The first thing you that strikes you about Judy Pascoe is her easy-going and friendly manner. Like most Australians, she doesn’t stand aloof or worry about formalities. No worries. After meeting backstage at the Gilded Balloon, where voice-raising is forbidden because the stage is a few feet away, we agree in whispers to go somewhere noisier.
I suggest the Wireworks playground, a sureﬁre spot for some background street theatre. While unerring familiarity with my home city leads us up the wrong alleyway, we chat about a wide range of topics, from Glasgow to the British class system to tourists to the fine art of balancing eggs on a chopstick on one’s nose, a skill which she performed here two years ago, just before parting company with the wonderful Circus Oz.
The playground, of course, proves barren, so a further trek is required to the Mound precinct, where we watch a Chinese American juggle with dangerous objects. reduce a five-year old boy to tears and promise repeatedly to break three blocks of burning wood with his hand. ‘He‘ll never do it,‘ she says. We don’t stay long enough to ﬁnd out.
We sit on the steps of the Royal Academy where, buffeted by the wind and distracted by the roars of rival crowds, I ask Judy about leaving Circus Oz to do stand-up comedy, a move which won her the Melbourne Comedy Festival Award last year. ‘When we had holidays from the Circus I used to go and do stand-up comedy,’ she says. ‘And then when I left, I didn’t really have any contacts here, so I had to work on my own. Also, it was a reaction after working in a collective with
With a c.v. that includes four-and-half years with Circus Oz and work with Ra Ra Zoo and Cliffhanger, Australian comedienne Judy Pascoe hits Edinburgh this week with a new, one-woman show, AgainstAll Gods. Andrew Burnet took her on a sight-seeing trip.
twenty other people. Doing the Circus 02 show was so fantastic, because nothing really comes near it.
‘But offstage it was a really hard job because you spent so much time doing meetings and publicity. When I first joined it was a real collective and we‘d have ten-hour meetings, and consensus had to be reached. If we couldn‘t reach a decision the meeting just went on until we did. I miss the show, but I don‘t miss that collective process.‘
After spells with Ra Ra Zoo and Cliffhanger (including the latter’s James Bond spoof Licence To Look Ill at last year‘s Fringe). she took advantage of her liberty to write and perform about subjects of special interest to her. ‘In Against/Ill Gods.‘ she says, ‘I talk about God a bit, I talk about sex, religion and ﬂying. I talk about my generation as well, which is the generation born after the hippies and before the yuppies: sort of the lost generation.
‘I do one story about the London Underground. When you tell that in Scotland, the Scottish people are laughing at the English as well, so the poor English are copping it from both sides— from an Australian and from a Scottish audience.
‘I talk about Australia, too. When I first came here I did a tiny bit about Australia and people loved it, so I wrote some more.’
Reflecting on her native land, Judy is analytical but not radically surprising. ‘It‘s a much more decadent society than here. It‘s a small place down the bottom right-hand corner of the world and
people aren‘t as politically motivated as they are here. It’s so much more relaxed — I mean it doesn’t have any of the European angst. A lot of philosophies just aren‘t applicable. You have to imagine people sitting around having intense conversations, and then the sun comes out and everybody says, “Ah, fuck it, let’s go to the beach anyway!" It just doesn’t hold all of a suddenf
Despite, or perhaps because of the good-humoured life-style, comedy is not big business. ‘It‘s really very difficult to make a living in Australia from stand-up comedy,’ she says, ‘because there‘s just no people. The audiences are tiny, and the theatre-going or cabaret-going audience is even smaller.
‘1 mean there‘s three or four comedy venues in Melbourne, which is the comedy capital of Australia, so I think there‘s much more incentive to travel and do the British circuit.’ So that’s why Edinburgh is over-run with Australian comedians every summer.
‘People in Melbourne talk about going to the Edinburgh Festival,’ she continues. ‘and they say how how hard it’ll be and you‘ll be partying all night, sleeping in a corridor and leaﬂeting all day. And you arrive here and think, ‘Why didn‘t anybody tell me that it‘s actually an amazing place?’ It blows you out when you see something like this— there‘s just nothing to compare to it in Australia.
‘I remember the first time I looked up and saw the castle, I grabbed this person’s arm and squealed and said,
‘Look, it’s a castle! I‘ve never seen one ofthem before!‘
But Edinburgh has taught her grim lessons as well, and this time she’s putting business before pleasure. ‘I came here with the attitude that I’ve come to do my show and that‘s what’s important to me. When you do a show for the whole Festival, by the end of the third week you look out at the audience and they are tired; they cannot laugh any more; they‘re not interested; they’ve had enough. They’re looking at you like ‘well, come on then,’ and you‘re looking at them like ‘no— there’s nothing I can do. I“ pulled my clothes off and rubbed poo all over me and ran up the road screaming you still wouldn’t laugh. Go home.‘
‘I saw a lot ofcomedy last year and I didn’t laugh very much. It becomes quite desperate, stand-up comedy. You do feel like you‘re in a meat market. There’s fifty stand-ups out there and all of a sudden they’re all talking about the same stuff: they've all got the same jokes really when it comes down to it and it‘s horrible.’
Depressing stuff from someone who’s saving herself for the notorious third week. But Fringe-fatigued or not, it’s hard to imagine Judy Pascoe having to pull any wild stunts to make the audience laugh. Judging from the sneak preview she offered on the Gilded Balloon’s afternoon Dags In Space programme, she has more than enough intelligence, aggression and
original 02 appeal to keep a theatreful of Poms amused for an hour or so. No worries.
AgainstAll Gods (Fringe) Gilded Balloon Theatre (Venue 38) 226 2151. 24Aug—2 Sept, 8pm, £4
The List 25—31 August 19893