Interview with alternative comedian (and maths teacher) Cerys Bradley

"When I’m trying to write or paint or otherwise make physical things, I can get a block because of their permanence. But when you’re performing live, when it’s over it’s over and all we have left are memories which are malleable and imperfect."

Interview with alternative comedian (and maths teacher) Cerys Bradley

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hello! I am Cerys Bradley, an alternative comedian and (technically) a maths teacher. I am autistic and, in 2022, won the Neurodiverse Review’s award for Actually Autistic Excellence so it’s pretty official. I’m also non-binary but I don’t have a certificate for that. I make quite silly, earnest comedy about my life with lots of props and sketches and drag and things.  

How would you describe your show?

I would describe it as chaotic and a little bit furious. It’s quite a fast show with a lot of thoughts and feelings crammed into it. The show is designed to be a birthday party – we choose an audience member and celebrate their birthday with cake and party games and then the story of my parents’ divorce creeps in and everything goes downhill from there. 

What is your favourite part of your show?

That is a difficult question. It’s a fun show to perform so it’s hard to choose one specific bit but if I had to pick, I’d say the bit with the massive silicon tits.

If your show had a theme song, what would it be and why?

The show does have a theme song and that theme song is Tragedy by STEPS which plays throughout the show because it is very relevant to my life and my parents’ divorce so I would say, if you don’t like STEPS or, specifically, Tragedy by STEPS, you will not enjoy and, indeed, are not welcome at this show.  

What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your show?

The zine that I made for it. Everyone gets one. 

Thinking less materially, I hope they take a “what the hell just happened?” kind of vibe from the show or maybe a “I hope they’re ok” kind of thought or perhaps even a “why didn’t I get a balloon?” sort of empty feeling. 

If you could add a surprise celebrity cameo to your show, who would it be and why?

National treasure and people’s princess, H from STEPS.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

I enjoy performing at the fringe. It’s incredibly useful for working through a show and improving your performer skill. My little autistic brain also loves doing the exact same thing every day and when I head up for August I feel like I’m hibernating from my real life and commitments. I turn off my email and live as a hermit in the largest arts festival in the world surrounded by thousands upon thousands of people. 

What differentiates it from other festivals?

The length and the size and the huge variety of shows you can go see. I think, also, in comparison to lots of other fringe festivals that happen in cities, it has the critical mass which means that everyone knows that it’s happening. In lots of other places the only people who know the fringe is actually on are the people taking shows there and you’re constantly bothering people on their way to work but, at Edinburgh, people are seeking out shows which means they actually want to stop and talk to you about your show. 

What is one thing you would change about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

One thing? I think I would make it a Work in Progress festival (or make it a WIP festival again). So, rather than being the end of the comedy performers calendar, have it at the start so that everybody turns up on day one with a pocket full of ideas but no show and then spends 30 days exploring and workshopping with fresh audiences. This would mean no awards and probably no paid venues and, hopefully, a chiller time had by all. I think it’s a shame that a lot of people turn up with a show that is ready and finished just before they perform it 30 times in a row because that otherwise would be a great opportunity to make the show and take risks and change things. 

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?

I grew up somewhere that was isolated enough that I didn’t have to talk to anyone if I didn’t want to but not so, so much that there wasn’t anyone about if I did. As a consequence, I have spent a lot of time in my own head which has helped me to develop an artistic voice and purpose. I have also spent a lot of time in higher education which has created a lot of space for creative outlets like comedy. I come from a very supportive family and have a very, very supportive partner, which means that I’ve always made both good and bad, mostly bad, art as a hobby and a side interest alongside other career goals and life plans. So I would say, my background, upbringing and education has made having one foot in the door of the arts quite easy even though I’ve never been able to pursue it full time.

What is your favourite thing about performing for a live audience?

As soon as the moment happens it doesn’t exist anymore. When I’m trying to write or paint or otherwise make physical things, I can get a block because of their permanence. The words have to be right because they are going to exist forever, this stroke has to be perfect because you can’t undo it. But when you’re performing live, when it’s over it’s over and all we have left are memories which are malleable and imperfect. I don’t have the same indecision and hesitation in live performances because, if it goes wrong, you can always have another go another time or, even, right there in that moment and then it’s over. 

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you while performing?

I did a gig where I stripped down to a pair of silicone boobs in front of my mum and her work colleagues. And THEN I didn’t fill my time so did 3-5 minutes of more conventional stand-up about trains in just my pants. 

What's the most challenging or unconventional venue you've ever performed in, and how did it impact the overall experience?

This was a very, very long time ago now but I did a student fundraiser which had invited the comedy society and the magic society to provide entertainment. I thought it was going to be standard cabaret vibes but actually they had us doing comedy on stage whilst magicians did close hand magic to the audience at their tables. I was not funny enough to compete with close hand magic then, I’m probably not now. It was horrendous. 

Is there a piece of feedback you've received from an audience member or critic after a performance that’s stuck with you? 

I’ve based my entire show around a throwaway comment in a review I received last year that said I wasn’t mean enough on stage to my audience. This year, I’m trying to be as mean as possible, I’ve even got a device to measure how mean I’m being so that we can scientifically, quantifiably determine if I have improved and made a funnier show. 

What is your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh when you're not performing? How do you relax and look after your mental health?

I go to Lighthouse Books and I buy too many books and then I start every day of the fringe reading my books in bed and not thinking about everything that’s happened or is about to happen. I found Lighthouse Books in 2019 in the middle of the fringe when everything and everyone is sad and so now it is part of my getting settled ritual. We are not overwhelmed by the month that is to come because we are in Lighthouse Books surrounded by lots of emotional support books and we are about to choose the words that are going to help us through.

Is there a show you’re excited to see when you’re up there?

So. Many. This is going to be a great year. I’ve started my list which is growing by the second and I’m going to see Leila Navabi, Priya Hall, Elf Lyons and Duffy, Alice India, Pravanya Pillay, Harriet Dyer… 

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about taking a show up to Edinburgh? If you’ve never been before, what would you say has been (potentially) the most useful?

Make friends. I’m in a WhatsApp group with good people who like to go to see shows and then talk about why they loved them. I also have lots of lovely supportive friends who love the Fringe so they come up for a weekend and we go see things together. I think surrounding yourself by people who want to have a good time is crucial to you having a good time. 

When and where can people see your show?

My show is on at 3.30pm in Bar 50 every day except for the 26th. It is a free show but you can guarantee yourself a seat by buying a ticket for £5 online (and I would love it if you did that if you are planning on coming).

And where can people find you online?

I am @hashtagcerys on all platforms. You can follow me on Twitter for gig updates and jokes about my mum, Instagram for life updates and bad art, and I’m now on TikTok where I mostly complain about cycling infrastructure. 

Header Image Credit: Steve Ullathorne

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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