Kiri Pritchard-McLean is making waves in the comedy scene on a number of fronts. She’s a double Chortle award-winning club act, and has two acclaimed Fringe shows under her belt. She’s also a writer and non-performing member of sketch troupe Gein’s Family Giftshop, and presents the serial killer podcast, All Killa No Filla with Rachel Fairburn, which they’re also bringing to the Fringe, before taking it across the Atlantic for some dates in the USA. She was nice enough to meet us having literally stepped off a train a few minutes earlier; and we chatted about her new show, the success of the podcast, and the increasing recognition of women in comedy.
Can you tell us about the new show?
Can I tell you about the show I haven’t quite written yet? [laughs]. Yes, Victim, Complex is my third show, and definitely my most personal one. I always talk about personal stuff, but this is all me. The first show (Hysterical Woman) was about structural racism and sexism through the prism of me, and the last show (Appropriate Adult) was about volunteering and millennials not breeding, through the prism of me. This is just all me, the last few years of my life and what’s been going on. Most people won’t know, because as comedians we pick what we present to the world. I’m obviously still doing that, but it’s going to be really honest… it’s really scary! It’s the most vulnerable show I’ve ever done.
Is this the first time you’ve ever performed it?
I’ve done one or two before, but they’ve both been completely different, and this one which probably won’t look like the others I’ve done before. At the moment the show doesn’t know what it is! Just not ready, that’s the only consistent thing about it so far.
Do you tweak a show up until you launch it officially or do you have it more or less fully read in advance?
I’m trying it differently this year. Normally, I start with the material and I think about a broad sentence of what I want to say in the show and try and mould it into that. This time, I’m starting with structure and then trying to put the jokes in, and write to the structure I’ve got; which is hard because sometimes you’re previewing and just thinking out loud. You know the jokes aren’t there yet, but you have to figure out if the structure’s the right journey to take the audience on. But tweaking wise yes, all the way through the festival. I’m right up to the line with my previews. I use the three preview days you have [at the Fringe] as previews, and the show will still probably be on notes as I’ve got such a shocking memory having Attention Deficit Disorder, and I’ll also keep adding and adding. I write onstage and I’ve only got one routine in the show I’ve ever done before, and even that’s not set in stone. It’ll keep changing and hopefully keep getting better; chopping stuff and putting ad libs in, because I ad lib so much when I’m on stage. Basically, come and see me at the end of the show, because that’s when I’ll be funny! I have a sketch group too, Gein’s Family Giftshop, and they write a lot on stage, and if you see us at the beginning of a run at Edinburgh and then the tour shows after, it’ll be about a third different.
I did exactly that!
Oh really? Yes, they keep adding little bits, and that show (Volume 3) was our most restrictive because of what happens structurally, that it has to go backwards. Basically Ed [Easton] keeps showing off more and more!
And you still have a few dates left of last year’s show. Has that changed all the way through? Is it still changing?
Yes, still changing. I cut one bit of routine out, and it’s still overrunning. I’m so bad for writing too much show, because I feel I have to make the points I want to make. People come and don’t always review a show as a piece of art and its wider context. Sometime they come and review… especially the shows where I’m trying to make a point, and they go, “Well, she didn’t think about this, and she didn’t think that about that,” and I have, but couldn’t find the time to do a full five minutes on on it, so my shows are always packed as I’m trying to cover every base of what an audience member might think on the subject. There’s always someone going, “Well, I think you’ll find…” and it’s not that I hadn’t considered that. It’s probably about an hour and fifteen! And I’m trying to cut stuff out, and there’s always new stuff. I have to go, “Don’t do too much on that because that can go in the next show, or the show after.” I’m trying to keep a balance going.
And you’re bringing All Killa No Filla back to the Fringe.
Yeah! We did some last-minute slapdash ones last year, which is classic us. Before that we had done, around 2015 or 16, a run of two weeks, and that was the first leap we had in listenership and awareness oddly, and we were in Cowgatehead, in some gross venue and it would either be full or have no one in there. Word spread, and that was the first break for us, and now we’re going back and doing it in a really big venue which I’m terrified about. But, I think the people that listen to All Killa No Filla are the people that go to the Fringe. The switched on, cool people with good taste. Obviously, I’m going to think that, but they’re quite culturally engaged so I think a lot of them will be at the Fringe, or this could be the impetus for a lot of them who haven’t been to go, “We’ll go and see that and some other stuff as well.” That’s the dream, because they’re so funny our [listeners], I think half of them should be doing a show here. Actually, no, pull up the ladder, there’s too many of us!
