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Maddy Anholt: Best Fringe date

By | Published on Sunday 2 August 2015

Maddy Anholt

The marvellous Maddy Anholt – who wowed Edinburgh audiences in 2013 with her Fringe debut ‘Maddy’s Many Mouths’ – returns to the Festival stage this summer with her latest show, ‘Diary Of A Dating Addict’.
Far from being a simple stand-up or character comedy show, this one has a strong theme, with plenty of interesting observations to make. So we booked in a date with Maddy to find out more.

CM: What can we expect from the new show? Does it have a linear narrative?
MA: ‘Diary Of A Dating Addict’ is a journey of self-discovery. All of us have photos of our younger selves where we say “I can’t believe I wore that”, or “jeez, why was I friends with them?”, or “why did I pluck my eyebrows to look like sperm?”, and that’s okay, as long as we learn from the mistakes, put the tweezers down and appreciate ourselves for who we are; that’s when we’re in the position to find our perfect partner. This is as much a show about finding love as it is about self-acceptance. I guess you could say it has a relatively linear narrative, in that I track back over a year of dating, mating and hating, and bring it to where I am now; there’s a cheeky sprinkling of audience interaction, some whacking realisations and a nice dose of sardonicism.

CM: What inspired this focus for the new show?
MA: This was a very cathartic show to write, I wanted an outlet to express the feeling you have as a single woman when you wake up, scroll through Facebook and see four of your friends have got engaged overnight. There’s a point you reach – I’d say over 26 for women and slightly older for men – when you look at the world a little differently. You think it might actually be quite nice to have an intelligent conversation and cuddle up with somebody on a Saturday night instead of flashing the barman to get some free sambucas then vomming all over your best friends’ new shoes.

CM: Do you address any particular issues? Are there specific points you are trying to make?
MA: First and foremost it deals with the issue of loneliness. Living in London, we’re in a city of eight million, but when you catch someone’s eye on the tube it’s like you’ve just passed on Ebola. I also talk about obsession and what it is to be in a relationship where you are totally hooked but you know it’s not right for you. As they say, being single is far better than being in a lousy relationship, so instead of this being a show about hunting for men, it’s much more about searching for the right man, not settling for the fear that you’ll soon have to Google ‘Wholesale Whiskers cat food’.

I’m also really interested in what love was before the proliferation of social media, was there more genuineness? Was it far less looks-based and much more about good old-fashioned chemistry? Social media crops up a few times in my show, especially in respect of what it does to our confidence levels. It’s so hard not to compare your lives to other people’s these days; wondering how you’re the same age as your friend who has a designer handbag, a hot boyfriend and goes on three holidays a year, and you’re eating a Pot Noodle, watching Ant and Dec and picking your toenails.

CM: What kind of characters can we expect to see cropping up?
MA: I play four men in ‘Diary Of A Dating Addict’, who are basically amalgams of guys I dated over the year. The best thing I’ve ever heard from an audience member after one of my shows was: “I know that guy! I’m sure I do!” That tells me I’m doing something right. I want my characters to be relatable; from the wanker banker banter boy that mastered in Mansplaining to the bad man you’ll find blaring his selection of awful music out on the top of the bus. I like to think the persona I adopt as the narrator is a heightened version of me: the Everywoman as it were, speaking honestly about single life, relationships and not settling for second best.

CM: It sounds like the show is at least partly autobiographical. Just how much of your experience were you prepared to divulge to the world?
MA: I think it’s fair to say it’s semi-autobiographical. It includes excerpts of stories told to me by friends who went on hilariously bad dates, some experiences are my own and a few ideas have been fed some E numbers for the sake of comedy, but the underlying tale of a woman approaching 30 and trying to find her way in the world is 100% me.

