calamities to fuel a follow up show?
DS: Ha! Not yet! I snuck a new joke in yesterday which I love, but nothing calamitous. This is actually my fifth Fringe in total, so thankfully I’m learning to fight the fires quickly. I’m a happy comedian – I write when I’m happy, and then invest the jokes with that desire to spread joy. Seeing a room of people get a joke, roll their heads back, open their mouths and laugh is the best thing ever.

CC: People can check out past shows of yours in full on YouTube for free. Why did you decide to do that? Do you worry about giving shows away like that, or is it essential in the YouTube age?
DS: I don’t worry about it! I found some of my favourite comedians through YouTube, and it’s a way of giving back to the online community. Plus if people like my work they’ll still come to see me live. I did a gig in Rome and two guys flew over from Milan because there’s a great company called ComedySubs who put Italian subtitles on my shows, and they’d seen me online. The YouTube channel is also a great way of keeping a record of my shows, and tracking my development as a performer. People still order copies of the DVDs, even if they can see it online for free. I don’t think the YouTube thing is necessarily ‘essential’ in this day and age, but I’m only well known in certain circles, and it’s a great way of getting new fans.

CC: We’re approaching half way at this year’s Festival – other than your own show, obviously, are there any others that you’ve see that you’d recommend?
DS: ‘Bobby Mair – Obviously Adopted’ at Just The Tonic at The Tron. I met him backstage at the Hammersmith Apollo in London after a Doug Stanhope gig, and then we went to the Kerrang Awards together, and as I speak I’m preparing to go on this ginger march with him on Saturday. I can’t escape the guy, so why should anyone else!

‘Diane Spencer: Hurricane Diane’ was performed at Gilded Balloon Teviot at Edinburgh Festival 2013.

LINKS: www.difunny.com

Photo: Rich Dyson