With the UK's biggest comedy festival, the Edinburgh Fringe, coming this summer, all the up-and-coming artists that are worth talking about are preparing to showcase their talents across the 300+ venues in the Scottish city. One of those is Stevie Martin; a UK comedian who we interviewed about her new show and the difficulties women face in the industry.

Stevie Martin / Photo Credit: Idil Sukan

Stevie Martin / Photo Credit: Idil Sukan

Stevie is set to perform her critically-acclaimed debut solo show this month - Stevie Martin: Vol. 1 - for four nights at London's prestigious Soho Theatre. You may already know her from her hysterical sketch show Massive Dad, as well as her podcast Nobody Panic which is now nearing one million downloads.

After being in a sketch group, the transition to solo live shows has been a huge step for Stevie, who never thought she would have the guts to get up on stage by herself - not least somewhere as exciting as Soho Theatre. Nonetheless, she came up with a rather novel idea for her first show, which has already seen rave reviews.

"I was trying to think of what sort of show I wanted to do and I sat down to write it about a year before Edinburgh and I just couldn't start it at all", she told Female First. "I kept thinking of beginnings and how to open it, and then I decided somewhere along the line to just do an hour of openings. It's like a sketch show but all beginnings of things. It could be the first two minutes of a seance. That's basically what the show is. It's very silly."

Plus, she's sure to maintain a positive atmosphere, because politics will not be entering the equation. At all. We can't tell you how grateful we are to hear that.

Stevie Martin / Photo Credit: Idil Sukan
Stevie Martin / Photo Credit: Idil Sukan

"I'm not gonna be wanging on about Brexit or anything, I don't even think I mentioned Trump", she said. "It's a bit of escapism. I think maybe that's one of the reasons why I wrote what I wrote because I'm fed up of reading the news and I'm fed up of talking about it. So it was a bit of respite from that."

It's certainly a big change in direction after Massive Dad, though her love of sketches will not be waning anytime soon. Her interest in that style of comedy came from her involvement in her university sketch group at Durham, The Durham Revue, where she first met Massive Dad co-stars Liz Kingsman and Tessa Coates. Although it was then that she started to really realise that comedy was not an easy to thing to get into as a woman.

"It was really fun but we often got the token girl parts unless we wrote them ourselves", she revealed, adding that many of the boys ended up going on to be successful stand-up comedians while a lot of the girls were left behind.

"Then I went to Edinburgh and I saw a sketch group called The Birthday Girls", she continued. "I saw their show and I was like 'That looks so fun. And also they're all girls! Why didn't I think of doing that? Of course we could do that!' So I got in touch with Liz and Tessa and was like 'We should do a sketch show!'"

Naturally, they were initially worried about the cost of producing a sketch show, but after booking a few gigs and getting a great reception, they were confident in Massive Dad's appeal. Ten years ago, Stevie was convinced that being a woman meant she couldn't do comedy - you could probably list all the famous UK female comedians on one hand back then - but she definitely sees that times have changed now.

"There are so many more [female comedians] now", she explained. "You have regular panel show women like Sara Pascoe, Aisling Bea and Katherine Ryan, whereas when I was growing up it was literally Jo Brand and that was it. If I was now 21 and coming out of uni, I think I'd be able to see a comedy career because it's becoming so much more balanced."

She currently does a monthly comedy night called The Night of Nights with four male comedian friends; John Kearns, Adam Riches, Ben Target and Dan Cook; but she's never felt daunted by being the only female in the group. On the other hand, she does still face challenges as a female up-and-coming comedian.

"Massive Dad did get a fair amount of comments from people being like 'Who writes your stuff?' My boyfriend at the time was in a sketch group and he never got asked that", she told us. "That was very frustrating. We've still got a long way to go. There are less seats on the panel shows; if I want to be on a panel show I'm battling it out with Katherine Ryan."

On the whole though, diversity of all kinds has become a huge focus within comedy, and she's feeling positive about the progress of gender equality in the arts - especially when you've got people like Tash Demetriou and Ellie White making a splash in the world of sketch comedy among others.

"I do feel a little bit more confident going forward that there are still enough opportunities", she said. "I act as well which can be a bit tricky sometimes because a lot of the roles are the vacant girl next door or the boring flatmate. But now there are more and more female-based shows that have loads of really fun parts for women."

You can see Stevie Martin: Vol. 1 at London's Soho Theatre from April 17-20. Tickets available here.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk