Interview: Poets Against Humanity's ​Andrew Blair & Ross McCleary

Andrew Blair and Ross McCleary are Edinburgh-local writers and collaborators. In 2015 they won the PBH Free Fringe ‘Best Double Act’ award for their show Is this Poetry? This year they are bringing two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, McCleary and Blair Panda to the Audience, and their regular monthly night Poets Against Humanity.

Maybe you could describe it as a satire in that it changes nothing

What is Panda to the Audience about?

Andrew Blair: Last year we wrote a show about putting on a show. It was a show about Edinburgh, and being a poet in Edinburgh. In it we raised a lot of questions without answering them. Panda to the Audience is a joke to get people on our side, because we are wearing panda onesies. The show is about death. Weirdly, death is a more approachable subject than being an artist in Edinburgh.

Ross McCleary: We also wanted to explore where we sat within this scene. With this show we wanted to get a bigger audience. We did not want to change our work, but say things that people are interested in.

How has this changed from Is this Poetry?

AB: I’ve been reading a lot more poetry, as opposed to simply watching it. I think we have got better at an emotional connection. This show has been a return to writing stuff that would fit both the theme and be direct in its message. I enjoy dynamic contrasts.

RM: I have a few pieces in the show that have emotional resonance, whereas before they were operating on a more cerebral level. I’ve been writing a lot recently, recently publishing a novel. We have moved away from our humour angle; being funny is not so crucial to us anymore.

What kind of reaction are you looking for in an audience?

RM: We are getting better at being self aware about our work. Andrew recognises that a lot of his poems are about poetry. I wrote a very specific poem about poetry for the last show. We recognise that this is a bit niche. In our careers we are looking for the next stage to progress to, and this show is an attempt to address this.

AB: We asked ourselves what we wanted to achieve with this, beyond just entertaining people. At the Fringe that is a huge aspect of it, in a very shop-window display style.

Would you describe Poets Against Humanity as satire?

RM: No, not really.

AB: The slogan for the show is “At last, a show that will solve everything”. And it will. I want you to print that.

When it started it felt like a high concept, but I don’t feel like it is totally offensive. I don’t think Poets Against Humanity is going to change anyone’s mind. The joke have politically loaded content with reference to poetry, but poets enjoy taking part in it.

RM: We are confident in the tone we take, where the jokey cynicism isn’t to be taken seriously. The fun of the show is not worrying about that. Because we don’t push it across the line into Cards Against Humanity style humour, it does not become offensive.

Maybe you could describe it as a satire in that it changes nothing. But because of the way the game plays out, it becomes funny. People don’t care about our jaded cynicism because they find it funny.

You can follow Andrew Blair on Twitter at @FreelanceLiar, Ross McCleary at @strongmisgiving. Poets Against Humanity is on the 15th August at 19:30 in the Banshee Labyrinth (Venue 156). McLeary and Blair Panda to the Audience runs 21st-28th August at 21:50 in the Banshee Labyrinth (Venue 156).

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