Top stand-up Sara Pascoe performs her latest show, Animal, in Midlands venues this month. Hot on the heels of publishing her book of the same title, Pascoe is appearing at Warwick Arts Centre and the Glee Club as part of her biggest tour to date.
Ahead of these shows, on 2nd June and 12th June respectively, Who’s Laughing Now? caught up with Sara to find out what audiences can expect.
WLN: Is Animal the stand-up show very different from Animal the book?
Sara Pascoe: Yes, they’re sort of two halves. The book came first and deals with evolution and humans beings as animals – particular female humans as animals – but after writing it I realised there were lots of other areas that I hadn’t been able to touch in the book that I have now mined for the show.
WLN: The show covers a big range of topics, from evolution and Oedipus to Lewisham wildlife and Jason Donovan. How easy is it to mix such a range of subjects?
SP: It’s about trying to find light and shade in things. The unspoken theme of the show is how we empathise with other people. So it’s dealing with that, but with really silly stories in between. I’m trying to talk about things that really matter to me, but in a way that isn’t like a boring TED talk.
WLN: Do you feel, as your audience grows, that you have a responsibility to use your platform to educate?
SP: It’s tempting, because you want to feel like you’re a really good person. But you have to be careful how you do it. I have to remind myself that I am a comic, I’m not a politician, I didn’t say, “Oh, hey guys, I’m going to sort everything out for you and it’ll be perfect.” At the end of the day, sometimes it’s just trying to be funny.
WLN: You also talk about veganism in the show – you’ve been vegan since 2009. Was there a catalyst for that?
SP: I did Josie Long’s project, One Hundred Days To Make Me A Better Person. My two things were a prison letter-writing scheme and becoming vegan.
WLN: Is it a difficult subject to talk about on stage?
SP: As a comedian, if you sound like you’re about to be superior – and that’s what people think about veganism; that you feel that you’re morally better – you have to undercut yourself, and then it’s fine. Talking about being a rubbish vegan is funny. Talking about being an amazing vegan is not. No one wants to hear, “I have far reduced rates of the likelihood of having lung cancer!”
WLN: Before you started stand-up you wanted to be an actor. When did those ambitions start?
SP: I remember being around 11 or 12 and making my sister do really long plays with me, just in the bedroom. Then at 14 my mum made me join a drama group as a punishment for having a party when she was out the house, and I fell so deeply in love with it that I knew I was going to dedicate my life to putting on hats and voices.
WLN: What made you then decide to try stand-up?
SP: It wasn’t a decision. I thought stand-up was really stupid. I thought all comedy was stupid. I had done open mic nights with my guitar, and I’d done spoken word nights with poetry; I was trying everything in order not to shrivel up. I went to watch a friend do stand-up and I thought absolutely everyone was terrible. I hadn’t realised that you could take words up on a piece of paper, I thought all stand-up was improvised. So when I saw all these skinny boys with pads in their hands being rubbish I thought: Oh, I can do that. So I started it very arrogantly. But I did a stand-up gig and it was like: Oh, now I know what my whole life has been leading to, every job I’d done, it all made sense.
WLN: You’ve also said that stand-up has made you happy. How so?
SP: Firstly, it’s given me all of my friends. People say, it’s so important to have friends outside of your job. I don’t. I only have comedian friends – I love their work and I love that they understand my life. But also stand-up is a form of self-improvement, if you choose to use it that way. You use it to work yourself out and to forgive yourself. It’s a form of self acceptance. So that’s why it’s made me very, very happy.
Sara Pascoe performs Animal at Coventry’s Warwick Arts Centre on Thursday 2nd June and Birmingham’s Glee Club on Sunday 12th June. Her book, Animal, is available now.