Eleanor Morton is a Scottish comedian, actor and writer based in London who has attracted a loyal following through her charming, surreal and deadpan shows; and who has become a favourite Fringe staple of ours along the way. We talked to her about her image-subverting new show, women in comedy and coming home for a sensible time during the Fringe.
Can you tell us about your new show?
It’s called Great Title, Glamorous Photo because I thought that was funny, and it is about me trying to be more cool and glamorous and TV-ready as a comedian. It’s all about sexism again, and the pressures women are under when they perform and how I feel about that, and gender and stuff. But it’s silly, it’s not a lecture, a TED talk or anything like that. It’s all nonsensical.
You performed Angry Young Woman last year, so with that and the new show, to what extent are you playing with your image and reputation as “the poster girl for awkwardness?”
I guess both shows have been about me playing with not feeling very confident in what I am, and also challenging what people expect of me on stage; and hopefully making that funny. And also, both of them are about sexism and feminism really. I think the playfulness is a way of making that funny, and again not like a TED talk or anything.
And it feels like a very apt time to be doing a show on those themes. To what extent do you feel that the comedy industry has changed for women in the last year or so, in your experience?
I don’t think it’s changed for women, I think it’s changed for men. I think women have always done shows about sexism and gender and things, but now I think more people are going, “Wow, it’s really bad,” and that’s kind of nice. So it feels more like people are listening and not just going, “Yeah, yeah, that’s really awful, yeah,” so that’s nice, and I imagine there will be a lot of shows this year that look at that; and also probably a lot of male shows that look at that as well. I think this whole #MeToo thing is more for men really, because women already know all this stuff. It’ll be interesting to see what people think of [the show] in terms of that.
What’s your writing process? Did you find a theme to build jokes around, or did the jokes come first and the show later?
I don’t know! I think they they both plod along at an equal pace, and meet and fall apart and then meet again. I did a bit of the show at [Alternative Comedy Memorial Society] in October last year and, just as a silly idea, I got on the stage with a character, and everyone said that was really funny; they said it was one of the funniest things I’d ever done. And I thought about why was I doing that character, and pushed a show out of that. It’s not really a process so much as a panic. It’s moving things around on a Google doc and trying it out on stage, and then panicking. It’s my method, which seems to work fine so I keep doing that.
Beyond your show, are we seeing you elsewhere at the Fringe? At guest slots, or compilation shows?
Yes! I’m doing ACMS. I’m a board member, which doesn’t mean anything. It just means I’m allowed to do as many gigs as I want! But that’s on at midnight and my show’s on at 12pm. Last year it was pretty late as well, and I found it quite hard. I’m not very crazy come midnight – I like to go to bed – so we’ll see how many of those I actually do. And then I’m doing Best of Scottish Comedy at The Stand, even though I feel like I’m probably not what people want from Best of Scottish [Eleanor doesn’t have the broadest of accents], but I’m gonna do it anyway! And then whatever pops up as well. Maybe Comedians’ Cinema Club. We’re not sure that. It’s very up in the air, but we might do a one-off.
Your shows are always on at an early time of day. What’s the reason for that?
It’s partly because they’re easier to get, because no one wants them! And then partly because I learned the audience are less likely to be a handful. I’d rather they were too quiet than too loud, which I know a lot of comedians don’t agree with, but for me, it’s not really the kind of comedy to do when it’s eleven at night or anything. Or at least I don’t feel like I could do it. And people like Bridget Christie, Tony Law and Seymour Mace always have quite early slots, so it made me think that that’s not a bad time to do the sort of comedy I do. And yeah, I would prefer to do it and get it over with, and then I can go home! I’m very anti-social.
Do you have any set expectations for the Fringe every year?
No, because I think that is always crushed horribly, so it’s better to not expect anything. It would be nice to just do the show, to have people see the show and enjoy the show, and to also see some good stuff. I think expectations are dangerous. The Fringe is such a heightened atmosphere for a whole month, and everyone is just on the edge the whole time. I think it’s best just to do it day by day, like “today is fine, I hope tomorrow’s fine!” Which is a very boring answer, but I’m quite sensible. But it’s also when I come home to see my parents, so it’s also time where I try and hang out at home and see some people that I haven’t seen, and that’s nice and keeps you sane as well. A lot of people are living as six comedians in a flat in the middle of the Royal Mile and I could never do that, I would go mad. So I think it’s probably a very different experience than most people have. A more boring one.
What for you are the best and worst things about the Fringe?
The best things are: you can see so many different things, and such a variety of stuff, and so much of the best of it is actually free. I don’t feel that a lot of people who go and see comedy actually know that, that they can see so much for free. It also feels more like what I would assume a day job feels like, which is you get to see the same people all the time and you get to hang out with them, and share experiences. The worst thing is just being from Edinburgh, and hating people being here and having comedians referring to the city as ‘the Festival’, which always makes me snobbish and passive aggressive, so… the worst bit is me! And how I react to people, and how unwelcoming I am.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your younger self as you were just starting out?
I don’t know; I think I’d still like some advice! I started when I was eighteen so I was pretty young. Actually, I started during the 2010 Fringe and I did a compilation show with a couple of other people who still do comedy and that was really fun. But I barely saw anything. I would just go home straight afterwards to the suburbs, and I should probably have gone and seen more stuff earlier on, because I didn’t know about a lot of stuff. People would go, “we’re going to go and see Simon Munnery,” and I’m like, “but my mum’s making tea! I said I would be home at six,” so I would have like to have stayed out and seen more things earlier on than I did.
You might have gone in a different direction and been influenced by other things.
I know! Who knows what I could have seen that could have been awful or amazing and made me do different types of comedy?
Do you have any Fringe recommendations, particularly any acts you feels deserve more coverage or attention than they would normally receive?
I always say Seymour Mace and Gavin Webster because they were two of the first acts I saw when I was doing stand up who made me really excited about comedy and completely threw my expectations about what they were going to do. And they’re at The Stand as well, so that’s great. And then, just everyone else who’s a deep, close personal friend. Anything at the Monkey Barrel, or at Heroes, or at The Stand are all very good and worth going to see. And go and see lots of women because they’re good. But see me first.
Great Title, Glamorous Photo is at The Stand 4, Edinburgh from Wed 1 Aug – Sat 25 Aug 2018.