Interview: Abigoliah Schamaun – Post Coital Confessions
'All Americans remember where they were the day they heard that Trevor Noah would take over the Daily Show'
This article is from 2015.
In a series of articles running all the way to the start of the Edinburgh Fringe, we ask some American comedians some American comedy-themed questions.
Busy UK-based comic Abigoliah Schamaun has two shows at the Fringe this year. But she squeezes in some time to answer a bunch of questions about satire, stealing and Sarah Silverman
Would another President Clinton be good or bad for American comedy?
If Hillary is voted into office, comics can recycle their Oval Office jokes. We'll see a resurgence of 90s comedy right down to the loud shirts and high-waisted jeans. Basically, voting for Clinton is bad for satire but good for the environment.
The British are overly keen on saying that Americans don’t do irony. Can you offer a piece of evidence that blows that theory out of the water?
Irony? I never really bother with it. Though my mother always said it was a very important skill to learn. She’d insist on irony everything. She’d irony shirts, irony trousers, even irony my jeans. I just hang everything in the bathroom with the water on hot. It’s easier. Irony is just too much work.
Bill Hicks or Denis Leary?
Well, as an American comedian, I don’t really care. Seriously, Brits care WAY more about Bill Hicks then Americans do. I mean, people really like him in the States, but I think you guys care about him more because he was the first US comic to come over here and then speak critically of America.
But, Denis Leary stole jokes, and that’s not cool. I think the reason why the stand-up community is big on policing joke theft is because the wider entertainment industry doesn’t care. If a comic can make an audience laugh and they’re charismatic, the machine that is showbusiness doesn’t care if the material is old, hack, or stolen. That being said, maybe outside of the world of straight stand-up, Leary rose higher up the fame ladder than Hicks and I know a lot of people are still mad about that. But he was also in the movie Operation Dumbo Drop, so I think it’s safe to to say he got his comeuppance.
Are American comedians bothered about winning awards?
I’m bothered! Bothered I haven’t won one since receiving Best Actress my freshman year in high school! That was supposed to be the jumping-off point to a slew of awards! Awards, awards, awards! All in a beautiful line on a shelf! Without awards, what do I have to dust?!?! The lack of housework in my life makes me feel creatively dead. Maybe I should get into irony.
What will Trevor Noah need to do to maintain the Daily Show’s success and reputation?
Ah yes. All Americans remember where they were the day they heard that Trevor Noah would take over the Daily Show. And collectively you heard all of America (aside from the few that have steeped themselves in international comedy) say ‘WHO?!’ There’s been a lot of speculation: is Trevor too young? Did he steal jokes? Has his Twitter feed proven he’s not ‘Daily Show material’?
To be honest, short of just being Jon Stewart, I’m not sure what Trevor needs to do. But if he doesn’t fill those enormous shoes, rest assured, world, as I’ll be waiting in the wings wearing a tailored, navy suit, ready to take over. I’ve even tweeted something political in preparation.
Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman?
That’s like asking which is better: Monty Python or Billy Connolly?!?! They’re very different. One’s based in sketch, the other in stand-up. It’s a strange question. Why those two? Is it cuz they have one major but arbitrary thing in common? It’s because they’re both brunettes, isn’t it? Drives me nuts!! I wish people would stop assuming all brunettes do similar comedy just because they share one feature. I think Fey and Silverman are both very funny in very different ways. For brunettes, that is.
How healthy is the state of live comedy in America? What should be done to improve it?
There was the boom in the 80s, then there was lots of money to be made; then in the late 90s and early 2000s it all went kaplowee. That’s why stand-up is awesome again in the States. There’s no money, no get-rich-quick scheme off it. So everyone who started after the collapse kept going because they LOVED stand-up and loving something breeds creativity. Live stand-up in the States is awesome. It’s electric and creative, and comedy nerds are eager to drink it in. No money in it, though. None. That’s why I moved. I’m a sell-out. Now give me that sweet, sweet sterling.
Do Americans generally welcome the likes of uppity Brits (John Oliver, Tracey Ullman and Ricky Gervais for three) coming over there and stealing all your jokes?
Oliver, Ullman, and Gervais never stole a joke from me. And we don’t think Brits are uppity. YOU think you’re uppity. We think your accent is cute! You think you’re posh and middle class. We think you sound like Mary Poppins. So come on over! Give us that spoonful of sugar. There’s plenty of room in America for everyone … if we like your accent and you’ve already proved yourself television-worthy in your own country, that is.
Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld?
I’ve always loved Seinfeld because my mother loved Seinfeld, so we watched it together. I’ve never seen an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Please don’t tell anyone though; they’ll revoke my comedy membership.
Billy Connolly is widely regarded as the man who helped pave the way for modern British stand-up comedy: who would you pinpoint as doing the same in America?
Great question. I think most people would say Lenny Bruce started it and everyone following refined it. But for me, I’m gonna go with George Carlin. When I was 16 years old my parents took me to see him in concert with my brother and sisters. It was right after he recorded Complaints and Grievances and he was already working on Life is Worth Losing. We were sitting front and centre. I was next to my brother and I was amazed, shocked and excited by what Carlin said. Coming from a small conservative town in Ohio I remember thinking: ‘You can say stuff like that? Aloud? And people laugh? I want to do that!’ And I did and I have. So thanks mom, dad and George Carlin. I hope you’re all proud of the foul-mouthed little monster you’ve created.
Abigoliah Schamaun: Post Coital Confessions is at Gilded Balloon Teviot, Bristo Square, 8–31 Aug (not 19). Abigoliah’s GoPro Comedy Talk Show! is at Three Sisters, Cowgate, 6–30 Aug (not 19), 12.45pm.