Sam Morrison! How are you doing?
This show is funny and stupid at times, but I get to talk about Jonathan, and right now that’s what my heart is yearning for
I’m writing on the ferry from Provincetown to Boston, so currently, quite well! There’s a cute guy downstairs I’m trying to muster up the courage to strike up a conversation with, any advice? Right now, I think I’m gonna with, “Hey Daddy, I’m acclaimed comedian Sam Morrison and I’ll be performing at the Gilded Balloon Balcony Room at 6.20 3 - 29 August but not on the 15th or 22nd, wanna have sex?”
You made your Fringe debut in 2019 with your show Hello, Daddy! What’s it like being back in Edinburgh?
Finally! I was so excited to return in 2020… then 2021… and now after three years, I’m finally coming back!! I am truly so excited. Last time I was here everything was very scrappy. I had no idea what I was doing, little help, and always a bit behind the eight ball. It feels great to have a little more confidence in myself, my show, a whole lot more support, and a small but enthusiastic audience. At the same time I’m reminded of how different of a person I feel I am than when I was last here in 2019. I’m coming back with a show that I’m not just proud of, but is so necessary for me. To be frank, I’ve had a tough time. I’ve learned that having projects to focus my grief on, help immensely. This show is funny and stupid at times, but I get to talk about Jonathan, and right now that’s what my heart is yearning for.
The subject of your show this year is very personal. Can you give us a quick overview of what led you to write it?
It’s actually pretty simple. Since losing Jonathan to COVID, he’s basically all I think about. I’m a comedian and I write what I think about. So, I started doing this material mostly as a coping mechanism, but the show has evolved as my own relationship to my grief has evolved – in that I’ve allowed it to change myself and others. Other people’s reactions and stories are a big part of that. I do feel like grief is so uncomfortable but also ever present that when you acknowledge it and open the space for people to talk about it, the floodgates open.
Could you tell us more about your partner, Jonathan? What did he mean to you?
I love that you asked this question. Thank you. I wish we had more time, I just don’t know how I could possibly articulate all that Jonathan is and means to me. I’ll tell you this, if you met him for just a minute, you’d be smiling for the next five. He was BRIGHT. He made my life better everyday and I am so lucky to have had him.
Grief and humour seem on opposite ends of the emotional scale, but I feel like they’re quite closely linked. Was it a difficult show for you to write or was it more of a cathartic process?
First, yes they are! Grief is hilarious. I’m willing to bet my gay widow support group is funnier than any comedian you’ve ever seen. My first grief counsellor (I’ve had I think 4,000 now) is also queer and in his twenties and has an incredible sense of humour and we laughed as much as we cried. Those conversations were way before I was ready to talk about it on stage but they inspired the show in many ways.
To answer your actual question (I promise the show is less long winded), mostly cathartic.
It’s helped my grief a lot because I’m not very good at talking about grief off stage… but I want to so much, if that makes sense? It’s all I think about but I’m also scared to talk about it. I guess I just really want people to cry quietly near me? That’s a joke, I think. I’m not totally sure why but there’s something that opens me up when I get on stage. I suddenly can tell stories of being with Jonathan and grieving Jonathan that I wouldn’t one on one. It’s certainly because I can control a lot more variables than off stage… I have the power to turn the room, whereas off stage, your good intentions can hurt me. Dealing with people, especially peers in their twenties, is… frustrating. Most conversations fall very short of recognising Jonathan and the full magnitude of what’s happened. This show gives me an opportunity to express how utterly trivialising most condolences feel. To put it more bluntly, making fun of them is cathartic.
I’m rambling now, but the last thing I’ll say is more people have been asking me if the show has been hard to perform, and most of the time it’s not. There are definitely days where I have to force myself into the right headspace to do the show, but usually it’s a joy to perform. Any opportunity to share Jonathan with people in a real way, live, in person, is precious. It’s also not as heavy of a show as you might imagine. Yes, I’ll be telling a series of stories relating to grief but I’m still an immature, horny, catty 27-year-old. There’s two ass eating jokes.
As you’ve been working on the show, what kind of responses have you been having from audience members who can maybe relate to some of the material?
Since I am still not comfortable talking to strangers about my grief, I have not put myself in a place to receive feedback yet, except from those I really trust. The show is exhausting to perform and afterwards I’m usually off to find a quiet place. Still, people have expressed their support in many ways, particularly on social, and that support has in turn changed the show. That support has been overwhelming. I didn’t even know if people would laugh at something like this, let alone connect with it. The show has transformed from simply a coping mechanism to a larger show about my experiences and what I’ve learned alongside my grief, which I’ve learned has value for others as well. As I continue to grow alongside my grief, I believe I will be able to connect more with audience members.
What kind of support have you had from friends and family who knew Jonathan? Have they seen the show?
A few. I’ve only decided to do this show about six months ago so have had very limited showings in NYC where friends and family can watch. I also feel much more comfortable exploring vulnerably on tour for bigger audiences. Since I’m pretty protective of the show, I won’t share it with those I’m closest to until I’m ready.
Finally, do you have any Fringe acts that you’re looking forward to seeing this year?
Oh yes! NYC friends Casey Balsham, Gabe Mollica, Anthony Devito, and Jeena Bloom! My favourites I saw in 2019 I’ll be sure to check out: Alice Fraser and Tiffany Stevenson!