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on Mon, 25 Feb 2019
Rising star Kiri Pritchard-McLean is making a name for herself as a standup comedian, podcaster, MC and sketch trouper. She’s also flying the flag for Wales - although born in Gloucester, she was raised on a farm in Anglesey. “I absolutely identify as Welsh. I love playing gigs in Wales because I think the audiences have got a peculiar sensibility. Maybe some of that seeps into my standup. I think it definitely shows in my sketch group because three out of four of us are Welsh.”
The sketch group to which Kiri refers is Gein’s Family Giftshop, which she formed with Kath Hughes and Edward Easton. Adam Scott-Rowley joined later. “Kath and Ed are the two funniest, most talented people I know, so spending time with them is amazing. When I start directing, they take direction so brilliantly and they’re just a joy to watch. There’s something about Geins that keeps us all coming back to working together and pursuing it. We love doing it so much and we love the little gang.”
When she’s not busy with standup, Kiri runs comedy musical night Amusical, where the audience enjoy (or are subjected to) standups performing their favourite musical numbers. “It’s a really fun, silly, joyous, underdog, campy, naughty vibe, which is not like anything else that I do. I love it. And the band are incredible, so everyone sounds great whether they are or not! The audience are just brilliant; we’re very, very lucky. I think Richard Herring is pencilled in to do it in June.”
So has Kiri ever thought about creating a musical? “I’d need to have some time off to actually write it, but I’d love to. But it’s also very hard at the moment, as the landscape’s changed because everyone watched Hamilton and went, ‘Well, what’s the point… that’s the benchmark!’ You only want to do something if it’s excellent, and do I think I could write an excellent musical? Probably not.”
As though standup and a musical night aren’t enough, Kiri also has a podcast with fellow comedian Rachel Fairburn, in which they discuss, amongst other things, serial killers - a macabre subject which seems peculiarly popular with comedians. Does she have any thoughts about why that might be? “People who do comedy tend to be weird outsiders, which that genre is all about. Comedians have a much darker sensibility with each other. Everyone I knew growing up, we were all into horror and comedy, and when you start doing comedy, you’re like, ‘That’s quite enough of that!’”
To top off her already-jampacked schedule, Kiri has been hosting BBC Radio 4extra’s topical comedy show, Newsjack. “It’s had some great hosts, and you don’t want to be the one who nobody talks about - or who everyone talks about! I just want to do a solid job and keep my integrity. I really believe in it as a programme because it’s crowd-sourced and is a genuine opportunity for people to hone their skills and get writing. It’s a dark art!
Surely with so demanding a professional life, something is going to have to give for Kiri. Might she, for example, jettison the standup comedy? “I would never want to do that. I basically feel like I’ve got several plates spinning - some things I’m doing badly, some things I’m doing well. Geins is doing a new show in Edinburgh this year, so I won’t do a solo show there because I don’t have time to do a good job of both of them. It’s so annoying because you just wish you could do all of them! Sometimes stuff has to give, and at the moment it’s going to be my standup, and that’s fine, because it’s important to me that Geins do a good show. I love everything I do, and I don’t want to give up anything!”
Proving herself as a comedy force across so many different platforms, could a Netflix special be on the horizon? “Everyone would love a Netflix special, surely? I’ve just done a special for Comedy Central that’ll be out soon. That was really fun to do. It’s great because whole new audiences are opening up for people. The comedy coming out of Britain onto Netflix is only going to get better and better.”
Unless you’ve been under a rock or wearing a blindfold, you might recognise Kiri not just for her standup but also her signature style - dressed to the nines in sequins. “Where did it come from, I hear you ask. I have a respect for old-school showbiz and love all that stuff. When I first started, I didn’t think there was anything that stood out about me as a comic, so I thought maybe if I always wore something interesting and different, then people would at least remember that about me. I always like to dress up when I’m on stage because I spend my nights out gigging, so I’ve got all these great clothes I can’t wear because I’m working. It’s sort of a nod to working men’s clubs and musicals.”
Kiri definitely seems likes she’s on the path to stellar success, even if she’s being modest about it. So what might she call her autobiography - if she ever got round to writing it? “Well, I’m trying to push the agenda at the moment of ‘Wales’ favourite daughter’, which I’m determined to become, so I’m going to call it that. Riding on the back of a corgi, with a Welsh dragon draped round my shoulders!”
Kiri Pritchard-McLean brings her Victim, Complex show to Midlands Arts Centre, Birmingham on Thursday 14 March and Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, on Friday 26 April.
Interview by Tom Silverton