Zoe Lyons brings her Entry Level Human tour to the Midlands

Zoe Lyons brings her Entry Level Human tour to the Midlands
Posted on 1 Nov 2018

Award-winning comedian Zoe Lyons returns to the Midlands this month with her new stand-up show, Entry Level Human. Zoe took time out from her busy schedule to talk to Midlands Zone about motivation, inspiration and her recent stint on television’s Celebrity MasterChef...

What’s your earliest memory of being funny, Zoe?
Oh, crikey! I think probably at primary school. I wasn’t a class clown in any shape or form, but I did used to entertain the parents at the school gate. I would act out little stories in front of them. In class, I was as dull as ditchwater, so definitely wasn’t the joker of the class. I suppose I just felt more comfortable in the company of the parents. I always longed for a life of dinner parties, even at the age of eight!

Who would you say has inspired you the most?
It’s a mixture of people. I suppose when I was growing up it was the likes of Billy Connolly and Victoria Wood. I still enjoy watching Victoria’s stuff.  She was such a warm writer and brought out some lovely characters. 

Can you tell us a bit about Entry Level Human?
It’s a new tour show that’s loosely based on the idea of human nature and stupidity - a rich scene these days for comedians, and I include myself in that. It’s a poke at human stupidness. My shows combine being slightly topical with my own take on things, which veers towards stupidness and silliness. My shows aren’t aimed at changing the world; I just want to alter and iron out people’s lives. 

What motivates you to get up on stage? Do you have a regular pre-show routine, and how do you wind down post-show?
Like a lot of performers, I like to have a little bit of space before I go on stage. I know we’re not performing at the London Philharmonic or on a bazooka, but comedy does require a bit of head space. I don’t have any weird rituals. I used to have some little lucky ‘donks’ and things, but I lost so many of them that I decided they weren’t all that lucky after all and I’m not superstitious, so I got rid. 
“Coming down’ post-show is the hard bit. I find it really difficult to go to sleep when I’ve been on stage. My adrenaline is up and seems to hang around for ages, so I tend to watch a movie and have a cup of cocoa. I try not to have alcohol, as that’s the worst thing. Post-show is very dull, to be honest - not very rock’n’roll.

You’ve performed in Birmingham numerous times. Is there anything that sets the city’s audiences apart from others?
I like playing in Birmingham. It’s very diverse and you get a great mix, which is really lovely.

Apart from being funny, what would you say makes a good comic?
In your bag of human skills, you need to be good at being on your own; you need to be able to entertain yourself. If you don’t have that skill, you’ll go nuts. You need to learn to be grounded. It’s a competitive business and one based on showing off. You need to be able to manage your ego and keep it in check, otherwise it could fly off like a buzzard on amphetamines, so you need to tether it like a robin in clogs. You do need to have an ego, but it needs to be proportionate in size. I guess you also need an inquisitive mind, be able to drive and be good at using Google maps. That’s essential!

Is there any subject matter that should be off-limits in comedy?
No, I don’t think anything is off-limits as long as it has a point and it’s done well. But there are people who should be off-limits from doing comedy - for example, if their skill level isn’t adequate enough to portray what they’re trying to say funnily. I don’t talk about certain subjects because I just don’t have the skills to articulate them and deliver them properly. 

Is there anything you’ve ever said on stage that you’ve later regretted?
Probably ‘it’s lovely to be here’. You say that many times, but in your head you’re thinking, I can’t wait to get in the car and leave this dump! No, not really! Joking apart, I don’t think I have, although I’ve told some awful jokes, especially during the first two years of my career. 

What’s the best heckle you’ve ever received?
The weirdest one I ever got was when someone shouted at me, ‘What made you choose those shoes?’ That stuck with me for years because it was just such an odd thing to say in what I thought was a really good gig. 

