Ray Bradshaw: Edinburgh Fringe Spotlight

How tricky is it to simultaneously sign and speak your entire stand-up show? Ray Bradshaw is doing exactly that, and for a full Fringe run

Feature by Ben Venables | 11 Jul 2017
  • Ray Bradshaw

It is possible you’re the first comedian to sign his own stand-up show. Has this been a tricky fact to verify?

Yeah it has been but everyone that’s been looking seems to think I am. I think that’s because it’s way more complicated than I ever thought and maybe no-one else would be stupid enough to try it. Even professional sign language interpreters have told me I’m an idiot because of how hard it is!

Just as a novel or film takes us to another time and place – a dystopian future, a medieval court, a planet of apes – whereabouts, and on what kind of journey, will your show take us?

I think the journey of my show will take you to the Gilded Balloon everyday at 4pm till 5pm. On that journey you will sit in a room that is slightly too hot and watch a balding ginger man tell you all about growing up with deaf parents and help you learn a little bit about sign language and the questions that a lot of people are afraid to ask. (NB: This journey is only applicable to loud laughers and people who are willing to give standing ovations a little too easily.)

Sometimes comedian’s parents question their offspring's career choice. How do your parents’ feel, and what do they think of this show?

They’re quite happy because my brother and sister have good jobs so they don’t mind one failure as that’s still a 66% success ratio. They’re really happy about this show as it means they can bring friends to the Fringe and see a show whatever day they like, rather than havng to plan around the three or four BSL-interpreted shows each festival.

What are the main differences between spoken English and BSL (and how does this change your delivery and timing onstage)?

The main thing is that the structure of BSL is different from English. For example, you sign ‘your name what’, whereas in English you would say 'what’s your name?' So, as a result my hands and my mouth are doing totally different things at each time. There’s also some words in English that don’t exist in BSL, and some signs that don’t exist in English.

Who is your comedy mentor?

I think the good thing about comedy is that you work with so many different people and styles that you are able to take a little bit of advice away from everyone. When I started out the likes of Gary Little, Mark Nelson, Scott Agnew, Chris Forbes, Dan Nightingale and Michael Redmond were all great people to go to and pick their brains, and they still are.

What is the worst thing comedians do at the Fringe?

Probably become immersed in it all. It’s really easy to forget that the rest of the world exists. It can be all consuming and your show is all that matters. That, and not drink in dive bars where you can save at least £2 on every pint.

Do you have a Fringe regime or daily ritual?

I commute every day from Glasgow. It means I can go home and watch Bake Off or go to the pub with my mates who honestly couldn’t care how many tickets I sold that day, or that I sat in a caravan with Barry Cryer and Alan Davies in North Berwick. Means I get the best of both worlds.

What is the best Edinburgh show you’ve ever seen?

I think the best stand up show I’ve seen was Damian Clark’s in 2015 about his phone getting stolen, which was phenomenal. Either that or when I saw Partick Thistle beat Hibs 3-2 in 2003, where David Rowson scored from outside the box and Chic Charnley came on and played about an hour. Hard to pick.

Ray Bradshaw: Deaf Comedy Fam, Gilded Balloon, Teviot (Balcony), 2-28 Aug (not 14), 4pm, £9-£10