Claire Woolner: Pee Power

We met up with Claire Woolner, the LA-based absurdist comedian, performance artist and surrealist clown who has a string of credits to her name: At the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2023, she was awarded Winner: Top of the Fringe; Winner: Encore Producer's Award; Winner: Pick of the Fringe; Winner: Platinum Medal; and Nominee: Best Solo Performance. She brings her show Claire Woolner: A Retrospection to this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

I try to have the urge to pee badly

What inspired you to enter into the world of surrealism and clown entertainment?

In 2016 I saw a show called The Simple Simples, that my friend Tim Reid (clown scholar, idiot and genius) invited me to. The show was directed by John Gilkey and was the best thing I had ever seen in my life. It made me feel a way I couldn't describe and all I knew was that I wanted to do whatever these people were doing. Thus began my journey into the dark k-hole that is clown, shepherded by Gilkey himself, with whom I have since co-devised and performed in numerous shows.

How do you prepare for a show?

I try to have the urge to pee badly enough to keep me on my toes, but not enough that I will pee my pants.

How do you manage to seem so relaxed on stage? Is it through experience?

Definitely experience has made me very comfortable onstage. I wouldn't say I'm relaxed, though –I have to pee a little and want to hear every single thing that goes on in the room so I'm actually trying to pay attention as much as I can. If I'm relaxed, I apologize, and am happy to give you your money back for my free show.

Are you worried about the British reaction to your show?

I'm always worried about audience reaction to my show in some way, because I want people to enjoy it and want to see it again and again and tell everyone about it. But I can't control anyone's reaction, really, so worrying about it doesn't help me. I want to do the best show I can do and the people who like it like it and the ones who don't don't. (That was all a lie – I am intensely driven by the desire to be liked/loved, especially by the UK).

Do you have any tips for beating the awkwardness of tough crowds?

Don't be mean to them!

Why did you want to bring your award-winning show to Edinburgh Fringe?

I bought my plane ticket to Edinburgh and decided to come to Edinburgh Fringe before I even made my award-winning show. I attended the Fringe as an audience member during the last week of 2022 and made a decision that I would be create and bring a show the following year. I didn't know what the show would be, but I knew I wanted to come to this incredible Fringe that was so fun and inspiring. It's good that the show has won awards since then and I hope people will now believe it is worth 50ish minutes of their time.

What most excites you about Edinburgh Fringe?

Performing over and over and discovering more gems within my show that I didn't know were there. Meeting other performers and being inspired and brain-blown.

When you get there, what's the first things you want to do?

Take off my shoes and put my feet on the actual grass. Next, figure out my morning coffee situation and then wrangle my props.

Do you have any tips for embarrassed/awkward audience members when performers involve them in their show?

It will be over soon.

What were the best and worst moments you experienced during your award-winning run in Hollywood?

Best: performing for sold-out houses. Being moved to a larger theater and selling that out. Getting shows added. I love discovering in my show and performing it for a lot of people. Also, I saw a couple of really great shows and made at least two new actual friends that are super talented, so that's very cool.

Worst: having to lug a PA and a mic into my theater for every show because the theater weirdly didn't have one. Also the panic before every single show of not having all my props.

Related Listings

A Retrospection

A Retrospection

Claire Woolner, LA-based absurdist comedian, blows hard on the edges of performance art and swims into surrealist clown. 

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this article has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now