Comedy Class: Mae Martin's Workshop

Rising Canadian comic Mae Martin talks Fringe shows and comedic growth

Feature by Cayley James | 31 Jul 2014
  • Mae Martin

The universe did not want me to talk to Mae Martin. For a week in July I played text-tag with the in-demand comedian, trying desperately to align our schedules. Phone lines cut out, Skype dates were shuffled, mobiles refused to answer calls. In a world of constant and countless communication channels there was something tragic in not being able to get in touch. Finally we managed to sit down – although brief, and over the phone, it was an enlightening chat with one of the UK's nicest and most exciting current comedians. Having made the move to London five years ago from her native Toronto, she has charmed her way into the hearts of comedy lovers across the UK with her wit, candor and refreshing observational comedy. After her critical hit  with Slumber Party at last year's Fringe, she's spent the last year touring it and working with the likes of Nina Conti and The New Wave. With two full length shows under her belt, she's coming to Edinburgh this year with a bit of a different game plan.

"It's a work in progress. If you come to the show with the understanding that it isn't a finished, polished product – then you'll be happy." Why has she chosen to use such a public forum to hash out new material? "Where else do you get to perform every day for a month? I love Edinburgh, I love the Fringe," she chirps. "It's like going to summer camp for me. You get to see all of your friends."

Her month's run at Cowgatehead as part of the Free Fringe will see her play fast and loose with new material, improv and some guest stars in the form of her crew of very funny comedian friends. "Hopefully," she notes, "you'll be able to come to the show multiple times and won't see the same show twice."

"I have a snow machine!" – MAE MARTIN

Though, this experiment isn't just for shits and giggles. It's part of a very deliberate two-year plan in developing her next one-woman show.

"Slumber Party was very much about a nostalgia for adolescence," she explains. "The next show is going to be about labels, being put into boxes and challenging that. I've become more politicised in the past couple of years, so the next show will definitely be about that." This isn't the first time Martin has taken to drastically refining her comedic voice. For the first part of her career she became known for her comedic take on pop songs, channelling her keen cultural commentary and self-deprecation through the catchy acoustic guitar-driven melodies. But last year she ditched the songs entirely. "I just had stand-up flowing out of me – the songs weren't coming and I was bored of singing them," she explains frankly. She's all too aware of being pigeonholed and now is the perfect time to experiment with her voice as she becomes an established fixture in London.

As a fellow Torontonian I was curious about the biggest difference between the cities' respective scenes.  "There's just so much here," she gushes, "there's a clique and an audience for everyone. Also comedians in North America really refine and polish their stuff. Whereas British audiences expect to see something different every time they see you and be part of the development process." That's one thing she has embraced wholeheartedly. Besides gigging frequently, she hosts Popcorn Comedy at the Hackney Picturehouse and has curated The Mae Martin Experience at the The Invisible Dot every Friday for the month of July. For this, she got to invite her favourite comics to perform while immersing the audiences in the idiosyncrasies of Canadian culture: "I have a snow machine."

Martin's passion for the eclectic will undoubtedly be on show this August. Not yet jaded by the rigours of competing with legions of international acts, and coupled with her talent for leaving audiences in stitches, Mae Martin's Workshop is guaranteed to impress even in its infancy.

Mae Martin's Workshop, 2-24 Aug, Cowgatehead, 3.30pm, free