It's seriously handy having two or three different talents to fall back on, at a time like this. Katie Pritchard was already a well-regarded stand-up, west-end actress and musician - winner of last year's Musical Comedy Awards, no less - but a lot of that stuff is obviously very audience-based, so she's launched a new line of work for the lockdown.
"I love drawing, but I've always been told I'm not very good by teachers and the like, and most of my family are professional artists," says Pritchard. "So, I've always done art for fun because I love it, despite being abysmal at it."
"The lockdown started, I set up a Ko-Fi and a Patreon account, and then I was like 'but what will make people interested in giving me some money to help me through this unemployment time'? I didn't want to just ask for money for nothing, it felt weird. And that's when I thought I'd offer people the chance to get a photo ruined by my illustrations. I didn't realise it would take off quite as much as it has - but I've done over 50 in two weeks, and I have a waiting list of 25!"
Top fun they are too. Many comedians in there? "I have so far had the pleasure of drawing mostly comedians actually - including Pope Lonergan, Chris Norton-Walker, Ania Magliano, Davina Bentley, Friz Frizzle (pictured), Esyllt Sears, Oh Standfast, and many more..."
If you want to be Pritcharded, they cost just a fiver, from Ko-fi. "It's so lovely that people have been so supportive of me, and it seems that Mr Fairclough might have been a bit wrong about my drawing abilities. I mean, I'm no Picasso, but people haven't been like 'OH MY GOD THAT'S DISGUSTING!' which has been the biggest surprise to me."
Meanwhile Pritchard is performing again, via a new Facebook Live event every Tuesday evening - Get Pritch or Die Trying. And with the Lost Comics collective, on their Lockdown show, which features "lots of awesome comedians," she says. "I'm hoping I can find a way to keep performing until we're all let loose again into the beautifully dingy comedy and music venues!"
And finally, on Pritchard's Patreon site, followers are "treated to my drawings of Robert De Niro if he were a cat, along with my verrrrryyyy old podcast from 2015, Literally Comedy - I play all the characters in the show, and it's set in my very imaginary bookshop. Perfect if your house is a bit quiet and you want some shenanigans to make you love the peace and quiet again when you MAKE IT STOP!"
It's a public service. But how did she make it all start?
So, I'll be honest here - I don't remember much. I was very lucky, because, at the time, I had been making stupid videos online as a character whilst I was performing in a musical in the evenings, and one of my friends at the show ran a cabaret night every Sunday and had seen these videos and wanted me to do it live.
So, it was at one of the Cabaret nights that I did my first gig - compered and curated by my friend, surrounded by my cast mates. It was a very lovely environment to do a first gig in, and I'm so lucky that they forced me to try out my silly comedy character live on stage because if it weren't for them, I think I'd have been way too much of a chicken to do it!
I sort of blacked out in my head when I was onstage. But my friends filmed it... that's the only memory I have of the actual onstage bit of the gig. I got changed in the toilet, then my friend led me onto the stage, practically dragging me, I did my five minutes and went back to the toilet.
And, about an hour after I came off stage, I was back in the room and aware of what was going on. All I know is, the adrenaline rush was so much more than I got from live acting and live music and I couldn't wait to do it again.
Favourite show, ever?
Wowsers Trousers what a question! You know what, I don't know? It might have to be the Musical Comedy Awards Finals 2019 at Bloomsbury Theatre. Everyone on the bill was INCREDIBLE, the crowd were so fun and hyped up, the stage and auditorium are lovely to do comedy on, the projector screen was massive, and the sound and lights were fab, so I really did feel like a rock star. I loved every second of that gig and I just can't believe I got to gig in such a lush venue!
I also loved a gig I did for my colleagues at The Crystal Maze - they'd booked me to do a show in the bar, and none of my colleagues had seen me perform before. I was bloody nervous beforehand because everyone that works at the maze is like some kind of comedy, theatre, or improv wizard, and I often feel like I don't know how I managed to get a job there with my stupid shenanigans. But after my set, I left the stage to a standing ovation from them all. That was pretty incredible.
Do we only get to choose one? I GOT SO MANY!!!! I think my top two worst gigs are:
(1) When I'd just started comedy, maybe nine months in, and a member of the audience was off his face on cocaine and just shouted the word 'slag' at me as I performed. I didn't have any heckler experience so I didn't know what to do. No one threw him out or helped me when I was onstage.
And it was at an open mic night where the MC would be very aggressive about you getting offstage on the dot of five minutes. So, the MC actually made me leave the stage before I'd finished my second song because I'd tried to deal with the heckler, and that had eaten into my allotted time. That was horrible!
