Kate Smurthwaite is a political comedian and activist. A veteran of the Fringe, she’s taken a different approach to her 2017 show and addresses the questions she’s been asked since the public declaration of her polyamorous lifestyle. We asked about her show, public perception of open relationships, and the highs and lows of the Fringe.
So how is your Fringe going so far? How is the venue?
The Fringe is lovely. I love being at the Banshee Labyrinth. I was here last year and I immediately asked if I could please have the same venue. It’s pretty small but the cinema room has the full screen backdrop, and I can show slides and even the short-sighted can read them. The seating is banked too so everyone can see what’s going on. The staff are friendly, and it’s really central. I can’t complain about anything!
Can you tell us a bit about your show?
Usually I do political comedy. That’s my schtick. But it just felt like this year, with Trump and Brexit… Here’s my political hour. We’re all fucked. It just feels like the end of the world is nigh, and I always though the end of the world would involve a lot more sex than this, so I thought I’d do a show about sex. It’s a show about open and polyamorous relationships, including mine. It’s one of those subjects where, whenever I tell someone I’m polyamorous they always have questions. It’s awkward to ask those questions, so come and see the show and I will answer those questions. Everything you’ve ever wanted to know!
So it’s as much a show to get people to stop asking you stupid questions as it is you having the desire to talk about the subject?
It’s a bit of a “coming out” show, yeah. It’s much more personal than anything I’ve ever done in the past, and there is still a part of me that is a little bit worried that people will see it and make some sort of judgement. That I’m not very good with commitment, or I’m pathetic, or whatever. There’s definitely a sense of that. But I think that’s kind of what’s fun about comedy; and there are certainly other people out there that have those same fears. Also, it’s nice not to have secrets and to say, “here’s who I am!”
You deal with some of the misapprehensions about polyamory in the show. Are they still generally misunderstood, or is become more accepted?
I think it’s becoming lots more accepted. I always ask in the show for people to cheer if they’re already in a poly or open relationship, and there is always a cheer! Sometimes only one or two people, but it’s never no one. Statistically, it suggests these relationships exist more and more. But it also might be those types of people who are coming to the show. There are still several misconceptions though, and I’ve had people asking me on Twitter to explain more about polygamy, which is a completely different thing! Pretty sure some people think polyamory means having sex with parrots. There’s definitely a side to the show that’s like a funny TED Talk.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your comedy?
My favourite acts are always John Oliver and Tina Fey. Those are my comedy heroes, and have been for a long time. I just love those guys and can’t go without Last Week Tonight and 30 Rock. I think there’s something wonderful about exploring these issues and John Oliver does it. He doesn’t just make a flippant remark. If he’s going to talk about something he does the whole nine yards on it. And Tina Fey’s perfect, we all know that.
What would you say are the best and worst aspects of the Fringe?
So the best thing is that most of my friends live in London and during August they all live in Edinburgh which is a much more beautiful and much smaller city. You live a week in a day because you get up and do a show, then you have lunch, and meet a friend for a coffee. Then you run into someone you know and you go to the park; and then you do another show and then see a show. And then you’re in a show! You wouldn’t get through that in a week in London. The worst thing is that I’m highly likely to die in a traffic accident because I haven’t walked on a pavement since I’ve been here because it’s just too crowded. I walk in the street because I’m in a hurry and I will probably be hit by a bus at some point.
Who else would you recommend seeing at the Fringe? Any hidden gems that deserve more coverage?
I do a piece in the show where I say I’m not competing with other shows. One of those I mentioned is Ada Campe. She has a show called Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck. It’s very different from my show; a one-woman cabaret show and it’s just beautiful. It’s so clever and she’s such a wonderful character. I’m buzzing with it because I saw it this afternoon and it’s totally brilliant.