Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2019
Zach Zucker: "It costs A LOT of money to do this, especially if you want to tour internationally. Not only that, the longer you do it, the more you have to up your production value."
Jack Tucker: Comedy Standup Hour
Underbelly, Cowgate - Belly Button
1st - 25th August | 21.20 | TICKETS
Following sell-out shows in New York, London and LA, award-winning comedian Zach Zucker returns with a new hour of absurdist stand-up! Important: Jack Tucker is a very funny stand-up comedian who is doing this for the first time but is already blowing up around the world.
Hi Zach, great to chat again, how are you doing?
Hello old friend! Good to hear from you. Been a wild few years since we last spoke but we’re still alive and we’re still making shows. Since we last spoke I’ve toured the world three years in a row, made an opera with a funk-band called Thumpasaurus, started a variety show called Stamptown Comedy Night, did a solo show called Human Person and have produced over 20 shows. I. Am. Exhausted.
Looking forward to being back at the Fringe?
I’m thrilled to be back at Underbelly for the fourth year in a row, especially at Cowgate, and I’m beyond excited for everyone to see the new show. This is the first time since our debut Zach & Viggo year that I’m arriving with a show that’s ready to go and I couldn’t be happier about it. Turns out writing the show throughout the run isn’t the best way to maximize the fringe experience or your lifespan.
Your first Edinburgh Fringe was a huge triumph, what was it like to see SOLD OUT next to your show each night?
It was surreal. We’re the biggest idiots in the world and we still don’t know how we pulled that off. Because of that season, we were able to tour the international scene, eventually heading to and selling out most shows in New York, Chicago, Toronto, LA, Oslo and Copenhagen, followed by a three-month tour in Australia. It’s been long enough now that we need to update those laurels, but luckily we’ve stayed busy.
What was that first fringe experience like for you?
Our first fringe was actually in 2015 at 12.30pm on the free fringe at CC Blooms. We were performing to single digits audiences for the vast majority of the run - very different experience than our 2016 sold-out year. So to come back and have the entire run sold out was something we always dreamed of but never imagined happening. Our friends in the box office would later go on to describe us as ‘the guys who turn up every day and can’t believe they’ve sold out’.
What was the nicest & strangest comment you got for Zach & Viggo?
We have a reputation for not writing anything because there are a lot of mistakes and accidents built into the show. It’s a bummer because people walk away really enjoying what they’ve seen, but they don’t think we’re capable of putting something together or that we’ve put any effort into it. I understand where they’re coming from because it looks like one big accident BUT that’s what a clown show is and supposed to be.
"I do also have very vivid memories of doing Steve Irwin impressions at primary school when I was 6-7 for the older boys."
Can you tell me a little bit about Jack Tucker: Comedy Stand Up Hour what can we expect?
It’s a fast-paced hour of absurdist, character comedy. The show is littered with sound effects from my director Jonny Woolley (also director of Zach & Viggo) that amp up the pace and add to the anarchic feeling of watching a real-life train wreck. A lot of people enter the show thinking it’s a real person, and an alarming amount of people leave not realising it’s a character. Turns out people are willing to believe Americans are really that stupid.
How did Jack Tucker come to life?
When we started off with Zach & Viggo, people wouldn’t book us because what we did wasn’t “traditional comedy”, so we struggled to work outside of the festivals. Standup is the most practical, accessible and digestive form of comedy, so we decided to find a way to penetrate that world while staying true to our creative values. What’s the best way for clowns to infiltrate the standup community? Pretend to be a standup comedian. What type of standup comedian? The worst one possible.
How different is he compared to the other characters you’ve created?
I’ve always been super fascinated by cringe comedy and bad comedians. Partly because I think those deep spaces of silence are the funniest areas to play in, and partly because I myself am a dangerously close to/some would say (allegedly) a bad comedian.
Through Stamptown Comedy you’re producing AJ Holmes, Roisin Crowley Linton and Business Casual shows at the fringe, could you tell me a little bit about these shows?
All three of these shows are completely different from the others - AJ is the former lead of The Book Of Mormon on Broadway and West End, Roisin is a poet and standup from Newcastle who works with teenage girls in youth groups, and Business Casual is a three-man comedy group from LA who make really silly, crazy sketches. That being said, they all share the same creative spirit that makes Stamptown unique, and most importantly, are incredibly kind, caring and exciting people to hang out and work with.
How important is the creative collaboration when bringing work to the fringe?
Definitely the most important part. I think that’s what separates the fringe from all other platforms. We’re surrounded by artists from all over the world, from all different styles and genres of performance, who are willing to help at all times - in the lead-up and at the festival. You don’t have to take everything that everybody says, but you’re getting notes, ideas and perspectives from people you wouldn’t normally get. These types of experiences are invaluable and are hard to come by in other creative scenarios.
What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced bringing your show to the fringe?
Aside from normal artist-laziness, the biggest obstacles are financial freedom and flexibility. It costs A LOT of money to do this, especially if you want to tour internationally. Not only that, the longer you do it, the more you have to up your production value. Costumes, props, venues, PR, housing - so while you’re making more money, your expenses double/triple along the way. It’s easy to get stuck in an impenetrable cycle but if you’re able to make a living the rest of the year with a good show, you’re in good hands.
Have you always had a passion for performing and comedy?
If you look back on my life it makes sense but it didn’t start out that way. I was the classic American sports guy my whole life: I played baseball, basketball, and any other sport that allowed me to get out of class and not do my schoolwork. I actually got a letter to play baseball at Harvard which my grandma never lets me forget. This was especially difficult for her, because I was the first grandson in a Jewish family from New York, who’s grandparents didn’t go to college, and I ended up going to clown school in France.
Has your style and approach to your work changed much since your debut?
Aside from making some changes in my personal life, I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with some incredible friends and collaborators that have inspired me to up my game. People like Tom Walker, Demi Lardner, Dylan Woodley, Lucas Tamaren and Rack Jackson have all been massive influences in my approach these past few years. Their mediums range from comedy to animation, to music, to premium lifestyle solutions companies, but they all come from the same core of exciting and innovative creations.
What was the first character you created?
The first character I created for my own show was ‘Brad’ aka The Actor from one of the earlier versions of Zach & Viggo: Thunderflop. When we do the show now, he doesn’t exist anymore, but it was a really LA/Hollywood type actor. Some people might say there’s a pattern here but I don’t know what you’re talking about. I do also have very vivid memories of doing Steve Irwin impressions at primary school when I was 6-7 for the older boys. I could never tell if they liked it, or if they were making fun of me, but I know I did it a lot and I loved doing it.
What has been the best piece of advice you got when you started out?
“If you don’t got no sauce, you lost. But you could also get lost, in the sauce” - Gucci Mane.
Do you have any advice or tips for any emerging theatre-makers?
Say yes to everything and figure it out later. Don’t overextend yourself too much (he says at 5.42am on the day of his opening show) but learn from the times that you do. Fail as much as you can, as early as you can, because everybody has to fail before they figure out what they’re doing. And even then, they still have no idea. Nobody knows anything, and everybody is an idiot.
What 3 words best describe this show?
Best Comedy Award.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from Jack Tucker: Comedy Stand Up Hour?
I hope people leave-taking themselves a bit less seriously and more willing to poke fun at themselves and others. We’re in a weird crossroads where we’re forgetting humour is the universal language that connects us all and people need to remember it’s not always personal when we laugh at ourselves and one another. In my opinion, laughter is the greatest level of understanding and it would be our darkest moment if took ourselves too seriously.