Comedian Lucy Porter tells JOANNE SAVAGE why her standup show is inspired by friendship, motherhood, Dave Allen and non-linear thinking
“I’M just in Argos shopping,” says Lucy Porter, her voice jolly and sing-song and bright.
Rushing amid the surrounding consumer madness, presumably laden with shopping bags, she natters wittily about her show, People Person, a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, which she will perform at Belfast’s Black Box on January 20, as part of the Out to Lunch Festival programme.
“It’s a true story about something that happened to me recently, with lots of silly standup comedy tangents in all directions really.
“I have two children under two and I came up with this show during a period of intensive parenting, so I do talk a lot about motherhood, but I think it’s mostly about friendship.”
Is Porter a people person? She laughs at the idea.
“Years ago I would have thought yes, but increasingly these days I think maybe not. I think I’m quite irascible. I mean I like people in the abstract - in principle I’m a big fan of humanity. In practice...well, try shopping in central London when it’s really busy, my sharp little elbows have stuck out quite venomously a few times today already!
“I often feel a bit combative in crowds - I’m only small and am quickly overwhelmed by large groups of people.”
Despite her reservations about crowds the pith of Porter’s standup show is more paean to friendship than cynical critique.
“What I’ve discovered this year is how important friendship is for your sanity. I was spending a lot of time with two children under two - and lovely as that is, and as much as I love my husband and my domestic situation, it would drive you mad after a while if you couldn’t go out with your girlfriends and share a few glasses of wine.
“The gist of the new show is about how I made a new friend because I was feeling a bit lonely.”
The comic is pretty much exhausted after having two babies in such quick succession, but she confides, “it’s getting better and I love it, I really do”.
While motherhood, to begin with, was “all consuming”, leaving Porter unable to write comedy material about anything else, she now feels that the experience has conversely given her a stronger work ethic, a more intense drive to succeed.
“Now I appreciate, well, I’d better support these two children who I brought into the world,” and then she giggles again, disarmingly.
Porter first dabbled in stand-up comedy at the University of Manchester, where, one fateful evening, she stepped up to the mic to do a ten minute slot and found that the audience liked her.
“I used to go out with a lot of comedians, but alas, as Tina Fey has observed, talent is not sexually transmitted; I had, worryingly, believed this for some time. Then I tried my hand at comedy.
“I was 21 when I first went out on stage as a standup.
“I remember clearly the nerves and the anticipation, but I have no memory of actually being up there on stage.
“It went alright, I think, although it’s all now been wiped from my brain. It was a harsh. There were some comedy police there and if the audience didn’t like you they would make a siren noise. Then they would come up with rubber truncheons and beat you off the stage!”
She has since found her niche and embarked on a comedy career that gloriously celebrates odd connections, off-beat observations, meandering, colourful tangents, sendups of everyday conventions.
Which comedians most inspire her own approach?
“Dave Allen is always the one I come back to; my mum and dad were obsessed with him. If I could have a millionth part of his talent I would be a very, very happy woman. I think Allen was a great storyteller and storytelling is really what I do too, storytelling with jokes added.
“I’ve always kind of been drawn to people like Eddie Izzard who can’t stick to the point and go off down these strange side avenues of surreal encounters and hilarity. I love one liner merchants too - but that’s just not me. I love Frankie Boyle and Tim Vine - but I couldn’t be more different if I tried. I think my brain is just not cut out for linear thinking.”
Lucy Porter looks sweet, petite, nice as cherry pie, but her humour undercuts the butter-wouldn’t-melt, wholesome appearance; her jokes are daring, smart, full of inspired silliness that makes others smile almost as widely as she does.
Lucy Porter, People Person, the Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast, January 20, as part of the Out to Lunch Arts Festival. To book tickets visit www.cqaf.com or call Belfast Welcome Centre on 02890 246609.