Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

Suchandrika Chakrabarti 
I Miss Amy Winehouse
Fringe Debut
VENUE 29 - 
Paradise in The Vault - The Annexe 
Aug 6-13, 15-20, 22-28, 12:15 /  
Tickets
July 14, 2022
Edinburgh Fringe poster - designed by Natalie Barbara.jpg

I Miss Amy Winehouse is about the absurdity of grief, the strangeness of celebrity, the joy of sticky nights out in Noughties Camden - and what it means to truly miss someone.

 

Hi Suchandrika, thanks for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping?

 

I’m just about living through this heatwave, thanks for asking!

 

What does it mean to be making your Edinburgh Fringe debut this summer at Paradise Green?

 

It’s really exciting! From the first time I visited the Fringe in 2003 as a punter, I had a sneaking suspicion that it was something I wanted to do, but I just wasn’t ready to do it… until now.

 

Any nerves or is that a silly question to ask?

 

It’s an odd thing, I don’t tend to get nervous before going onstage. It has happened to me, but doesn’t usually. Also, I wrote I Miss Amy Winehouse in May 2021, and have been performing it since June 2021, so I feel really comfortable with it. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t changed or won’t still change - or that I don’t ever mess up, ohhhh no - but performing the show now feels like visiting a familiar place.

 

How helpful have your previews been for you?

 

Really helpful. I’ve had some lovely and useful feedback from audiences, friends and a few trusted comedians. I’ve started to learn how to deal with reviews: good, bad and three-bloody-stars-is-that-good-or-bad?! I’ve noticed new links between bits of the show that send me back to edit the script. Previews are also great for building relationships with venues, programmers, festivals and your audience.

 

When the pandemic hit what as it about that moment and time that made you go “I want to get into Stand-up”?

 

Hahaha, I actually started a stand-up course at The Bill Murray in January 2020, so I got to do a show there, and one other gig, before live comedy shut down. I ended up getting into a couple of comedy competitions, so I had a goal to work towards, and a motive to do online gigs.

 

What made me start the course in January 2020? I went freelance in mid-2018, which freed me from the evening and weekend shifts of working full-time in a newsroom. I started looking into stand-up in mid-2019, finally committed to a course and got started in January 2020. My comic timing is better than my life timing, I promise…

 

What was the experience bringing this show to the Boom Chicago Comedy Festival?

 

Really fun! I had to edit the 60-minute show down to 20-30 minutes, to fit into the Comedy Storytelling hour that it was part of, and I wanted to make that edit whet the audience’s appetite for more. Within this edit of the show I also comment on how I fuse the comedy with the emotional journey. Overall, making something different out of my hour-long show taught me a lot about it, not least that it’s joyous having a clicker thing to run my slides! The power!!

 

The response has been pretty amazing already, what has it meant to you to get this type of validation for your stand up?

 

That’s an incredibly kind thing to say, thank you. There have been less-than-keen reviews too, and even they taught me something: like maybe I needed to set out what I was going to do in my show, finding the solutions to loss, and I could put in a line saying that near the start to help with any confusion. I’m used to dealing with notes, having come from journalism, but how to deal with validation? I guess I take it as giving me licence to play, have fun, do more of what I’m doing, unless / until audiences start responding with,”Huh, what was that? No thank you.”

Can you tell me how I Miss Amy Winehouse came about, what was about Amy Winehouse’s life and music that inspired you to write this show?

 

Somewhere between writing personal essays and the first couple of chapters of a novel set in the 2000s, I realised that I wasn't writing prose, but a show. There was a very ‘voice-y’ narrator in the wannabe novel that made me think these words needed to be spoken rather than read.

 

When I think of the 2000s, I can’t help but think of Amy Winehouse. She was everywhere back then, her music, but also her presence in Camden, north London, where I worked and partied. She was such a fixture, both as a celebrity, and someone normal but extremely talented my age who could’ve gone to school with me and my friends, who could also be in the next bar along Chalk Farm Road. Towards the end of the spring lockdown in 2021, I put on "Back to Black" and I just missed her, missed that time. I had a feeling that other people might miss her too, and that I had something to say about it.

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"I’ve learned to trust myself to know when I’m ready to write down a story. I do a lot of writing in my head first and take time to get it down on a page."

What are the biggest challenges you face when creating a show like this?

 

Boundaries, both within the show itself, and when talking about the show. I always want to get across that this show isn’t about making fun of Amy Winehouse at all. The scenes aren’t in chronological order, so making sure the audience always knows when/where we are is important. Finding the right balance between the light and the dark stuff, and always being aware of how the material might make the audience feel at that moment in the show is essential.

 

How much has your background as a journalist and writer for Radio 4’s The News Quiz help prepare you for writing and performing this show?

 

Journalism is a great training ground for comedy. I’m used to pitching and being edited as a journalist, which is part of writing the show, and of the process of getting into festivals and venues. Writing for The News Quiz has taught me to just get things down on a page when writing gags, then find ways of punching them up to be better - avoid the easy joke that I write down first, and keep trying out alternatives to find a better joke.

 

What have been the biggest lessons you have taken from this journey you’ve been on so far with this show and what have you discovered about yourself in the process?

 

Just to contradict what I said above, about getting jokes written down - I’ve learned to trust myself to know when I’m ready to write down a story. I do a lot of writing in my head first and take time to get it down on a page. I think that’s how I approach a story, and then the actual jokes need to be thrown against a wall asap and tried and tested.

 

At a Pinch of VAULT Festival earlier this month (it’s still going on), I performed a 45-minute WIP of my next show, Reunion/Afterparty (it’s definitely going to end up being 60 minutes), and it was only when I was given a deadline (and the promise of stage time) that I could sit down and write. I finished writing the script at 5pm, printed it by 6pm and was onstage at 9pm. Thank the stars it was a WIP and I could have my script in my hand.

 

Have you always had a passion for comedy?

 

Definitely! My faves from the 80s/90s include Bill Bailey, French & Saunders, The Young Ones, Whoopi Goldberg (especially as Oda Mae Brown in "Ghost"), the ‘Going for an English’ sketch from Goodness Gracious Me and, of course, the Chris Morris extended universe.

 

Do you have a favourite quote and song of Amy you always come back to?

 

I love ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ from Back to Black, and my favourite quote from her makes it into the show: “Even though some of it is personal in a sad way, I’d never let it be just that. I’ll always put a punchline in the song.”

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from I Miss Amy Winehouse?

 

The belief that, while you’re thinking of them, no one is ever really gone. Except for the 15-year-old version of me, with her awful Rachel from "Friends" haircut, she’s never coming back…