Abi Roberts has been visiting Russia "since I was a wee nipper," she says, and has now written a show about it. Angli-Chanka (which means 'English Woman') is "based around my exploits then and how Russia has changed since I was last there," Roberts explains, "told through jokes, anecdotes and diary excerpts, plus a few music bits. There may even be some Russian Hip-Hop."
She recently performed the show in Moscow, no less, and will do so again at this year's Edinburgh Fringe: but let's look back at some previous highs and lows.
My proper first stand-up gig without songs or music was in a pub in West London - I forget which - in 2011. I don't remember much about it other than there were about 20 punters in there and my joke about Princess Diana not going down well. Wil Hodgson was the headliner and I got paid in cake. Literally.
What's the show you look back on most fondly?
Last year's Edinburgh show, Downtown Abi, which was all about being a disappointment to my mother and how as women, we have to forge our own paths in life. It was my first proper stand-up hour in Edinburgh and it was full every day. I can't tell you how nice it is to arrive at a venue you're performing at to see the crowd snaking around the block to see YOUR show. I had to ask my other half several times, "is that the queue for my show?" I just wanted to carry on doing that show forever.
Oooh there's a couple I have burned into my brain. I did a gig in Surrey once and got heckled by a dog retching and then being sick on the front row and a woman who then interrupted me in a bit I do about why I have come to hate jazz. She was Swedish and she got up after I did the bit, tried to grab the mic saying, "but Jazz is a very important 20th century art form! How dare you criticize jazz?" The bouncer chucked her out in the end.
Who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
There's good eggs and bad eggs in this business and you learn to take the rough with the smooth in that respect. It's just like any other business. Buy me a few drinks and I might whisper some egregious examples in yer ear. Suffice to say, I once applied for a gig, only to be told, "we don't do your sort of comedy". Sweet Jesus. What an ocean-going prick.
The weirdest gig experience?
See above re sicking dog and jazz ranters.
Is there one routineor gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
Hmm. Good question. Normally, the golden rule is you try new material at a new material night or two and if it consistently gets laughs it stays in. If it doesn't, it's out. There are bits I've tried which I really liked and which for whatever reason, didn't work. I love the jazz routine which ironically is about seven minutes long, but I have to be selective about where I use it. Sometimes it flies, sometimes not. It's not a piece of material I'd do if I was ever gigging at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, put it that way.
What's your best insider travel tip, for touring comics?
One: keep every sugar sachet, tomato ketchup and wooden stirry thing you can from motorway service stations. These come in very handy in hotels when you run out of sugar at 1am and there's no one at the hotel reception.
Secondly, get used to listening to the BBC World Service, the national anthem and the shipping forecast on Radio 4. I now know exactly what the shipping forecast means, including where Tyne and Dogger are and what "one thousand and twelve, storm, losing its identity" means. And it's not an REM song.
Thirdly, take your own loo rolls. As Steve Coogan famously said in Saxondale, hotel loo paper can be "like taking sandpaper to a bullet wound." Eat salad when you get the chance. Unlike America, it is impossible to get decent food at service stations late at night. It's just burgers.
The most memorable review, heckle or post-gig reaction?
I rarely if ever get heckled. I establish very quickly who is in charge because if I don't, the audience think they can get the better of a female comic. I generally go on 'balls out' and woe betide someone if they heckle me. I was onstage in Bristol last weekend and it was a very raucous crowd with TWO stag do's in. I had to say straight off the bat, "shut the fuck up or I'm gonna come down there and sit on your face" - they never gave me any trouble after that.
I once had a marriage proposal after a gig and another time someone asked me to join a religious cult to "find God." I politely declined.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
I'm pretty happy at the moment. I feel very focused and opportunities are starting to come my way. I'd like to do more TV and radio this year and next, to match the level of my live work and to give my stuff a wider audience. I'd also like to do more acting - I trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School - and I'd like to use my comic acting skills.
It's your last ever gig: give us the venue, the line-up, the pre-show rider...
Top question. Ok, let me think. As it's my last gig I'd want the gig out of the way and then eat. I don't eat or drink alcohol before the show. To start: caviar and blinis. Main course: fat chips, sirloin steak with béarnaise sauce, followed by treacle tart and custard. Several vodka martinis, washed down with a few Jack Daniels and cokes.
Ideal venue: Either Bearcat Comedy in Twickenham or The Comedy Cellar Bracknell. Love those venues. Pre-show music is soooo important for a good comedy show, so I'd have AC/DC, Kula Shaker, Aretha Franklin, The Who, The Killers, Jungle, Bruno Mars, The Clash, in fact, a lot of cock-rock.
MC: Stephen Grant or Laura Lexx plus me, Carl Donnelly, Carey Marx and Romesh Ranganathan. For pure self-indulgence, I'd fly Brian Regan over to unleash his genius but also just to hang out with him at the bar.
'Angli-Chanka' will be at the Edinburgh Festival in August, 4.15pm, The Speakeasy at the Voodoo Rooms. Visit www.abiroberts.com for details.