Mandy Knight takes no prisoners in new comedy show THE DARK KNIGHT at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Mandy Knight
Name of Edinburgh show: Mandy Knight: The Dark Knight
Venue: Voodoo Rooms
Performance time: 19.40
Show length: 60 mins
Ticket price: FREE Fringe

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I trained as a classical actress for three years and inevitably went on to become a star…sorry, I meant, waitress. I attended a few improvised comedy workshops and was soon asked to guest with The Comedy Store Players. It was here that I learned there was a vibrant Alternative Comedy Scene. But I could only seem to write jokes that rhymed – so I began as a comedy performance poet alongside luminaries such as Porky the Poet (AKA Phil Jupitus) Henry Normal (Co-owner of Baby Cow productions) Jenny Éclair and John Hegley.

I performed for a number of years and became best friends with Jo Brand who told me to do jokes. I wasn’t certain I could. But when I got dumped by a fiancé (never got a ring BTW) over the telephone when I was temping as a switchboard operator – seriously, I had to put him on hold 3 times before he managed to tell me he couldn’t marry me because was still in love with his old girlfriend! That, and the fact I was living in a high-rise council block on The Old Kent Road (before it was regarded as up and coming) made me realise, I really didn’t have much to lose. So after 3 days of crying, I wrote down all the anger I felt about the whole thing and went down to a notoriously difficult club In Greenwich called, The Tunnel Club. (Most people got booed off at the Sunday night open mic night – they were brutal) But for some reason, my bile got a few laughs. So, I just went round saying it out loud at any club that would give me 10 minutes. A year later, I got my first encore and I’ve never looked back. I have performed for 26 years all over the world. I thank that idiot every day of my life.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
It is called The Dark Knight because it’s an examination of how dark humour has always been my default setting when things have been tough. My father was killed in a car crash when I was 5 and my alcoholic mother disappeared one day so, I was taken into a Children’s Home – but it’s not all been laughs – Some things in my life have been difficult. Things like having to cope with my Mother-in-law living with us for 7 weeks! (A woman who I wish would disappear).

I have gigged at every major Comedy Club worldwide and as an MC I’m renowned for “taking no prisoners.” The show Chronicles from an early age how I used humour to get me through everything and how it has made me the comic (and person) I am today. I don’t punch up or down, I just punch. The show also discusses whether I can, or even want, to find my mother after 45 years. I didn’t know if she was alive or dead. To find out whether I make that journey, you will have to see the show.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I took this show in a very raw form up to Edinburgh last year. I deliberately went “under the radar” to see if there was anything in the story and much more importantly, would it be laugh-out-loud funny – thankfully, it is. This year I have a fantastic director (and comic) Andre Vincent on board and we have re written and sharpened the whole thing up.

Last year was such a massive leap for me to come out of my “Club Comic” safety zone that I really didn’t know if it was going to be an epic fail. Unlike a lot of the newer comics who get snapped-up after winning a comedy competition and have 2 million preview runs booked for them, I could only get two. And because I ran out of time in both of them, I didn’t perform the ending, until the first day of Edinburgh! It really could have gone so wrong! But I had two objectives: feel the fear and do it anyway and to feel like a true artiste again. Job done! So last year was really a month-long preview.

I hadn’t been to Edinburgh since 1994 when I was nominated for Perrier Newcomer for my show, “Some of my Best Friends are Ginger.” I had one objective for that show and that was, whether you love it or hate it, you can’t say it was s**t – thank Godness nobody did though – I’m not as strong as I appear on stage.

The reason I didn’t go back was because, until now, I didn’t think I had a show that was of that calibre. Now I do.

Why is it relevant in 2018 – well, there are a lot of shows about difficult subject matters but often, the performer remains the victim. I think it would be great for people to know, you really get over the biggest drawbacks, be free from the past and most importantly, LAUGH. And, I’ve got nine thousand years of stage experience so it won’t be whimsical ramblings around a loose theme. There are old fashioned things in it called, “jokes”.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
Don’t go!
No, really, do. It’s overwhelming though, so make a list of things you want to see in time order – it really is worth planning beforehand.

If you’re a performer, don’t read a single review. If you’re hoping for stardom, you’re probably in for a kicking. But, if you use the opportunity to play a room every night and know it will make you better – you’ve already won.

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I had been going about 2 years and I was asked to play a University gig in East Anglia. Normally, uni gigs were great. It was usually Fresher’s Week or some big ball and you’d arrive to see a massive poster of yourself and the other acts on. Somebody had clearly forgotten to send East Anglia the memo. A caretaker let me in to what looked like a Cub Scout hall… After an hour, there were 29 students, two wooden pallets pushed together to make “The Stage”, no lights, a really crackly mic and they didn’t even turn off the pinball or fruit machines when I was introduced. I played to no one listening at all. But if you didn’t do your time, you didn’t get paid. It was agony. But my greatest humiliation was to come. The back door opened a dog ran in, leapt up onto the stage and urinated against my leg…hello showbiz!

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
In terms of well-known comics, Stuart Lee. His mind and dedication to examining a point and making it hilarious is amazing. Eddie Izzard who was and is still is, a trailblazing genius.

Lesser Known but equally brilliant, Tom Stade and Daniel Sloss. Their routines are flawless and leave me breathless with admiration. They have a swagger and a confidence which make them World-Class. And they are not frightened to “Go there.” So refreshing in this sanitized, “Let’s not cause a stir in case somebody has a knee-jerk reaction and puts it on Social Media.”

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yes, I don’t speak or let anyone speak to me 15 minutes before a gig. If they try to, I have to tell them, “I’m sorry but I’m just not listening to you…sorry.” I have to be totally “in the zone” before I get on stage. And, I always wear my lucky watch and bracelet. I can’t even see them under my sleeve but I have to have them on. I remember a couple of years ago, Daliso Chaponda and I were doing three nights in Nottingham. I had left my talisman back at the hotel. Daliso said, “It’s only superstition, you’re great you don’t need them.” We both died horrifically that night! On the way back to the hotel, he said, please don’t forget your watch and bracelet tomorrow!” I didn’t and the next night we stormed it.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
No one – they’re all rubbish.
Oh, OK then, Daniel Sloss, Tom Stade, Tom Ward.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Because it will funnier and not as long winded as all these terrible replies. Mind you, so is Mein Kamph.

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