John Luke Roberts talks about playing 24 fictional Spice Girls at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I’m a reformed stand-up and comedy writer who went to clown school and has ended up as an absurdist character comic who writes jokes. This is my seventh solo show, and my funniest one.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
The show is a show about how nonsense is brilliant and we need more nonsense to save the world. It’s a very pro-nonsense show and I play 24 fictional Spice Girls in it. Overwhelmingly, it’s silly. That’s the main takeaway, to be honest. It’s very silly. And it’s got too many jokes in it, and probably too many ideas, but hopefully it will leave you a pleasant kind of dazed. When the audience is dazed enough, and sensitive, I hit them (verbally) with a manifesto for absurdism and then lift up a cloche.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I started working on the show just after last year’s fringe, like I do every year. I think it’s relevant to people now because it’s really born out of asking myself the question “given the scary state the world’s in does this stupid thing I do honestly matter?” What’s the point of absurdist comedy? And it’s a question I think all artists have to ask themselves, because all art is political whether you want it to be or not – it either challenges the status quo, or it implicitly says the status quo is fine. This show is my attempt to convince myself and people that there’s a progressive case for absurdism. But the show is also just a barrage of very stupid things happening slightly faster than you’d expect.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
I try to not drink alcohol for a whole bunch of it – at least the first couple of weeks. I also make sure to do exercise and mindfulness stuff every day, and make sure that I spend a few hours each day taking my head out of the fact I’m in a festival. So, that’s my advice for performers. My advice for visitors is: do whatever the hell you like, you’re not here for long, it’s not like you’ve got a show to perform every day just have a good tiiiiiiiime (and come to my show).

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
The most embarrassing thing that has ever happened on stage was my failed attempt to eat 150 lemons during Mark Watson’s 25 hour comic relief show. I’d done six a day in my previous Edinburgh show (while listening to six different covers of the NiN song “Hurt”) which gave me a false confidence. I think I managed less than double figures before my teeth hurt so much I had to stop. In retrospect, I do not know why I thought I could do it. Lemons are really, really, really, really lemony. They don’t tell you that when you buy them, but it’s true.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I think it’s those performers who seem genuinely like this is exactly what they’re meant to be doing – your Robin Inces and Josie Longs. The ones you watch on stage and go “oh yes all is as it should be”.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
One light blood sacrifice, and a quick trip to the loo.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
I saw a double act called Shelf recently who I think are really exciting – they’re running a mixed bill call The LOL Word. Sophie Duker’s great. Ben Target always takes you somewhere you just wouldn’t expect a comedy to take you. Kimber Hall is doing a brilliant sounding children’s show called “I have always been a storm” about a weather pattern trying to escape a tyrannical shipping forecast.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the Fringe?
I think they should see the thousands of others too. But, if you’ve got to make a choice, then I’d say this: if what I do is your sort of thing, you’ll absolutely love it. And it is your sort of thing, you’ll see.

See John-Luke Roberts: All I Wanna Do Is at Assembly George Square throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 1st – 27th August. For tickets visit


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