An Interview with Paddy Magee about going to his first Edinburgh Fringe Festival

By Lisa Clark

I recently recieved an email from Paddy Magee kindly informing me that I had missed him in our list of Aussies performing in Edinburgh this year. You might know him as Patrick Magee, one of the brilliant performers in Sydney sketch troupe Comicide (described by our reviewer Dan Nicolls as ‘Fucking Hilarious”). He, like many other local performers, has taken the plunge to move to London and this year and will be performing a show at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time. I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experiences and ask him for ‘5 Good Reasons’ to see his show Do Not Trust the Animals – free.

What/Who inspired you to work in comedy?

Actually, I wanted to be a serious grown-up actor and play Doctor Who on the telly. But while I was doing drama at Uni, I met Dan Ilic and one night in 2005 he asked me to do some stand-up for a night he was running (I think the bill was running short). And from then on I was bitten by the bug.

Just kidding! My material was awful and it was a horrifically traumatic experience. I didn’t perform stand-up for another two years after that.

The first time we discovered you was performing in Sydney sketch group Comicide at MICF 2008 along side the likes of Dan Illic and Toby Truslove. How long were you involved in Comicide?

I think by MICF 2008 Comicide had been running for six months. I was involved from the very beginning when Dan first set it up as a fortnightly show running out of the upstairs of a small pub in Sydney’s Inner West. I have no idea why he kept asking me back, I guess I was punctual.

After 2008, Toby and Dan moved to Melbourne, which was a real shame. Comicide limped along for another couple of years but it was never the same, and I quit after the 2009 MICF show. That was an awful time in everybody’s life.

God I miss Toby Truslove. I hope he’s doing okay for himself.

Did you do solo stand up previous or subsequent to this?

I did it here and there, and performed the first iteration of the Aesop show ¬†[Do Not Trust the Animals – free]¬†at the Sydney Fringe last year. It’s not my favourite type of comedy, to be honest; I much prefer sketch, but you have to do all these rehearsals and get other actors and sweet Jesus it’s a lot of effort. With stand-up, there’s a lot less organisation.

How long have you been in London and what took you there?

I’ve been over here since early October. What took me here?¬†An aeroplane!¬†It’s just somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and eventually my (now ex) girlfriend said “right, let’s move.” Also, I have an English accent because when I was 14 I listened to Doctor Who audio dramas in my sleep.

It’s famously expensive to live in London, has it been worth it in terms of comedy work and¬†experience?

Expensive in terms of rent and transport, yes, but you can buy 500g of¬†Quorn meat substitute for only ¬£4. Also, store-brand vodka tastes almost as good as the real thing and no one’s gone permanently blind yet.

It’s been incredibly hard starting at the bottom rung of the stand-up ladder over here. Comedy is held in such high esteem in the UK that every moron who’s ever had a friend say “mate, you should give stand-up a go” has taken the advice seriously, and so rooms are flooded with people who have no experience or talent or jokes. Also, they seem pathologically incapable of keeping a room to time, so most nights end between 11 and 11:30 at night after twenty-something open-mikers have overrun their five minutes.

But I’m meeting some pretty great people. Celia Pacquola, who I only knew vaguely before coming over here, is now my best friend. She doesn’t realise this yet, but she will. She will.

Any advice you’d like to give comedians over here thinking of taking the plunge and moving there?

Don’t do it. There’s enough competition from no-hopers, I don’t need people with actual talent coming over here as well.

Have you been to Edinburgh as an audience member before?

No, this is my first time ever going to Edinburgh. I’m following in the footsteps of my friends Madeleine Culp, Jen Carnovale, Ryan¬†Withers, Eric Hutton and Shane Matheson who went up last year.

Did you always intend to do an Edinburgh show when heading over to the UK?

