Arts

Aussie comedian Sarah Kendall heads Out to Lunch in Belfast

Sarah Kendall has twice been nominated for the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award and brings last summer's shortlisted show to Belfast next week. The Aussie stand-up talks to Brian Campbell

Sarah Kendall plays two shows in Belfast on January 20

SARAH Kendall grew up in Australia watching Jimeoin McKeown on TV but one of her biggest comic influences is the late US film director John Hughes.

“I love John Hughes and all of his films; I think they’ve really affected me and my style and the way I put together narratives.”

At first I thought Kendall had said Sean Hughes, who – like the Australian comic – is playing the Out to Lunch festival in Belfast this month.

“He’s great too, but he didn’t do Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” she laughs.

Hughes – John, that is – is also well known for films including Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Pretty in Pink, The Great Outdoors and Home Alone.

Home Alone was released in 1990 and Kendall’s new one-hour show A Day In October – which was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly the Perrier Award) last year – is inspired by something that happened that year.

“It’s a story about a boy who I went to school with who drowned and was resuscitated, so it’s about how his life and death (for 11 seconds) impacted on everybody around him,” she says.

“So it’s not a straight stand-up show – it’s an hour-long story and it has serious elements in it. I take huge pleasure in writing this kind of show, where there’s tragedy and comedy in equal measures.”

Kendall was also award-nominated in Edinburgh in 2004 and she says it’s always good to get such recognition.

“Getting nominated is a good shorthand for whether or not you had a good festival, because nobody outside of Edinburgh knows what happened. If people hear through the grapevine that you got nominated, they go 'Oh, you must have had a good festival’.”

She has been to the Edinburgh Fringe 10 times now and says the month-long stint can be “a real slog”.

"Edinburgh has just become too big. It’s overwhelmingly huge and the guide is the size of a phone book. It’s a shame, because it usually means that people will generally decide to go and see the person they’ve seen on TV.”

Based in London, she and her husband have a son and a daughter and Kendall took a couple of years off from the Edinburgh circuit when she had her children.

“When I had my daughter I wrote a load of material about being a mum and being a mother to a daughter. But I decided that when I was out doing shows I didn’t really want to talk about being a mum; I sort of wanted to keep it a separate world.

“And then you can polarise your audience, because most people in comedy clubs don’t have children.”

Kendall has appeared on TV on programmes such as Russell Howard’s Good News and Beehive, features on several Radio 4 comedy shows and has been commissioned to write a series of short stories for the radio station.

So how did she get into comedy?

“I’d been doing it for about two years in Australia before I came to England 15 years ago. I started at uni because we had a student comedy hour every week. I was very bad at it and I was frustrated at why I was amusing to my friends but terrible on stage.

“So I just worked at it really hard and I got better at it. I had awful anxiety and stage fright when I started, so I think that’s why I wasn’t translating particularly well on to stage.”

She recalls watching Australia-based Co Derry comic Jimeoin on TV when she was growing up in New South Wales.

“Yeah, he’s huge in Australia. I’ve worked with him quite a few times. He’s such a natural. I can’t really imagine him ever being crippled by nerves.”

:: Sarah Kendall plays two shows at The Black Box in Belfast on Wednesday (1pm and 8pm), as part of the Out to Lunch festival (cqaf.com).

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