Words: Caroline Whitham
This is your ninth year on the Fringe. Are you looking forward to coming back to Edinburgh?
It may be my 9th Fringe, but it doesn’t make it less daunting or exciting. I find the process of the show building is the same. I write brand new material from September – October and then spend the rest of the year tweaking it. Then things become serious and the pressure is mounting by mid-July. It’s fun and exhilarating!
Can you tell us a bit about your new show OutKast? What should the audience expect?
All my life, I have been ‘the other’. At 8, my parents dropped me off at boarding school. Everyone spoke English, I didn’t. Kenya being a British colony we were forbidden from speaking our native languages and anyone who spoke their language at school was caned. I was teased and laughed at for speaking broken English and a strong accent. As a middle child, I was unheard and unseen. My two older sisters were inseparable, and my younger brothers were inseparable so I was a billy no mate. I found it difficult to make friends at boarding school. I identified as a loner.
As a child, all I ever wanted to do was sing until my dreams came crushing down at the tender age of 8 when I was kicked out of the choir. Modelling became my next obsession and I ended up in a pervert’s flat who promised to take pictures of me for my portfolio. He then sent me off to ‘Claudia `chaffer’s agent’, in Peckham where my dreams were crushed again as I was told that black people couldn’t be models. I guess this is a perfect recipe for the making of a comedian. It’s a fun and thought-provoking hour!
You’ve talked about being fueled by pettiness. Is comedy your way of getting your own back?
Rejection can break you like Brexit promises, but not me. Rejection for me is the fuel I require to power my rocket. I am driven by the thought that people who rejected me will hear of my success and stare at me on TV or film with their mouths agape like this emoji 🙀 . That’s literally what drives me. The thought that I will get into people’s heads and make them listen to me. Besides, if I have a rosy life where would I get material from?
As a political commentator, is it easier or harder to find comedy in the increasingly ridiculous political scene these days?
These days comedy writes itself. The lines between politicians and comedians is ever more blurred. The biggest challenge for a comedian is the ability to do better than politicians. It’s near impossible to tell the difference between real social media accounts and parodies. Some of the things coming out of politics these days, you just couldn’t make it up. And boy is it a challenge.
Is there anything in particular you look forward to whenever you’re planning your Edinburgh stay? Any city highlights?
I love Edinburgh. It’s a hauntingly beautiful romantic city especially by night. I love the centrality of it all. You can eat in fine restaurants and lose all the weight by the time you get home walking down all those steps. I love catching up with all the people I haven’t seen in a year. I love been able to go out late and not worry about driving back home late in the night. I love all the stage time.
Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to seeing?
I usually go to Edinburgh with an open mind. I check out what’s there on the train up and make my list. I am also a sucker for being flyered at. I want to see other genres too like great theatre.
Any advice for first-time visitors?
Take everything in your stride. Edinburgh is like a fine wine. It needs to be enjoyed at pace.
Njambi McGrath: OutKast
Gilded Balloon Teviot – Turret
5th – 28th August (except 14th August)