Dapper laughs: comedians with a sense of style
Some of the Fringe's top comedians reveal why they dress to impress on stage
This article is from 2016.
Being a modern comedian means more than just shambling onstage in a stained t-shirt and ripped jeans. Some stand-ups take their appearance very seriously indeed and won’t dream of stepping on stage without sequins or a suit. Comedy editor Brian Donaldson hears from some Fringe acts who reveal why they’re dressed to kill.
I always wear sequins on stage. It comes from a deep love of drag queens, working men’s clubs and Christmas. I think I would feel more self-conscious in a t-shirt and some jeans on stage than I do in a dead woman’s dress. Also, ‘tax deductible sequins’ is my favourite phrase and also a great name for a hip club night in a converted mill.
Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Hysterical Woman, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 6–29 Aug (not 15), 6pm, £7.50–£9.50 (£7–£9). Previews 3–5 Aug, £6
I think it’s ridiculous to say ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ when it comes to comedy. If I pay £12 to see someone, the least they can do is think about how they present themselves. As for the dark suit and dark tie: for me it’s a uniform. It’s totally neutral, so I can be a blank canvas. A stylish, elegant, blank canvas. That’s the cover of my book. Now I’ll fill in the pages.
David Mills: Shame!, Underbelly, George Square, 6–28 Aug (not 15), 5.20pm, £10.50–£11.50 (£9.50–£10.50). Previews 3–5 Aug, £6
Up to the age of 35, you can wear pretty much whatever you want. After 35, jeans are only acceptable if you’re doing DIY or going through a divorce. From 35 to 37, an ironed shirt should be worn, tucked into smart trousers. When the belly starts to bulge, it’s blazer time. Post 40, all trainers look like they have been prescribed for medical reasons, so proper leather brogues are recommended. After 50, all bets are off and you can revert to wearing anything you want again, as it literally doesn’t matter anymore.
Henry Paker: Guilty, Assembly George Square Theatre, George Square, 6–28 Aug (not 14 & 15, 21), 8.20pm, £10–£11 (£8–£9). Previews 3–5 Aug, £6
When I started stand-up, I always dressed down on stage. I didn’t want to wear anything that would detract from what I was saying and didn’t want people looking at my shoes or breasts like they normally do, so I wore all black. Then one night I was doing a gig to 200 gay men and afterwards one of them gave me a pink sparkly top, saying ‘you’d look good in that on stage’. It was a bit Shirley Bassey/Barbra Streisand, but when I put it on I loved it. I’d never thought of wearing something like that before. Now gay men and Jewish women write to me, requesting that I wear it.
Shazia Mirza, The Stand 5, York Place, 5–13 Aug, 6.15pm, £9 (£8). Preview 4 Aug, £8 (£7)
I dress up for a number of reasons. Firstly, you’ve got to dress in a way that suits your comedic style. If I was doing material about smoking weed and pissing in skips then I’d probably dress differently. Because my comedy is about politics and politicians, I think it makes sense to look smart. Secondly, I’m putting on a show and I want to look my best. Finally (and this really is the main point), it makes me look slimmer.
Matt Forde: It’s My Political party (And I’ll Cry if I Want To), Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 5–28 Aug, 3.50pm, £12–£14 (£10–£12). Previews 3 & 4 Aug, £9.50
Matt Forde’s Political Party Podcast, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 17 Aug, 5.10pm, £12 (£10)
My friend, male comedian Andrew Johnston, came to support a few of my tour shows last year and was steaming his suit when I appeared in unicorn leggings and a t-shirt. He grimaced and sighed ‘oh kitten, this just won’t do. These people have come to see TV’s Katherine Ryan, not you.’ Andrew gave me the confidence to dress on stage the way I dress for TV. It’s a sign of respect for your audience. We’ve made a joke of it now, so when I walk on stage I always say, ‘Hello, my name is TV’s Katherine Ryan’.
Katherine Ryan: work in progress, The Stand 6, York Place, 4–13 Aug, 4.05pm, £12 (£11)
I’ve always liked the fantasy that BBC announcers wear dinner jackets to work, like a perfect office dress code. It seems to conjure up the idea of entertainment being an event, something to dress up for and I think I always want a show to feel like some sort of marvellous party.
Tom Allen: Indeed, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 6–28 Aug (not 15), 8.15pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10). Previews 3–5 Aug, £7
I prefer to dress smartly for several reasons. It does seem to impress certain elements in the crowd on a visceral level that you are a figure of authority, and not to be interrupted. That, of course, can backfire and prove a provocation. It demonstrates that you can dress smartly for any well-paid private or corporate function that a member of the audience might consider you for.
And of course, it means that if you do swear for impact, that impact is all the greater for the fact that you appear so respectable, measured and disciplined. It makes it seem as though you really fucking mean it. Behind all that, of course, is the same reason men wear suits to the office: it minimises the risk of getting it wrong. Thank god comedians never have to confront ‘dress down Friday’.
Simon Evans: In the Money, Assembly George Square Studios, George Square, 6–28 Aug (not 15), 7pm, £13–£14 (£12–£13). Previews 3–5 Aug, £10
I’ve always believed that with a face like mine, if you can’t hide it, decorate it! They say dress for the job you want, not the one you have. I’m not sure I want to be a 70s game-show host but that doesn’t stop me. When I put on my first suit aged eight for my ‘holy communion’, I grew several inches, such was the confidence boost. Finally I realised I could play ‘dress-up’ in real life, not just in plays.
I’ve rejected anything other than three-piece sartorial elegance (or sometimes kitsch gaudiness) since. As a comedy fan I’m obsessed with the likes of Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams, Larry Grayson and Dave Allen; all suited, booted and hilarious in their own way. That’s the golden era to me. There’s a touch of wanting to channel that (my show is called At Large after Allen’s famous TV show) but honestly, I wear suits on stage because they’re all I wear off it. It’s either them or my birthday suit, and I’d hate to be in the front row for that gig.
Al Porter: At Large, Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance, 6–28 Aug (not 15), 10.40pm, £8.50–£11 (£7.50––£10). Previews 3–5 Aug, £7