ED2021 Caro Meets ED2021 Comedy

Olga Pavlova: From Russia With No Love

By | Published on Sunday 15 August 2021

Two of the best things about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, to my mind, are a) seeing the waves of newcomers who turn up each year oozing with talent and new ideas, and b) seeing artists from all over the world heading to the Scottish Capital to take part.

One such newcomer, here all the way from Eastern Europe, is Olga Pavlova. Born in Russia, and now resident in Bulgaria, she’s busy forging a career in the world of stand-up comedy.

To find out more about Olga, her career, and what prompted her to perform in Edinburgh this year, I arranged a quick chat.

CM: Tell us about the show you are performing at Edinburgh this year. What can we expect from ‘From Russia With No Love’? Does it have specific themes?
OP: This is a show about me, my life, my failures and struggles. A big part is about being Russian abroad and what it’s like, another big part is about sex and relationships and being single in your 30s. I speak openly on these topics and use very strong language, so it’s better to be prepared for some cursing. A part of the show is general observations about modern life, work, travel, shared flats and social media. I think millennials living in big cities can relate the most to these topics, and of course, I usually get the warmest feedback from girls in their 30s.

CM: How would you describe your comedy style? Are you a storyteller?
OP: I think I’m more of a joker. Most of all I enjoy making short jokes, on stage and in real life. Maybe in the end a series of these jokes creates some kind of narrative, but I seldom tell stories.

CM: Have you performed in Edinburgh before? What made you decide to bring your show this year?
OP: I’ve never performed in Edinburgh and I’ve never been to Edinburgh, although I spent several months in the UK once. Like many comedians, I’ve been dreaming about taking part in the Festival Fringe for a long time. And then, after the year 2020 – which many of us spent in lockdown – I felt a very strong urge to do something with my life as soon as I could. It helped me to realise what I really want, and I wasn’t ready to make any excuses to postpone my life anymore. So I came to Edinburgh, even though this year the festival is not as big as usual. I’m still incredibly happy to be here, I’m living my dream.

CM: So what’s it like being here for the festival? Is it what you expected?
OP: It’s actually better than I expected. In the current situation we all, artists and organisers, didn’t know what to expect, we were not sure if people would be ready for live events. But as it turns out, people are eager to hear live comedy again, so the shows are packed and the public is very warm and responsive, which is of course a pure bliss for artists.

CM: You’re originally from Russia and now live in Bulgaria. Can you tell us a bit about how you ended up in Bulgaria?
OP: We went on vacation in Bulgaria with my mom several times, and we really liked it there, so we decided to move. At first I lived in Varna for a couple of years, then I moved to Sofia, and now I’m living partly in Sofia, partly in Varna. I like Bulgaria very much, I feel comfortable there and the weather is almost always good, especially at the seaside.

CM: How did you begin your career in stand up, and how is it progressing?
OP: Just after I moved to Sofia, I was searching for events in English as my Bulgarian wasn’t so good at that point, and that’s how I found an English speaking open mic event. By that time I was already a fan of TV-shows about stand up comedians like ‘Seinfeld’, so I was very happy to go to an event like this. The first time I just watched, and the next time I went on stage. That’s how I met other comedians in Sofia and became a part of the Inside Joke Stand Up Comedy group. In 2019 I premiered my solo show at the Tallinn Fringe Festival and it was one of the most wonderful experiences in my life, I really enjoyed it. Since then I have performed the show in Sofia and Bucharest, and now I’ve brought it to the Edinburgh Fringe.

CM: So, your career in comedy almost happened by accident! But had you always wanted to be a stand-up comedian – or at least some sort of performer?
OP: Yes, it really did start almost by accident, from my big love of TV comedies. But when I think about it, I realise that I always liked to make jokes and be the centre of attention, and yes, I was already thinking about becoming an artist, a performer. I took part in some TV shows in my 20s, and I also was an extra in several movies. I loved it! Oh, and when I was like, five, I was dreaming about being a famous singer. I wasn’t to know at that age that I can’t actually sing.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
OP: I’m planning to continue my career as an internationally touring comedian, I like performing in different countries. Sometimes I think that it would be great, also, to expand my comedy career to other fields as well, like television or movies. This is an interesting thing about stand up, at least as I see it: it can be linked to television, cinema, theatre, you can do a wide variety of things after making a start doing stand up.

CM: How has the COVID 19 pandemic affected you, career wise..?
OP: Well, it affected me badly, of course, like probably all performers: shows were cancelled, I couldn’t go on stage, I couldn’t travel or live my life the way I was used to. On the other hand, it helped me to develop my other skills like making videos, and to realise what I really want. So now I’m acting more decisively in terms of my career and life in general.

CM: Do you think you will return to Edinburgh in the coming years?
OP: I will definitely return to Edinburgh. I’m very happy to be here this year, but I also want to see the Fringe at its full capacity one day. I love international festivals, they provide artists with unique opportunities and give you fresh perspectives.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
OP: I hope, more international touring and performing in different countries. Also I’m thinking I might stay in the UK for some time after the festival to explore opportunities here.

Olga performed ‘From Russia With No Love’ as part of PBH’s Free Fringe at Edinburgh Festival 2021.

LINKS: freefringe.org.uk | www.facebook.com/olgastandup