list.co.uk/festival Vegan Comedians | FESTIVAL COMEDY
Jessica Fostekew Simon Amstell
Debunking the myth that vegans are humourless evangelists, a number of Fringe comics are heading to Edinburgh in search of laughs and tofu. Claire Sawers hears from acts who are committed to standing up for animal rights
T here’s an old joke. ‘How do you know if your friend is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll bloody tell you’. This year’s Fringe is brimming with comedians keen to explain why veganism is the best thing since sliced (possibly gluten-free, pumpkin-seeded) bread. And hopefully they’ll make it funny too.
Veganism has been trending hard recently, and earlier this year, Simon Amstell’s BBC mockumentary Carnage did an excellent job of pinning down the zeitgeist, with his very funny sci-i look at an empathetic utopia, where people attend therapy groups to soothe guilty souls about their carnivorous pasts. Amstell’s enlightened interest in Buddhist ideas of compassion and inner-peace beams serenely through footage of pally marketing campaigns from Captain Birdseye, passionate sausage-waving from Jamie Oliver, and women turned on by eating yoghurt. The new-agey tone i ts brilliantly, and Amstell has a lot of fun taking the piss out of veganism’s smugger tropes, but the nods to spirituality hint at something deeper going on in certain areas of the growing vegan community. Those who avoid eating things that once had faces often share some blissed- out philosophies too.
Take ‘woke AF’ London stand-up Carl Donnelly, for example. During a period of intense unhappiness i ve years ago, Donnelly smoked the hallucinogen DMT (he’s not recommending it, he adds), but thanks it for changing how he looked at the world. ‘I know how strange it sounds but I’m so much happier now. I was dabbling in the esoteric, and my subconscious seemed to know that eating meat was making me miserable.’ So he swapped his nose-to-tail diet of offal, liver and hearts for one where he now cooks his own vegan ‘smoked salmon’ using carrots and seaweed. ‘I grew up in a council house and my family are proper meat and two veg. They assume I spend about 200 quid on vegan food, when actually I’m shopping down the Middle Eastern greengrocer, making 30 quids-worth of veg and pulses last all week.’
Being vegan seems to Donnelly like ‘a stamp on the middle-class passport’, which makes him cringe, but also gives him plenty material for his show. Brooklyn comedian Julio Torres is also uncomfortable with veganism’s
3–10 Aug 2017 THE LIST FESTIVAL 57