Maisie Adam interview: Hang Fire and HIGNFY

Maisie Adam had a fantastic 2019 – making appearances on Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You as well as returning to the Fringe for her sophomore hour. This year the SYTYF 2017 winner is stepping back on Scottish soil, touring her second show

Article by Polly Glynn | 14 Jan 2020
  • Maisie Adam

Maisie Adam’s second Fringe show Hang Fire is currently on a UK tour, stopping off in Edinburgh and Glasgow before landing in Leeds for a homecoming gig. “My mum and dad are coming to that because they’ve not actually seen my show yet,” Adam reveals. She’s even played her old Youth Theatre room in the past 12 months. “To go from spending every Tuesday evening doing drama classes in there with my mates to then having two back-to-back sold out shows in there, that was really quite special.”

As for the content of Hang Fire, Adam is loath to give too much away. “In a nutshell, it’s all about people making a mistake in the moment,” and the public’s judgement of error, instead of taking a step back and offering a smidge of empathy. Acknowledging your mistakes and taking ownership of them goes a long way in Adam’s eyes, “but in the current climate, we love to cancel these people, point the finger and say what a terrible person they are when actually everybody makes stupid errors in the moment.” 

Adam refers to the writing of Hang Fire as very much “difficult second album syndrome.” She continues: “I was aware that with Vague,” Adam’s Best-Newcomer-nominated Fringe debut, “no-one really knew who I was.” While 2018’s audience or those enticed by her nomination cements that “there’s more of a standard to meet and a pressure to deliver," she can’t quite fathom other comics who can sit and write new content for hours: “I do not understand how that happens.” Her method’s far less disciplined. “I just wander around and when something pops into my head or something happens I’ll think ‘oh, there’s probably a bit in that’.” Commentary on people and situations is her bag: “Sometimes I need to see it happening in real life, and then really over-exaggerate it and go in-depth with it rather than just invent it from scratch.”

As with most female comedians, Adam isn’t unfamiliar with the old ‘I don’t normally like female comedians’ rouse. She recalls one instance with a close friend. “I just had to say to her ‘look, you’ve got to stop saying things like that’, so if I know them well I’ll just say it straight to their face.” With the public, her tack is slightly different. “At the end of the day, they think they’re being really nice and they have come to give you a compliment so you don’t want to be too cutting.” Instead she kills them with kindness before “actually laying out the problem with someone like yourself [some sort of journalist] in the hope that they read it.” Particularly with the Beeb’s ‘at least one woman’ panel show policy, it can be heightened even more. Being the only woman on a recent episode of Have I Got News for You, Adam wondered whether she’d “get a foot in the door,” “but Ian Hislop was lovely at bringing me in and was very welcoming.”

However, it’s not just gender tokenism Adam has been faced with; class too. Because of her northern accent and observational style, people often make assumptions about Adam. “I have to give them a polite ‘I think it’s great what you’re doing but I’m actually not the sort of person that you’re doing this in aid of’.” Adam is all for upping diversity in the public eye, but “sometimes they [the broadcasters] want more northern accents on because it represents, to them, a working class background but it’s not the case.”

Particularly for a new(ish) kid on the block, it makes Adam wonder: “Am I being offered this because they need a female voice or a working class voice or do they genuinely just think I’m funny?” An insecurity that the industry-dominating swathes of white middle-class males don’t seem to have. “They’re getting asked because they’re definitely good.” However, Adam meditates, “that’s maybe more a reflection on me that I need to start backing myself a bit more.” And she certainly should.

Maisie Adam: Hang Fire, Gilded Balloon Basement, Edinburgh, 21 Jan (£10-12); The Stand Comedy Club, Glasgow, 22 Jan (£10-12.50)