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What's On, Culture, Comedy

Oxford Comedy Festival Returns

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Oxford Comedy

QED Comedy Laboratory are thrilled to announce that the Oxford Fringe Preview Comedy Festival is back on for 2023 and will take place throughout the whole month of July. This year’s festival is the biggest one ever, with 54 comedians previewing their Edinburgh Fringe shows. It will feature local legends, rising stars, podcast favourites, international names, and TV regulars.

“We are so proud to continue to provide Oxford with one of the country’s most diverse festival line-ups featuring great established acts alongside Oxford’s finest comedians,” says festival Founder Matthew Chadourne. “We are excited to give newcomers a great opportunity to showcase their work and for people to find their new favourite comedian. We are also glad to be combatting the Cost of Laughing Crisis by keeping our ticket prices down while still hosting shows in the heart of the city.”

We were lucky enough to catch up with Irish comedian, comedy writer, radio producer, actress and one of the names on the festival line-up, Alison Spittle. A regular on the Oxford cultural scene, Alison let us in on what we can expect from her new show, Soup.

“It’s about things that I’ve found happiness in so like I’m in a Soup WhatsApp group which is quite fun, and I really got into gardening during lockdown. Also though, I got robbed at knife point a few years ago and I did stand-up about it straight away because I felt that every bad experience that I had, needed to be made into stand-up. I then got diagnosed with CPTSD (Complex post-traumatic stress disorder) and I came to realise that you shouldn't really use stand-up comedy as a way to get over traumatic things. So, part of Soup is about the journey to processing trauma and trying to not be scared of the world.”

Would you say that comedy was a coping mechanism for you?

Definitely, I held onto every detail of the experience thinking, ‘you can do a stand-up about this’ because, on stage I felt like it would make it less scary for me because that’s the place where I feel safest. But no, what I actually needed was medical help. PTSD is a ridiculous thing to have because you’re expecting the worst all the time and your body is reacting as if it’s going through that situation again. You’re basically gaslighting yourself. 

We’re really looking forward to having you at the festival. I can imagine the atmosphere at festivals contrasts to that of regular touring, do you have a preference?

I love touring because people have come specifically to see you and it’s probably when your relationship with the audience is at its purest because you both know what is expected. With a festival though, you’re relying on people taking a chance and coming to see you. I really like festivals because of the camaraderie of other comedians there and others that work within comedy – there’s a lot of people that are working towards helping each other make their shows better and to have a nice time there – it feels great.

Do you have a favourite place to perform?

I think Scotland, because I’m Irish and my best mate is Scottish, so I just feel like I have an affinity for them. That’s not necessarily the Edinburgh fringe festival though, Scotland outside the fringe festival is just amazing and wonderful. I’ve had a great time in Oxford before too – like last year when I was doing my show in July, it just made me feel… it made me stop beating myself up about my show, because people seemed to have a good time. I definitely have good memories of being in Oxford. I also have a bad memory of going to see Cats there at the cinema a few days before lockdown – that was the last show I saw at the cinema in three years. 

I think there’s a lot of bad memories attached to that film. Speaking of best friends, this month marks International Day of Friendship, so I wanted to ask what, to you, makes a good friend? 

I think what makes a good friend is consideration and care and emotional openness. Also, trust and… God, I sound like a Care Bear. Friendship is someone who will hold your hair back when you get sick. 

What are you reading, watching, and listening to at the moment? 

Well I just finished Fern Brady's Strong Female Character which was great and I’m currently reading this book called Reach For The Stars, which is an oral history of pop music from 1996-2006 which I’m very interested in, I feel like there should be a human rights review on how pop stars were treated in the late 90s early 2000s. One of the Sugababes signed a contract when she was 15 and her parents’ house was collateral, like in case it didn’t work out and it’s like, how could you do that to a 15-year-old?

Back then, a lot of these pop stars were working-class teenagers who were treated like absolute cannon fodder whereas nowadays it’s just ‘nepo babies’, you know? Children of record producers or incredibly rich people who are all so well connected. I’m really enjoying this book. It’s very niche it’s like how some middle-aged heterosexual men in are into WW2, I’m into how S Club 7 were treated.

I have a podcast with Kerry Katona and you listen to her talk about her life which has mostly been spent being judged, since she was a child, and it was mad actually meeting her. I don’t even think I had negative views of her, but it makes you realise what she actually went through and what other people have gone through and it’s sort of breath-taking that these people are still about and continuing doing stuff despite the way that they were treated. 

I saw a tweet of yours recently where you made a comment on the cancelling of Kim Woodburn. What you think of cancel culture and like would you agree that it tends to disproportionally affect women?

I can say that in stand-up it does, like Kathy Griffin – she had loads of venues cancel on her because she did a photoshoot with Donald Trump’s head in her hand and her life was vastly affected by it, whereas there are comedians that have sexually assaulted people that are playing venues just as big as they did before. Men just take a break for a little while. With Kim Woodburn, she is who she is, don’t bother cancelling her. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a lot of cups of her around, I love her. It just seems silly to want to cancel her, she’s uncancellable. Years ago, I was fully in favour of cancel culture but it just doesn't work, it doesn't stop people doing bad things, we need to find something else. 

What’s next for you?

I’m writing a play that’s going to be shown at The Old Fire Station in December, which is going to be pretty cool, we're just auditioning for people at the moment, so I’ll be back in Oxford before long. It’s called Glacier and it’s a Christmas play about women who go freshwater swimming so I’m excited about trying to depict the lake on stage, that’ll be amazing. Then of course I’ll be going on tour with Soup, and I’ve also filmed some TV shows which I’m excited about, including Pointless which is just my absolute dream to do – I’m as obsessed about Pointless as I am about the Sugababes. Me and my boyfriend of ten years took our first ever holiday together over to London to watch Pointless be filmed, so to stand at the podium just felt great. I know that sounds silly, but I’m genuinely very excited about that.

alisonspittle.com

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