Interview: Ashley Storrie – ‘I have been known to go a bit Tonto’
Glaswegian stand-up talks comedy
Glasgow stand-up Ashley Storrie takes on our Q&A aimed at rising stars of the Scottish comedy scene. Which comedian makes her cry with laughter and what does she get up to backstage?
Can you tell us about the moment when you thought: 'stand-up is for me'?
I had my ‘moment’ as I sat applying for jobs to be a mental health care worker (a position that’s scarily easy to fill). I realised that comedy, the thing everyone had been telling me I should do for most of my life, was probably the only thing I’m actually really good at. I think it comes from being born into a dysfunctional family. I realised at a very young age that if my granda’ was dangling an ‘associate’ out a window by his ankles the best way to diffuse the situation was a well-timed joke.
Do you have any pre-show rituals you can tell us about?
I pace. I pace and pace. Sometimes if I’m at The Stand in Glasgow they give me chalk and let me draw on the walls backstage, but mostly it’s a vigorous pace.
How do you handle hecklers?
It depends. Because of my very round childlike face I get helpful heckles, people trying to join in rather than disrupt and if that’s the case I kindly tell them to ‘shush’ and for the most part they do. If I’m hosting and someone has heckled an act I’ve brought on I feel very responsible and have been known to go a bit Tonto but only when it’s deserved.
Where do you draw the line when it comes to 'offensive comedy'?
I don’t think there’s a line, I think it’s more of an exchange: the pay-off better be worth it. If you’re going to use controversial language or subject matter that some people may find offensive there has to be a really good joke to back it up and a purpose other than the shock factor. With that said, I try not to worry; I keep in mind that being offended is cool now. I read about a school in the USA where they cancelled yoga classes because it was appropriation of another culture and may offend people. So ‘why did the chicken cross the road’ could probably end up being offensive to people who can’t cross roads or chickens.
What's the one thing (good or bad) you remember about your very first stand-up gig?
I was so nervous beforehand I cried in my dad’s car. I thought I was going to throw up right up until I stood in front of all those strangers and as soon as I opened my mouth, nothing mattered. For the first time in my adult life I felt at ease. It was so surreal. I was supposed to do five minutes but I think I did about 15 (never do this!) and people laughed. Some people didn’t but it was the most liberated I’ve ever felt.
What's the best piece of advice you've received from another comedian so far?
‘It’s just a job, and everyone has a bad day at work’.
You're curating your own 'legends of comedy' line-up. Tell us the bill's top three acts
I’ve been watching clips of George Carlin since I was a kid. He had this way of throwing the truth at the world whether it wanted it or not. He was more than a legend. During the Bush administration (when it was so easy to make fun of politics) he didn’t take the short route or go for the cheap shots; he mined comedy from the rougher terrain and held up a very harsh mirror to the racist warlords who rule our land. His death wasn’t just a loss to comedy, it was a loss to common sense and decency.
Then there’d be Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer. I know he’s not a stand-up but I’m a huge fan of old British sitcoms; I think somewhere in the early 2000s our television became sterilized and boring. I would love to see Frank Spencer live: there was an episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em called ‘Frank and Marvin’ and it is *pee your pants* funny. It’s silliness and slapstick at its finest. Frank tries to get a job at a holiday camp as a performer and hides fireworks on his body for his grand finale ‘Vesuvius: a human firework display’. Calamity ensues. Find it and watch it.
Growing up in comedy I’ve seen Johnny Vegas be funny since before he was a legend and he’s always made me laugh. Always. I watched him recently talk about voicing a disgruntled egg for an advert and it made tears roll down my face. He balances a raw and edgy brain with an incredibly vulnerable soul and the outcome is so endearing, so funny and so human that you can’t help but love him. (I realise as a female I am supposed to have some obligation to my fellow woman but these are the people who make me laugh irrespective of their gender).
Which comedian's memoir would you recommend to someone?
Tina Fey’s Bossypants resonated with me on so many levels. When I read her book, I realised I wasn’t alone in the world, that there had been awkward, sometimes lonely, funny girls just like me who’d grown into well-rounded human beings and that gave me more hope than I can express. Also Janey Godley’s Handstands in the Dark. It’s not a funny book but it’s great and full of hope. And written by my mother. I feature heavily in it so it saves me having to write my own!
Ashley Storrie performs at The Stand in Glasgow for Glasgow Kids Comedy Club, Sun 3 Jul; Stand Spotlight, Mon 11 Jul; Benefit in Aid of Action for Children Scotland, Wed 20 Jul.