Ginny Hogan and Nick Pupo are two New-Yorkers who will be debuting their solo comedy shows Regression and Addicted at Edinburgh Fringe this year. Not only do Ginny and Nick share a ZIP code, but their past experiences with addiction provide both comics with prolific material for their darkly funny routines.
The word ‘addicted’ can mean many things, but one thing I believe it doesn’t mean is ‘hopeless.’
Isabella Thompson was delighted to speak to them about their upcoming runs at Fringe.
Hi Ginny, how’s your week been?
My week’s been great! I actually just finished the last run of my show before I take it to the UK, and it went great, so I'm feeling excited for the festival.
That’s great to hear. Your show, Regression, is centred on the idea you need to ‘get your life together’ by the time you’re 30. That age seems to be a common sticking point for people so I’d like to know your thoughts: what is it about 30?
I think it's the way the media portrays the age of 30 - it's an easy way to give a character a deadline, almost. There's something narratively convenient about fixing the age by which we need to have it all together. At the same time, there are unique social features of 30. You can't possibly need your whole life together by the time you're 20 — you're still in college. The very nature of our frustrating biological clocks means decisions about having kids and whatnot need to be made by the time we're 40 (although the timeline is getting longer), so 40 can't be the benchmark year, either. So of the decades, 30 is basically mama bear — neither too early nor too late. Well, except that for me, it seems too late for many decisions (starting a PhD, for example), and way too early for others (having children). But it definitely represents some sort of end of innocence in our minds, whether or not that plays out in our lives.
Well so far you’ve become a very accomplished writer and journalist. What prompted you to open up to your readers about your own struggles and life journey?
I started to get honest about my sobriety almost as soon as I got sober. When I was three months sober, I posted about it and got something like 5000 new Twitter followers, and I'm sorry to say that was the impetus I needed to keep going. I'm a public person in general, so I don't keep much to myself anyway, but there was something specific about sobriety that made me want to open up. It was self-serving, really—I figured the more people knew I was sober, the less possible it would be to drink publicly. I almost created a character and then shoved myself into it, but it's also who I wanted to be. I like to write about the dark side of sobriety too, though, because I think it's so glorified, and I want people to know that even if they find it impossible, it doesn't mean they're doing it wrong.
It’s fascinating to hear about this online character you created knowing that you used to be a data scientist. Do you think your analytical brain helps or hinders the complex art of stand-up comedy?
A little of both. As a programmer, the goal was always to write computer code that served a purpose in as few lines of code as possible, and I take that same attitude with joke writing. Anywhere I can cut words, I try to — I want the minimum amount of context necessary to make the punchline land. Sometimes I get over-analytical, too, though—I've kept jokes that I don't like in my set just because the audience laughs at them. After years of telling jokes I don't think are funny, though, I've started to burn out, so I now try to stick to what I actually find entertaining. I don't have to keep something in my set just because the data suggests it fits.
And finally Ginny, what is the message you would like your audience to take away from seeing your show?
I mostly want people to laugh. And go a little easier on themselves. Even though the themes are dark, it's a light-hearted show, and my goal is to be relatable. I really want my audience members to have a good time.
Thank you Ginny, I’m really looking forward to seeing your work.
Ginny Hogan’s debut stand-up show Regression is at the Gilded
Balloon Teviot – The Lounge at 1.40pm from 2nd – 27th August (not 14th)
For tickets go to www.edfringe.com
Hi Nick, how are you doing today?
Hi! You know what? I’m feeling great. You’ve caught me on one of my good days,
which aren’t as frequent as I’d like for them to be, not to sound like an absolute
bummer so early into this Q&A. Usually when someone asks me how I’m doing, I
say, “I’m okay!” which is often code for, “HELP ME!!!” I like to disguise my daily
dread in a secret code that only I understand, so as not to inconvenience anyone
by employing them as my momentary therapist against their will. I’m not unique in
this way, I think a lot of people, especially comedians, live by this ridiculous code.
Nevertheless, today is good, and I know exactly why: It’s because last night I did
stand-up on a show in Brooklyn that I really love and I had a great set, and,
unfortunately for me, a great set is the ultimate fix, the perfect antidepressant. And I say 'unfortunately' because, goddamn, it would be far more manageable if the
perfect antidepressant was my Prozac. Anyway, nice to meet you!
