ED2015 Comedy ED2015 Interviews ED2015 Week2 Edition

Ian Smith: Here, there and whereabouts

By | Published on Monday 17 August 2015

Ian Smith

I think it’s fair to say Ian Smith wowed our reviewer with his 2015 show ‘Whereabouts’, about which he declared “Not only do the show’s threads intertwine in a very satisfying manner, but Smith continuously manages to produce laughs from a variety of sources. Theme tunes, Wikihows and one very expensive prop later, and everyone is on his side”. Keen to find out more about the actor, stand-up and Fringe regular, we arranged a liaison in the local play park – as you do – and threw some questions in his general direction.

CC: So, let’s start with the obvious question, what can we expect from ‘Whereabouts’?
IS: You can expect your socks to be blown off by an hour of stand-up comedy from a man whose vocal cords are increasingly strained. And one of the punchlines is – ‘…Linda?’

CC: The strap-line for the show is “an hour of stand-up, silliness and attempts at theatre fuelled by 35p energy drinks”. Why the attempts at theatre?
IS: I like to do something a bit different within the stand-up. For example, this year the ‘attempts at theatre’ include a presentation, two stupid songs and a £113 prop imported from Germany.

CC: And which energy drinks?
IS: Any energy drink priced over 35p is unacceptable for me, because the cheapest energy drinks usually have the most generic names. One of my favourite brands is ‘Energy’. Closely followed by ‘Energy Drink’. At the same time, I’m unwilling to pay less than 35p for an energy drink.

CC: It’s your third full hour show at the Fringe. Does it get harder or easier putting together new shows?
IS: My default state is panic. I seem to work better under pressure. So, as you’ll see, I’m answering these questions as a man attacks me with a big stick, just to make sure I stay focused. I think it gets easier to do the basics as you progress, because your comedy instincts are sharper. But you always want to top what you’ve done before, so it’s both easier and harder!

CC: As well as the stand-up, you do proper acting too. What was it like being in the BBC’s ‘The Ark’ with David Threlfall earlier this year?
IS: It was a really amazing experience. I felt very lucky and came away from it desperate to do more. Working with David was an absolute joy, I’d watch him work and try to learn everything and anything I could. There was also a man whose job it was to trap all the snakes and scorpions from wherever we were about to film, which was a new experience for me. I’ve now got him over to do my venue at the Fringe because you can never be too careful.

CC: Do you consider the acting and the stand-up as being two separate careers, or two sides of the same thing?
IS: I think doing stand-up can really help when you go into comedy acting. Though when it comes to more serious acting, it can be a bit harder to get people to trust a comedian for a role. I think they assume you’ll panic during an emotional scene and start bantering with the characters about their jobs.

CC: Would you also like to do some theatre at the Festival?
IS: I’d really love to do a play as well as a stand-up show one year. I’m in Richard Gadd’s brilliant show this year – which is a sort of stand-up-show-come-play-come-experimental-theatre-come-film-thing – and that’s been a lot of fun to do.

CC: Is performing in Edinburgh different to doing stand-up elsewhere the rest of the year?
IS: I think it’s better – in general – because I think the audiences are more comedy savvy, not least because they’ve come to a festival that specialises in comedy. So in general you are performing to people who are really up for investing in a show. And I do miss it when it’s over.

CC: We’re just over a week into the Fringe as we speak, how is it going so far?
IS: I’m really happy with how it’s going this year. I’ve had really nice crowds and I think the show is the best one I’ve ever written, and I enjoy performing it. Hopefully the rest of the Fringe will be as fun as all this! I just need to make sure my voice stays until the end – otherwise I’ll have to mime to an audio recording of a previous show.

CC: What are your post Fringe plans, for the show, and for all things acting and stand-up?
IS: I will go and see my Auntie Mamie in Aberdeen first. And then I’ll go on holiday. With the show, I’d love to do a London run of it, or tour it to some places. And I’ll start working on a new show pretty soon as well. I also have a few sitcom pilots I’m writing that I’m excited about, and I have some acting roles coming up too, including a little guest role in series two of ‘Siblings’ on BBC2. And I’ll hopefully be doing a third series of the Dave podcast ‘The Magic Sponge’. So, it’ll be pretty busy. And in amongst all that, I’d rather like to make and distribute my own energy drink.

CC: And finally, your show blurb says you might have stumbled across “the unexpected whereabouts of true happiness”. Can you give us any pointers? Whether for true happiness in general, or just during the Festival?
IS: I think I might have been over-ambitious when that blurb was written! But I certainly reel off a lot of advice – mainly useless – at the end of the show. If you’re at the Fringe for the whole month, I really recommend jumping in a taxi and going to Portobello beach, and relaxing a little there. I also love a good steam room, but if we all start going, well, it’ll just become all cramped and awkward.

‘Ian Smith – Whereabouts’ was performed at Pleasance Courtyard at Edinburgh Festival 2015.

LINKS: iansmithcomedian.co.uk

Photo by Kat Gollock