First Gig Worst Gig

Louise Atkinson

Louise Atkinson

It was the first of times, it was the worst of times. And this time we're off to Hull, although Louise Atkinson probably isn't there (having moved away anyway, for starters).

After the success of last year's show Mates, she's currently trying to break some sort of record for Most Fringes Performed At, with her new show She's Got the Look. And she's got the hook: it's about how we rashly judge each other. Was there a lightbulb moment that spawned that idea?

"Oh you bet", Atkinson explains. "When I first started comedy I received some unsolicited feedback when I was put through to the next round of a comedy competition, I was told: 'Sounds good, but looks a mess.' It had nothing to do with my comedy or delivery, it had to do with how I looked, and I think we do that a lot."

"For example, I'm looking at a man in black trousers and a crisp black shirt and I've assumed he's a finance moron, but he might just be a vicar who lost his collar and is out buying another. I mean, I doubt a vicar would be wearing beige loafers, D&G sunglasses and swirling an Aperol spritz, but you never know."

Very spiritual, your spritzes. Now, about those fringes: next up she's doing the Wandsworth, Hastings, Greater Manchester, Buxton and Bedford fringes, before that bigger one in Edinburgh. Has she worked out how many that'll be exactly?

"It's a bit like The Count from Sesame Street here; one, two, three fringes HA, HA, HA... I think we're currently at 10 for the summer. So, everyone line up and come along. If you need an Aperol spritz, I know a guy who can hook you up."

Loosen those collars. Now let's leap back a few years.

Louise Atkinson

First gig?

That would have been in 2018, and it was summer, so I remember trying to explain my nervous sweating away by saying it was just really hot outside, a classic British summer high temperature of about 19 degrees, so that was a lie that worked.

I think there were about eight or nine other comedians on the bill, we all had five minutes, and I did a 10 minute set in five minutes, with the majority of the audience being the other comedians and two people who were dragged down from the bar about six pints deep.

I always wonder if they knew what was going on, or if they were in a bizarre dream.

Favourite show, ever?

When I played the Empire in Belfast, my set went well, but I loved it most because I had a swarm of people come up to me and keep buying me drinks. I ended up on a big night out with all these random audience members and had an absolute blast. I lost what remained of my dignity and I was hungover for about five days, but it was cracking.

Worst gig?

This is a toss up between the car park gig where I got heckled by a car colliding with another; the one where I told a hen party they were being disruptive, got them kicked out the venue, and they waited outside with inflatable penises (peni?) to batter me with; or the one where I played to silence and the act right after me was heckled on stage with 'just be good and don't be as bad as the last act'.

Maybe we should just run a poll.

Louise Atkinson

Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?

Probably my ex. I bought them a place on a comedy course as a birthday gift, and then they broke up with me before I had a chance to give it to them. So I decided to take the course myself, which I think was best for everyone, as they really weren't very funny.

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

Just give me a sec while I open this Excel spreadsheet I keep with all the names. It's quite big, so it'll take a while.

Listen, you can't be everyone's cup of tea; some people are champagne and in a league of their own, and some people are that glass of water that you keep on your bedside table that you should avoid for your health. As long as you can be professional and do your job, I couldn't care less if you have a face and personality like a smacked arse.

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

Yeah, I used to have a gag that you could spot someone who refers to themselves as a male feminist, as they're the kind of guy that would go into a strip club and try and pay by handing over a copy of The Bell Jar. Think in total about four people have ever laughed at that. Myself being one of the four.

Are there other comics - names can be withheld to protect the innocent - who you've misjudged on first appearance?

I mean, I'm usually pretty good at getting a grasp on people, meaning when I go 'I think that person's an absolute d**khead,' I am in fact, correct.

However, one that I did get very wrong was a dear, dear mate of mine, Lily Phillips. When we first met I thought she hated me and was a bit up herself. Turns out she's just shy and was a bit anxious around me since I'm loud and gobby.

It wasn't until after a couple of encounters that I realised I was wrong, when Lily yelled at me from across the bar, 'Oi, knobhead! Tequila?' and we have been great friends ever since, I am very pleased to say.

Louise Atkinson

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

I mean, the unsolicited feedback I mentioned that sparked the idea for this show. I wouldn't want to say it's stuck with me, but it was several years ago and I am now writing an entire hour-long comedy show based solely off that. Other than that, I'd say I'm pretty chill about the whole thing.

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

Currently I'm enjoying it, but I still have a lot to learn and a lot to improve on, and I'm excited about that. Imagine how boring life would be if you just started something and were immediately good at it, sod that.

Of course, if anybody thinks I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread and wants to offer me every opportunity going, ignore the above and please know I am a comedy version of Gillette in that I'm the best an audience can get. Ta.


Louise Atkinson: She's Got the Look is at various fringe festivals, including Edinburgh. Click here for details

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