With her book available and a new show arriving at The Stand, Bridget Christie talks to The Skinny about S-bends, schadenfreude and the handiness of bigots when mining for topical material
“I laughed so much I nearly got sick,” says Bridget Christie.
“My bathroom is getting done and I had to pick a toilet. I was looking through these catalogues of toilets, page after page after page of columns and rows of white toilets. We were there for so long… about three hours, and I just lost it – flush push, handle flush, close coupled, wall mounted, pipe at the back, all the different names, and there was always some reason why the one I picked wouldn’t work in my bathroom. I couldn’t stop laughing at how mind-bendingly boring it was. Then I had to do the same for taps.”
On a morning caught between building-works and small children, panicking about the impending festival is low on Christie’s list.
“Oh, I don’t have a show yet. This year is a bit different because I’m talking about my book, and I was planning on doing a book-slash-show type thing, but then I realised… I have to do stand-up. I’m a comedian, not an author – it’d be too weird.
“We didn’t used to worry about preparing too much in the olden days, anyway – we didn’t used to do it a year ahead, we left it til the last minute. I need it to be topical, so I don’t panic.
“I knew for my 2013 show I wanted to talk about feminism, then in the July, Malala addressed the UN, and I knew I wanted to talk about that. With 24-hour news now though, everything moves so fast – one awful story replaces another, then that story is usurped by the next one. The Rachel Dolezal stuff in the US, for example, is fascinating, because it’s brought up so many questions about identity – transexuality for example – but in such an unexpected way.”
On mentioning to Christie that the Rachel Dolezal story recalls a character called D’orothea in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City – where a black model is discovered to be a white girl who’s taken a truckload of tanning tablets – she becomes intrigued and curious to know when it was published and more details. (It was a San Francisco Chronicle serial in the 1970s about a group of people living in the city, and their transsexual landlady, Mrs Madrigal).
“Oh, you’ll never believe this,” she says. “There’s this guy on Fox news in America called Erick Erikson, who has managed – get this – to blame the Charleston shootings, which were clearly a race hate crime, on the fact the American left supported Caitlyn Jenner – and that because of this, the US is now unable to distinguish good and evil. How can you possibly even connect the two? It’s insanity.
“I’m thinking of using it, actually. Things like that are a gift for me. If you’re trying to talk about difficult or controversial stuff, it’s really handy to have so many bigots around. The absurdity of their ideas – it’ll be interesting to see what terrible catastrophe same-sex marriage will lead to.”
Is that absurdity, then, that her humour particularly hinges on?
“I don’t know,” she says. “It’s not like you wake up one day at three and decide, this is what I’m going to find funny… I was a massive Laurel and Hardy fan, Harold Lloyd, slapstick, things like that. Although to be honest, I think it was just growing up in the 70s. Things were just more surreal and creative then – like, at school it just was the norm to do expressive dance. I think things have got really square since then. I mean, I went to a conservative Catholic school, but we still… threw some shapes.
“I find awkwardness really funny – awkward people and awkward situations. My favourite thing to watch is a comedian going out on a limb… and it not working. Especially if it’s my best friend.”
Then she gasps at the inadvertent hint of schadenfreude in what she’s just said.
“I would never go and laugh at a young comedian dying on stage. I’ve had some really bad years, especially when I first started, where no-one’s come and I’ve got piles. It’s stressful when you’re new… you try to tell yourself you’re doing alright – but your bottom tells you otherwise.
“But now, amongst my friends – I love seeing them work it all out on stage, to go from disaster to creating a really great thing. We’ve all died loads of times… But you have to take risks. They might fail, but they might work, and you don’t know unless you try.”
Bridget Christie: A Book for Her plays The Stand Comedy Club, 8-16, 18-31 Aug, 11am, £9. Performances are followed by a book-signing: A Book for Her is available, hardback, Random House.