This week is the Leicester Comedy Festival and there is a lot of great acts that are performing. One of the stand up comedians that you can see this week is Samantha Pressdee. Her show is directed by Phil Nicol and did really well at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. Covered is a raucous and slightly dirty show tackling mental health provision on the NHS and austerity cuts. I caught up with Samantha to find out all about it.
Samantha Pressdee: Covered
Date: Thursday 6th February
Location: Knight and Garder
Ticket Link:click here for tickets
Hello Samantha, tell us all about who you are and three unknown facts about yourself!
- I’m a mystic jester from the Black Country, my mission is to spread love, light and laughter!
- I can understand Greek and speak the language as well, if not better than a 3-year-old native. My favourite Greek word is ‘Malaka’ (It’s often used as a term of endearment but means wanker)
- I once allowed a tiny puppy to live in my cleavage. He had been abandoned and appreciated the warmth.
How did you get into stand up?
I saw Alfie Brown, Mark Thomas and Rosie Wilby in 2013 at the Edinburgh Fringe. I was doing a play at the time but felt inspired by their shows and decided I wanted to tell my own stories. As soon as I got back, I enrolled on a stand-up comedy course at City Lit. I did my first gig in January 2014, so I have been a comedian for 6 years now. I love the freedom and talking about what I want on stage.
Tell us a little bit about the show that is happening this week?
It’s a story of resilience, trying to get mental health needs met in austerity Britain. I had a severe mental breakdown 6 years ago and became acutely aware of how much austerity has affected our front line services. I talk about the challenges I faced getting health and welfare needs met and about fighting stigma. Not everyone is as lucky as me, I talk about the reality that vulnerable people are falling through the cracks.
You also debuted the show at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe – how was that for you?
I’ll be honest, it was completely exhausting. The Fringe feels like such a competitive environment and I feel that I am at a double disadvantage coming from a working-class background and having a mental disability. I am taking 2 years in between launching new shows now as I need to be aware of my limitations and I need a lot of support otherwise I risk becoming unwell. Self-care must come first!
You are performing at Leicester Comedy Festival this week! What are you looking forward to most about it?
Meeting new like-minded people. I love to have a drink with my audience after the show. Working as a comedian can feel quite isolating, as I am on my own a lot, so I love to socialise after my shows. I value that connection.
Tell us about Pulling It Together as it sounds like a really interesting project?
It’s a creative mental health project. I didn’t just want to write a show about my experience. I wanted to reach out to other people who may have mental health issues by creating free resources. I am lucky to have had such a good recovery from my breakdown, so I wanted to share my experience and reach out to others about their experience. Dave Chawner, who is a bestselling author, comedian and mental health campaigner, has written an excellent blog on self-care.
Pulling It Together also has a podcast series as well?
Yes, I interviewed Laura Lexx, Juliette Burton as well as my life coach and nutritionist. Everyone is different when it comes to mental health recovery, I wanted to find out what has worked for others. Laura shares some excellent insight on how social media can affect our wellbeing and Juliette talks about how being a comedian has aided her recovery. The link to the series is here: https://www.pullingittogether.org.uk/podcast
If people want to get involved – how can they?
They ca send an email to my assistant producer email@example.com
As well as your show at the Leicester Comedy Festival, it also takes place on Time To Talk Day – tell us what you will be doing for this and how others can get involved / why should they pay attention?
Time to talk day encourages us to be more open about mental health issues, by talking and listening. Anyone who wants to have conversations about mental health is welcome to join me in the bar after the show. I will have some resources from the time to change organisation. If you can’t make my show check out www.time-to-change.org.uk to find information about events happening nationwide or to find out how to organise your own.
How do you come up with your jokes? What inspires you?
Most of them just pop into my head, as if downloaded from the universe. Sometimes I do mind maps and free writing. I am inspired by things that happen in my personal life, by the people I meet and by what’s going on in our culture. I see comedy as a platform for the truth, so I aim for my work to be reflective of life in an honest way.
It is the month of February! What are three things you love about performing comedy?
- I love the sound of laughter, it’s the best medicine.
- Comedy brings people together.
- I can say things on stage I can’t get away with in polite conversation (or on Facebook. I found out that the hard way!)
It is also a new decade – what would you like to see happen to comedy in the next 10 years?
I’d like to see lines-ups become more reflective of society. Women are 50% of the population, but comedy club line ups are often 100% male. I’d like for more working-class voices to break through, if the Edinburgh Fringe is the gateway to the industry then a lot of people will be excluded for financial reasons. Art should be a true reflection of society, not a playground for the rich. With the Edinburgh Fringe being so expensive, it perpetuates the belief that a career in entertainment is out of reach for people from my background.
How do you warm up before a show?
I do the yogic power pose, go over my material obsessively, and take deep breaths. That’s a lot healthier than my previous warm up, which was 3 glasses of wine.
What have been some of your favourite shows to play so far this year and why?
I really loved playing on the weekends in Edinburgh. That was when the working class people would come. We sold out most weekends. Working class people get me. During the week I had a lot of posh pensioners – which I’m grateful for – but I don’t think they were prepared for my dildo puppet show.
If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?
@sammiepressdee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
And Finally in three words – why should people come and see the show?
Join the revolution!