ED2013 INTERVIEW: The super-talented Bridget Christie has been coming to the Festival for quite some time now, notching up a grand total of seven solo Fringe shows to date, in which she mostly appeared outfitted in a range of eccentric and elaborate costumes.
In this year’s set, however, she makes something of a departure from the style to which we have become accustomed (well, the sartorial one at least). By which we mean she’s left the costumes behind, for now, and will this year appear as herself, a feminist, in her own clothes. Of course we like Christie in any guise, and here she is, tackling our queries about being a feminist comedian, about the new show ‘A Bic For Her’, and a few other bits and bobs besides.
TW: I can guess a little from the title, but what’s your show about this year?
BC: That title – ‘A Bic for Her’ – comes from a five minute routine about the fact that Bic launched a biro pen called A Bic for Her, that’s designed specifically to fit a woman’s hand. What the???????? But I also have a long routine about how I’m glad that the former British racing driver Sir Stirling Moss fell down a lift and seriously injured himself.
It’s also about feminist icons like Malala Yousafzai; the Pakistani schoolgirl shot by the Taliban for believing in girls education; and Margaret Thatcher and Beyonce, who weren’t shot in the head by the Taliban, but who are also deemed feminist icons. And lastly, there’s a bit about inappropriately displayed lads mags, and what I do with them.
TW: You’re very much considered a ‘feminist comedian’ – does that sum up all that you do, though? Are you happy with that label?
BC: I’m happy to be considered any type of comedian to be honest. It doesn’t sum up all that I do, no, but it sums up what I’m doing right now.
I tend to talk about things that interest me, and at the moment I’m interested
in women. Not only am I interested in them, I’m very passionate about them. Not like that! Cheeky. So yes. Feminist comedian is good.
And if that puts anyone off, then don’t come. It’s not for you.
TW: One of the first things people often do if they are attempting to silence feminists is to accuse them of having no sense of humour.
Do you think it’s important for feminism to have a funny side, to help make a nonsense of those tactics?
BC: No. I don’t think it’s important for feminism to have a funny side at all. The mere suggestion is preposterous. Feminism has a few other things to sort out before it has the luxury of worrying about whether it’s funny or not. Having said that, female oppression is a subject ripe for satire because it’s so stupid, and so I’m happy to oblige. But I’m not trying to make feminism funny in order to persuade idiots to change their minds about women having basic human rights. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember people saying, “That Martin Luther King chap, he’s got some great ideas. But he’s just not funny enough. I think I’ll carry on being a racist”. Who cares?
TW: Some of the abuses that feminism tries to fight are pretty disturbing, do you ever struggle to find a funny angle yourself?
BC: I think really carefully about what I say, especially now that I’m dealing with important stuff. If I’m ever struggling with a particular routine, that’s often a good indicator that it’s simply not good enough and should be dropped. I had an idea the other day about how I could crowbar some of the really awful stuff in, and it seems to be working, but if it starts to not work, then I’ll just take it back out again. I have to remember that I’m a comedian, and therefore am supposed to be making people laugh. Not depressing them. If I can’t find a good angle, then I just don’t do it.
TW: You clearly don’t see Margaret Thatcher as a feminist icon or role model. Which women do you look up to?
BC: No, I don’t see her as a feminist icon. She was an icon of politics, capitalism, individualism, whatever, but not feminism. She hated feminists, so how can she be their icon?
It’s insulting to everyone involved, and it’s not Maggie’s fault either. She didn’t hail herself a feminist icon. Geri Haliwell did.
So it’s all Ginger Spice’s fault, for not finding out what Thatcher’s own views on feminism were before she hailed her as a feminist icon. My own personal hero is Malala Yousafzai. Other great feminists are Mary Astell, Mary Wollstonecraft, Julia Long, Naomi Wolf, Emily Wilding Davison, Susan Faludi, all the women at Refuge, my mother and sisters and my friends.
Actually there are just far too many to mention.
TW: Have your performances always been politically focused?
BC: No they haven’t, but have become so over the last few years.
I realised one night that my babysitter was earning more than I was, so it didn’t seem worth me carrying on unless I was going to say something of interest, both to me and the audience.
What I was doing suddenly seemed completely pointless. Both creatively and financially.
TW: You’ve been known in previous shows for sporting some rather interesting costumes, but this year you’ve put those aside. Is it good to divest yourself of that element? Or just different?
BC: It’s extremely liberating for me to be able to turn up to gigs with just some notes, rather than lumping around an enormous suitcase filled with seven kinds of shit in it.
Plus, not having to worry about visuals and costumes and props has focused my mind on the material, which is never a bad thing. I’m not ruling out dressing up as a virus again, but at the moment, I’m just interested in speaking about feminism, as myself, in normal clothes. Plus, it’s much easier to tour.
TW: You’ve recently had a series on Radio 4. Did you enjoy making it, and are there plans for more in the future?
BC: I enjoyed making my Radio 4 series more than any other job I’ve ever done. Firstly, it was an enormous privilege and honour to be able to talk about a subject so important to me. Secondly, my producers Alison Vernon Smith and Alexandra Smith were incredible. Without them, the series would’ve been a right old mess. And Fred Macaulay, who played ‘man’ in the series, was an absolute joy to behold.
It would be a dream come true to do it all again, but it’s up to Radio 4. I have everything crossed for a second series. We’ll just have to wait and see.
TW: You’re obviously a very seasoned Edinburgh veteran. What makes you keep coming back? Do you return with a sense of joy or vague dread?
BC: Edinburgh is the highlight of my professional year, and has been since 2005 when I first went up. You learn so much as a writer and performer, and it’s such a brilliant discipline to turn over a new hour of material every year.
If I missed a year I think I’d feel that I was a year behind in development terms. Having said all that, it is becoming incredibly expensive with rents and advertising and so on. If Tommy at The Stand didn’t give me a room every year, I’d have to seriously think about whether I could justify the expense.
Also, I have two very small children and they will have to have a proper holiday at some point.
TW: Which shows will you be going to see in Edinburgh this year?
BC: None of them.
‘Bridget Christie – A Bic For Her’ is on at The Stand from 3-25 Aug (not 12)