I did, yeah. In fact, I’ve been hoping to do an Edinburgh show since 2006, but for various reasons things haven’t materialised. In 2008 there was some idle talk of Comicide heading up; that was scuppered by the fact that three cast members (and I’m including myself here) had embezzled a LOT of our ticket revenue to get drunk¬†during the MICF. We wouldn’t have taken so much but blimey, have you ever bought a drink from the Town Hall bar?

There are many other comedy festivals in the UK, have you performed in any of those?

I haven’t performed in any of the dedicated comedy festivals over here yet (and given how insecure I am about competition, I’m not sure if I would) but I have plied my trade at a couple of more general arts festivals and weekenders, like the Norwich and Norfolk festival and the Nabokov Arts Club weekend.

There are also a ludicrous number of comedy competitions over here,¬†but most of them seem to be excuses for promoters to encourage acts to¬†stack the audience. Actually, that’s a real problem over here: because¬†there are so many rooms in London, many venues won’t let you perform¬†unless you bring an audience member along. I tend to think that should¬†be the promoter’s job, but I’m old fashioned like that.

Does the Free Fringe make it easier for an unknown performer to get a festival show on?

The Free Fringe is an absolute godsend for an unknown performer¬†like me to get a foot in the door. The costs of theatre hire alone are¬†so high that it would be almost impossible for me to perform¬†otherwise, which is why they were set up in the first place.¬†And with the passing round a hat at the end of the show, there’s the¬†potential to earn a decent amount of money each night. Enough to keep¬†me in Tesco brand vodka at least.

Was organising accommodation difficult?

Organising accommodation isn’t difficult per se, but it is¬†incredibly expensive. As an example, I’m paying ¬£500 to share a room,¬†and that’s considered pretty reasonable.¬†What happens is that, with something like 10 000 artists descending on¬†the city for the month, landlords know that they can charge whatsoever¬†they want because they will always find somebody willing to pay. It’sa rough system, but what can you do?

Where did the idea of a show about fables come from?

I’d been doing a bit about one of Aesop’s fables (The Man & the Satyr) for a year or so, and at some point literally nobody said “Hey Patrick, you should do an hour-long¬†show about Aesop’s Fables.” The rest, as they say, as they say, is history.

It looks like there will be some audience participation and it sounds like it might be a bit more creative that simply straight stand up.

That’s not a question Lisa, but I’ll treat it as one. Yeah, during the show we write our own fable and I draw some pictures to go along with it based on suggestions shouted out by the audience. It gives them the opportunity to shout out stuff without it being a heckle, which I can’t handle or respond to without crying. Also, I don’t have an hour’s worth of material, so drawing pictures is a good way to eat up five, ten, twenty or even thirty minutes of my timeslot.

In the program you say you are ‘award winning’ which award is it?

Ah, look… Up in Sydney there’s a man called Stu. He comes to every single comedy show there is; he never talks to anybody, drinks scotch and Coke in a corner and is generally kind of enigmatic and mysterious. And he¬†runs a blog called Sidney Critic, which isn’t a misspelling of Sydney but¬†instead the name of the dog that apparently writes the blog. In that blog, he reviews all the comedy shows he sees and also drops tantalising hints about his past, like the time his best friend shot him in the hand or the day he went to a BDSM club and cried while a woman had sex with him.<

Every year he hands out awards on the blog, and in 2010 my show¬†Hing & Magee: Illustrious Physicians of Romance¬†won the Sticky Awards for Best Overall Show and Best Scripted Show. So… those are the awards that I definitely won.

Here is his website if you don’t believe me:¬†

Give us 5 Reasons to see Do Not Trust the Animals – free.

1. It’s free.

2. It’s on at five in the evening, so you can pop in and then see a show you actually like later on.

3. There’s a character called Hipster Pug.

4. At least one good joke about badgers, possibly more.

5. It’s free.

Paddy Magee’s show Do Not Trust the Animals – free is part of The Laughing Horse Free Festival. For more info see the Edinburgh Fringe Website.