Theatre editor Daniel Perks catches up with musical comedian Tamar Broadbent ahead of her latest show, Get Ugly, and its final performance to chat about the future, the past and the point of comedy:

Tamar Broadbent is one of my favourite comedians. I first saw her on the Edinburgh Free Fringe in 2015 and it was indeed a Brave New World for yours truly. Two years later, she has toured a successful new show, Get Ugly, from Edinburgh to Perth and back again, with numerous comedy awards nominations under her belt.

“It was a really liberating, exciting show to write – for the first time, I was very honest about everything. I was the most myself I’d ever been. I got to share the story with so many people, from a pub to Perth. I could have rock star lights, or Tamar’s idea of rock star lights – blue, pink, green, blue, pink, green, blue, pink, green. Primary colour lights, anything that’s not a single bulb!”

“When I found out about the comedy nomination, I was on a train platform listening to the Ghostbusters theme tune, dancing alone.”

Tamar Broadbent Get Ugly

Miss Nightingale

She has also performed in new musical Miss Nightingale, which comes into the West End at the Hippodrome Casino in March 2018. Now, she’s in a show with her best friend, Emma Pritchard, at VAULT Festival 2018Split is one of my top picks for the festival this year, a rom-com two-hander about female friendship and growing up in the 00s.

Split is there to show that girl characters can be hilarious and kick ass as well. We’ve all been through these mortifications and brilliant moments – it’s a love story before you fall in love. With our amazing female creative team, director Sara Joyce and a 00s soundtrack, it’s pure nostalgia!”

I like to try and inspire people

I think the thing that I personally love the most about Tamar’s work is that is comes from an honest, friendly and open place. This is comedy that relates to its audience by reminding us we’re not in this alone. It doesn’t preach, and it doesn’t rant. But it still connects:

“I like to try and inspire people. Whether or not that works…! Get Ugly is about those feelings of going from weakness to strength, insecurity to self-confidence. It has appeal to women and men, young people and septuagenarians. Even though I am a woman in my twenties, there are life experiences that we are all still going through.”

“Ultimately, comedy is about point of view, so how on earth would you make a joke that isn’t about how you feel about something or that doesn’t have honesty to it? My favourite type of comedy is where the performer is being honest, where it goes on a journey, where there is some level of emotion involved with it. I’ve always loved storytelling, so have decided as an artist that those are the types of journeys I want to take.”

Tamar Broadbent Get Ugly

Image courtesy of Steve Ullathorne

I was so average, I wasn’t even bad

Comedy is in many ways the most subjective of performance arts – it’s so tailored to what the individual, as well as the audience as a whole, finds funny. There’s a very easy way to tell if your comedic performance is working or failing – the sound of laughter, or the deafening sound of silence, is the most instantaneous feedback possible. Every kind of performance is an exercise in courage, but a one-woman comedy show has to be one of the bravest types:

“I was so average, I wasn’t even bad” – it’s a Steve Martin quote. It’s so interesting for us as performers – if you are bad, at least you’re trying something interesting, you’re trying to break boundaries. I just went to Ecole Philippe Gaulier, where you learn to try something and fail quite significantly. To be a comedian, you have to be ok with being totally humiliated – once you’re not scared of looking incredibly stupid, there is a real power that comes with that.”

January March Vault Festival 2018

Tamar Broadbent and Emma Pritchard’s Split

The shelf life comes from the performer

I get the impression that one of Tamar’s biggest fears is to be average, to be forgettable, or to be stuck in the same piece of work for years and years. I share her anxieties. I think it’s a symptom of our millennial generation that are constantly looking for the new, the exciting, or the next big thing. To be on the same path for our entire lives, just like many of our parents were, is a terrifying premise.

“I feel like I could perform Get Ugly in ten years and people would still be able to relate to the things that happened. The shelf life comes from the performer – your feelings about things change. The best artists are those that try new styles. Somebody like Madonna was so successful for so long because she was willing to grow. Being ok to fail, that’s what life is!”

Maybe this is why Get Ugly is, at least for now, hanging up its hat and coat. But only after one last performance, one last outing in the most glamorous of cabaret spaces – Live At Zedel. I expect a mixture of sophisticated grand piano with glittery sequins, rock star lights and shows about pubic hair. What a gorgeous contrast! It will be a farewell performance from a show that reminds people to be free, to be themselves, not to be defined or judged by a relationship status.

“Satisfied and free – that’s how people should be. There’s no point in getting nice if you can Get Ugly!”

 

 

Get Ugly plays at Live At Zedel on Tue 6 February 2018. For the full programme of events and for tickets, visit the Zedel website here.