Interview with Two Surnames

We speak to Two Surnames, whose show Fix My Brain made it onto the shortlist for Voice's Best Newcomer to Brighton Fringe 2018!

Interview with Two Surnames

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

We are Oliver and Dillon, a comedy duo currently writing jokes about depression and crushing existential dread. Oliver also works a junior doctor while Dillon’s a strange teacher/writer hybrid so together we prove that two people can take their lives in very different directions and still end up miserable.

Tell us about your show?

Fix My Brain is a show about living with depression, both as a sufferer and as a close friend of someone going through it. It follows Dillon struggling to overcome the condition while his best friend Oliver provides support which is by turns over-enthusiastic and apathetic. We explore the warped thought processes that depression gives rise to; the difficulties of being there for someone when they are in pain; and the irrational and sometimes completely unstoppable nature of the disease. And we do it all while trying to be very funny. It seems to work, somehow.

Why did you decide to perform at Brighton Fringe?

Brighton is a festival we’ve always admired and from previously attending we thought there was a great feel to the way comedy is put on here. But above all we just wanted to connect with new audiences in a new space. We always consider that a really important part of testing out material and it’s been great to be able to hone our writing and performances further by bringing the show to audiences that stretch beyond the younger crowd we’re used to.

What was the writing process for the show like?

Our writing is a mixture of highly organised sitting down and planning out the story, and highly disorganised pacing around and throwing jokes at each other. Basically, we had the skeleton of a plot in mind about two people whose relationship becomes more and more subject to conflict because of mental illness. From there, we ended up free-form pitching gags at each and filled the story to the brim with things that made us laugh. It was a fairly open process, but we tried to look for gags that might have some small touch of insight into the topic we’re exploring.

Where do you generally take inspiration from when writing? 

For Fix My Brain, we actually started by trying to produce a traditional sketch show. Dillon pitched the idea of writing a comedy about his mental health almost as a joke. But as we discussed it more, we found that we were able to find gags far more quickly than expected because it was coming from a place of honesty. So really, while we were very conscious of not being self-indulgent, the writing came from that combination of Dillon’s internal experience of depression and Oliver’s cold external perspective of the illness as junior doctor.

When did you first get into performance? Was it something you always wanted to do?

We’ve both been writing and performing since secondary school, but I guess we really kicked into gear at university when we joined the same comedy society and started regularly writing/performing in shows. I think for both of us it has been a lifelong interest, and it’s something we are striving to make the focus our lives.

Has the show undergone any changes while at Brighton, based on audience response?

Every day on the train to Brighton we would run all our lines and make adjustments based on how things had gone the previous night. We always keep a note of what seems to working and vice-versa, and our main focus is always to tighten up the jokes and make it funnier. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of writing for us, and we try something new every single night.

Do you, or have you had, a career outside of the creative industry?

Dillon teaches people and Oliver tries to stop people from dying. We find that generally, with those jobs we make almost enough to get by, and then when we add on our earnings as comedians, we’re a little bit further away. But we hope the balance will shift in the next… 3-4 years? (That’s the time limit we put on the collapse of the NHS).

What changes would you like to see in the industry?

It would be great if there were more opportunities for people starting out to get on the ladder and make themselves known, rather than the inevitable need for lots of personal connections. But that said, there are so many great comedians doing amazing things so in lots of ways it’s a great industry to be part of.

If you could send a message to your 16-year old self, what would it be?

Oliver would probably tell his younger self to hold off on the whole medical school thing. Dillon would probably say very little to his younger self, to avoid hurting his morale.

What’s next for you?

We’re taking this show to Edinburgh in 2019 and looking to do as many festivals / gigs as possible in the build up to that to make it as sharp as it can be. But generally, we’re going to be writing more shows and we have a bunch of screenwriting projects that we’re working on. Basically, whatever we can do to peck at the diamond monolith that is breaking into the writing industry.

Where can people find out more?

We’re on Twitter - and Facebook -  - and you can also check out Oliver’s YouTube channel here -


Header: Provided by Two Surnames 


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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