Edinburgh Fringe 2022
HOT DOGS & TEARS
Christmas Eve, Georgia, 1996. Melissa's newly divorced dad picks her and her teenage brother up for dinner. After an hour of silent driving, they pull up to his favourite family restaurant... Hooters. Welcome to the American South, where cow tipping is entertainment and fast-food feels like self-care. Reformed redneck and stand-up comedian Melissa Stephens presents HOT DOGS & TEARS, her darkly hilarious Edinburgh debut.
Hi Melissa, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe and Assembly Festival this year?
It’s very exciting!
With this being your Fringe debut are there any nerves ahead of the festival?
This is my Fringe Debut. There are so many nerves. I don’t know what to expect and I’m terrified of performing to no one.
What does bringing Hot Dogs and Tears to the Fringe mean to you?
It means that I am legit. It means that I am a real comedian.
If you could use one word that best describe your comedy what would it be and why?
What’s been the funniest comment you’ve gotten for your stand up?
How are you still alive?
Any show/performer you’re looking forward to seeing at the Fringe?
The Idiot Circus, Tom Detrinis and Jinx Monsoon.
Can you tell me how Hot Dogs and Tears came about, what was the inspiration behind your new show?
When I first started doing Stand up, over time I realised after I did a set that a lot of the jokes that got the most laughs were unexpected and not usually what I wanted to go well. Those things were about my cringe worthy family, the wild South, and my bizarre perception and actions. Also, doing stand up in LA, I was doing a lot of 7-10 minute sets. You never really got a chance to do more. After 10 years of this I wanted to do my hour, and build a cohesive show. HOT DOGS & TEARS has material that I did from very early on and a lot of new stuff peppered in. It’s essentially been brewing for a while.
Do you ever feel any apprehensions about creating comedy from your personal life and experiences?
Every day. It’s almost become the most prevalent anxiety loop I have regarding this show.
How much did your time at the Groundlings and UCB help you define and refine the type of comedy you wanted to create?
It was like comedy bootcamp. It made my transition to stand up a lot easier. Through UCB and Groundlings both improv and sketch places, I realised what my comedy wasn’t. I found my voice and style. Improvising helped me switch to stand up beyond belief. It’s given me more confidence and a way to go with the flow on stage if a joke or something doesn’t go well, or if the audience is spicy. I love improv for that. It was my first taste of being fully in the moment. Anything could happen and if you made people laugh it was glorious. I still love doing that within my stand up. There will always be improv in my shows even at Edinburgh. It’s just a part of how I operate as a comedian. I’m yes anding the moment and the audience, just not a troupe of actors. One day I would love to do an hour of entirely improvised standup. Sketch helped me get good at characters and writing. By trying and failing a lot at Groundlings and UCB I found myself as a comedian, writer and director.
"I was a person who just recently moved into a new house and she gets caught playing and trying to get into cardboard boxes like a cat. "
How much do you think the show will evolve/change during the Fringe?
That is what I am most curious about. I don’t know. I do know that every show is different depending on the energy of the audience. My days as an improviser help me manoeuvre through this.
Have you always had a passion for sketch comedy and what has been your favourite sketch you’ve created?
I never had a passion for sketch. It kind of just happened to me and then I kept doing it. Slowly I got good at it and now my brain can think in sketches which is weird. At one point in Sunday company I was producing anywhere from 5-10 Sketches a week. My favourite filmed sketch is FINDING THE ASSHOLE: CHAPTER ONE.
My secret favourite sketch is the first one I ever did on the main stage at Groundlings that BOMBED. I was a person who just recently moved into a new house and she gets caught playing and trying to get into cardboard boxes like a cat. So stupid. You’re welcome.
Do you have any tips or advice for anyone wanting to get into comedy?
There is no right way to do comedy, and you’re doing great.
And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from Hot Dogs & Tears?
I can’t really answer that, because each audience member has to decide what they want to take from it. I wrote specifically to not mold what the audience takes away. To present this show. And they decide.