Ed Gamble – writer, comedian, and a Fringe Festival veteran! We managed to grab a moment of his time during his ‘Blizzard’ tour to delve into his style of comedy, why he loves the Fringe so much, and what job would be his dream if he didn’t get into comedy.
Hi Ed, thank you for talking to us! How have you been?
I’m alright thanks!
What are you up to at the minute?
Well the tour has started in earnest so, I’ve been doing a lot of sitting in a car. A lot of sitting backstage in theatres, and just doing the show a lot which is the best bit, really. I think, what no one tells you when you start doing comedy, 80% of it is travelling and waiting for the gig, and then travelling home again – which isn’t particularly glamorous! But the 20%, which is actually performing and writing, is worth it.
Comedy can come in various forms and everyone has different senses of humour – what’s your style of comedy like?
I think my comedy is mainly based in story-telling stuff about my own life, but the style of comedy is very silly, very lighthearted. I think I can get away with some ruder, muckier stuff as well but that’s because the rest of it’s so silly. I don’t necessarily tackle any big topics or I certainly don’t mean to – I’m more on the lighthearted side. I get angry on stage but it’s at ridiculous things.
You’ve been going to the Fringe festival almost every year from 2007 – why do you keep going back?
Actually, technically I believe it’s since 2004 – was my first ever Fringe. I did student stuff – 2007 was probably my first year as a professional comic. I did 3 years in the Durham Review – who are a student sketch group – and doing bits of stand-up here and there. I just love it, in answer to your question, I absolutely love it! It’s changed for me – as in now, it’s more of a professional engagement. What’s great about the Edinburgh Fringe now is that, because I’ve been going for so long, people come and see me every year, so I know I’m going to get an audience – which is the only worry sometimes with going to the Edinburgh Fringe. There are so many shows on, you don’t know whether you’re going to get an audience day-to-day and that’s pretty disheartening because it doesn’t matter how good of a show you’ve written, if there’s not enough people there watching it, it’s never going to fly like it should. So now that people come and see me it’s good, because I can work a lot and get it really good, and then I can take it on a national tour and I’ve already done it 30 times. It’s a great social thing for comedians as well. By the nature of the job, you don’t see the people you work with that regularly – you might bump into them at a mixed-bill gig but, certainly when you get to the touring level, you don’t really do many mixed-bill gigs so you’re not going to see that many people. Then you go to the Edinburgh festival and everyone’s there the whole time. Everyone’s normally finished work by midnight and all the bars are open all night so it’s a lot of fun as well.
You’ve been doing comedy since you were at University, did you always want to be a comedian?
No, I wanted to be an actor for a long time and then, I didn’t really think about it! I studied Philosophy at Uni, which is pretty much – I think – if someone picks Philosophy at Uni, they have absolutely no idea what they want to do. I picked it because I enjoyed it and I wanted to study something and I thought that was a good choice. So, while I was at Uni, I sort of fell in love with comedy! I always liked it as a thing but I loved to see this sketch group perform and thought, “You know what, I reckon I can do that and get involved.” And what’s so good about writing comedy at Uni is, of course the audiences because it’s mainly you’re friends, and you have a chance to fail – you have a chance to be rubbish and try everything and see what you’re good at. If you start on the circuit anywhere else and you’re terrible for 3 years, people are going to think you’re terrible! Whereas, you can do comedy at Uni for 3 years and then arrive – you know, I went to London and starting gigging, and I already had so many gigs under my belt.
Did you have any role models growing up, who inspired you to be a comedian?
When I was doing sketch comedy, the sort of people who inspired me before that were all, sort of, comedy actors so, Steve Coogan. I went to see Steve Coogan’s live tour when I was 13 and that must have set something off and I didn’t realise until later, but that probably planted a seed. The people in Big Train and I’m Alan Partridge – all that sort of crew, the 90’s British comedy scene were definitely an inspiration. Once I started getting into stand-up, I wanted to see everyone! Certainly when we were at Uni, we were massively inspired by a sketch group called We Are Klang, who aren’t around anymore but they were Marek Larwood, Steve Hall, and Greg Davies – who are absolutely amazing. Greg’s been a massive influence for me as well. I supported him on 2 national tours which was quite useful – I was getting gigs but, to be able to do 20 minutes in front of a massive audience before someone you really like, for 60 dates in a year is pretty exciting!
