Image © Zoe Lyons via Facebook

Interview with Zoe Lyons

Imogen Greenberg

Zoe Lyons sharp comedy has been drawing attention for years, and you can often catch her on shows like Mock the Week. Now she’s taking her new show, Mustard Cutter, on a spring tour after its resounding success at the Edinburgh Fringe. London Calling caught up with her to chat about the new show.


London Calling: For those who didn’t catch it in Edinburgh, what can people expect from your spring tour, Mustard Cutter?

Zoe Lyons: My shows are a collection of animated anecdotes and jokes, I guess you could call it "anecjokes" delivered with quite a bit of energy and general larking about. This show has a very loose theme and that is the idea of being better.

LC: You performed your show at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer. What’s it like performing there, and is it really a place like no other?

ZL: Yes, the Edinburgh Fringe is quite unique. Nothing matches it for size or intensity. A solid month of performing every night can only do you good as a performer. As a human being, however, the Fringe can take its toll on you over four weeks. Late nights, competition to get those bums on seats every night, reviewers, too many cheesy chips for dinner. By the end of August I am usually a bag of facial twitches.

LC: How do you go about putting together material for a new show?

ZL: I try to write stuff throughout the course of the year. I don't think I have ever sat down and written a show from scratch just for the Festival. I collect all my bits together and then work on putting them together into some kind of framework. The aim for me is to try and get some material from the show that can also be used out on the circuit.

LC: Your comedy has been described as ‘fizzing with indignation’. What’s got your heckles up of late?

ZL: With the build up to the last election, of course Nigel Farage and his gang could be relied upon for frequent outbursts from me. I did get very angry with some shampoo yesterday that claimed to have stress relieving qualities.

LC: Reviews of this show have praised you as a great actress, capturing personalities on stage. You originally trained as an actress. Is acting something you considered seriously, or was it always comedy that appealed to you?

ZL: At drama school I always seemed to play the more comedic roles, the foul-mouthed club footed maid, that sort of thing. I do love acting and I really enjoy fleshing out material on stage with accents and movement. I guess the reason I became a stand up and not an actress is that you have more control over your career and work as a comic. You are not waiting for someone to give you a part. You are the part!

LC: Your shows often mix serious topics – such as contemporary politics and issues of class and snobbery – with comedy. Why is comedy a particularly good way to discuss weighty issues?

ZL: I do touch upon serious topics but not in an overly serious way. I am restricted by my level of understanding and intellect so my take on things is less astute and perhaps more absurd. We all have opinions on things, they don't all need to be ground breaking. Comedy is the perfect place to discuss things and put your own spin on it.

LC: You’ve spoken before about how hard it can be to breakthrough as a woman in comedy, and you won the 2004 Funny Woman award! Do you think things are improving?

ZL: It's hard to break through as a comic regardless of gender. I think when I started it was a bit harder for women as audiences were still less used to the idea of female comics. At times you had to fight to get their attention. When I started it was constantly remarked upon but thankfully things are getting much better. There are so many brilliant female acts out there doing great things it now seems strange to even think about putting us into a different category... We are simply comics.

LC: Which other comedian’s work are you enjoying at the moment?

ZL: Katherine Ryan is brilliantly funny as is Aisling Bea. David Mills did my gig in Brighton recently and he is really in good form.


You can see Zoe Lyon’s show Mustard Cutter at St James Studio on the 25th June. To book tickets, please see their website.

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