(2) There was another gig about a year in where the pub had decided to put on a comedy night on a Friday, EVEN THOUGH karaoke was normally on a Friday. I think audience member Sharon (?) had come specially to do karaoke on her birthday and was (rightfully) angry that the comedy was happening.
They had a mic stand, but the mic didn't fit in there, so I had to balance the mic on a high table on top of a reserved sign so I could play my ukulele. I am very short, so you could only see my head above this table anyway. And then a fight broke out, and the headliner had to box some people in with fruit machines because they were so aggressive, and the MC let a local come on stage to tell a joke to prove to him why he should be a good audience member and stop talking over everyone's set, and his joke got the biggest reaction of the night. I think that's my favourite worst gig ever...
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
Oooh probably my dad? He's very funny when he makes public speeches, and I remember learning a lot from him when I was younger about messing around on stage to make people laugh. And he'd sometimes let me do speeches and, when doing so, I'd do impressions of him and get some laughs and absolutely loved it. Thanks Dad!
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
I think those audience members that get annoyed that I've made them laugh. They're so funny! They pay for a comedy show, sit in the audience with their arms folded all angry that I'm prancing around onstage, and if they accidentally laugh at something, they get so cross at themselves, and I've even seen them berate themselves under their breath.
I don't understand it, but it is very entertaining to watch. I think sometimes the audience don't realise that we're all on the same team - they want to have fun, and we just want them to have fun and us to have fun too.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
Haha so many! I guess what I do is pretty silly, and sometimes people just will not go for things! I think the song I was most sad about having to drop from my set was a song about being objectified, I thought it was really funny, but literally no one ever went for it. I tried it as a song, as a poem, dressed as a character, with a dance routine. Nothing. RIP Objectify Me.
How are you finding the lockdown so far? Any good tips for fellow performers?
I think I'm getting used to it, slowly. The most important thing for me is keeping a routine. I've found all the applications for financial help really stressful and time consuming, so I try to schedule these for just two or three hours a day. And then I make some sketches or do some writing, make something creative like a 'gourmet' dinner (usually figuring out how to make cheesy nachos go with anything else I'm cooking).
Or sing some songs or whatnot, do the commissioned 'arts' that I've been getting, watch at least one movie a day to try and enforce some time to relax and feel like I'm doing a social event, and then spend the rest of the time chatting to friends online or on video calls and whatnot and pretending that they're meetings and I'm really great at business.
Feel free to copy me if that sounds good? I don't know why I've told you my full daily schedule? The main thing getting me through is that this should just be temporary, and that everyone else is experiencing the same thing, and there is a comfort in that - people understand what I'm going through, and we are each finding ways of dealing with it and I just copy them sometimes because what they're doing looks like fun, and that seems to be working so far.
Are there particular reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions that stick in the mind?
Oh, all of them! And then I painfully replay them over and over in my brain for ages thinking about every word and every intonation of every word over and over, until eventually my feeling towards them dissipates, and I'm ready for the next one...
I think my best ever was from Mr Fairclough in Year 7 at school (does this count?) who told me off for not standing up when the bell went off, even though I was. I'm just really small. And he was screaming at me, red in the face. And so I walked out from behind my desk to prove I was standing up. And he was like "Oh, ok then". No apology or nothing, as if it's totally fine to scream at an 11 year-old when she wasn't doing anything wrong.
That one, I don't think I'll ever forget - I've classed it as a post-gig reaction because it was at the end of art class, and as anyone that was in my art class in Year 7 knows, it was definitely comedy not art that I was laying down on those sugarpapers...
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
I was (I am - I know the year's not over yet) having SUCH A FUN YEAR! I am really sad that almost all of my work and shows got cancelled for the foreseeable - it was going to be my debut year at Edinburgh Fringe, I had a super cool venue lined up (Pleasance Courtyard in the Cellar - SNAZZY!), I was going to be working with Live Nation, and I had been previewing my new show and having so much fun creating it.
But, this can all wait to make sure we stop this stupid butthead Covid-19 from getting more people with its rude virus! Of course, I hope this is just a temporary pause and we can all go 'back to normal' after this quarantine. I literally couldn't believe my luck because of all the cool things that have happened to me over the last few months, so I am really glad that all my hard work over the last few years was starting to create exciting opportunities for me.
And I hope that I can keep up with the industry during the ever changing landscape out there at the moment with regards to online comedy and keeping myself relevant and entertaining. Hopefully I can learn some sick streaming skills and be a tech wiz, or, at the very least, I hope that I can bring some joy to people during this time with my silly artworks and my failed attempts at doing gigs online making everyone else feel more competent and capable human beings than I could ever be!