At what point did you and Rachel think that it could actually work as a live show?
Ross Brierley, who’s in The Ross and Josh Show was running a night and asked if we’d like to come down and do something; so we did a live version where we had a serial killer drinking game. So, every time he blames women, take a drink. All that kind of stuff. So that was the first incarnation of it, and it went from there. The live show’s almost identical to how we do it [on the podcast]. It’s just two people chatting but we’re facing out and not at each other. We just experimented doing little rooms, and it sold so well we just couldn’t believe it, and obviously it’s just gone bananas. And now going to America with it is so bonkers to me. I still think no one’s going to come, but people have already bought tickets so I’ve slightly been proven wrong there. Sometimes you’ve got a great thing that won’t translate to live, or shouldn’t translate to live, but we’ve been really lucky with [All Killa No Filla]. It helps that [Rachel and I] have such a good relationship. If the live podcast’s getting a bit heavy, the other knows when to come in and pick it up, and still make it a show, without being too irreverent.
That chemistry is a big part of what makes it work.
When you’re doing things live, sometimes you can see when women have just been shoved together in something that’s been commissioned, but might not necessarily get on; but I’m very lucky in that I work with lots of women whom I think are just amazing. I work with Jayde Adams on Amusical, I work with Kath (Hughes) in Gein’s, and Rachel on All Killa, and they’re three of the most talented women I know. So it’s easy to have chemistry with someone you respect and trust onstage. They’re never going to throw you under the bus; you’re always working together to make that thing the best.
That seems a perfect transition to ask about the two Chortle Awards you won a few months back (for Best MC and Best Club Act). Is this an indication that there is finally progress regarding women in comedy?
That’s interesting. Well, I think, certainly the winners of live comedy [categories] were women, but the nominations were 50:50, and the industry’s a bit 50:50. I’ve noticed a difference. The industry of tele and radio are definitely pro-women because they’ve realised that they need to correct a lot of stuff that’s been going on, to the point where, and I addressed it in my first show; I had a really long conversation with two of my very dear, talented friends who’ve had people turn round and say to them, “I’m sorry, we’ve got too many white boys,” and it’s frustrating to be in an industry where people are telling you it’s full. I think it must be frustrating, and you need to be careful how you handle that, because these are allies. They’ve done their time, they’ve played the difficult rooms, and got good. Having said that, I think it’s a great time to be a woman, but like anything else, you might get the first break if you’re a chick but you still have to do the job as well. There’s still no room for bad women, or bad people of colour. You’ve still got to be able. It’s just that before it was the other way, and they weren’t interesting in representing those voices, and on the way up through the circuit they weren’t championed or nurtured as much. It’s just in a bit of flux at the moment, but I definitely think it’s a great time to be a chick.
Hardly any of those female comedians doing well now have the same style.
That’s the thing isn’t it? “Don’t book more than one woman because they talk about ‘women’s things’.” Well what are women’s things? I don’t know what that is. You definitely see more overlapping material in young guys who are straight out of uni doing standup, or older comics who’ve got families. I see more similarity from them than other women I see on the circuit. I’ve always thought that there’s been more diversity of voice in female comics, because when the world tells you you can’t do a job, what neurotic thing is driving you to do it? There’s an interesting story there already!
Do you think that because women have found it harder to break into comedy, they’ve had to find a different spin on it?
Oh that’s interesting! Because it’s trickier they’ve had to pursue an angle? Maybe it’s because… I’m not saying that women find their voice quicker; this is all speculation. But maybe, if you’re bull-headed enough to go into an industry that you’re traditionally told is not your area, then you have tunnel-vision enough to go, “What do I want to talk about?” quicker than other people who are just trying to try it out and be funny. Because you’re already told you can’t do this thing, and you get on stage – and we’re already told to be quiet, that we’re nags – there’s already far more jeopardy. So the kind of personality that is already drawn to putting themselves in that position probably just wants to bang on about whatever they want to bang on about. Whereas guys might just take a little bit longer to get there. And, while women aren’t the minority, I do subscribe to the idea that there is a patriarchy, and I’m aware that I’m very privileged; but by different degrees there is oppression, and I think some of the most interesting comedy comes out of a not necessarily comfortable world view. That’s not to say that people who come from comfortable backgrounds can’t have insight, of course not. But maybe there’s something about being the underdog, even if it’s only in this realm, it creates a more interesting story. Maybe. Maybe I’m just chatting shit!
Are Gein’s Family Giftshop coming back with a new show this year?
Not this year, because Ed is filming Porters. That got a series so he’s going to be filming through most of [the Fringe]. We do a show called Suspiciously Cheap Comedy and we normally do a fundraiser at Edinburgh, last time we had (Daniel) Kitson and (Tim) Key; so we’ll do another one of those, but that’s the only time they’re up really. We’re plotting something quite big for our next show and we definitely haven’t time with the tour, and me working on this show, to do justice. And also, we had a change in lineup just before the Fringe and it threw us into turmoil. We had to rewrite the show and then try and work through it and build this allegory around it. So we thought it would be nice to have one or two years of just gigging and finding out what this new thing is, because it’s definitely still so much of Gein’s. In many ways, more Gein’s than it’s ever been. But it’s incorporating a different voice and making something new and better than it was. I don’t think you can rush that. If we rushed it, we might do a potentially ropey show. So it’s about taking our time about what it is next. We did a good job of what we had under those circumstances, but it’s evolution now.
Were you tempted to get on stage with them, or are you always going to be a non-performing member?
No! Imagine if I was like, “Finally, my time to shine!” No, God, that was never a thing. I think we were originally looking at women, because it would be a more interesting dynamic, but Adam (Scott-Rowley)‘s great, because he’s so fluid. I don’t know if you saw his solo theatre show (This is Not Culturally Significant)? I hate theatre, it makes me want to ball my eyes out with spoons, but his show is probably the best thing I’ve ever seen at the Fringe. And he plays something like 30 different characters. It’s incredible. He’s so brilliant. It’s a travesty what we get him to do in Gein’s when he’s so capable, and we just make him make bum jokes. But he brings this fluidity of character and physicality to it. It’s a really interesting prospect on stage. So I’m excited to see [what comes next]. But no, no one would ever dare suggest [that I perform with them]. It would be the worst! Even when we started years ago, I hadn’t done any traditional performing like that for a few years; and now they’ve been performing together for six years, and Ed and Kath are two of the best performers I know. They’ve got better from going toe-to-toe onstage and they make each other better. Especially because Kath’s so good so Ed has to really up his game or she’ll blow him off the stage! If I went on again, not having down anything like that since I was eighteen I’d just be awful. It would be so embarrassing! Everyone just looking at the floor going, “She’s finally got her dream!”
What are the best and worst things about the Fringe for you personally?
I really love it here. Something I was so surprised about for my first show, is that I would love the making of a show; love the process of it, even when it’s hard, and you think you’re going to scorch the earth and damage your reputation. That wrangling the idea of the show is such a thrilling process, so I love getting ready for the Fringe. I love getting to do comedy every day. You can’t do a Fringe and come away a worse comic. Even if you’re in horrible circumstances. If you’re on at 3am in the Dog, Fiddle and Flea, and you’re doing a compilation show to drunks; you might not like it, but you’ll be better at the end of it. You’ll certainly have a skill set. So, just the idea that you get to go to this comedy boot camp and go and see stuff and be inspired. Probably the worst thing for me is that because I’m such an insane workaholic, that I gig so much when I’m up here, I don’t see enough. It’s such a smorgasbord of everything, and I wish I saw more. I wish I took advantage of being in this incredible city, at the greatest arts festival in the world. Instead I’m getting up twelve and having a chicken burger. I don’t really drink while I’m up here, but I’m just exhausted because it’s that weird thing of adrenaline spike and down, adrenaline spike and down, and walking miles and miles and miles. The worst thing is probably all the weight I put on from all the late-night curries. There’s a very good curry house with a very low hygiene rating, below our flat, but it’s absolutely great.
Do you have any Fringe recommendations? Particularly any comedians you think deserve a wider audience or more coverage?
Matt Rees is a Welsh comedian. I saw him recently and that guy’s material has always been brilliant. He has problems with alcohol and talks about it onstage. His writing is so precise and beautiful. His show’s (Happy Hour) going to be great, and one of the funniest hours on the Fringe. And it’s his first hour as well. And Bisha K. Ali’s doing her first show (Bish and Bob, with Kemah Bob). Onstage I literally dress like a drag queen because I’m such a people pleaser, and she just has this amazing quiet dignity with this beautiful writing that you lean into her. That’s a skill I could never have. Everyone’s like, “Hold on Kiri!” and leaning away because I’m so in their face. I would love to have the poise that she has. She’s absolutely brilliant. I can’t think who else, cos I never see any bloody comedy!
Victim, Complex is at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh 1-27 Aug @20:00
All Killa No Filla Live is at Underbelly George Square, Edinburgh 5 Aug @23:30, 12 Aug @15:30, 19 Aug @ 23:30 and 26 Aug @ 15:30.