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Andrea Hubert: Week, Edinburgh Preview

| Comedy, Festivals | 09/08/2016

Andrea Hubert 1

In our fourth Edinburgh Fringe preview, Ian Cater meets Andrea Hubert to discuss her debut hour-long show about the life-changing seven days in which the London-based writer and comedian was thrown out of a supermarket, contemplated suicide and finally accepted her need for anti-depressants.

Despite its dark premise, Week – performed daily at Gilded Balloon at the Counting House – is already receiving rave reviews from comedy critics.  More than that, it looks set to help audience members going through similar struggles.

First, an apology of sorts: all our Fringe previews have so far featured a rather bleak backdrop.  Breakups, bullying, breast cancer – a smorgasbord of the bad things life can throw at us.  And this one’s no different: Andrea Hubert’s new show, Week, centres on a twenty-year cycle of depression which became so severe that in 2014 she was removed from a shop for hurling tomatoes at complete strangers.

But what unites these shows isn’t their darkness: it’s their honesty and the fact that each is – if early reviews are believed – extremely funny.  “The backbone of my show is depression,” Hubert acknowledges, “but the aim is to be really funny.  I  certainly don’t want people to feel they’ve gone through the mill!”

226x332_Andrea%20email%203%20(c)Audiences like their comedians vulnerable, reinforcing the adage that happiness writes white.  But shows like Hubert’s also offer an altruistic element: Week reassures people that it’s ok – and often necessary – to accept you need help.

“Growing up, the idea of taking medication for your brain was discouraged.  It was demonised as weak,” she says.  “So I put off treatment for ages, because I thought it was braver and stronger to overcome things myself.”

Hubert’s public meltdown changed her mind, but the show’s seeds were sewn in an article she wrote for Standard Issue Magazine in April 2015.  “It explained why I went on medication and the positive effects it had for me.  That was the genesis of my show, as I found it really interesting to see how people responded.  Lots said: ‘I felt like this too, now I’m going to the doctor to get some pills.'”

Life changer

“When I finally went on anti-depressants, they totally changed my life.  But it’s important not to preach.  I don’t know anyone else’s experience; I just want to be funny.  And what ended up being funny was writing about all the ways things could have been different if I hadn’t been so crazy.  So my show revolves around story-telling … not self-help!”

Andrea-Hubert-GL-2Writing has long been a strength, evidenced by Hubert’s previous career as an arts journalist for The Guardian before realising it wasn’t for her.  “But I didn’t know what was my thing.  Then I had a breakup in 2009 and talked about it at a storytelling night called Spark.  It got a good response and reminded me how much I enjoyed doing plays as a kid.  So I tried stand-up and thought: ‘Ok, I think this is what I want.'”

But, unlike some, Hubert doesn’t see stand-up as a way of working through her problems.  “I love performing and wouldn’t be without it.  But I think that therapy is therapy, and comedy is something funny you write about the therapy.

“When I was in a real state, I wasn’t well enough to get on stage and be funny.  People would say: ‘Go for a run.  You’ll feel a lot better.’  And I’d be like: ‘Go for a run?  Are you kidding?  I can’t even lift my head.'”

Rat fans

After a pleasing debut at Late ‘n’ Live last August, Hubert wants to develop a broader following with her first hour-long show.  “I worry that it’s a lot of me for an audience to take,” she cautions with typical modesty, reminding herself of the bad as well as the good.  “One year, I did a mixed-bill show at the Fringe at one of those venues that hadn’t really been built yet.  I remember performing to about two people, seeing this huge rat in the corner and thinking: ‘This isn’t what I signed up for.'”

“But it is what you sign up for with comedy.  You sign up for amazing gigs in front of hundreds of people where every single one gets you.  And you sign up for gigs where everyone hates you, and you have to stay up there for twenty minutes while you’re absolutely reviled.”

Andrea HubertAlongside stand-up, Hubert continues to write sitcoms with fellow comedian Ryan Cull.  “We’ve got two at the moment: one here and one we’re pitching in America.  It’s very exciting because it’s all meetings, conference calls, exchanging ideas,” she enthuses.  “You want this stage to last forever, because the next step is either an awful lot more work or rejection!”

The pair have worked together since 2010 and Hubert can’t wait to see Cull’s show, Brace Yourself, at the Fringe.  “We clicked because we’re into the same type of American comedy: really fast-paced, packed with jokes, so that’s what we strive towards.”

Acting up

Hubert intends to act in her sitcoms, albeit not in a main role.  “I’m the least confident person because I think I can I do the job, but I wouldn’t be able to sell myself as ‘the star’,” she explains.  “I just couldn’t bring myself to say that.

“So I always try to write a sarcastic, gothic, Jewish part, as I can play all those things to perfection.  That way, when they say: ‘Actually, we want someone famous for the lead’, I can say: ‘I agree, but what about Mildred over there?  Hmmm … she’s very tall and constantly quipping in Yiddish.  I could give her a go.’  I’m trying to be smart really.”

For now, acting plays second fiddle as Hubert focuses on her writing and stand-up.  “I really want to make something people love.  That matters a lot.  You can create stuff in a vacuum, but without people saying ‘that helped get me through a hard time’ or ‘that made me really laugh when I needed it’, then it’s not worth as much.”  And then, as a happier and healthier talent thriving in a second career, she reflects: “But overall I’m just delighted to be doing this.”

Andrea Hubert is performing Week at 15.45 between 9th and 29th August (not 15th or 16th) at Gilded Balloon at the Counting House.  Tickets are available via The Fringe’s Box Office.  For more about Andrea, follow her on Twitter @ShutUpAndrea.

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