Joz Norris Q&A – Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Edinburgh, the Fringe, why bother?
 
I feel like there’s two reasons for doing the Fringe and one makes sense to me and the other doesn’t. There’s that well-worn tradition of going up for years and doing 10 minute spots, then splitting an hour with two other comics, then doing a two-hander, then a 40-minute show, then your hour debut, to gather maximum industry attention by the time you’re doing your hour. I never really understood that. I did a short show in 2012 and as soon as I’d realised how much fun the Fringe was, and what a great creative playground it was, I wanted to go up with a new hour every year, so I went and did a debut hour not many people saw and once you’ve got that out of the way doing the Fringe just always makes sense – there’s no pressure on you to keep going up, so you might as well come up with a new show. It’s a great creative project to set yourself every year, to channel everything that’s happened to you, that’s occurred to you over 12 months, that you’ve found either difficult or liberating, into something coherent and entertaining and imaginative and fun. Also, Bob Slayer’s Heroes of Fringe model means it’s now easy to make money from the Fringe and to go up with a show you’re really proud of without feeling obliged to satisfy your paymasters, so doing it every year is a no-brainer for me now.

What have been the nuggets of inspiration behind your show this year?

This year’s show is loosely about me exploring love and death, as I stumbled into my first ever proper relationship this year and also lost a family member (I won’t spoil which one, it’s a great twist). So it’s got a lot of silly nonsense in it which pretty much adheres to my usual shtick of trying to get ideas out of my head to see if they connect with people, but it’s all in service to a bigger narrative this year, which roughly follows the idea of losing people and welcoming new people into your life at the same time.

Stand-out Fringe moment to date?

John Kearns winning the Fosters in 2014. I mean, he won his first one in 2013 but I couldn’t go to the ceremony as it clashed with my show, but in 2014 I made it along. I think, considering nobody had ever won the two awards in consecutive years before, we all went along to the ceremony in 2014 assuming we’d cheer John on but somebody else would win and we’d all have a lovely time eating free canapes and causing trouble and then we’d slink off and it’d be lots of fun, so for him to win again was such a lovely, unexpected surprise, and so deserved as his show that year still ranks as one of my favourites ever.

When you wished a hole had opened up in the ground and swallowed you up?

My worst ever moment in Edinburgh to date was in 2012, when I was doing that short show I mentioned. It was a 40-minute character show which played at midnight in a bar miles away from the centre of town, and it was actually a really lovely run and I still think it had some of my favourite moments in it. But one night I dragged a bunch of drunk guys down from the bar, forgot to properly tell them it was a character show and that the obnoxiousness of the guy I was playing was deliberate, and they just assumed I was a horrible, horrible guy. One of them shouted “Let’s punch him in the face!” ten minutes in and the entire crowd rushed at the stage. I stood on a chair and started crying and apologised and said I hadn’t done the show right that night. They all put about twenty quid each in my bucket and I ran off. Still actually can’t work out how I feel about that one. I made a lot of money that night.

Your unsung heroes in the industry at current?

Ahh, that’s really hard. Everybody in Weirdos, they’re my favourite bunch of brilliant idiots. Plus anybody who has the funny bones to just be themselves and reduce a room to laughter without trying very hard – Ed Aczel, Mat Ewins, Holly Burn, Spencer Jones. 

Three shows you must see this Fringe? 

Spencer’s new show will be great – last year’s is universally acknowledged to have been one of the very best shows of the Fringe, so I’m excited to see what he’s come up with. Eleanor Morton has an excellent new show about birthday parties and bad friends which I will absolutely be going to see, she is phenomenally good. And Becky Walker – I’ve plugged her elsewhere already, but she never really performs very much so I’m trying to recommend it to as many people as possible. She’s one of the ace people who keeps Heroes of Fringe going, and is turning her hand to performing this year and, based on when I saw her in Leicester, she’s a real natural and such a funny person to watch.

The one person you’d love to see your show and why? 

There’s a local rugby club that comes to see me every year – I forget where they’re from, we chat on Twitter occasionally though. Every year they’re really lovely, and in 2014 they went out of their way to tell me I was their favourite show of the entire Fringe and they’d really enjoyed watching me grow as an artist over the years, which was so lovely to hear. Last year they came again and I seem to remember they didn’t see the best show of the run – it was ok, but not my best. So I really hope they come back as this year’s show is definitely my best yet and hopefully I can hold onto their support as it always makes my day when I see them come in.

 The reason why one should come and see your show?

I think I’m actually going to use a quote that Laugh Out London recently used in recommending my show. They said “No matter how your Fringe is going, how wet it is outside, how tired you are, how hungover you are, or how many student theatre pieces you’ve seen, Joz Norris is one of the few shows to guarantee you leave with a smile and a warmed heart.” That meant a lot to me not just because it’s a lovely thing to say, but because it’s nice when people so accurately sum up what I’ve always tried to do in my Fringe output – I like making Fringe shows that are fun and heart-warming to watch, and make people enjoy what’s happening in front of them and forget whatever else is going on in their life for an hour. I’m just really glad they’ve succeeded in doing that, on the whole.

The one thing in Edinburgh you must do? 

There comes a point every Edinburgh where I have to get to higher ground – it’s just past halfway through, when it all just starts to get a tiny bit more tiring than it was at the beginning, and you’re in need of a bit of clear air to make sure you don’t wear yourself out. Then I climb up to the top of Arthur’s Seat, or Calton Hill if I’m feeling lazy, and look at the Forth and listen to one of the slower Peter Gabriel ballads until I feel better. Honestly it’s one of my favourite bits of the year.

Ah sorry, you’re dead. But least you can have that dinner party you’ve always wanted. Who are you inviting? 

Kurt Vonnegut, for a start. That’s a kind of irritating answer, because everybody who thinks they’re clever bloody loves Kurt Vonnegut, so now I probably look like I think I’m really clever. I DO think I’m pretty clever, but I also just really love Kurt Vonnegut. Also Bowie and Prince, because I’d be curious to see if they’d get on. I reckon they would, but you never know. And Mikhail Bulgakov. I reckon I’d chat to him the least, but occasionally when the other three were really hitting it off and me and Bulgakov were sat in the corner nursing a gin, I could turn to him and ask him for the gossip on Stalin and stuff, that’d be fun.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As4Z5GdmEq8

 

Joz Norris: Hello, Goodbye. Heroes @ The Hive, 18:40

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