Have you ever walked off stage during a set?
Oh yeah, I’ve cut the set short on occasion and have endured an awful death - a terrible death that felt like it lasted four weeks when in reality it probably lasted 12 minutes - when the audience have just stared at you like you’ve done something unspeakable to their dinner, in a space where the sound is quieter than silence.

Where’s the best place you’ve ever performed?
Crikey, they all vary, but I suppose it has to be Kilkenny. I played the festival there for the first time a few years ago. It was magical, and they were such an energetic audience. The whole town was there for the festival, and the atmosphere was electric.

What do you like to do when you’re not being funny?
I like to cook and to eat. I like to plan trips away, and I like scuba diving. The wife and I are either planning trips,  going on a trip or buying ridiculous stuff made out of neon print to go on trips. We also read up about fish...

Talking of cooking, has your recent experience on Celebrity MasterChef changed you in any way?
I’m definitely more adventurous in the kitchen. I’ll give stuff a go that I wouldn’t have done before. I was typically one of those people who would read a recipe, get halfway though and go, God, I don’t know how to do that. Now I’ll give it a go. 

How do you put your new-found skills to use? Do you plan massive dinner parties for friends and family?
No, that’s the sad bit. Because I work nights, I’m normally sat eating a pot noodle with a teaspoon in a hotel room. So when I have a bit of time and I’m home and it’s just me and my wife, I’ll try and cook something different or new. I like to mix things up and not stick to recipes like most people do.

What would you have done as a job if you hadn’t become a comedian?
Absolutely nothing that involved being inside and wearing a suit. I think I’d have liked to be a ski instructor, a landscape gardener, a forest ranger or a fisherman.

You’ve been on the circuit for 14 years now. How have attitudes changed towards female comedians during that time?
I’ve had audiences walk out and shout at me, fold their arms saying that they’re not going to listen to a woman. D’you know what, though - it being harder initially has probably made it better for us now. Female comedians had to work harder; we had to come up with more diverse material because we were always judged so harshly. 
It wouldn’t matter if there were four blokes who’d all done material about Star Wars - they wouldn’t be judged on that, but if you were to get up on stage and say something that was typically female, you were immediately picked up on it. That’s now changed because of television - it’s a much more balanced environment nowadays.

Is there anything you’ve ever said on stage that you’ve later regretted?
Probably ‘it’s lovely to be here’. You say that many times, but in your head you’re thinking, I can’t wait to get in the car and leave this dump! No, not really! Joking apart, I don’t think I have, although I’ve told some awful jokes, especially during the first two years of my career.
I think you can sometimes be really quick to judge an audience and go in too hard. I’m usually quite deliberate with my talking. I hate it when comperes or comics absolutely destroy someone in the audience when it’s not deserved. Someone once told me this when I started out, and it really makes sense. If you lose your sense of humour at the start, then the good is gone. I’ve seen some people lose it and thought, here we go - this is going to go tits up. 

How does living in Brighton influence your comedy?
I don’t think it influences my comedy, but it certainly influences my life and I bloody love it. Brighton is a laid-back, bohemian sort of city and a nice place to be. It’s creative, it’s fun, and there are a lot of new comics coming through.

Who’s the funniest person on the circuit at the moment?
I haven’t seen people for such a long time - when you’re out on tour, in your own little bubble, you don’t get to see other comedians. But I’ll tell you who’s doing really well, and that’s newcomer Maisy Adams. She’s certainly one to look out for.

Would you consider appearing on reality TV programmes in the future?
I never say no to anything; more like ‘call me back in half an hour’. I don’t think I’d ever say never to anything. Actually, that’s a lie; I would never do Big Brother. It’s just the idea of being trapped. I guess you’d have to look at where you are in your career at the time and ask yourself, ‘Is this the final outing?’ If so, then okay, let’s do it. It all depends on what else is occurring at that particular time.

Zoe performs her new show, Entry Level Human, at Nottingham Glee Club on Thursday 8 November and then at Birmingham Glee Club on Sunday 18 November. Tickets are available via zoelyons.co.uk

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