Abi Roberts Q&A – Edinburgh Fringe 2016

Edinburgh, the Fringe, why bother?

Why not? There’s sun, sea, sand and surf…well there’s the last three but not always the first.  I get to see friends I haven’t seen for ages, I get to eat deep fried pizza (and other assorted cheesy comestibles, also deep fried) and I get to make people laugh every day. What’s not to like?  If you’re a comic doing the clubs on a regular basis you’re more used to doing 20-25 minutes but with an Edinburgh hour it allows you to do a show that is maybe about something you wouldn’t normally talk about or a theme you can expand on. In Edinburgh it’s YOUR hour. The audience have come to see you and you alone. I am now getting a lot of people who have seen me in 2014 and 2015 coming back. It’s a bloody lovely feeling when someone says ‘I’ve seen you two years running..’.  I have the best of both worlds in that I’m honing my craft at top comedy clubs and I get to spread my wings in Edinburgh! 

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

Going to live in Russia in the 1990s to study opera at Moscow Conservatoire, and going back there in February to become the first UK stand-up to perform in Russia and English; my love of all things Russian (except Putin), my love of sour cream (which is best served in hot Borsch soup, believe it or not) and Russian tea..with jam.   

Stand-out Fringe moment to date?

Singing Opposites Attract with Romesh Ranganathan when he was a guest on my comedian’s chat show Musical CID at Gilded Balloon. That boy can rap. He’s also one of the funniest and nicest people I’ve worked with. He deserves every success coming to him. 

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

In Moscow this year.  I was playing three nights at Moscow’s only stand-up club, which is called “Moscow Comedy Club”. I did a bit about Putin bareback riding a horse and that perhaps a man called Sergei gives him regular “oilings” after his bareback riding. A loud voice at the back, with a noticeable bulge in his jacket which wasn’t a good bulge, if you know what I mean, said in Russian, “Be careful. Be very careful what you say. Walls have ears”. The whole room fell silent.  I think the hole had already been dug. I thought I’d turned the room.  Luckily, I noticed his accent was Ukrainian, so I said in Russian, “Ah a Ukrainian. And you think I FEEL UNSAFE in Moscow saying that? You’re Ukrainian.  Are you sure YOU feel safe? I have a taxi number if you need one…” Whole room erupts with laughter. Phew. He later bought me a few vodkas at the bar. 

Your unsung heroes in the industry at current?

James Bearcat, because he runs a lovely chain of comedy clubs and is genuinely interested in seeing newer acts progress and he gives you really supportive and helpful advice. My mate Brenda Gilhooly for single-handedly raising over £75,000 to fund her own sitcom THE MAYORESS and changing the way comedy is commissioned pretty much.   

Three shows you must see this Fringe? 

I’m really excited to see Kirsty Newton’s show, Life Begins At Party.  I will also be going to see my mate Carey Marx’s show Hero Of The People and Carl Donnelly’s Bad Man Tings. 

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

Mick Perrin. I’ve had interest in touring the show to Moscow & St Petersburg and round UK and Europe so… I NEED HELP!! 

The reason why one should come and see your show?

I am the only person doing a show about living in the Soviet Union. I am also the only person who will encourage you to drink a shot of vodka whilst speaking a bit of Russian you’ve only just learnt. *Davai Not many people can even say they have been to the USSR, let alone lived and studied there. I also had to leave.. erm…quite quickly and that’s the nub of the story. All is explained in the show. If you want hilarious, unique and poignant, with a HUGE finale, a show with an unbelievable story and universal humour, a show that really is a SHOW, come and see ANGLICHANKA at the Voodoo Rooms, West Register Street, 4.15pm every day.  *Davai means “bottoms up” or “let’s do it” in Russian. See, you’re already a Russian speaker. 

The one thing in Edinburgh you must do? 

Have lunch at Harvey Nicks. It’s an oasis of calm away from braying drama students and dance practitioners. The staff are lovely and there’s the most beautiful view over the city from the restaurant. I will also be visiting the best fish and chip shop in the world which is in Morningside (dripping chips and the best cod anywhere) and no doubt I will be sampling the German Wieners on the corner near the Gilded Balloon. I realise a lot of my choices are food related. 

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

Aside from the fact I hate dinner parties (I’d rather have a keg party tbh), I’d have to say my choices would be:

  • Chekhov – the renowned Russian writer and playwright. He would be so entertaining and I’d like to ask if he saw the Revolution coming
  • Richard Pryor – my all time favourite comic.
  • Bob – my dear friend who died of HIV while I was in Moscow. 
  • Peter Falk – I’m a massive Columbo fan and I love his unique, improvisionational style as an actor. 
  • Maria Callas – greatest opera singer ever to have lived. She was flawed but unique.
  • Elvis – In his black leather that’s all right now mamma outfit.
  • My welsh gramps – we would all have the best barbershop sing-a-long if he was there. With close harmonies. 



Abi Roberts: Anglichanka First UK comic to perform in Russian (in Russia) tells all. Voodoo Rooms  4.15pm
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