CM: How did you go about creating the show? Did you just work on it in a room by yourself or did you get someone in to help?
MA: I always start the writing process in the same way: I get a big piece of paper, as big as I can find, and I rough out exactly what it is I want to cover, after that I slot characters in and then try and fit it all together. Once I’ve got that I’ll confine myself to a room for hours on end, squinting at the screen and try and get it pretty much written. The most useful tool of all though is audience; you can go a bit stir-crazy sitting by yourself, talking in the voices of characters for hours on end. The hardest bit for me is not writing the show itself but trying to be your own critic and taking bits out that don’t work and putting in new ideas. I try and be strict with myself but quite often – as I have already done about six times whilst writing this – I’ll find myself drifting off to Facebook or Twitter which really interrupts my stream of consciousness, so when I’m writing I’ll turn off the wi-fi.

CM: Let’s go back to the start. How did you get into comedy? Who have your influences been?
MA: I definitely knew I always wanted to be a performer. I went to ALRA, the same drama school that Miranda Hart and Bridget Christie went to, and that was where I began working on characters. I remember we had a module where we would have to observe another person in their daily life and then become them – talk like them, walk like them, do everything like them for a week. It was brilliant, and I learnt so much about what it takes to develop a truthful character.

A massive influence in my life is Sally Phillips – I can do the best Sally Phillips impression, ask me to do it if you see me, it’s my party trick – I just think she’s incredibly talented and I would love to have something close to her career. ‘Smack The Pony’ was pivotal in my life; it made me comprehend what was achievable with enough bravery and hard work.

Amy Poehler is also wondrous. I love her views on careers. She says: “Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. It likes it when you don’t depend on it. It will chase you if you act like other things – passion, friendship, family, longevity – are more important to you”. Although I find that really hard to live by, she’s right.

Comedy went from a sideline to my chosen career when I left drama school and very quickly realised I wouldn’t be satisfied sitting in a casting room in a parallel universe, with twenty other girls that looked exactly like me praying I’d get the role as ‘girl-next-door 2’ in the new Halfords commercial. My career needed to be more unique and exciting than that, so I went to town on my own writing. I’ve never been one to sit around and depend on other people to get things done. Part of the reason I’m still single, I’m sure, is because I was the annoying girlfriend that asked you to clean something then went and re-did it myself.

CM: You brought a well received debut show to Edinburgh a couple of years ago, didn’t you? Did you feel the success of that show here has had a useful impact on your career?
MA: Yes definitely. My debut show was really trial-and-error and looking back I was so naïve about the Edinburgh Fringe, I had no idea of the size of it. Having said that, I had some really great stuff happen off the back of it, I got signed to a good agent, I met some great people and I did a showcase with BBC Radio Comedy. I didn’t go to the Fringe last year partly due to finance and also because I got offered a corporate filming job and I really needed the money, but there is nothing like wearing a high-vis for two weeks, in a grey industrial estate filming a health and safety video that makes you crave the Fringe Festival more.

CM: So you were then dead set on returning this year?
MA: Pretty much. Edinburgh is the place to be if you’re serious about comedy; I really believe every performer, at one stage in their career should take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe, or at least to a fringe festival, because it teaches you so much about organisation, networking and hard graft.

I’m so excited to be at the Gilded Balloon this year, it was a massive goal of mine. I knew last year that if I was going to do the Fringe again it would have to be at Gilded, and I would need to get sponsorship and a great PR and I’ve ticked all three boxes, so I’m really excited to get started!

The buzz of the festival is like no other, it’s insane. I love the huge variety of people you get. I remember in 2013 chatting to a psychologist, a nun and a carpenter – there’s a joke in there somewhere – that had all been to see my show, it’s great to meet people from all walks of life. I always say it’s like an abusive relationship, it hurts and at times you hate it, but you know it only treats you like that because it loves you. Those first few weeks are the toughest when you’re pounding the pavements for audience and wishing on reviews but hopefully… hopefully after that’s out the way I can enjoy it.

CM: And finally, what was your worst date ever?
MA: There was one incident where I made my date so nervous that he felt the need to buy six shots of tequila, down every single one, disappear for twenty minutes and then return pale-faced, with questionable stains down his front. The date ended after he asked if he could sleep on my sofa because “his mum would be really angry if he came home drunk”.

‘Diary Of A Dating Addict’ was performed at Gilded Balloon at Edinburgh Festival 2015.

LINKS: maddyanholt.com