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Maisie Adam is one of stand-up comedy’s rising stars. The Yorkshire-born 25-year-old won the prestigious So You Think You’re Funny? competition at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017 and in 2018 won the Amused Moose National New Comic competition and was shortlisted for the Edinburgh Comedy Awards Best Newcomer Award. Her second Edinburgh show, Hang Fire, received rave reviews in 2019 and she is now taking the show on her first major tour. TV appearances include Mock The Week, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and The Stand Up Sketch Show.
Can you remember your first stand-up gig?
Yes. I grew up in a village called Pannal near Harrogate. Ilkley, about 20 minutes away, had a Literature Festival and they were asking if local artists wanted to appear at their Fringe. I applied and they gave me an hour from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. I can still remember the exact date – 13th October 2016.
I now know most comedians start out doing short sets but I’d seen Lee Evans do an hour at Leeds Town Hall and comedy DVDs lasted an hour so I thought that was normal. It didn’t go horrendously. It gave me such a buzz, it felt like a skydive and I wanted to do it again.
Do you feel you have achieved lots very fast?
When I did my heat for So You Think You’re Funny? I’d only done 12 gigs. I didn’t realise you could repeat material so every time I did a show I wrote new material. Sometimes I’d be writing jokes on the bus to the gig. I miss that naivety, jumping in with two feet.
Your first show Vague was autobiographical. How is Hang Fire different?
This is about cutting people some slack when they make mistakes. Especially in this current climate where we call out people on their bad behaviour. I think there’s a massive difference between patterned bad behaviour knowing you can get away with it and a genuine mistake, though at the moment the lines are getting blurred. We live in this cancel culture where people make an error and pay the price in every single way.
You look at various cases, from celebrity scandals to personal stories...
I wanted to talk about how even people we hold in high regard can mess up in a moment. It’s interesting, for example, to look at Hugh Grant who was caught with a prostitute. It was before Twitter. I wonder what it would be like if it happened now to someone similar like Eddie Redmayne?
You talk about your parents onstage. They sound like funny characters. Did they have a big influence on you?
My mum used to work in education, now she runs a punk literary festival in Manchester called Louder Than Words. Dad, who is retired, is funny and reserved, mum is outgoing and a social chameleon who can walk into any room and find something in common with everybody. You wouldn’t worry where she is sat at a wedding because she is able to talk to anyone. There’s a skill I’ve got which is to read audiences and see what they will go for. Maybe I get that from her.
I heard that one of your first screen appearances was playing punk icon Siouxsie Sioux.
I’d done a course with the National Youth Theatre and I saw that Sky Arts was looking for NYT people for their Urban Myths series. The cast was all male except for Siouxsie Sioux in the episode about the Sex Pistols. I look nothing like her but I thought I’ll give it a go. It was Storm Doris the day I auditioned so maybe the wind made me look more punky.
Who are your comedy heroes?
It’s a given, but Victoria Wood. My granny loved her. We used to watch her TV shows together. She’d make a joke and you could see men, women, old and young, everybody would be laughing. She would be talking about struggling to get your boobs into your bra and blokes would be laughing even if the jokes weren’t necessarily for them. I really admired that.
Peter Kay – I love how he taps into everyday life. I think a lot of audiences go to comedy to laugh at their lives, not hear comedians talking about being comedians. Every time he released a DVD you’d feel you knew him inside out.
Dad introduced me Rik Mayall through Bottom. It was so silly, it reminded me of your funny uncle who would do anything for a laugh. There’s a clip of Mayall at a wedding when he sees the camera and can’t not try to be funny. It just beautifully encapsulates what it is to be a comic, to have the need to make people laugh.
What other jobs have you done?
I’ve done every rubbish job going. I was working in a burger van when I heard I’d got into the So You Think You’re Funny final. It also sold Pimms so I poured myself a Pimms straight away. I had to count trainers at the London Marathon. You stand there with a clicker checking the brands as people run past.
You were diagnosed with epilepsy aged 14. How has that affected you?
I’m completely fine as long as I have my tablets, but the tablets are less effective if I’ve not had enough sleep so have to watch out for late nights and early starts. I just have to be sensible and not stay out late if I have an early start.
You live in Brighton now with your boyfriend. Is he a comedian?
I had a rule that I wouldn’t date a comedian, I’d be too jealous. He runs a cocktail bar so we are both out in evenings. We both love our jobs but occasionally both have to deal with drunk people.
What are your ambitions?
I’d like to write something that taps into lots of people, like Aisling Bea or Phoebe Waller- Bridge have done. I’d love to see more British women doing what Amy Schumer has done, combining stand-up, film and TV. I love Tina Fey too. Both are brilliant female comics who have bossed writing and acting. I’d love to do Saturday Night Live.
How do you relax?
I play football for the local women’s team. I’m quite useful. I played at County level for North Yorkshire. I come from a big family of Leeds supporters with some Southampton supporters in the southern contingent. So I watch Leeds when I can. They are doing alright, I think this might be our year.
Maisie Adam brings her Hang Fire show to Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham on 10 November.
Tickets are available here
By Bruce Dessau
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