Ah, enemies, where would we be without them? If it weren't for a few choice hate figures most Brits would be utterly bereft of motivation and probably not bother getting up most mornings. So thank gawd for the urgent need to get one over on people.
Now Sara Barron isn't a Brit - she's an acclaimed writer and comedian from the United States - but she lives here these days, and is doing a run at London's Soho Theatre from 9-21 March. That show? Enemies Closer. So, did dealings with a particular enemy spawn the idea?
"Indeed it did," says Barron. "In September of 2018, I was sat in the very gross café of my moderately gross local leisure centre, and I got a WhatsApp message from my best friend. It was a screen grab of an Instagram post that - for reasons discussed in the show - detailed the downfall of a guy I used to know.
"(When I say 'used to know', what I mean, specifically, is that I knew him a bit, and felt what I'd like to classify as a 'gentle hatred' toward him. Not full-blown, just... gentle. Slight, but distinctly there.)
"Anyway. This screen-grab, as I said, detailed the downfall of this guy, and I had an interesting, unpredictable response to the whole thing, and reflecting on the episode a few weeks later, thought, 'There's a show somewhere in this. There's something in exploring why we hate who we hate, and how we respond when shitty things actually do happen to the people we've wished shitty things upon.'"
Be careful what you hate-hope for, in other words. Now let's see if any other motivationally useful dislike-figures pop up in Barron's back catalogue.
The date: Let's say mid-July (that's as close as I can get), 2014.
The other performers: I can't remember the names, but I remember the bits. There was someone doing a bit about CD players, and another bit about rhyming 'latte' with 'pilates'. Another act did a bit that was essentially getting at the utter random-ness of who we marry, if we marry. (She seemed a cut above the rest, the one who did that bit, but I never saw her again.)
Many people there? It wasn't that grim, surprisingly. I'd get to the grim ones eventually, the ones with four people in, but at this official cherry-popping there were probably about 30 people in.
Favourite show, ever?
Well, if I'm to gig-drop (can you "gig-drop"? Like a name-drop, but with gigs? If you can, here's your warning that I'm about to) I had the honor of filming Live At The Apollo this year. It was, to use the clichéd phrase, a total dream come true. So just in terms of "Oh my god!!! Is this actually happening?!", and the honor and privilege and also pure fun of it all, that one's pretty tough to beat.
I've tried to block this, so some of the details are hazy. Getting at this memory is like trying to get at a dream, so bear with. This is all that I remember:
It happened in a building near Whitehall. I think the building was somehow connected to civil servants.
Everyone was well over the age of, say, 50, and most were over the age of 65.
The artwork, as it were, was comprised entirely of portraits of members of the royal family.
I talked about why the word 'boyfriend' makes me ill, and when that bit went south, I had the bright idea to get into a different bit about cunnilingus.
Physically, mentally and professionally, it was one of the least comfortable things I've ever been through.
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
I mean, this is embarrassing/cheesy/etc to admit, but probably my husband. I was 31 when we met, and the fact that I'd spent nearly a decade obsessed with stand-up but too scared to do it, was one of our main topics of conversation on our first date. And he made sure to keep that conversation going, and to endlessly encourage me, for four solid years until I was 35 and decided to give it a try.
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
There's not really been one massive standout prick, actually. That's boring, I know, but it's also the truth.
Therefore to juice my answer up a little more, I'd like to add that I think a good 35% of the comedians I know - and just take a minute to really, properly consider how high 35% is. Imagine if you had a surgery scheduled in tomorrow and there was a 35% chance you could die! - a good 35% of the comedians I know are certifiable narcissists.
To quote my friend Jen - and Jen's not a comic, but she's a huge comedy fan and she comes with me to see loads of stuff - Jen said once, "I think of all your comedian friends I've met, maybe two of them have ever asked me a question about myself."
Remember that opening scene in Episode 1 of Season 2 of Fleabag? When they're all sat around a table at a restaurant and Fleabag looks to camera and goes, "No one's asked me a question in 45 minutes."?
I saw that and I thought, "She must be with a bunch of comics."
I should include here that there's a distinct possibility that I'm in that 35% of narcissists, and maybe what my friend Jen was trying to tell me is that I'm as bad as the rest of them.
Is there one routine/gag you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
I had this one bit that was very cruel about professional dog-walkers, but I loved it because it was also felt very true, at least to me. Nevertheless, I could never get the audience on board.
Is comedy a fertile career for enemy-forming, and are enemies quite useful, really?
I think that actually it's not enemy forming. These days, at least in the circles I move in, we all do a decent job of supporting each other. HOWEVER: that doesn't mean that it - a comedy career - isn't very jealousy inducing.
Everyone's constantly measuring what work they're getting against the work others are getting. (I'm of the firm opinion that any comic who doesn't own up to that is kidding herself.) Naturally, it feels fucking awful to feel jealous of your friends.
It's a terrible, grotesque, maddening part of the job, and in my personal experience, all you can do to manage it effectively is to keep level-headed, non-comics in your life - a spouse, a close friend - to whom you say, "OH GOD, I FEEL JEALOUS! I HAVE TO SAY IT OUT LOUD IN SOME SAD ATTEMPT TO CLEANSE MYSELF!"
You get it out, admit it, own it, and try - with increasing, if miniscule levels of success - to let it go.
Are there particular reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions that stick in the mind?
Reviews: I never read them. I don't think any good can come from it.
Heckles: I've had some variation on "You're not funny" twice, during sets when I was bombing, and both occasions nearly broke me. On a lighter note, I have a bit at the moment about having a camel toe, and (sorry to toot my own horn here), but it always, always works, and a month or so ago, I did it at a charity gig for a school, and this one mum at the school shouted, "Just pull your jumper down lower so we can't see it!" She was genuinely trying to help me, and although she missed my point entirely - that we ought to own and celebrate the C. Toe - I couldn't not find her delightful.
Post-gig reactions: When I'd been going a little over a year, I did a gig that Robert Webb was at, and he came up to me afterwards and told me he'd thought I was great. Whether he meant it sincerely or not, who can know, but it made my absolute life.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
In an attempt to not ramble, I'll boil it down to three words:
I can't complain.