By Tom Fair
Transcribed by Louise Roberts and edited by Emma Towers
Saskia Preston appeared in The GALA Preview Show on 10th January at De Montfort Hall and premiered her Work in Progress show at Leicester’s Firebug on 11th February. Preston is a writer for BBC Radio 4’s The News Quiz.
Tom: Hello there I’m Tom Fair with Demon Media, and I’ve got Saskia Preston with me. Hey, how are you?
Saskia: Hi Tom, I’m doing good thank you very much.
T: We are here at the De Montfort hall today for the preview show. Excited for it?
S: Yeah, I am excited for it. It looks like a beautiful room – 2,000 people apparently. It’s sold out.
T: Ooh, big crowd.
S: Well, tonight you’re gonna get a chance to see that many people. I don’t want to see them; I hope the lights are down low, very low. [laughs]
T: More of a sensory experience- all the lights go dim.
S: Spotlights can make it so you can’t see anyone.
T: Yeah. So, you’ve got a show coming up on the 11th during Leicester’s Comedy Festival, so what have you got planned for that one?
S: Well it’s a work-in-progress show. I came up last year and I did a work-in-progress for my tour that I was doing in August. So, obviously it’s about 9 months before I think it will be fully ready but they’re more fun, sometimes. I hope it’s fun, because you just get to be a little bit more adventurous and riskier than you might otherwise be.
T: Is that what it’s like writing your show then? You just sort of throw all your ideas at a page?
S: Yeah, things I’ve been thinking about at the moment, it’s the most current version of what you think’s funny, rather than the things that get honed. It feels like a very in the moment thing, which is nice, hopefully.
T: So, when do you consider a show to be polished and finished? Is there a point where you feel that?
S: You know [as comedians] you have this standard Edinburgh [Fringe], which is the way the industry is and that’s the way you have to prepare for it at that time.
But that’s the first time I get to practice, it does take a while to get to that point. I don’t know if it’s ever really polished. Hopefully, though it is. But polished doesn’t necessarily mean anything, it’s just slicker, I suppose. It can be funnier at different stages or whenever, but certainly, it’s linked together and it has more flow and narrative and things like that further down the line, and the essence of the jokes are there at all points hopefully.
T: So, you’ve done some work in the past for Radio 4, writing scripts for other shows. How was it writing comedy for other people?
S: I am still working on being really good at that, it’s really hard to write in other people’s voices. I feel like I’ve specifically got quite a feel for whenever I have tried to do conversational stuff or things that are relatable, but it doesn’t work that well. So, maybe I struggle to have that everyman view. But it’s a challenge which is nice, and the thing about most of them is that they’re really topical news shows, which actually I don’t do in my normal sets. So, just having a chance to do stuff that’s like having to read a newspaper for inspiration rather than wandering around thinking as a way of getting an inspiration is refreshing because it’s not so narcissistic.
T: So, when you’re writing those kinds of shows, you’re reading the newspapers and the news online every day. That’s really depressing.
S: It is quite depressing, and it’s quite repetitive, up until very recently, luckily Harry and Megan have sort of reduced the Brexit chat since they dropped their bombshell. There was a period of, what 3 years, we’ve had a lot of similar stories repeating themselves. But yeah, you’re right, there’s not as many good-news stories, and there’s lots of cynicism and fake-news which makes things even harder.
T: How did you stay positive? It must have been quite a drag, just every day.
S: I think you’re overestimating how much of this work I actually did [laughs]. So, like 10 minutes every day wasn’t as negative to thoroughly have a psychological effect. But we’re all doing it every day, right? We’re all kind of reading or looking at news on Twitter and getting depressed and you’ve gotta take a break from it. You’ve gotta delete some apps and take some moments where you don’t constantly have access to a 24 hours news cycle. And focus on real-life connections with your friends where they are positive and nice and affects you on a day to day level much more than these macro things that keep happening.
T: I was going to ask you what’s some words of encouragement for students in a scary world, but I guess you’ve nailed it on the head. Just focus on the little stuff.
S: Yeah just throw your phone in the river.
T: Do I have to go that far? Is that a commandment?
S: Yeah, that’s what I’m suggesting we do.
T: Endorsed. [laughs] Would you rather turn into a jellyfish for a random 2 minutes every day, or for a set time for 2 hours every day?
S: Oh, a random 2 minutes! People don’t pay attention to the world. I feel like you that could happen on the tube in London and people would just not notice because they’re stuck in their phones. Maybe that’s happening and I haven’t noticed, I haven’t been observing.
T: Would it be a shame to be a jellyfish?
S: I’d just say it didn’t happen. I’d just gas-light people, just say ‘you imagined it, that wasn’t real.’
T: ‘I’m not crazy, you’re crazy!’
S: Yeah, I’d just say ‘you made that up, that wasn’t real.’