By Kat Mokrynski
“I wanted every moment of the show to be funny enough to be in a comedy club in front of drunk people”
Recently, I had the chance to speak with comedian Vittorio Angelone about his tour of Translations. We discussed how he came up with the concept for the show, what it’s like to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe, and even one audience member who told him his thoughts about the show during the show!
So how did you first get involved in the world of comedy?
I used to be a musician – I was okay at it. I was a classical musician and I wasn’t going to see very many classical music concerts, but I was going to comedy clubs quite a lot. And I thought if I wanted to perform, I should make what I would consume, and that’s become a bit of a mantra.
How has the tour been so far?
Well, it hasn’t really started! It’s been a weird kind of birth of this show. The first ever iteration of the show was in September 2021. That was the first time I ever tried to do an hour-long show on stage, in Soho. And so I did think 22 “Work in Progresses” before the Edinburgh Fringe in August of 2022, then did it the whole month about 30 times there. And that was brilliant. It was really exciting doing an hour, felt very freeing to have a bit more space to do what you want to do and basically lose people, I like losing people!
Yeah, ‘cause you can get them back! If you have an hour, you can lose them and get them back.
If you only have ten minutes, if somebody doesn’t like one of the jokes, then they’re probably gone for the next 10 minutes. They’ll just check out. But when you’ve got an hour, it’s like, “Well, we’re here, So . . .
“We paid for an hour might as well stay!”
It’s that thing of if you see someone switch off or get turned off by something, you just have to do the rest of the jokes to them with a nice expression on your face, just to reassure them that it’s gonna be okay. Which is a nice thing to do, to allow someone to loosen up and relax, and so I did that. And then the Fringe was great. You learn so much from doing an hour every single day over the course of a month.
What was that like? It seems like a lot!
It’s not! People have actual jobs!
Any comedian who says it’s hard is talking shite – It’s absolutely ridiculous. I have a blessing in terms of a lot of my cousins will go up and work at the Edinburgh Fringe, but they’re not comedians that are performing – They are working in the bars and the food stalls. And my cousin was barbacking, carrying stuff all day, every day. Some of the shifts started at five in the morning, some of them ended at five in the morning, it was just insane. So anytime I was like, “Oh, I’m tired!” He just punched me in the arm and was like, “You know how far I walked today?” And would go on his phone and he walked like 20 miles.
Oh my gosh!
All while carrying kegs and bags of ice and all the things. And I was like, “Right, yeah, I’m not. I’m telling jokes. This is fine.” And so then I did that and it was very exciting. I got nominated and it was cool! I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t think my show wasn’t the type of show that got nominated, but I’d kind of written to try and both make fun of the types of jokes to get nominated and do the type of show that would get nominated. It was a fairly ambitious swing. But I tried and it seemed to work out fairly well. I’ve heard rumors that some of the panel really didn’t want to nominate the show, which I think is quite funny! But yeah, I did that. And my agent quit in the middle of the Fringe, which was fun.
He stopped being an agent. And he said that he was going to keep working just as hard even though he finished his contract finished in September. But that was fine. It was no huge thing. So I was like, “Where do you go from here? Well, I’ve built this online following, I should probably try and tour the fucking thing!” And I had this Soho Theatre run because you get that when you get nominated. Again, probably my own neuroticism thinking that they maybe wouldn’t have given me that if they hadn’t had to have given me that! I always view myself, and probably wrongly, as a bit of an outsider, an indie self-starter, because I’ve always run shows, I’ve always put on my own nights, I’ve always organized stuff, and I’ve always done social media stuff. Basically out of fear! I always thought, “Well, no one’s gonna give me anything, because why would they? So I need to build that myself in a more sustainable way that I’m more in control of.” So I tried to do that, and it’s gone pretty well on social media, and then booked the tour with a nice lady called Toni [Comer], who’s a spreadsheet genius. No production company, no promoter, no kind of backing or anything – We booked it all and then just went, “No paid ads or anything, let’s just put it out on social media and see what happens.” And it was brilliant! The response was amazing. The first batch of dates sold out pretty quickly, and then we’ve added some more and they they’re kind of shifting nicely as well, which is so exciting. So we did the Soho run, which was interesting because you get a mix of their audience and your audience.
I don’t want to preclude myself from any type of venue or audience, I work hard to make it [comedy] work for anybody. But you just get in your own head like, “Oh, God, they’re not gonna like me!” We all have an idea of ourselves in our head. But it’s not that I’m trying to rip myself up. If you go in with that mindset, then they’ll feel that stress about it. So that was really, really fun. I really enjoyed doing Soho Theatre, but it felt ages away from the Fringe! I did it every day in August, so it was in my head and ready to go, accessible at the front of my mind, to do this all run in January was like, “Fuck, what’s the next that I wrote?”