Your show is incredibly vulnerable as well as funny. What prompted you to open up about your addiction and, in particular, to write a show about it?
First of all, thank you for the compliment. That’s very kind. My show is a story that is very close to me. It focuses on the most important childhood friendship of my life and how I destroyed it with lies and drugs. For about 14 years, it’s been a story I’ve told only to close friends and romantic partners, because I am the anti-hero of the story. It’s the story that I tell when I’m ready to trust someone, It’s my way of saying, “I want you to know me.” About a year ago, I told this story to Jordan Jensen, who is not only a friend whom I love but a comedian I respect, and she recommended I write it as a screenplay. I’d never seriously considered it until then, but I also didn’t want to write a screenplay that would likely sit on my desktop for years while I pitch it around, only to likely never get it made. If I was gonna tell the story at all, I’d rather do it live and do it immediately. Addiction, generally speaking, is something I’ve always been pretty open about, ever since I started doing stand-up, which was right after I kicked heroin. It helps my emotional brain tremendously to talk openly about something so deeply personal to a room full of complete strangers, especially if I can make it funny. That’s why I wrote it, and I hope it helps others to hear it.
I hear you’re based in New York and that this is your Fringe debut - have you performed to British or European audiences before? If so, how does it differ from the New York comedy scene?
Yes I am based in the City of New York! And no, I have never performed for British or European audiences. I’ve only heard from friends what to expect, which doesn’t help much because every one of them has had their own experiences. I’ll do more research so that I know what to expect from your people, because right now I’m in the dark. Come to my show and teach me to be like you.
This show focuses on your past, and it is commendable that you managed to go clean on your own. It’s been 14 years since then - what does the word ‘Addicted’ mean to you now?
Again, thank you for the compliment. I’m blushing. So, I no longer have shame surrounding the fact that I was addicted to heroin. It’s a major reason why I am the person that I am, and as much as I struggle with my own mental health (blah blah blah), I like that person, finally. Right now, there are bits in the show where I illuminate this personal dilemma of mine surrounding my feelings about the label ‘addict,’ because it’s a very general one. Most people don’t understand addiction, and when they hear you’re a ‘recovering addict,’ they base their perception of you strictly off of what they see in the news, TV, and film, which are very trite and tired portrayals. They also don’t know how to respond. Once they find out you did heroin, they assume that you’re anxious and on edge anytime you’re surrounded by alcohol or weed; that’s not true for me. The only drugs that make me uncomfortable are opiates, and, lucky for me, I don’t hang around people who do opiates. That’s one of the positives about heroin: It’s not like booze. It’s not readily available at every bar and gas station . You can’t pay a bartender to give you a bag of heroin, except for, of course, the bartenders out there who also sell heroin. The word ‘addicted’ can mean many things, but one thing I believe it doesn’t mean is ‘hopeless.’ I think most people endure the plight of addiction on a daily basis, be it your phone, TV, sex, sugar, food, drugs, booze, you’re gonna have to wrestle with addiction in some form or another, but it’s never hopeless…or maybe I shouldn’t say never. I dunno, man, addiction is fucking complicated. Maybe that’s the best that I can say about it. Damn, this is bumming even me out. I’m still learning what it means as I go along. We’ll see how I feel after the festival.
What about your show are you most excited about?
I’m just excited to show it to you. It’s been over a year in the making and it’s finally in a place that feels strong and funny and compelling. This show has already done so much for me as a writer and performer on a personal and creative level. I’m a better artist and person having taken on this project. Several people after seeing the show have opened up to me about their own friendships and addictions, sometimes through tears, and it’s goddamn beautiful, it was such a pleasant surprise to see my work have any kind of emotional impact on strangers. Anyway, thanks for asking me to do this. It was a pleasure to share. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go enjoy the remaining six hours of this happiness wave I created last night with my incredible performance.
Thank you Nick, I can’t wait to watch the show.
Nick Pupo’s debut stand-up show Addicted is at Just the Tonic at the Bottle Room at 6.10pm from 3rd-27th August (not 14th). For for tickets go to www.edfringe.com