ED2019 Caro Meets ED2019 Comedy ED2019 Interviews ED2019 Preview Edition

Robyn Perkins: Mating Selection

By | Published on Friday 19 July 2019

When we first saw Robyn Perkins at the Fringe – what seems like a very long time ago now – we knew she had the potential to go far because of her sharp and intelligent material and funny delivery. A few years later, it seems as though her career in comedy continues apace.

When I read about the premise of her show this year, I knew it would be another very interesting set. So it seemed to me it was about time to do a Q&A: to find out more about this year’s show and how it came about, but also about Robyn’s interesting background, and what plans she has for the future.

CM: Can you start by telling us about your show this year? What are the themes and ideas you’ll be talking about?
RP: Last year at the Fringe, I did a dating show in front of a live audience. The show inspired me to research the science and morality of present day dating.

CM: You’ve said that the dating show led you to “question human morality”? Why was that?
RP: It’s hard to explain without giving away too much of the show. What I can say is that during that dating show, there was a certain level of audience interaction. I was quite surprised how the audience reacted, and how uncomfortable I was throughout the whole thing. This led me to research the evolution of morality and the science of dating. Essentially, why did that happen and what was the right thing to do?

CM: What made you decide it would be a good subject to explore through a comedy show?
RP: Dating is something most of the world will experience at some point…and is a minefield for humour. Equally, society today is – rightfully – very concerned with inclusivity and political correctness. Comedy has an opportunity to make people think; people let their guard down when laughing. I saw this experience as a great opportunity to talk about something real.

CM: You’ve approached this, and other work, from a rather scientific angle, presumably because you have a scientific background? Can you tell us a bit about that?
RP: From the age of five I wanted to be a marine biologist. Later in life, I switched to landscape architecture. Both fields are quite research heavy – I once did two weeks of solid research on healing landscapes for a hospital in Vienna. As such, my brain has developed to question and research everything. Whenever something happens in life, my first instinct is to research. I guess when I started comedy, I just assumed everyone researched their premises. It wasn’t until a few years in that I found out this is not a normal approach. But I guess that is what makes me unique?

CM: Do you think the conclusions you’ve reached will be helpful for those who are negotiating the business of dating? Or is it more likely to be helpful for students of sociology?
RP: If I had to choose, I think it will be more helpful to students of sociology than the business of dating. Having said that, it sparks debate between anyone who has ever questioned: what is the right thing to do in this situation? While dating is the premise that sparks the conversation – and is very much the throughline of the show – the most frequent feedback I get is from couples debating what they would have done.

CM: It’s quite a few years since we first witnessed (and loved) a performance by you at the Edinburgh Fringe. You’ve been back several times since then. What makes you come back?
RP: Yes, I have been back every year. Though this is only my second full hour. I love the Fringe as it is the best place in the world to use comedy to explore more serious and sensitive issues, relevant in today’s society.

CM: What is your favourite thing about being in Edinburgh for the Fringe?
RP: My favourite thing about the Edinburgh Fringe is the concentration of amazing artists. There is so much going on. On top of that, because the Fringe is so concentrated, geographically, it is great to have so many amazing shows and people a ten minute walk away. It’s like a college campus, but instead of classes you have performances.

CM: How does the Fringe compare to other festivals you’ve performed at?
RP: Apart from being larger than every other festival, it has a sense of being home. This could be because I have been up every year since 2013, but I love it. It just feels right.

CM: You’re from the US, but you are based in London just now, aren’t you? How did you end up in the UK?
RP: I originally moved here for landscape architecture, working for Martha Schwartz. I fell in love with London, so moved jobs to stay in the city. I didn’t start comedy until the very end of 2011. I love both comedy and the UK. London is such an incredible place to be a working comic.

CM: You clearly have other strings to your bow than comedy, what with the biology and economics and landscape architecture and furniture design… is this where you always saw yourself going? Were you a child who said “right, I’m going to be a scientific, stuff designing comedian” or did that all just happen by accident?
RP: I also was a professional potter for a couple of years… did I mention that?! I didn’t intend to be so nomadic in terms of careers. I think it is a combination of me being impulsive combined with me being a firm believer in following my dreams. As soon as I find something new, I jump in, head first, without thinking about the repercussions, or any sort of stability. I think comedy will be long term, but who knows? We constantly change as humans, and it would be sad if our dreams didn’t change with us.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future? Do you think you’ll be adding new strings to the bow?
RP: For now I am enjoying focusing on comedy and developing as a performer. I am really loving working in the scientific angle into my shows. Having said that, I would LOVE to host a cooking show, so that may be somewhere in my future. which is more inspiring!

CM: What advice would you have for first time Fringe goers and performers?
RP: Eat healthy. And eat blueberries…they help you think.

CM: What shows are you planning to see this year?
RP: Simon Evans’s show sounds amazingly interesting. I am also looking forward to Rahul Kohli, Cally Beaton, Sarah Keyworth, Matt Price and Desiree Burch. I could go on as there are so many!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after the Festival?
RP: (Visa Dependent) I am off to the Sydney Fringe in September. I am travelling a lot for comedy lately, which is great (a perk of being single). I also will be working on my next hour which will be about cognitive bias… unless something happens this year which is more inspiring!

Robyn Perkins performed ‘Mating Selection’ at Underbelly at Edinburgh Festival 2019.

Photo: Steve Ullathorne