Scottish comic Fern Brady on her Donegal roots, Shaun Ryder and the Edinburgh Fringe
Rising Scottish comedy star Fern Brady ditched journalism for comedy, has worked with Andrew Maxwell and Shaun Ryder and had a successful first solo run at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer. Ahead of a Belfast gig next week, she talks to Brian Campbell
FERN Brady has got to work with some interesting names in her comedy career to date – the likes of Andrew Maxwell, Stewart Lee and the 8 out of 10 Cats gang on Channel 4.
Yet the Scottish comic says a panel show she did on the TV channel Russia Today last week was “the most bizarre thing” she’d done so far.
“It was this show called News Thing and the guests were Shaun Ryder and Ken Livingstone,” she says.
“Shaun Ryder’s veneers kept threatening to fall out,” she laughs. “We all had a drink after and [Ryder] was really normal. He was just saying how hard it is getting old and he’s going a bit deaf.”
After mixing with the Happy Mondays singer and London politician Livingstone, Fern’s comedy career takes her to the bright lights of Belfast next week, returning to Ireland after doing a run of gigs north and south in January.
“I was really excited about that Irish tour for ages, but I ended up getting the flu so I only had one night of not being ill,” she says.
“But the gigs were good. I have material about being Catholic and when you do that in London people just nod politely but in Ireland they were going daft for it, especially Belfast.
“I really liked playing the Roisin Dubh in Galway and Whelan’s in Dublin. The Empire was great but by the time I got to Belfast I hadn’t eaten for a few days and was still feeling ill, so I’m glad I’m coming back when I’m actually well.
“I hadn’t been in Belfast since I was little. My gran lives in Donegal and a guy with no legs used to drive us from Belfast to Donegal.”
Surely this “guy with no legs” will be mentioned when Fern plays the Queen’s Comedy Club on Wednesday.
Fern – from Bathgate in West Lothian but now living in London – says she used to go on family holidays to Ireland when she was growing up.
“Yeah, I’d be over most summers to stay at my gran’s place on an island where they all speak Irish.
“A lot of people in Scotland came from Donegal. I think Frankie Boyle’s family is from there too.”
In terms of Irish comics, she is a fan of Eleanor Tiernan, Chris Kent and Andrew Maxwell.
While Fern was training to be a news journalist, she did a feature that involved her performing a stand-up show and she liked it so much she decided to quit her budding news career to pursue comedy full-time.
“Before doing comedy I always felt really bored. I was a trainee news reporter before that. I just really didn’t fancy doing council meetings and `death knocks’.”
As well as gigging constantly, she wrote a pilot TV show for BBC Three called Radges, appeared on Channel 4 News to discuss the Scottish independence referendum and performed her first Edinburgh Fringe solo show (People Are Idiots) last summer.
“It went well. I thought it would be terrible, but it all sold out. Maybe it’ll be bad this year as punishment,” she laughs. “I grew up in Bathgate, which is only 20 minutes away on a train from Edinburgh, but the Fringe was just seen as a thing that posh people went to. So nobody from my town would go to it.”
So are her parents proud of her comedy career to date?
“My mum’s quite proud of me but my dad’s terminally unimpressed by everything. The first time he saw me [doing comedy] was on 8 out of 10 Cats. His work colleague phoned him to tell him and he wasn’t bothered about it. Although I hosted a radio show in Scotland and they both thought that was amazing.”
And while she’ll have plenty to talk about at her Belfast gig, Fern says she hasn’t got too far with her new Edinburgh routine for this summer.
“I’ve written five minutes of it so far. I have quite a boring life at the minute, so I don’t seem to have much to talk about. But then this time last year I hadn’t even started writing my show, so I should be ok.”
:: Fern Brady plays the Queen’s Comedy Club at the Mandela Hall in Belfast on Wednesday from 9pm, along with Kai Humphries. Tickets £6 (www.mandelahall.com)