A Piggy Interview WithDave Chawner (Mental)

Performer: Dave Chawner
Photograph by: Rowan Morgan at CR2 Studios
Show: Dave Chawner: Mental
Venue: Laughing Horse @ The Counting House
Promoter: D2 Events
Online: Box Office Facebook Website


Tell me about your Edinburgh show.

It’s a show all about mental health (rather than mental illness). 1 in 4 people has mental illness but 4 in 4 people have mental health – why do we only focus on the negatives rather than the whole issue? No wonder people are reluctant to talk about mental health because it’s always sob stories and platitudes – ‘just talk’, ‘it’s OK not to be OK’ and ‘stigma’. This show tries to get rid of the well-trodden buzzwords and overused phrases in order to explore mental health rather than just mental illness and give people tangible coping mechanisms for dealing with what life throws at them.


Tell me about your first gig.

It was an open mic student gig in Southampton. When I say ‘open mic’ I mean that it was a music night. I knew nothing about comedy. They gave me 10 minutes and for the first 5 people thought I was an incredibly lazy rapper!


Do you have any rituals before going on stage?

I’ve always liked the idea of having rituals to ‘get you in the zone’. The problem is I’m a very forgetful person. So, I’ve tried to start up rituals, but never stuck to them as I never remember what they were. Also, I’m not sure how feasible they are. You can’t really demand you need a space to eat green smarties, while facing Westwards and listening to Enya when you’re in Edinburgh because you are one performer among thousands and you need to get on, do your show, and get off.


Tell me about your best and worst review.

The first ever year I did a solo show Ed Fringe Review gave me a review. They send 2 reviewers for every show. The first one gave me 4 stars, the second gave me 3 stars but hated me. They even berated me for ‘holding the mic weirdly’. But, the best thing about it was that second reviewer spelt my name wrong throughout the whole review, so no one ever found it. It was a lovely little bit of serendipity


During this Edinburgh run, do you plan to read reviews of your show?

It’s hard to avoid reviews (especially when they tag you into the reviews on twitter). It’s true that Edinburgh can make people really vulnerable as you’re putting yourself on the line to be judged. So, I think it’s important to remember whether you get a good or bad review, to put it all into some sort of context. It’s really easy to lose perspective at the Fringe and when you lose that you can easily lose your mind. So, I will have a gander at reviews, but I try not to think of them as a complete estimation of me as human.


How do you feel about reviewers generally?

Generally, quite sorry to be honest! They do all the work but get none of the glory – they have to go and see numerous shows, in a variety of different venues all over the city throughout different times of the day.


In April 2018, YouTube comedian, Markus Meechan (aka Count Dankula) was fined £800 for training his girlfriend’s pug dog to do a Nazi salute with its paw, in response to the phrase ‘Gas the Jews’. Do you believe Meechan committed a criminal offence, and why?  

I believe that I haven’t looked into this enough to comment! I realise I should say something inflammatory and blinkered in order to get myself more press attention and PR but I think that’s actually the problem with the industry.


Are there any subjects that are not suitable for comedy?

Personally, I don’t think there are. I think what is and isn’t suitable is how they are dealt with. As soon as you tell someone they can’t say something then that pushes it underground, and when things go underground it creates division. I think comedy is about bringing people together rather than trying to separate them.


Have you ever gone too far?

Yes, Lincoln.


Looking back over your time as a comedian, tell me about the best gig of your career.

I realise this is a self promotional opportunity for me to reel off all the big gigs I’ve done. However, I don’t want to do that because, honestly, some of the best gigs aren’t the biggest. The best gigs are the ones where there is a genuine connection with the audience and I truly believe in what I’m saying. That’s why I love doing shows about mental health – granted it is a tricky topic to make funny, but if you can crack that nut, it is well worth it.

Dave Chawner was talking to Wrigley Worm.

Published Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

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