Out of the Bearpit

To the uninitiated, the Bearpit Podcast (Podcast) is the live radio equivalent of messy play. To the initiated it's a showcase of some of Britain's most exciting young comics, live on Ipswich FM. Jay Richardson enlists help in grading the Bearpit alumni

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Bearpit Podcast (Podcast)
Published 20 Jul 2016

Recording live at the Fringe with Ipswich FM, and unavailable for download, the Bearpit Podcast (Podcast) is celebrating 100 years of memorable interviews (and who are we to fact-check their claim?).

Rumoured returning 'features' include guest Tim Hankerplank, the observational comic so good he has to wear a blindfold at all times; the passing back and forth of an egg to the humming of 'Kumbaya'; and an admission – “I'm going to put a fiver on the fact that none of us know what the hell we're doing yet.”

Upcoming comics Adam Hess, Richard Gadd, Lolly Adefope, Fin Taylor, Mat Ewins and Matt Winning are also involved, along with former Edinburgh Comedy Award winner John Kearns. He gave Fest his assessment of the others' solo shows. They, in turn, have issued corrections.

Adam Hess: Feathers

Kearns' prediction: “A 60-minute show about the death of suffragette Emily Davison from the perspective of the horse.”

Last year's best newcomer nominee is actually reflecting on social masks and “the different porky pies we tell to each other. But how they're a force for good”. Banned from the Sistine Chapel, he's sharing the “true story of how using this one simple trick, a mom made $800 cash every day from her home in LEITH. Can you afford not to come and find out how you can do the same!?”

For Hess, the Bearpit centenary is a “massive burden”. But, “I lost a bet to [Bearpit founder] John Pitt about who was better at jumping. The bet was only £5 but seeing as each gig has run at a loss I have to keep gigging for him for ages or settle it with a payment for £6000”.

Fin Taylor: Whitey McWhiteface

Kearns' prediction: “Fin takes his inspiration from last year's Pixar film Inside Out, where he plays a flake of dandruff that falls into the keyboard of a laptop.” 

Taylor is, in fact, exploring white entitlement. “Enjoyment of the show is predicated on having some form of white guilt or middle-class shame,” he explains. “So if you're not white, you get to see white people confronted with their privilege. And if you are white and liberal then it should be cathartic.”

A response to all the introspective comedy podcasts out there, the Bearpit improvised itself into “this fucking mad world”, he recalls. “It can't not make you funnier, hanging out with the funniest people you know and trying to make each other laugh and out-stupid each other.”

Mat Ewins: Mat Ewins Will Make You A Star

Kearns' prediction: “If selling out Edinburgh’s Pretzel Plaza three years running wasn’t enough, Mat’s eighth show focuses on what happened when he took his deaf aunt to the top of Big Ben.”

Sharing the wisdom of his acting career, Ewins explains how you too can become a film star. “But it's not gonna be some mad, Gaulier-taught clowning show where I berate the audience, throw a load of chips at them and then pretend to be a fox for 90 minutes,” he maintains. Still, “You're not being an outright legend if you've not pissed off some people. Two walkouts in a crowd of 50 is my normal target.”

The podcast is “tremendously helpful” for developing material, he suggests. But to its detriment, because “whenever we're writing ideas for Bearpit we steal the best for our own shows”.

Matt Winning: Ragnarok

Kearns' prediction: “With Brexit fresh on his mind, Matt weighs members of the audience in pounds and ounces.”

Almost. Winning plays one of his time-travelling descendants, reflecting on his 2016 Fringe show while travelling through space with a robot to a distant star he's inherited. “You know. That sort of thing,” he clarifies. “The show is probably more personal about how difficult it is for me to write a show about climate change.”

He speaks vaguely of the Bearpit. “Nobody had any idea what it would be when we showed up to the Southsider pub on the first day and completely winged an hour. The rest is podcast history.”

Lolly Adefope: Lolly 2

Kearns' prediction: “Fresh from the film set of Lemon Wipe, our Lolly tells us what it’s like have a pizza delivered to you on a train and not tell anyone…until now!”

Speaking on Adefope's behalf, John Pitt, founder of the Bearpit Podcast (Podcast), guarantees a new set of characters from last year's acclaimed debut, with Lolly also appearing as herself for the first time.

“All of the things in Lolly's solo show are ideas I vetoed from the podcast,” he explains. “I told Lolly that she had to play herself because no-one knew what her real accent was and it made it very difficult for people to trust her. And bringing back the old characters would have been cheating.”

Richard Gadd: Monkey See Monkey Do

Kearns' prediction: “One for all the family, Richard never moves from the Chesterfield chair he has dangling over the audience. A brilliant coup de théâtre, you’ll never quite look at your ceiling the same way again.”

Recreating the “smashmouth” desperation and depravity of his last two hour-long shows, Gadd also pledges to “reveal a bit more about myself as a person and a performer”. He's trying to understand where his “heightened” stage persona came from “and the reason behind all the sex and the violence and the mayhem.

“Perhaps the more weird aspects of my show I take from Bearpit but they're completely different entities,” he says. “It's improvised and my shows are tightly scripted. But it's helped most with allowing me to be funny in the moment and to work with some of the best in the industry.”