Edinburgh Comedy Award winners Gadd and Gibson are back at the Fringe with different goals this time around
- Ben Williams
- 12 July 2017
Gadd returns with Monkey See Monkey Do, while Gibson offers new confessional material
For Richard Gadd, August 2016 was the best month of his life. Not just professionally – having scooped the Edinburgh Comedy Award, the biggest prize in live comedy, for his show Monkey See Monkey Do – but personally, too. 'The show's been life-changing,' says Gadd, when we meet in London ahead of his return to the Fringe. 'It was the hardest thing I've ever done, but the most rewarding by far.'
Monkey See Monkey Do has been a huge challenge for Gadd, both physically and emotionally. Not only does the Fife-born comic spend most of the hour running on a treadmill (after more than 200 shows, he's clocked up over 2000km), its subject matter – coming to terms with being sexually assaulted at a party nearly five years ago – has been taxing, too.
But performing has been cathartic, says Gadd. 'It was almost there to help me work through something, help me understand it. People comment that I'm more stable and happier, that there's colour in my cheeks again. From that point of view, it's helped phenomenally. It's always a journey and there are things about what happened that plague me on a daily basis, but not nearly to the extent that they did.'
The critical and audience reaction to the show, and winning comedy's top gong, has also helped Gadd on a career level. 'I was skint before the Fringe and now I've been professional for nearly a year,' he says. 'I can do what I love full-time now. I always felt that I was only relevant for one month a year. I'd do these shows in Edinburgh and people would go, "this guy's got something!" and then for the other 11 months no one's interested. It's almost like once you've got the award people go, "right, we trust him, we can bring him in for meetings".'
For Scott Gibson, industry interest is a totally new experience. Alongside Gadd's win, the Glaswegian nabbed the Best Newcomer prize during a festival where he had no agent or manager: 'nobody knew who I was,' he says. In that respect, he agrees winning the prize has certainly helped him gain an audience but he's not really interested in other industry attention.
'Karen Koren [artistic director of the Gilded Balloon] manages me now. We sat down after she signed me and she said, "what do you want to do?" I said, "I just want to gig," and Karen replied, "you need to stop saying that because you're going to gig; you have to want to do something else". But I don't think there's anything wrong with just wanting to be a good comic. All I want to do is gig, that's all I've ever wanted to do.'
Like Gadd, Gibson's show, Life After Death, also focused on a very personal experience. In 2009, he suffered a brain aneurysm, and this reminder of his own mortality was the encouragement he needed to make a proper go of comedy. Gibson always knew he'd tell the story of his near-death experience in his first solo show, but he had to wait a year longer than planned to tell it.
'I had tried to go to the Fringe in 2015, but couldn't get a venue,' he explains. 'It gave me the year to work on it, and within that year I wrote another show – which is the new one – and I'm now working on what will be the third one. Having that year really helped.'
Like Father Like Son is another confessional tale, this time focusing on his relationship with his dad and 'the kind of fears I have about being a father myself. It is quite sentimental and it does have another personal theme, but it certainly feels like there are stronger comedy sections. Whenever I talk about my shows I think they sound really glum!'
Does he feel much pressure this year, following up on his award-winning debut? 'None whatsoever,' claims Gibson. 'Some people will like the new show and some people won't. It'll always be compared to the old one because it won the award and it's the "difficult second album" syndrome. But I'm confident in the show and I'm confident in my storytelling.'
For Gadd, he's returning to the Fringe with a victory lap of Monkey See Monkey Do, so it's a different type of expectation than with previous years. 'There's the pressure that I still need to bring a freshness to it after 203 shows,' he says. 'But external pressure is never as big as the pressure I always put on myself.'
Gadd wanted to write a new show for this year, but having taken his award-winner on an extensive tour (including appearances at comedy festivals across the world), time got the better of him.
'I definitely want to be back next year with a new show, but I think it's important to really think through what to follow this show up with. I had a few ideas, but nothing as assured as what I had last year. I need a bit more of a run-in if I'm going to live up to an expectation.'
Gadd and Gibson's victories made it a historic double Scottish win at the awards last year, something they're both very proud of. 'Scott and I started out together,' says Gadd. 'He was always amazing, always had a Billy Connolly-esque storytelling ability. He's such a great performer.'
Gibson has similarly complimentary comments about Gadd. 'The content of his writing, from a storyteller's point of view, is just beautiful,' he says. So would Gibson love another Scot to win this year? 'I'd absolutely love it!' he says. 'I'd love it if Scottish acts could win the award from now until the end of time! The sad thing is, there'll be a lot of comics in Scotland who, when myself and Gadd won the awards, went, "well, that's it, another Scottish act won't win for 20 years". That's their mindset, though. Hopefully they'll realise it isn't London-centric after all.'
Only time will tell whether Scotland claims another victory this year. Gadd certainly thinks Gibson has every chance of making it onto the main prize shortlist. Gibson says he has 'no idea' who'll be nominated for Best Newcomer this year. 'But I'd love five minutes in an empty room with the winner just to say, "listen, here's what to do … "'
Richard Gadd: Monkey See Monkey Do is on at Summerhall from Fri 18–Sun 27 Aug; Scott Gibson: Like Father Like Son is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot, Bristo Square from Fri 2–Mon 28 Aug.