Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2014 interview: comedian Lucy Beaumont
'Johnny Vegas bigged me up and you need someone like that... There are not enough mentors in the arts'
This article is from 2014.
Inspired by cleaning ladies and Johnny Vegas, Lucy Beaumont is all set for proper stardom. The Hull stand-up tells Suzanne Black that she’s hoping to give something back one day
On the cusp of her debut Fringe show, Lucy Beaumont is not one to follow traditional paths. Two years ago, struggling to find acting work, she ended up as a cleaner at the same university where she’d studied drama. The ability of her co-workers to tell jokes about any subject provided inspiration for an unexpected new career: stand-up comedy. ‘They were really good women; really good, banter-wise. They were all women I was working with but you might as well have been on a building site. They were really funny, really fast. And I started to think then that I’d like to do comedy.’
Once Beaumont took the plunge, she started gigging every night. Having only turned professional in December 2012, she ascended quickly through the ranks, finding time to win the BBC New Comedy Award and Chortle’s Best Newcomer, create and star in the BBC Radio 2 sitcom pilot To Hull and Back with Maureen Lipman, have her very own Radio 4 special and appear as a panellist on various radio shows. Now she’s ready to take it to the next level with a solo Edinburgh hour. ‘I thought about doing it last year but I wasn’t ready. I think I am ready now. It’s a culmination of all the comedy I’ve been doing for the last two years and I’ve put it together with a lot of new stuff so it feels like I’m at the right place to showcase how far I’ve come.’
Johnny Vegas, who has been something of a mentor since working with Beaumont on that Radio 4 special, was instrumental in getting her to that place. ‘He’s definitely one of the best stand-ups we’ve ever produced,’ she says. ‘It’s been a lasting working partnership. What you forget about him is how highly intelligent he is. He can do everything. Obviously he’s great at comedy but he can act, direct, write and he even gave me a good quote for the poster [“She’s got the timing of Les Dawson”]. He bigged me up and you need someone like that. After the stand-up show I did last year with him in Hull, I became famous there overnight because they realised that Johnny Vegas was with me. It sometimes takes someone like that for people to think “oh, she must be good then if he’s bothered about her”.’
That one-hour special was set in a working man’s club and she also describes her Fringe show, We Can Twerk it Out, as having ‘a bit of a working man’s club feel to it’, which may owe something to the funny and bold women she met while cleaning, but goes back much further. Talking about her influences she reveals: ‘I was brought up on all the old sitcoms. My mum used to watch them so much: Steptoe and Son, In Sickness and in Health, Only Fools and Horses. We had videos in the house of all the old comedians. There was a show called The Comedians in the 70s and I used to watch that on video. It was really old-fashioned humour.’
With a broad Hull accent and peppering her speech with ‘you knows’ and ‘summats’, there’s no mistaking Beaumont’s regional origins. She recognises the specificity of her diction but doesn’t worry about getting lost in translation. ‘Everyone understands the concept of being a small-town girl moving to a city. There are always one or two references that they won’t get but that don’t matter.’ This sense of community is important to her. Following the support she’s had, from Vegas among others, she plans to give back. ‘There are not enough mentors in the arts. I don’t think there are enough mentors in all industries really. I’d like to hope that when I get to a certain stage in my career that I will be able to help other people and take them under my wing.’
Beaumont’s other formative comedy experience also went against the grain. ‘As a kid at school, I was mad on Eddie Izzard. I was crazy about him before I even knew what stand-up was. None of my friends liked it. None of my friends got it.’ Taking an unusual path yet again, despite enjoying watching comedy on television, Beaumont admits: ‘I never actually went to see live comedy until I was doing live comedy. I’d never been to a stand-up show before I started doing it and, to be truthful, I’ve only been to one or two. I couldn’t think of anything worse. I shouldn’t say that because you should support people but I don’t go to many. I want to go to more. I keep saying I will. But when you’re working in it, you don’t want to do it on your night off.’
Even though she grew up thinking that comedy was ‘really weird’ and something she never thought she’d be doing, Beaumont’s trajectory from watching Izzard’s Glorious every Saturday morning through studying performance to gigging practically every night seems almost inevitable in retrospect. While the stage she has found herself on now has more in common with a working man’s club than Hollywood backlot, it somehow all makes sense.
Lucy Beaumont: We Can Twerk it Out, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 2–24 Aug (not 11), 5.45pm, £8.50– (£7–£9). Previews 30 Jul–1 Aug, £6.