It’s such a joy to interview Abi Roberts, stand-up comedian, writer, actress and self-proclaimed kale lover! Abi is currently touring her show Anglichanka around the UK and is excited to be taking it to the world famous Underbelly Venue for a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. She’s originally from Wales but now lives in London with her husband Terry and their Lakeland Terrier Chekhov.
Describe a typical day for you?
Well, I’m usually up at 5.30am, then I go for a 10-mile run followed by a Dancercise class then Hot Ashtanga yoga, then a relaxing ear-candle session topped off with a kale, celery and quinoa smoothie. Then I do an hour of cardio in the gym, some admin, followed by an afternoon of charity work. Sadly, as your readers will have guessed this is all total b*****ks. I work very late in comedy clubs, so I get up about 11, have a strong black coffee, smoke a roll-up and have a chocolate biscuit. I realise I’ll probably be dead by the time I’m 45 but such is the life of a standup comic. I honestly want to get into kale but choc is just so much more appealing. I do some exercise though..I put the cups in the dishwasher this morning.
What do you feel are your biggest achievements?
See above re surviving on a diet of coffee, biscuits and cigs, which is an achievement in itself. Getting this far in comedy feels pretty good so far. Also, one pf my proudest achievements was getting a place at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School when EVERYBODY said it was impossible. Aside from that, I’d say my biggest achievement was learning to speak Russian fluently (my show Anglichanka is partly about that) and studying opera at the Moscow Conservatoire. Career wise, I’ve shared a bill with Michael McIntyre, Jack Whitehall and Sarah Millican, so that’s a pretty good start.
What’s in your handbag/ satchel?
I have a handbag which is like the Tardis. Seriously I looked in it the other day and a Dalek fell out. My bag contains all the essentials for the comic on the road: deodorant, perfume, pens, pad, keys, wallet, make-up bag, phone, Tampax (sometimes they’ve come out of the wrapper), old boiled sweets (ditto with wrapper), chewing gum, Nurofen, receipts, flyers, business cards and kale. If you say that last sentence quickly doing a Bruce Forsyth impression it’s like the Generation Game. Oh and a lot of packets of motorway service station sugar sachets. I have a lot of those. And wooden stirry sticks.
What are your ambitions in life?
I would love to keep doing live stand-up until I’m at least 85. I adore the interaction with a live audience and I’ve started to build a really nice following not only in comedy clubs but also with my hour long shows. I was recently cast in two comedy films which were both nominated for awards so I’d like to make more films. Films are my passion along with Columbo. I’d love to appear on Tonight at the London Palladium and host my own TV chat show like Graham Norton. He’s one of my comedy heroes. I’d also like to be rescued from Albanian sex traffickers by Liam Neeson, but that’s another story.
What advice do you know now, you wish you had pre-kids (if relevant)?
I’m certified child-free which I realise in print sounds like a dietary requirement. I don’t honestly think I could do everything I’m doing with kids. I salute the women who do both. I have three nephews. As an active aunt, I’d say I now know the importance of not feeding kids sweets with lots of horrible e-numbers in them and watching them climb the walls and leaving them e-numbered up when their mum comes back and I disappear off to the pub.
What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career you now know?
I wish I had started stand-up earlier, rather than in my 30s..but then again, I’m not sure I’d have as much to talk about as I do nowadays. I now know that there is no University that will teach you how to be a good stand-up…its all about doing the great gigs, the crap gigs and everything in between. Since I started, I’ve averaged about 450 gigs a year and that is the only way to get better at comedy.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I’d like to be touring the world with my 90 minute shows. I met Bette Midler at an after-party in Vegas and I told her my dream was to perform comedy in Vegas and she said ‘you have to come and play here.. and when you do.. let me know and I’ll be there’. So… that’s the dream. I’d like to have done more TV and more radio…if only to reach a bigger audience with my stuff. I’d also like to do more acting and a wee bit more singing..I love singing, it was my first love.
What advice would you give a budding writer and comedian?
Even though here in the UK we’re obsessed with comedy competitions, comedy isn’t an exam you study for. It’s all practical. Watch the best comics and watch the worst. As the late great opera singer Maria Callas once said, ‘Even from the least talented you learn something’. These are my three rules: Be punctual, be funny but above all be nice.
Finally, happiness is…
Hearing that wave of laughter roll towards the stage like a giant Tsunami and surfing it… then being paid and driving home to watch Columbo with my husband and Chekhov. Oh and a chocolate/kale smoothie.