Nerine Skinner is a comedian, actor, and writer who first came to our attention back in our TV Bomb days as part of the excellent double act Franks & Skinner. Since then she’s wowed us again as part of The Dots, as well as reaching the semi’s of Britain’s Got Talent. Recently she’s achieved viral fame with her character Liv Struss, based obviously on our record-breaking prime minister. We spoke to Nerine about her new show ‘The Exorcism of Liz Truss’, accidentally becoming a political impressionist, and discovering that Simon Cowell hates character comedy five minutes before going on the BGT stage as part of a character comedy group.

Can you tell us about ‘The Exorcism of Liz Truss’?

Yes, indeed. So I started doing parodies of Liz truss, and they went viral. It was really exciting and I was doing really well and then she resigned. And then my career was over as well! This show is about how I don’t know what to do now because every time I do anything, people still compare everything I did to Liz truss. And as part of that, I’ve then noticed that her and I do have share quite a lot of similarities. So that’s a worry as well.  The show is exploring all of my similarities with her and I use all of my other characters to try and find a way of removing Liz from my life so that I can make a decision and move forwards. And I’ve got a bit of an issue with indecision as well. So I’m kind of threading through all of my true stories and  as well as this kind of codependency that I’ve gained with her because she actually gave me some success.

The title does suggest you are worried that she might have become a bit of a millstone around your neck.

Yeah, exactly. It’s  that thing where you’ve created something that’s really, really cool. But then, actually, there’s a temptation then to just keep getting her out at any given moment. Even though she’s no longer relevant. I think I’m the only one in society who’s excited when she pops back up again!

Does the recent news of the election change anything, given she tends to have an insistence on trying to force her way back into relevance?

It will be really interesting to see what happens over the next couple of weeks and whether she kind of rears her head again. She’s going to start trying to run for Prime Minister again, or something. But it’s interesting, because the truth is, I’ve never been a very political person. It’s not that I don’t have an interest in it. But actually, when Lizzie [Franks] and I used to do our stuff, we used to stray away from it because I always felt like I didn’t know enough about it. And then suddenly, just because I look a little bit like Liz Truss and I did an impression. I’m not even an impressionist either. I’ve gained this career as a political impressionist! So then part of my decision is well, which way do I go? So the show is kind of a mixture of these political elements because you want to keep people pleasing and doing this thing, but also this other stem. So it’d be interesting to see what happens with the general election and how much of that becomes part of the show as well.

So the character came about because you just happen to hit on an impression that worked?

It started as a joke actually. Some friends sent me a link to Liz and said, ‘You’ve got to do a parody of her because she’s really funny.’ But I genuinely didn’t know who she was. I thought that she was a comedian! I didn’t realise because she was so funny. I thought, ‘Oh, she’s a comedian and doing impressions of politicians!’ And then I realised she was actually real. So I thought, ‘Okay, I’ve got to do something’. And I looked a bit like her and then I did a little similar-ish voice, and then came this sort of career. So I thought I’d better follow that because it’s working. And then over time, I developed her voice and everything, and just by the time she finished that cycle, I finally got there. But then it’s just been pretty funny because anyone I tried since they ended up resigning. I’m a political hitman.

For anyone who might be new to you, could you describe your approach to comedy and performance? You’ve also done sketch and musical comedy.

I do a big mix of loads of different thing. I think my main thing is I always want to just be silly and have as much fun as possible. So sometimes, it might be a bit more abstract, or maybe it’s just a lot of character comedy. I would probably explain it as all characters that I’ve seen in real life that I want to enhance or make bigger. I’ve actually kept one of my vampire characters I did with Lizzie. So they’re all very different, with silly humour. And then with the political stuff, I tried to do parodies rather than impressions and just kind of make them bigger and have a laugh with them, really.

This is your debut solo hour at the Fringe. So what are your hopes and expectations? What would constitute a successful August?

Just being up there and doing it. I think. I’ve wanted to do it for so many years. And I feel like Liz has pushed me to do so. It would be great if if things happened from it, but also I don’t have that expectation. I just wanted to to do it and enjoy it, and and hope that everyone else enjoys it too.

You’ve performed with the Dots at the Fringe and as part of Franks and Skinner. What for you are the best and the worst things about the festival?

I mean, the best thing is just being able to be out there amongst it. You can’t quite explain the atmosphere unless you’re in it. Being part of the shows and watching them, and also talking to other people who are like-minded in the arts. I think the more that you have everyone together with the same energy of this thing. Everyone being together in it is a really nice, magical thing and being inspired by other people’s work. But I will say that the worst thing is that I know I’m probably going to get ill eventually. You worked so hard, you get ill, and probably not sleeping as much as you should. And just the exhaustion of it… you have to have your fingers in all the pies at all times, don’t you? You know, it’s not just performing, it’s everything else; so probably the mental exhaustion.

You also had quite a lot of success on on Britain’s Got Talent with The Dots. How was the experience of being on that show on and how much is it actually different to what we see on TV?

It was a really wild experience because in hindsight you look at you look back and you go, ‘Oh, I see what we should have done’. We should have planned out every single thing before we started, going, ‘This is what we do for this round, and if we got through we do this and then we could do this for the finals’. But because you don’t think like that, I think we ended up throwing everything at it. It was like doing a whole hour show in three minutes. So I think that it was a good experience to learn from. The bit that was really interesting was because we were playing this idea that I was an understudy and I’ve never performed before. We were trying to figure out how to that because we need to look realistic and we can’t look like characters. We had to find a way of levelling down what we’re doing to make it look like it could be real.

Finding that line was so hard. We were talking to the producers beforehand just before we went out on stage and they were saying, ‘Simon Cowell really doesn’t like when you play characters’, you know? Luckily he fell for it, and that was like that moment where we all just went, ‘Ah, brilliant!’ But then came the semi final and you can’t replicate that again.

The element of surprise is gone.

Yeah, exactly.

And apart from the show, will you be performing elsewhere at the Fringe or are you purely concentrating on on ‘The Exorcism of Liz Truss’?

At the moment just [the show], but I have thrown my name into the room for a couple of other bits of Donald Taffner was saying that he’s going to do some stuff with DLT Entertainment, maybe doing some readings of new sitcoms [since confirmed]. So that might be quite fun. One thing that’s new; I’m doing Liz Truss’ The Traitors tomorrow night in London. There’s talk of maybe trying to put that on because it’s a mixed bill night where everyone pleads their innocence as to why they didn’t crash the economy. There may well be other opportunities and situations that happen. I’ll jump in anywhere. Anyone who will have me I’ll take it!

Are there any other acts that’s going to be at the Fringe that you would recommend that people check out? 

Oh gosh, there’s loads of different ones. I’m doing the Edinburgh Labs course with the Soho [Theatre] at the moment and all of the people on that, but I’ve been speaking to Chris East and Ben Goldsmith are up-and-coming comedians, and there’s lots of character comedy in there as well. And Lil Wenker as well. It’s a really fun show. I love Sooz Kempner‘s shows. I feel there’s a real mix every time I  look at what’s going on, especially when it comes to alternative comedy. There seems to be a lot of that coming through that I’m really excited about seeing.

The Exorcism of Liz Truss‘ is at Just the Tonic @The Caves – Just Out of the Box from Thu 1 to Sun 25 Aug 2024 at 14:40 (except Mon 12)