Jan Ravens' debut Edinburgh show ‘Difficult Woman’ will be at the Gilded Balloon – Dining Room for the month of August so we caught up with her to find out a little more about the woman behind the microphone.
Please tell us about your brand of comedy.
Broadly, what I tend to go for is funny comedy. This show Difficult Woman, is obviously inspired by Ken Clarkes comment on Theresa May, so much of the content is topical and political. Lots of impressions and jokes about politicians.
What can audiences expect from your new show?
Well there seems to be a tide in the affairs of women at the moment, where there are lots of female power leaders round the world. So as a female impressionist, it would be rude not to portray lots of them in the show. But there is also a strong personal strand where I talk about life as a woman in her fifties. Its a period of transition, a jumping off point, if you like.
Which comedians have been your biggest influence since you decided this was your path?
As a kid, I loved Morecambe and Wise, Spike Milligan, and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore... Joyce Grenfell was very inspiring, and the characters of Beryl Reid. But the biggest influence would have to be Victoria Wood. For sheer laugh out loud funny, and speaking to women of a certain age and type, but always always universally funny. And an amazing comedy technician, in her songs, sketches and stand up. She really knew how to craft a joke.
What random things make you laugh in everyday life?
It always makes me laugh on a plane when they make that announcement, ‘Please take care when opening the overhead lockers, lest luggage has moved during transit, and may fall out, injuring a person underneath.’ Theres something about visualising the sort of cruel slapstick of that moment that always makes me chuckle.
Please tell us about your best and worst moment on stage so far.
I guess the worst moments are when there's hardly anybody there, although I do try and make a virtue of that and say lets have a party.
I have had moments where I have gone completely blank in the middle of a set. That is the stuff of nightmares. It happened to me when I was doing the Daphne du Maurier Arts Festival in Fowey, Cornwall.I had to pretend to have a coughing fit, and run offstage to ask my tour manager where I was. But that was also one of my best nights ever. We had just done a couple of pretty scuzzy gigs around the country and then this long drive to Cornwall, where they put us up at the beautiful Fowey Hall hotel. I could have wept with gratitude. It was a great night, huge marquee, about 800 people who all seemed to have a great time.
Do you still get nervous when you do a gig?
I get more nervous about writing than performing. Impressions and acting feel like my comfort zone, whereas I am less confident about the writing. So the early performances, where you are first putting the material out there, are gut churningly nerve-wracking. But once you know it, and you can begin to play with it, and enjoy it, the nerves just go.
To be honest, having done Strictly, nothing else ever feels terrifying again.
Why is Edinburgh Fringe Festival such a great platform for comedians?
I guess cos everyone knows its on, so the movers and shakers in the industry will all be there, on the lookout for new talent. That needn’t bother me, as I am obviously very old talent. But I just love that its like a huge 24 hour banquet for people who love comedy and they can just spend all day and night, trying out all the different flavours. Its great to see families there, quite often where the teenage son has planned out the whole comedy itinerary for the whole family, and they all troop round the city, having lots of great laughs together in this fantastic city.
Who are you looking forward to seeing at the Fringe?
Well, I haven’t checked out the brochure yet, but I’m hoping Sarah Kendall will be there, Sara Pascoe, anyone called Sara, really, would be nice.
Jo Caulfield always makes me laugh, and I can’t wait to see Tony Law again. I would like to be surprised too. Theres always so many things you haven’t seen before, and thats the real delight.
What is your advice to aspiring comedians?
Wow. Its tough out there. There are so many people wanting to do it now. Keep strong and keep doing it. To be honest, I still feel like I have so much to learn myself, I wouldn’t want to give anyone specific advice.
What is the oddest heckle you've ever received?
I don’t think I have ever had an odd heckle. I must have been lucky.
What is next for you?
After Edinburgh, I’m taking my 19 year old son off to university in Manchester. He’s going to study politics, so maybe he’ll be able to give me some advice on the act. I already seek it out from my son Alfie (Brown), who is a brilliant comedian, though I says it as shouldn’t. Then I’m going to have a little holiday, drink in some of the beauty of Corfu, then taking the show on tour. So look out for me round the country.
Jan Ravens' debut Edinburgh show ‘Difficult Woman’ will be at the Gilded Balloon – Dining Room for the month of August for tickets go to www.edfringe.com