Joanna Neary is an accomplished comedian, writer and actress. Her live work revolves around character-based comedy. Past shows include Joanna Neary’s Years Of Pain, Joanna Neary Is Not Feeling Herself and Pan’s Person, which earned her a nomination for the “best newcomer” Perrier award at the Edinburgh festival back in 2004. She has also appeared in the TV shows Time Trumpet, That Mitchell & Web Look, Dogface and Ideal. Radio credits include Count Arthur Strong’s Radio Show, as well as multiple appearances on Out To Lunch
The Humourdor: Is Comedy Art?
JN: Yes. In my opinion, art moves you in some way. Toulouse Lautrec’s paintings make me want to cry, I find them very touching, Miro makes me laugh.
It seems to me that comedy is like Ancient Greek theatre or football or gladiator sports in that it’s so very popular at the moment. It can cross the class divide and unite a crowd. Especially high brow stuff like dressing up in an inflatable dolphin costume and pretending to admire Tamsin Outhwaite.
H: How would you describe what you do on stage to someone who maybe hasn’t heard of you?
JN: I do character comedy, which means I impersonate people and make jokes while pretending to be someone else. Like a solo Sketch show. I also do songs (oddly as I don’t like comic songs particularly but I do love singing and dancing about)
H:What was your first gig like?
JN: Terrifying. I held onto the microphone and swayed violently, back and forth.
H:How have your shows evolved since then?
JN: I’m not so scared of the audience anymore and I even quite like chatting to them. But I’m rubbish at improvising.
H:You’ve worked in TV, Radio and you perform on stage. Which is your greatest passion?
JN: I love all of these but TV and stage are my favourite. In TV you can concentrate on acting/performing and I had trouble concentrating when I started. But on stage, you’re totally in control of what you do/how long you’re on for/what you do next/what you don’t do. It’s nice being a one man band occasionally.
H:How do you come up with new material?
JN: With difficulty. I sit around for days, I make notes, I keep sketchbooks, I tidy the house too much and then as the deadline looms, I start dreaming of material and sometimes I write that down.
H: You were on the unbelievably under-rated, or at least very under-watched, Armando Iannucci penned comedy: Time Trumpet. How did that come about and what was it like working with so many comedians on a pretty original concept?
JN: It was great – I did a gig with Adam Buxton, which is where I met Armando Iannucci – he complimented me on the set I did and introduced himself. I thought ‘yes, I know who you are!’ I was so excited to meet him. The filming was insane, I received about 8 or more pages of scripts the night before filming and I think most of the talking heads people did the same script, then it got selected in edit. I didn’t know what Time Trumpet was or anything. I just got to be in it from a little gig in a downstairs restaurant. There wasn’t even time to learn the lines but I guess Armando Iannucci wanted a fresh ad lib style and that’s how. There was a sketch I did though and it was socomplicated, I kept getting it wrong. I’m not sure it was used in the end. I’ve never forgiven myself for that.
H: What work of your own are you most proud of & why?
JN:I did a pilot for BBC2 last year called “Same Time, Next Week’ with Adam Buxton and Al Kerr. It wasn’t broadcast but the version I did in front of an audience was my favourite show I’ve ever done. It was my Celia Johnson character hosting a magazine show with her husband Fred in the local village hall. Maybe I’ll record it myself and put it on youtube. it was heaven.
H: You’ve started your own comedy night, could you tell us more about that?
JN: It’s delicious, it’s That Comedy Thing at the Lamb Inn in Eastbourne and I’m also help run Laughter Lounge at the PIcturehouse in Uckfield, starting on Monday 4th April. When you run your own night it can be exactly how you want it to be. I choose the best possible acts, have a free jazz band in the corner and do bits of characters in between as ‘compere-ing’.
It’s the only alternative comedy night in Eastbourne as far as I know.
H: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into comedy?
JN: There’s no substitute for experience, you have to go for it and gig as much as you possibly can.
H: Are there any upcoming projects you could tell us about?
JN: Ooh, I’m going to Edinburgh Festival this August and am previewing that show all over the place. You can get details from my website joneary.com (which is new) the show is called Youth Club and is set in Cornwall in 1987 with me playing all the parts.