ED2014 Comedy ED2014 Interviews ED2014 Week0 Edition

Zoe Lyons: Champion mustard cutter

By | Published on Thursday 24 July 2014

Zoe Lyons

Long-term ThreeWeeks favourite Zoe Lyons is back at the Fringe this year with a brand new show called ‘Mustard Cutter’, an hour of quality stand-up promising to cover everything “from pan pipes to the price of lobster”. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Gilded Balloon castle, you’ll find her appearing in ‘Outings’, a new show inspired by the YouTube phenomenon that was Tom Daley’s ‘coming out’ statement last year, exploring the real-life coming out stories of various other gay men and women. The last time I caught up with Lyons was in a small hot room in the roof of the Pleasance Courtyard, when she guested on the old ThreeWeeks Radio Show. But that was a few years ago now, and with a new comedy and theatre show to talk about, it seemed like a little bit more questioning was due.

CC: I just did a quick scan of your biography, and I think this might be your ninth or tenth full run at the Fringe? What keeps pulling you back to this madness?
ZL: Your maths is slightly out, don’t feel bad, we are creative types, not numbers people! This will be my sixth solo show and I also did a couple of years in sketch shows, so this is my eighth full Edinburgh. I am not entirely sure why I put myself through it. I think it might be that feeling that I will be missing out on something if I’m not at the Festival in August. Also, I really love chips and sauce and you gotta get your quality chips and sauce in Edinburgh.

CC: How has the Festival changed since your first time performing here in 2002, both for you personally, and for comedians in general?
ZL: It has certainly grown over the last ten plus years. There seems to be more and more shows every year. Obviously we have had the advent of the Free Fringe, which has gone from strength to strength, and more recently produced some award winning shows. So there are now more options as to how you chose to ‘do’ the Fringe. Personally I’m far more relaxed these days with my approach to the Festival. Doing my first solo show felt very stressful but it has got easier over the years. My aims now are simple, do a good show and enjoy doing it.

CC: You mentioned the phenomenal rise of the Free Fringe and the other spin-off free show platforms. These seem to have made it easier for new comedians to perform in Edinburgh, though it’s also greatly increased the competition Do you think its harder or easier starting out in comedy in 2014 compared to when you began?
ZL: I think it is probably harder. I also gather from newer acts that it’s harder to get spots at open mic shows these days. When I started I could get a spot most days of the week in London. And yes, very occasionally you were performing to just the other acts, but mostly there was an audience of some kind. Though it’s also true that while a lot of people will start out in stand-up, many will drop out along the way. I believe that comedy is more or less a meritocracy, so if you stick at it long enough and are good enough it will reward.

CC: Have you got any tips for people performing their first full hour shows at the Fringe this year?
ZL: Pace yourself folks, it is a long Festival so don’t peak too soon. Have fun with your show. Be grateful for every bum on every seat. If there are three people in the audience give them a 100% performance. Realise that there will be ups and downs during the course of the month. We have all had those difficult shows… I once nearly faked a heart attack to get off stage, we have all been there. Don’t read you reviews during the Festival, read them after if you must. Try and eat a vegetable once a week. And take it seriously but don’t be consumed by it.

CC: Do you sit down and write a new hour show for each Fringe, or does your Edinburgh show bring together routines you’ve been performing during the previous year?
ZL: It’s actually a bit of both. I will take my routines that I have worked on over the year and see if I can find a way of linking them together into a show. Then I’ll need to do some writing to link those sections together. But I have never sat down and started a complete new hour from scratch, it’s more patchwork than that.

CC: You’re also involved in this interesting new show ‘Outings’ at the Fringe this year. What’s that about?
ZL: The show was inspired by Tom Daley’s coming out speech on YouTube, and is based on real people’s coming out stories, which they have submitted to the production. It is a really interesting mix of stories and personalities.

CC: How did you get involved in this project?
ZL: I was asked to audition for the show and got cast. David Grindley, who is directing the show, was a friend of mine at university. He actually directed me in a show years ago that we brought to the Fringe when we were students.

CC: Is it exciting / challenging / terrifying to be involved in a theatrical production in addition to the stand up show?
ZL: I have really enjoyed being part of this production. I think doing the two shows actually helps me to concentrate my energies better, it focuses me. Being a stand up is quite a solitary endeavour, so being involved with the other cast and crew on ‘Outings’ has been a lovely change.

CC: Any tips for people navigating this year’s stupidly big Fringe programme? Any acts to look out for, or tips for working out which shows to see?
ZL: Always have one randomly chosen show, flick through the book, stop and jab your finger somewhere on the page and where it lands…. that’s were you are headed. And then make sure Sara Pascoe and Lucy Beaumont are on your definite ‘to see list’.

CC: Oh, and I had a quick look at your official show blurb. What is it with the current price of lobster?
ZL: Lobster prices have dropped in recent years due to the swelling of their population. Some think global warming is the reason behind the lobster baby boom. Still expensive though.

‘Zoe Lyons: Mustard Cutter’ and ‘Outings’ were performed at the Gilded Balloon at Edinburgh Festival 2014.