Comedian and writer Katy Brand is taking a break from the characters and sketches with her return to Edinburgh and simply going on stage as herself.
One Sunday at the age of 13, Katy Brand went to her local church and became a fundamentalist Christian. Hooked from then on, she says, she put the ‘fun’ into fundamentalism. And the ‘mental’. She was obnoxious, but at least she knew she was going to heaven. Now, older and wiser, she’s not so sure.
This is the premise behind the 37-yearold comedian’s new show. How did she get from there to the likes of Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show – and is it painful or just amusing to look back? Did she have pictures of God on her teenage bedroom wall rather than posters of pop star crushes?
Oh, I had my fair share of teenage crushes and, luckily for me, the particular form of Christianity I went for – happyclappy, evangelical C of E – encourages Christian rock music, with cute young worship bandleaders who play guitar. That was my crush – our worship bandleader. He was the only pop star I was interested in.
Before I started going to church, I was totally obsessed with Michael Jackson – I wrote him 20-page letters, papered my bedroom walls with his posters, tried to trick international directory enquiries into giving me his phone number. I was so obsessed that I made myself sick with guilt when I heard a Prince song on the radio and liked it – I felt I had betrayed him. I am quite an all-or-nothing person. Perhaps when I found Jesus, I just felt that he was more accessible than Michael Jackson – I literally had more chance of meeting him.
I had lost my faith by the end of my first year at university, studying Theology. It had been waning since I was 16, when I started having big questions that no one at my church could or wanted to answer. I felt frightened, because it was slipping away and I didn’t know what I’d do without it.
although I like having a sense of the mysterious. There is so much that is unexplained in the world and I like some of the poetic solutions that religion offers. I am fascinated by the collective unconscious too. But I’ll never go back to being a Christian. Jesus is a fascinating figure in history, but so little of Christianity is about Jesus. Most of the New Testament was written by Paul, the ultimate PR man
Most of what I have done is in the sketch world, which I love, but I wanted to try something new. I was starting to find performing sketches live frustrating, because the bigger and more structured a show gets, the less spontaneous you can be, and I felt a little locked in. But an audience is an audience and the same rules apply if you want to embark on a career in comedy: don’t try to be nice, try to be interesting.
This is my first show about me, rather than a character. I like the detachment you can have when you perform characters, but when I wrote my book Brenda Monk Is Funny, I did a literary festival tour where I did talk as myself on stage, and I found I enjoyed it, and the people who came didn’t seem annoyed that I hadn’t done a Lily Allen impression in a wig, or leapt up and performed the ‘Single Ladies’ dance. That gave me the confidence to try going on stage as myself.
I am working on a sequel to that book, which was crowdfunded. I love the ‘1000 true fans’ ethos, where you have people who enjoy what you create, and as long as you keep creating and keep your overheads low, those people will buy what you make and keep you in beans. A combination of creative and financial independence is the Holy Grail as far as I am concerned.
Interview: Kate Copstick
Picture: Karla Gowlett
Katy Brand: I Was a Teenage Christian, Pleasance Courtyard, 3-29 August (not 15), 4.45pm