We all have a funny relationship with money, and Alison Spittle, Lane Kwederis and Mary O’Connell are no exception. Their respective solo shows contain uniquely witty perspectives on personal finance in the 21st century that promise to delight Edinburgh Festival Fringe audiences this year. Isabella Thompson was thrilled to speak to Lane, Mary and Alison about what they have in store for us.
I’m excited to share that side of myself in a longer form show. I’m also really excited to show off my props.
Hi Alison! How’s life treating you?
Life is alright actually! It's sunny and I've just had a bagel so I can’t complain. I'm typing out my show, so chatting to you is a welcome distraction. There's nothing that strikes fear in me more than seeing my jokes written out—it’s like going to the toilet in someone else's house, picking up a joke book on the cistern, having a read and realising it's your own diary.
I’m glad I can be of service. Firstly, I have to ask: how much does Ainsley Harriott’s cream bean dream cost and does it survive a batch cook?
Oooooh it's relatively cheap enough and it's survived my bouts of vegetarianism. It costs feck all really if you use frozen green beans and bacon off-cuts. It doesn't survive freezing; it barely survives a second meal as the creme fresh and stock can sometimes split. It's lucky it's so delicious. For readers who are unaware: pasta cream bean dream is pasta with fried bacon, onions and green beans with a veg stock and creme fraiche sauce with baby gem lettuce thrown in at the last second. I mentioned it on Off Menu and the listenership was split on cooked lettuce. Only God and Ainsley can judge me. Also, tinned tomatoes are your friends for batch cooks.
Noted. Now for the ‘serious’ questions: you were super successful at Fringe last year. How much have you drawn from that experience in your show, Soup this summer?
I've realised I'm capable of making a class show and that Edinburgh Fringe is not full of shit hahahaha and now that scares me.
You’ve achieved a comedian’s dream of selling out at multiple comedy festivals. What is it about your show that you think will delight your audience this year?
I'm trying to balance being a silly goose that's also scared of the world and I hope people find it interesting but most of all funny.
Is buying a ticket to your show a steal, an investment, or a bargain?
I'll level with you the Fringe goer: it depends on your financial state of affairs; to even make it to Edinburgh if you live outside the place is an achievement. So for my show, if you can afford to prebook, please do as it settles my nerves a bit and you're guaranteed entry. If you can't that's fine, I'm with Monkey Barrel this year and they will have room for a small number of walk-ups each day. So, I'll be doing a bucket at the end of the show and really at that point it's up to you. For cheap, filling eats I recommend the Nile Valley Cafe and I think Summerhall do cheap food for Fringe people. Also, fireworks and sunshine are free and you can hang out near the Prince's Gardens in the evenings and hear lovely music on your way to pick up half-price sushi from Itsu in that big shopping centre. The Scottish National Gallery is special and free to enter. You can have a good time on a budget, it's just a bit more of a faff.
Wonderful, it’s like you’re like the budget Michelin guide on Fringe. Thank you so much for talking to me today, I’m really looking forward to your show!
Alison Spittle returns to Edinburgh with Soup at the Monkey Barrel @ The Hive 1 at 1:25pm from 2nd-27th august (except 14th). For tickets go to www.edfringe.com
Hi Lane! What have you been up to this week?
I just got back from a trip to Helsinki, Berlin, and Paris so I am RESTING to gear up for the Fringe. I keep hearing how elating but also depleting the Fringe can be so I’m making it a point to move really slow this week and take it easy by doing things like going for walks in Prospect Park, here in Brooklyn, NY. I had told myself that a vacation to Europe is relaxing but I keep forgetting how tiring and stressful it is traipsing around numerous cities and countries in the span of two weeks! I ate a lot of good food while I was over there though. My body is exhausted but my belly is very happy.
You’ve written a tell-all show about the ins and outs of your day job as a sex worker. Sex and money are two things people can be incredibly secretive about. Has it been easy for you to open up?
It’s been super scary to open up about it. I actually hid that I’m a sex worker for over a decade. My parents didn’t even know. When I finally did tell them their response was, “Whatever makes you happy and also let’s stop talking about it”. They’re boomers. Can you tell? But it is such a relief that they now know and they’ve been so supportive of the success of the show.
I was also very worried I wouldn’t be taken seriously in the comedy community and only be seen as a dumb sex work bimbo. What I want to be seen as is a dumb sex work bimbo who’s VERY funny! Truly though, I’ve been overwhelmed with how accepting the comedy community has been. Many people I’ve told have said that that they or someone they know has done a form of sex work too. Sex work is way more common than we realise. It’s just not talked about. I hope that will start to change.
It is so good to hear that you’ve received such positivity after keeping your work a secret for so long. Does speaking about your day-job on stage make it harder to separate work from play?