And I’m working on my next show as well for the Fringe 2023. So I have two shows in my head, which is tricky, so I’ve had to kind of box that off. From now, it’s basically all tour show. It’s all Translations – That’s just the focus. So put myself back in that box just to get it really cooking again before I head off on tour. I did one show at Leicester Comedy Festival and I forgot five minutes, which was terrible!
It wasn’t noticeable to anybody but me because it wasn’t structurally integral, but it was a good five minutes that I would have fucking liked to have done! But it was just so long since I’d done it that I just skipped over. And then when I realized I skipped over it, I was too far. So that was frustrating. But it’s this is just stuff I’m learning about. When you tour a show, you have to have the next one cooking at the same time and how to compartmentalize that in your head and go from there. So I had that one in February and then it starts properly on the 13th of April in Belfast, which is really exciting, because it’s the biggest show of the tour, which is quite scary! And it’s my home town gig, so I’m just trying to get everything ready for that. Everything seems to be happening at once at the minute, which is good. It’s one of those where you convince yourself “Oh, it’ll calm down once this happens,” and then there’s eleven more things by the time you get to that point. I’m just trying to keep all the plates spinning. I’m nervous! I’m quite an anxious person, but I’m really excited for the show. It was just everything around it like what merch I should have, if any merch. Booking support acts, people who I want to put in front of a bigger audience and be like, “Hey, look, this person is brilliant. I think you should like their stuff as well!” And travel, accommodation, and all that stuff. And this is the problem when you do it all yourself. It sounds very romantic to be like, “Well, I own everything, and I get a better cut of the money, and it means I can charge the customer less for the price of the ticket . . .” I kept my ticket prices very low because I’m not paying anyone else to do things for me. But that does mean I have to do everything, which is a fucking nightmare! [Laughs] So I’ll probably enlist some help for the next tour. But yeah, I’m excited and incredibly nervous.
So what inspired you to write this show Translations?
I went to see the play Translations by Brian Friel at the National Theatre in London. At that point, I’d lived in London for maybe five or six years. And I love the play. I think it’s wonderful. It’s really, really brilliant. And I love Brian Friel! But it was basically the response of the English audience to this Irish play, I find baffling and upsetting. I looked at all my material that I’d been writing and stand up and went, “Well, a lot of this is about what it is to be Irish in England. And a lot of this is about what English people think of Irish people. It’s not something that’s talked about a huge amount. I’ve got a perspective on this, this seems to be what I’m talking about.” I don’t really write to task. I don’t sit down and go, “I’m gonna write a whole show about what it’s like to be Irish in England” I looked at all my jokes and went “Well, this is all roughly on this theme, this topic.” And just finding a way to tie that all together by talking about the play is how I’ve done it.
So it’s a mix of your older material, but tying it into the story?
Yes. It’s basically a device – Telling the story of the play and using that as a framework to tell the story of my life in London more broadly.
What do you hope audiences take away from the show?
Merch! I hope they buy merch! [Laughs]
No, I don’t like didactic comedy. I don’t like when a comedian tells you what you should do or what you should think, or calls the audience bad people or whatever. I think that’s boring and arrogant often, when comedians assume that they’re right. I don’t think I answer any questions. I probably ask quite a lot, but I think that’s better. I’ve had people say that they leave and have conversations about stuff that they wouldn’t have had conversations about. And that’s all I want to do. I don’t want to tell anyone how to think – And I’ve had people disagree! I had one man vocally disagree with the premise of the show at the Fringe.
In the middle of the show?
Yeah! [Laughs] His wife apologized on the way out!
I don’t want to tell anyone how to think. I want them to have really good time. I wanted every moment of the show to be funny enough to be in a comedy club in front of drunk people. That was the task I set myself – To have this narrative and to have this theme, but never sacrifice how funny it is, because I’m there to make you feel good. That’s the that’s the beauty of standup – It feels like a bizarrely ethical exchange where you give me money, I make you feel good, and we both just fuck off.
Hopefully with merch!
Exactly, yes. And then I give you stickers and key rings, ideally.
And finally, how would you describe Translations in one word?
It’s just funny! I want that to come across more than anything else. It’s a funny show, as much as it sounds like it’s not.
Thank you to Vittorio for the insightful interview!
Vittorio Angelone’s Translations tours from 14 April to 14 June. Tickets can be purchased here.