If you didn’t have your current job, what would you be doing instead?
There’s a big thing where comics will always go, “I couldn’t do anything else, I can only be a comedian.” I don’t think that’s true. I think most comics would be able to survive in another career, and probably do quite well in it. Being in comedy, you have to be tenacious. You have to want it because there are so many people wanting to do it, and so many people drop off along the way. I always think, even now, if I wasn’t doing comedy that I’d go and do a catering course and I’d try and work in food. Because I absolutely love food! I love cooking when I get time to do it. From what I can work out, it’s weirdly quite similar to comedy – the chef-ing world – you basically work really hard for piss all money for a long time. Only a few people can punch through and make it into the big time so, I think maybe that!
That’s not what I would have guessed! I thought you’d say the theatre…
The good thing about comedy is that source is open to you all the time anyway. People have got this weird thing with stand-ups where they think we can do anything within the creative sphere! Although I am a stand-up and that’s what I love doing, I would never rule out acting in the future. Or, I would write a book because that’s all very much open to stand-ups. So if I can doing anything in that area of entertainment, I’d be a top chef.
You’re on tour at the minute. What’s the biggest obstacle you face when putting on show?
My own brain! Writing comedy is hard and, I would say at the end of every show I’ve written, I’ll be amazingly confident about that show. I’ll be like, “I’ve created something really good here!” Like the last show I took on tour, I did it maybe 45 times on tour and did it 30 times before Edinburgh and 30 times done in Edinburgh. And by the end – because you’re constantly writing on stage as well – it was such a honed piece of comedy, and I was so happy with it. But then you go, “I’ve got to write a new one now. There will be no way I’ll be able to do that again.” So, I always thought the confidence would come with doing it but, I think, the better you get the lower the confidence gets because you’ve got to follow up something bigger. But, having said that, I think I’ve just hit the point with the show, earlier than normal, where I think I’ve actually got a really good show and I’m very very happy with it and I can’t wait to keep playing with it. I think the same with most careers, self-sabotage is quite a difficult thing to get over.
Do you ever feel pressured to constantly update your material to respond to trending events?
No, I don’t really think that’s my vibe. I keep on-top of events and trending stuff because I do Mock the Week quite a lot so, I’m sort of on-top of the topical end of things. When it comes to my own stand-up, it’s just not something I necessarily feel compelled to talk about. I think it’s important that people are talking about topical events and things that are going on in the world – and I think there’s a lot of very good people who do it better than me. And I’m very good at what I do so, I’m going to stick to that for now.
You’ve featured on shows like Mock the Week – how different is TV to live stand up?
It’s hugely different! It takes so long – it takes ages to make. Mock the Week is a lot of fun – that feels like it’s fairly close to a live environment when you’re actually doing it and in the rhythm of it because you’re chatting with people and bouncing off each other, and you get to go off and do a bit of stand-up, but you’re filming for 3 hours for a 27 minute show. It takes so long because there are so many other things that you have to deal with, and loads of people are working on it and doing what they have to do – it’s a big machine. Live feels very organic. You’re just walking out and doing your thing and it goes badly or it goes well! I like both but live stand-up is why I do it.
What advice would you give to students who want to be comedians?
Start doing it now, while you’re still a student. Don’t harbour any sort of thoughts like, “Maybe when I leave Uni because I’m busy with my work at the moment and I couldn’t possibly do comedy now…” You can! You can find time to do it, there are always gigs. Set up your own gig at Uni if there’s no gig. Or if there are gigs go and do as many student gigs as possible. There’s a student competition called the Chortle Student Comedian of the Year competition – go and do that. That was really fun and invaluable when I did it. And just write – write as much as you can. There’s no point in trying to hone a 5 minute set as a student, you’ve just got to keep writing. I did a different set every gig for the first 25 gigs. Because I was doing it at Uni and in front of students, quite often the audience was the same as the previous gig. So just keep writing and do as many student gigs as possible. Try everything out – do a character, I did a character for ages. Be in a sketch group. Work out what you want to do and work out what you’re good at and don’t be afraid to fail.
You can find tour dates and buy tickets for Ed Gamble’s shows here.