First Gig Worst Gig

Jen Ives

Jen Ives

Today marks the start of the 2021 Edinburgh Fringe, and while the world's biggest arts festival might be a good bit smaller this year, there are still some seriously interesting shows. Or some humorously interesting shows - you get the picture. How about an invite to Jen Ives's new WIP, for instance?

"The show is called PEAK TRANS and is a lighthearted, silly look at the state of trans rights in Britain right now," Ives explains. "As a trans woman myself, I wanted to do something about the seemingly growing (and worrying) popularity of the 'gender critical' movement, and how much of a flipping mess it all seems to be.

"The title PEAK TRANS is in reference to a blog that was set up by a gender critical activist, where people could share their 'Peak Trans' moments - e.g. the point in which they'd finally had enough of the 'trans agenda'. I thought it'd be funny to co-opt it, like I do with women's spaces."

Pow! And the space Ives co-opts from August 14th is at the Gilded Balloon Teviot. But right now we're taking a trip down south, back to late-2010s Brighton.

Jen Ives

First gig?

My first gig was upstairs at the Caroline Of Brunswick pub in Brighton about four years ago. It was an open mic night, run by a lovely woman named Maria. I had been stewing on giving stand-up a go for months, and in a dangerous cocktail of loneliness, drunkenness and mis-placed self-importance-ness, I emailed her and got a five-spot booked in.

The main thing I remember about the night is firstly going to the wrong venue, being late - and then having to run to the other one (for some reason there are about 10,000 venues in Brighton all called 'The Brunswick'). I can't remember exactly who was there - comedian William Stone was definitely around at the start.

I'm sure if I could go back and watch that first five, it'd be terrible. But at the time, it went much better than I had expected it would, and people encouraged me to continue. So I did.

Favourite show, ever?

I've had some really lush gigs recently at 21 Soho in London. They're a pretty new club, but have been doing great stuff since comedy came back. The one that really sticks in my mind though, was the last time I performed at The Bill Murray. I love how it feels like you're surrounded by the audience - almost like they're going to attack you. But in a nice way, with laughs and smiles.

Worst gig?

The worst gig I ever did was a few years ago. I think it was called Comedy Rollercoaster. There were two audience members in (who left after my set). The MC did magic and had a joke foam brick that he would throw at audience members who didn't laugh at his jokes.

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

It's two people, sorry. Vic & Bob. They come as a set though, don't they? They were the first comedians I saw on TV who I felt like spoke directly to me, and not to any of my friends or family.

And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?

I come across a LOT of self-important dudes in black caps who think they're Bill Hicks-style 'truth tellers'. They like to sit on a stool and say "...what else". They're pretty bad to talk to in a green room.

Jen Ives

Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?

I used to do a little 'observational' bit about how I saw a red house gate recently. The general premise was that you don't see red house gates that often - and imagine having the audacity to paint your house gate red. It only ever worked once, and then never, ever again.

I realise that I'm maybe not selling my show that well right now, but I thought it was funny.

How were your lockdowns, creatively and generally?

I didn't enjoy lockdown at all, and really, really missed stand-up. But I did get a lot of writing / video making done. I also came around to the idea of online gigs eventually, and even started to enjoy them towards the end.

Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?

I was once performing to a rowdy working men's club audience, and they weren't really listening to me at all. I told them that it reminded me of my childhood holidays to Pontins, and started to lead them into a rendition of Agadoo. It was a big mistake though, because they wouldn't stop singing it and I had to just wrap it up.

How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?

I'm really jazzed with where I am at the moment. I've been doing a lot of cool stuff, and been enjoying myself a lot on stage after the lockdown. I'm excited to bring this goofy show to Edinburgh, and hopefully many more places afterwards.

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