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Louise Atkinson: Mates

By | Published on Monday 10 July 2023

The Fringe gets closer day by day, obviously, as we pace relentlessly through July. And the more I look at all the comedy on offer this year, the more bewildered I get about which shows to choose to go and see.

Luckily for me, I get to chat to lots of comedians, which can be helpful in finding out more about the acts that are performing in the Scottish capital this summer. And this time, I’m chatting to Louise Atkinson, who is bringing her debut hour ‘Mates’ to the Gilded Balloon for a full edfringe run.

I’m rather interested by the themes of friendship and conflict that the show promises, and I definitely wanted to find out more about that. But also to delve into the up and coming comedian’s past and future plans.

To that end, I spoke to Louise to find out more. 

CM: Can we start by talking about the debut hour? Does it have specific themes? What can we expect from it?
LA: Sure, no problem. The show is about an article I read in a magazine over a year ago. It’s about friendship; how we express ourselves with our friends; how we can love them but also get so annoyed by them that we’d happily chuck them in a skip given the opportunity. All heartwarming stuff.

CM: How did you go about putting it together? What process do you go through choosing what to include?
LA: I should give a really slick answer, like I wear a smoking jacket and stand by an easel and let my imagination run wild.

In actuality, I have random thoughts pop into my head all the time, usually while I’m wandering around Lidl.

I write them down, then think ‘I’ll come back to those ideas eventually’. Time passes, I stress eat a ton of biscuits, then begrudgingly try to make a joke.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself as a performer? How would you describe your style of stand-up?
LA: One of the best descriptions I got of my style was from an audience member at the Fringe back in 2019.

They said “I like your stuff, you’re kinda like a brandy after watching ‘Great British Bake Off’ – comforting but with a bit of a kick”.

To this day it’s still one of my favourite descriptions.

CM: What influences your comedy?
LA: I love people watching. It’s hard to say without sounding creepy, so I’ll embrace it. It’s so interesting to observe how utterly bizarre and moronic humans are. So they’re great for initial ideas, and then I love just sitting and tinkering in constructing a joke and seeing what the funniest word could be.

So I sit and just mumble to myself “well, I think here the words KitKat Chunky are funnier than a Double Decker bar, so I’ll use that”. Probably best I live alone when I think about it, otherwise someone would have seen me mumbling KitKat Chunky to myself and probably locked me up a while ago.

CM: You’ve been to the Fringe before, pre-pandemic. Did COVID have an impact on your comedy progression?
LA: Oh 100%. For me and so many. I think there is still a backlog now of comedians that had set everything up to go to the Fringe in 2020 or 2021 and we had no choice but to be on this forced sabbatical.

However, whilst I’m obviously not happy we had a worldwide plague, having that extra time actually allowed me to remember how much I loved comedy.

When you first start doing stand-up you get caught up in everything and it can be a mental overload, so taking a step back gave me a moment to remember why I wanted to do it it the first place.

CM: What do you like about being at the Fringe? What made you decide to come back with this show?
LA: Since I used to go to the Fringe as a normal muggle, I love the idea of a couple of friends coming and having a blast and then going and doing something silly afterwards, and you made them feel happier than when they came in.

It was so fun, choosing shows with my mates, getting drinks, seeing something, getting annoyed because one of us had to change and the other one lost her purse.

It’s a fun, comedic, ad hoc orientation exercise we played, and it makes me laugh that there are other mates going round and being daft like that as well.

It’s really going to make my day if people come with their mates to watch my show about – *checks notes* – that’s right, ‘Mates’.

CM: What hopes and expectations do you have for this year’s Festival?
LA: My dream is to have people rock up to my show, enjoy a little friend date, and then leave and go do something silly and fun, just the two of them.

Though my biggest hope is that this year, unbeknownst to so many of us, there has been a bagpipe shortage, and – as a result – there will be a large, if not ENTIRE, lack of the noise of the bagpipes.

I love Scotland, cracking place, amazing choice of shortbread, yet, the bagpipes need to get in the bin and that bin be set on fire. Soz.

CM: What will you be doing in Edinburgh when you are not performing?
LA: Currently, me and my flatmate are trying to decide which bottle of whisky to treat ourselves to, and we’re going to make sure we have some time each day to have a wee dram, play cards, and dream about what else we can do in retirement.

Also, I’m getting a reading list together so I can devour some good books and I’ve made a list of comfort movies; I’m up to ‘Paddington’ and all the Ardman films so far. It’s very rock and roll chez Atkinson, let me tell you.

CM: A couple of more general questions about you, now: what made you decide to pursue a performance career? Was comedy what you always wanted to do?
LA: I’ve always loved comedy, I’m a big ole comedy nerd. I used to tape ‘Live At The Apollo’ every week and watch it over and over.

My original goal was to be a barrister. As a result, I went to law school, and realised I probably wanted to be a barrister because I really liked the idea of wearing a Batman cape and Mr Whippy wig, which apparently isn’t an acceptable reason, according to that stuffy judge I spoke to.

Still, one day I woke up with an urge that just went: you have to at least try stand-up, just try it, just to say you tried. So, here I am.

CM: What have been the highlights of your working life thus far?
LA: My favourite part was meeting other comedians who think the same way I do.

My mates are great, and utterly hilarious, but there is something specific about the comedian’s mind, that only another person who has a brain filled with eighteen monkeys playing cymbals whilst trying to open filing cabinets of information will get.

Me and my all time comedy bestie Josh Baulf – who’s also debuting this year – we were at each other’s first ever gig and, on paper, nobody would think we would get on. But we both love comedy, and we both get how we each come to the conclusions that we do. It’s just a really nice thing to have.

It’s bad for our livers and bank balance, and due to our various ‘creative sessions’ we’re about £20k down, and we should probably be looking to get added to a liver donor list, if anyone has any info to share, hit us up….quickly.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? Where do you hope you will be in five years time?
LA: I’m going to say my true ambition, but I will warn you that it is mildly nauseating.

My ambition, my dream to be quite frank, is that – within the next five years – I will have produced some form of comedy – a stand up special, a sitcom, a sketch show, whatever – and I’ll be out and about, pottering around, and someone will come up to me and say, “oh, you’re Louise Atkinson, you did that [insert type of comedy here]. I loved that. You know I watch it every time I feel sad and it cheers me up every time, thank you”.

And I’ll say “you’re welcome”, breathe a sigh of relief in the knowledge that I’ve managed to do my job properly, and then continue buying cheese, or a mop, or whatever it was I was doing.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
LA: I’m so excited, straight after the Fringe I’m going full Shirley Valentine and going on holiday to Greece for two weeks. I’m going to drink on the beach, befriend a rock, possibly get a job in a taverner and maybe never come back, who’s to say?

Louise Atkinson performed ‘Mates’ at Gilded Balloon Teviot at Edinburgh Festival 2023.

LINKS: twitter.com/_latkinson_ | neon.page/LouiseAtkinson 

Photo: Andy Hollingworth