James Macfarlane interviews Sid Singh about his new Fringe show Table For One, the differences between UK and American audiences and standing up to the government.
I got to help beat the US government...by accident
Sid Singh! How are you?
I’m currently sleeping on my friend’s couch in Berlin so you know, things have been better and things have been worse. I’ve truly had one of the stranger years of my life! I’ve slept on more couches than ever which has been truly annoying, but I’ve also travelled to more cities than ever while getting to make a living as a comedian. So you know, as long as you never x-ray my back, I’m having a great year!
You’re making your return to the Edinburgh Fringe this year. For those of us who aren’t familiar with you, how would you describe yourself?
I’m living maybe the strangest stand up comedian career alive! I have a full law degree and I still use it to raise money for organisations like the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies to fight legal battles in America! But my actual full time job is as a touring comedian, leading me to travel everywhere from LA to Belgrade to New Delhi. This means I’m sort of the rare comic who tells quite progressive jokes, but has to tell them everywhere. So yeah, it goes well in New York, London, and LA, but I’m actually more proud of the fact that it also goes well in Serbia, Romania, and India!
Your show this year is called Table For One. What can audiences expect from this show?
This is a show about how I got to help beat the US government under both Donald Trump and Joe Biden in court in order to help save refugees…by accident. It's sort of the first time I’ve ever presented my life story on stage and it involves starting comedy, moving to New York, becoming homeless, going to law school, and more! Honestly, this is a weird thing to say, but because I was busy living this life and not examining it, I really didn’t realise how many crazy things I’ve been through just to get to this moment!
As well as being a stand-up comedian, you’re a human rights lawyer and you’ve recently used your skills to help defeat the Trump administration in court. Can you tell us a bit about that?
My law school professor Karen Musalo and her amazing organisation: the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies deserves all the credit for that. When I was lucky enough to take her class in law school, I got to study first hand just how insane the asylum laws are in America (And indeed the whole world too.)
I also got to study just how little is required to win in court once you have your country even moderately invested in the outcome. Thus, although I volunteer with other organisations in a more hands-on capacity (such as the wonderful License to Freedom,) for CGRS I just try to fundraise and raise awareness as much as I can! Or in simpler terms: they’re so amazing at CGRS, I just try to raise money for them and then get out of their way and watch them win in court!
What do you feel is one of the main differences between American audiences and a UK audience when it comes to stand-up?
American audiences are so used to their protagonist winning and UK audiences are used to them losing. So for example if I say I spent the last year sleeping on couches and touring the world, American audiences think I’m wonderfully self-deprecating because I still slept on couches while British audiences can think I’m boasting because I still got to see the world.
What’s the thing you’re most proud of in this show?
I’m most proud that 50 percent of my show donations will be going to the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies to help fund their fight against the Biden administration trying to end access to asylum for seekers coming from the southern border!
But if I’m being a bit selfish, I’m also honestly quite proud that I was able to write a show about something that serious, and still make it really funny.
Thanks so much for speaking to me! Finally, do you have any shows that you’re excited to see when you’re in Edinburgh?
So many! The Fringe is an amazing time to see all the comedians coming over from other countries who have an incredible hour of comedy you can’t otherwise see in the UK. People like George Zacharopoulos (Greece,) Luana Matei (Romania,) Kat Nip (Germany,) and Mike Rice (Soviet Russia) are on the cutting edge of comedy and deserve your attention! That’s not to say UK comics won’t be a lot of fun to watch this year either! Comedians like Jamie Allerton, Alexandra Haddow, Sasha Ellen and Rahul Kohli will be making audiences laugh all month long and deserve your attention as well!