Interview with Athena Kugblenu

Athena Kugblenu takes some time to talk to Voice about the show, inspirations, and to give advice to young people.

Interview with Athena Kugblenu

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

I'm a standup comedian. I try and find ways talk about serious things like politics, racism and parents desperate for grandchildren, whilst making people laugh.

How would you describe your show?

Eclectic, I cover a lot of subjects in my hours. My comedy comes from a place of reason, whatever your views or background you will have something to agree or disagree with. I question everything; I am not really into dogmatism. It's a funny expedition through my brain as I think about all the weird stuff that's happened over the past 12 months or so.

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

The world is comedy and Edinburgh is its heart. It's where you can see everything comedy has to offer. And I like inclement weather.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

Better than Glastonbury because you don't have to camp. Slightly better than Carnival because it lasts for a month, you don't lose all your friends (in fact quite the opposite you constantly bump into people you know) and there is always a toilet when you need one.

Do you think the Fringe has changed over the years? If so, how? Are these changes positive or negative?

I think it's got bigger, which is positive because it means it's more accessible. It has also got more expensive – and the people who earn the least are a lot of the acts. That's a shame because if there are no acts, there is no Fringe. Last year I found plantain. This is a definite improvement.

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

I thought it would make me rich. When it made me poor I continued because I thought it would make being poor bearable. I'm inspired by Gina Yashere, Chris Rock, Joan Rivers, Malcolm X, Issa Rae...

If you didn't have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

Project Management

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?

I would be a stand up comedian! But based in St Lucia.

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

Making solid masterpieces from Stickle Bricks

Do you ever feel any pressure to be a social commentator, or constantly update material to respond to events?

It's not pressure, it's an opportunity. When I see narratives that I disagree with become popular with the press or with people on social media, comedy is a perfect way to use my voice to counter it. I am not afraid to approach difficult subjects, I like challenging people because progress isn't achieved by silence.

Equally, do you think there has been a shift in public sentiment that has affected your work?

Yes, we have become a more divided country. We are terrible at listening to each other and base our political beliefs on personal gain rather than a belief in solid principles. It's turned my comedy into commentary on a lot of these issues because I find it fascinating. I'm happy at Labour's resurgence but for some reason, I don't trust it…we seem a fickle nation at the moment.

Generally, I think people are thirsty for more diversity in the arts. They are bypassing the mainstream and finding stuff for themselves. Stormzy has been doing big things for ages, I think he won a BET award last year! Now the mainstream follows us. We don't wait for them anymore.

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Lord Buckethead has 118K followers

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

John Landis. I would give myself a role in Coming to America. Everyone who had a role in that film became iconic. Even the guy who likes washing lettuce.

Why would a performer opt to do either a ticketed event or participate in the free fringe? What are the benefits and limitations of both?

Free shows are great! However you may not 'find your audience' because people come to your show with no commitment. People also throw strange things into your bucket like beer mats and pounds sterling (post Brexit I'd prefer Euros). The venues aren't necessarily purpose built comedy venues so lacking in air conditioning or good lighting etc. However they are free so come with very little financial risk.

Paid shows cost a fortune. But you get a nice venue. You get support so you are not doing all the logistical work yourself. But they cost a fortune. Did I mention the money? They cost a fortune.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Try to go to Edinburgh Fringe at some point for a few days without a show. Watch a few shows. Then plan, plan, plan, plan, plan (that's the project manager in me talking). Start your planning early – December the year before is not too early. And invest time and money. And scout your Edinburgh flat mates early before the clean and tidy comedians get snapped up. And watch as many shows as you can.

When and where can people see your show?

Underbelly, Med Quad, 2 – 27 Aug, 17.50. It's called KMT

And where can people find, follow and like you online?


Athena Kugblenu: KMT is performing at Underbelly, Med Quad at 17:50 on 2nd – 27th (not 14th). For tickets and more information visit the Ed Fringe website.

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is a Politics graduate, and holds a Masters in Journalism. He serves as Editor for Voice, and has an almost unhealthy obsession with Batman. His hobbies include gaming and reading graphic novels - his current go to series is Bill Willingham's Fables.

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