Zoe Lyons is about to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which kicks off on the 5th August. We caught up with her to find out how she's feeling before the event and who has inspired her unique brand of comedy over the years.
What can people expect from your new show Little Misfit?
It's not a heavily themed show. I'll be brutally honest with you. I've started to move away from doing that. I prefer to concentrate on just doing an hour of funnies if that makes sense. The slight theme or hook that runs through it is the idea of not really belonging to any group. That's the gentle theme that sort of holds the show together. When you reach a point in your life when you don't really want to belong to any group, which is quite a relief.
This isn't your first time to Edinburgh Fringe Festival so what do you love most about the event?
Oh gosh- 'love' is a weird word when you're describing the Edinburgh Festival. I have to be honest I approach it as more of a sort of Bear Grylls endurance test. There's trepidation when one goes up because it's quite a long month.
The nicest thing about it is being completely and utterly immersed in comedy, theatre and art for a month- everywhere you turn. If you're not on stage you can go and see loads of different things. Just the opportunity to be part of that is good for your mind. Being a comedian is quite an isolating experience because you spend a lot of time on your own. To be part of the biggest festival in the world and around your mates for a month is a good place to be.
You won the Chortle Best Comic Award so how did that make you feel and what was your reaction when you found out?
Comedy awards- you've got to take with a pinch of salt because they are so subjective. The nice thing about them is that self-doubt is the constant companion of most comedians. When you do win an award- even for five minutes you think 'I must be doing something right.' It gives you that little boost of confidence that you're not a misguided lunatic barking up the wrong tree.
You have had appearances on Live at the Apollo, The John Bishop Show and Mock of the Week (to name a few) so has there been a standout TV experience for you?
Doing Live at the Apollo was a dream come true for me- that I thoroughly enjoyed. I really, really enjoyed that. Not just because it's on the TV but because it's at the Apollo in Hammersmith, which is such an incredible venue. It's a beautiful theatre. I was very nervous but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did the Channel Four Comedy Gala recently as well which is filmed at the O2 and that has to go down as one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Oh my giddy ant- it just felt really surreal- it felt like I was in a dream. Again I enjoyed it but my Lord the nerves! I didn't sleep for two days.
One review of your last show Mustard Cutter said that you keep on getting better and better- so do you feel like your confidence is still growing on stage?
Yeah I think you grow into yourself. I think you become less concerned with other things. This is kind of what Little Misfit is about- not caring anymore if you fit into a group or if people like you anymore. I'm in my mid-forties now which I think is a really good age because you've learned that what other people think doesn't really matter all that much. It gives you freedom to be yourself and enjoy yourself.
What advice would you have for other kids who feel they don't fit in with those around them?
It's always a bit uncomfortable at the time. But it's people who don't quite fit the mould that stretch the boundaries of life I think. If you look at anything- art, fashion, design, music, most of those people didn't fit a particular mould. Having the strength to know that you don't need to fit a mould- you can be exactly who you want to be and create your own mould. Being yourself is one of the hardest things to do in life. It takes time. It's like when you put on an old pair of slippers that have moulded to your feet. It just feels right. That's sort of where I am in life. I'm wearing a pair of shoes that have been properly indented to my feet and nobody else is going to wear them.
You trained to be an actress so what pushed you to enter into the Funny Women competition in 2004?
I loved being at drama school, I love acting and I prance about and act quite a lot within my set. It's a hard world the acting world and you're very much doing it on the basis of people giving you the nod and the go ahead. I was desperate to perform and I was desperate to do something on stage. It just wasn't happening for me in the world of acting. Again- another place where I felt like I never fitted in.
I started to go and see lots of open mic nights and I'd always loved comedy. I thought- but you can do this without anyone's permission. You can get up and do it- you can fail horribly but you can get up and do it. Nobody's going to cast you- you have to do it yourself. The idea that you're not dependent on anyone you can just go and do it if you want to. You might be rubbish but if you're good- you might want to take it somewhere. Actors are constantly dependent on that next role unless they're writing it and directing it for themselves. Often they're waiting to be handed that next job. It's just not the case in stand up- you can do it yourself.
Which comedians have been your inspiration and whom do you most enjoy watching perform?
The late and great Victoria Wood was my first inspiration. She was so lovely- gentle is not the right word- but she had a very familiar British style of comedy. She was just so bloody funny- and her characterisation. Have you seen her doing the step class where she's the aerobic teacher? It's on You Tube. It's just the funniest thing ever. She appealed to such a wide variety of people. She was really prolific, she really championed women and at the end of the day she was just bloody, bloody funny.
What is next for you?
After the Fringe I will be taking a couple of weeks off to recuperate! Then I'm going on tour at the end of the year in October/November/December time. So I'm taking the show around the place. So that's that really!