Alex Kitson is a Bristol-based comedian from Devon. He is the founder of the Chortle Award-winning White Bear Comedy Club and has been tour support for the likes of Vittorio Angelone, Tom Ward, and Tom Houghton on tour. He is performing his debut hour, ‘Must I Paint You a Picture?’ at the Fringe this August. We spoke to him about the show, finding the humour in trauma, and the frankly tragic lack of decent cider at the Fringe.

Can you tell us about ‘Must I Paint You a Picture?’

‘Must I Paint You a Picture’ is my debut hour of stand-up comedy. It’s about my biggest secret, why I didn’t tell anyone until now, and how to get over the bad times. It’s that, plus loads and loads of high-energy (award-winning) jokes. It’s on in the Wee Yurt at Hoots Potterrow every night at 22.55 – see you there!

For anyone who might be new to you, could you describe your approach to comedy?

To keep it brief: I want people to laugh as much as possible. People really belly laugh when they find multiple things funny in a short space of time. When I’m performing anyway, I’m high energy anyway, so I try and make sure that happens. When writing, because broadly people laugh at jokes that either take them by surprise or express a truth they relate to, my approach is usually trying to do both at the same time – try and surprise the audiences with the truth as much as possible in the time available.

The show partly centres on a harrowing experience for you. How do you find the humour in such circumstances?

That’s what the show is about! Spoiler alert but in the show, in between the jokes, I tell a story about getting sexually assaulted as a teenager that I kept secret and affected me for a long time. I’m talking about it now because the show is about resilience: how to recover when things go wrong, sharing how I got over that (and other, much more minor things) in the hope it helps others. I think humour is a crucial part of that equation, because if you manage to find comedy in something bad, whatever it is becomes a little easier to deal with.

To answer your question, I think the old cliche that comedy equals tragedy plus time is true for me. It’s much easier with more time (and distance) from it. I’m lucky too, in that the story is not as awful as you’re probably imagining and much of the story surrounding it is so bizarre and surreal I didn’t need to ‘find’ too much humour in it. The challenge was (and is) to convince audiences it’s okay for them to laugh at those bits too. So I reassure them I’m fine before I tell it, let them know there’s a happy ending and remind them why I’m telling them this story. It’s a show about finding the lights at the end of tunnels and I don’t think you can’t be truly scared of something you’re laughing at – or alone when you’re doing so with a crowd.

‘Must I Paint You a Picture?’ is your debut hour. What are your hopes and expectations for the month?

I’m mostly excited to just be able to do the show every day. I love coming the Fringe and and doing my own hour is a dream come true. My only hope is that people come and see it, enjoy it, and the month isn’t so financially ruinous I get to come and do it again.

Beside ‘Must I Paint You a Picture’ can we expect to see you performing elsewhere during August?

I’m usually an absolute lunatic and run around performing on all sorts of other shows too. I’m not running the panel show I ran last year ‘Comedians Getting Drunk Playing Panel Shows’ so I can focus on my solo show (and having a functioning liver. But I am guest hosting ‘PG Hits!’ for part of the festival and regularly appearing on ‘11pm Live at the Big Cave’ (if I can run over quickly enough when my show ends.)

You were part of the AAA Showcase at the Pleasance Courtyard in 2022. How was that experience?

It was a really formative experience and I learnt a lot. It was my first Edinburgh doing stand-up, I had barely performed outside of the West Country and was suddenly gigging to people from all over the world for the first time. I was lucky to do it with two very good other comedians who were brilliant everyday so that meant that the occasional day where I had a tougher one went a bit more under the radar. I came out of it an infinitely better comedian.

What are your favourite and least favourite things about the Fringe?

My favourite things are getting to perform every day, getting to see all my friends and being constantly entertained for a month. The whole Fringe always feels like a mad dream I’ve come up with. A world where I get to do my favourite thing every day alongside my favourite people and  never ever being bored, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It’s incredible. My least favourite thing is the fact that Aspall and Rekorderlig seem to have a total monopoly for cider options at the festival and there’s never any superior stuff from the West Country available. I know I’m biased here and to save the Fringe there needs to be action about accommodation costs above all else. But I think a move towards standardising Devon Red on draught should be next on the agenda. Something for the incoming government to look at.

Are there any other acts at the Fringe that you would recommend audiences see?

Loads! I won’t name everyone I’m planning to see for fear of leaving people out but I always recommend Mat Ewins to everyone going to the Fringe because a) he’s the greatest and b) something you’re only likely to see in Edinburgh. Plus, I’ve been lucky enough to get sneak peeks of shows from Finlay Christie, Freya Mallard, Andrew White, Josh Jones, Emma Sidi, and Sheeps – all of which were outstanding so highly‌ recommend them. Plus off the top of my head I’m planning to see the following brilliant comics people might not know: Burt Williamson, Lou Wall, Bella Hull, Alex Kealy, Emma Holland, Melanie Bracewell, Horatio Gould, Greg Larsen, Joe Kent-Walters, Alfie Packham, Tarot, Sam Nicoresti, Jamie D’Souza, Jin Hao Li… Plus loads more. The programme isn’t out yet – give me a break!

Must I Paint You a Picture?’ is at Hoots @Potterow – Wee Yurt from Fri 2 to Sun 25 Aug 2024