Yes! It’s been challenging separating my findom and comedian sides. It’s already tricky separating interaction with clients from my personal life because so much of what I do as a financial dominatrix is actually done on my phone. Sometimes I’ll be at dinner and a client wants to pay for the meal. It’s fantastic but I also have to remind myself to put the phone down. What’s the point of having a dinner paid for if you’re not going to enjoy it?
There’s also an issue with separating fantasy and reality with a lot of my clients. That’s why I have a dominatrix persona with a different name and I actually don’t show my whole face in any of my findom content or cam sessions. Now that I’m bringing it all onstage and being public about being a financial dominatrix it’s getting even more complicated. For instance, people are trying now to contact me through my personal Instagram or Twitter and wanting me to dominate them. They’ll even ask for me to do something like blackmail them as a form of financial domination. To which I would like to say, “I’m not going to do blackmail with you, dude. That could send ME to prison”. People can get so wrapped up in their own fantasy that they have no concept of my own experience so I have to exercise very strict boundaries.
That being said, it has been unbelievably cathartic for me to have my comedian and dominatrix side meet. After all, both are all about play, pleasure, power and even laughter!
In light of letting two worlds collide, what aspect of sex work should we all implement in our lives?
Boundaries! Sex workers are excellent at practicing them. As a dominatrix one of the biggest things I get to practice is saying “no” to men. I used to be horrible at exercising boundaries and saying no and now I’m literally an expert at doing exactly that!
I love that! I will definitely take that on board. It seems you have some pearls of wisdom we can all benefit from. Fringe draws in audiences from far and wide: what is the central message you want everyone to take away from the show?
I want everyone to see that sex work is real work. That it’s a job like any other. I also want them to laugh and have a ton of fun while seeing that kink doesn’t have to be this scary inaccessible thing. It can be fun and playful and there is a kink for everyone. People are so worried about seeming normal in regards to sex that they forget that a huge part of sex is exploration. If I can inspire people to let go of just a little bit of shame and explore more in or even out of the bedroom that would make me so happy. I would also not be opposed if some very rich person walked out of my show thinking, “wow, I need to give that woman a lot of money!”
I’m so excited to see what you have in store for us. Thank you very much Lane!
Lane Kwederis debut stand up show Sex Job is at the Underbelly @ Bristo Square – Clover Room at 2.25pm from 2nd – 28th August. For tickets go to www.edfringe.com
Mary! How are you feeling about life today?
I feel good about life today. Despite the rain I’ve gotten out of bed and had breakfast so I’m kinda winning right now. Did I have my leftover takeaway for my breakfast? Yes. Is that any of your business? No. Everyone’s morning routine is different.
What was your starting point writing your show? Was there a moment where you joined the dots and noticed all the funny ways money shows up in your life?
I’d always known that I was quite cautious with money; I was more likely to save money than go on holiday and I started to notice how different my relationship with money was compared to some of my friends. The things they prioritised were travel and fun and I wanted to interrogate about why my priorities avoided having fun entirely. I’d always be the one giving my friends financial advice and forcing them to figure out how much money they make from DJ-ing every month and how to budget for weed.
It sounds like you find it hard to use money to have fun, but in comedy you embrace it. Tell me more about your relationship with clowning. How has professional comedian and clown Elf Lyons’ direction shaped the show?
I play a mixture of mainstream and alternative comedy nights and was always in awe of the playfulness and silliness of clowning acts I saw so I did a short clowning course a while ago. I really enjoyed the course but I couldn’t help but notice that there just aren’t enough Black and Brown people doing alternative comedy in general, especially clowning. Being a performer of colour you’re often expected to explain your identity on stage whereas, because white performers are the norm, they don’t have to explain anything so can therefore do something more avant garde. With clowning you have to be comfortable with failure and feel safe enough to ‘play’ around, but there are still several spaces where POC performers don’t feel safe, let alone safe to ‘play’ and fail.
Working with Elf has been incredible because she’s really pushed me outside my comfort zone and has me feel more comfortable with my silly side. She’s an amazing dramaturg and has really helped elevate the staging of the show. I use lighting and props now which is something I’ve never done before.
Thank you for sharing your experience, it is wonderful to hear artists unlocking new facets of their creativity. Here’s a question for the Fringe audience: if buying a ticket to your show was grocery shopping, what would be in our basket?
Ah, so much girl power merchandise! A planner where you write all your wealth manifestations, a flask that says girl boss on it, bright pink guns that shoot money, a meal deal and a pack of custard creams.
Quickly before I run to the girl boss shop: what are you most looking forward to sharing with your audience?
I love connecting with the audience and making them laugh at something they didn’t expect to laugh at. I feel most myself on stage when I’m being cheeky so I’m excited to share that side of myself in a longer form show. I’m also really excited to show off my props.
Thank you for chatting with me today Mary, I can’t wait to see your show this August!
Mary O’Connell’s debut stand up show ‘Money Princess’ is at the Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker 3 at 6pm from 2nd – 27th August (except 15th). For tickets go to www.edfringe.com