BY HER own admission, Bridget Christie is a worrier.
And there’s been a lot to be anxious about of late: climate change, Brexit, Trump, air pollution, nuclear threat, inequality and Doritos for women to name a few.
The good news is that Christie has found a way of making a positive out of her propensity for concern – a new stand-up routine. What Now? is a follow-up to 2016’s Because You Demanded It, the pro-EU comic’s response to the referendum vote. Her hiatus was deliberate.
“I wanted to leave a bit of space between Trump being elected, the Brexit vote and last year’s general election,” she says. “Everything was moving too fast and things I’d write in the day already sounded out of date by the time I did them at gigs in the evening.
“I have found the news cycle exhausting. Although I do mention them in parts, the new show isn’t all about Trump or Brexit because I think people have fatigue about that now.”
Christie calls Because You Demanded It a “very emotional” reaction to political and social developments, whereas What Now? is a more “reflective”. “OK, that’s happened, this is where we are now – what shall we do?” she asks rhetorically.
“It’s a much more light-hearted and personal show than the previous one, I think, and that is very much deliberate.”
Christie’s own take on “where we are now” is that nobody has got what they wanted from the EU referendum or the general election. But she can still see the funny side in the confusion.
“People I’ve always disagreed with, I now find myself empathising with and thinking what a reasonable person they are. Michael Heseltine, a dyed in the wool Tory who shoots squirrels, was on Newsnight talking about the long-term economic and social implications and he was impassioned I started crying. I thought to myself, what the hell is happening?
“I’m even on the same side as Peter Stringfellow now, who’s leaving the Tories because of their hard Brexit stance. He says he wants to be remembered for being on the right side of history, although I think most people will remember him for the pornification of British culture.”
Brexit isn’t the first hefty and problematic topic Christie has tackled in her comedy. She explored the issue of female genital mutilation in her 2014 show An Ungrateful Woman.
“For something that serious, it’s important to know the subject well and do your research,” she says. “In that case it was important to me to talk to the survivors.
“I wanted to find the absurdities in it and the flawed logic. Sometimes, though, I will want to talk about a subject but just can’t find the way in and I have to leave it aside until I do.”
She adds that it’s a “privilege” to have a platform to discuss these matters, but “you have to remember you don’t have to be right, or solve anything, you just need to make it funny”.
On that note, she calls What Now her “Chris De Burgh show” in that it is light, fun and will (hopefully) appeal to the mainstream. Presumably in jest, Christie adds that she might dress up as the pop star as she tours the country. Dipping briefly back into her “fears for the future” mindset, she says she is worried about how we now accept the lies of politicians.
“I think journalists have a real responsibility now to call them out and not just move on to the next question. It’s toxic and dangerous and we can’t allow it to become normalised.”
Christie does believe there are reasons to be optimistic, though, and that the reaction to Because You Demanded It taught her that while people might differ in political view they share similar concerns.
“A lot of people came up to me afterwards and said they had voted leave but enjoyed the show, because I was articulating some things that they feel the same way about.
“At the end of the day, lots of us are worried about the same things – the NHS, education, social care, housing, climate change – and sometimes its better to focus on the things we have in common.”
Speaking of optimism, Christie’s Radio 4 series Utopia, about people who have found happiness in life, was broadcast on Radio Four in February and she is currently developing some television projects including a sitcom.
In 2015 she published her debut book, A Book for Her, and last year was the first female British comedian to be given a Netflix special – Stand Up For Her – which widened her fanbase in the UK and the US.
We won’t be losing her to American anytime soon, though, as Christie doesn’t like being away from her home in North London where she lives with her husband, fellow comic Stewart Lee, and their two children (a ten-year-old son and six year-old daughter). Quite often their innocent musings influence Christie’s stand-up material.
“They tell similar kind of lies to Trump,” she says. “The difference is they are children and don’t have access to the nuclear codes.”
While What Now sees Christie in more light-hearted form, her fans have come to expect her shows to come loaded with political content. Would she ever jack that in to write a routine about, say, cats?
“I think my audience might be a bit shocked,” she says. “But I love cats. I’ve got three, so I wouldn’t rule it out.”
Bridget Christie: What Now?
Brighton Festival, Brighton Dome, May 18