Interview: Fern Brady on Power and Chaos

Despite her increasing popularity, Fern Brady is as down-to-earth and herself as usual

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 3 minutes
Published 25 Feb 2019
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Fern Brady

Success isn't going to Fern Brady's head.

"People have started coming to see me deliberately," she says.

After winning many new fans at Melbourne Comedy International Festival last year, Brady now returns to Australia to premiere Power and Chaos. And after her set on the UK's Live at the Apollo – she's the first Scottish female to appear on the TV standup show – it has only increased her popularity.

"I’m a bit nervous it has given me a false confidence," she says of people making the choice to see her. "It’s really different when people are on your side from the very start."

Brady had an unusual start in standup. As a critic for this very magazine in Edinburgh she wrote a feature where she swapped her notepad for an open-mic spot. It might have ended there, but Brady launched herself into the tough circuit gigs in Manchester: "I just thought I better get better at comedy."  

If anyone can jump the critic and artist divide, it's Brady. She likes to tread along neat categorical lines, a theme she explores in her new show. "I couldn't sleep last night because I was thinking I should have given it a different title. I should have called it Gemini. It's about duality."

One area of duality Brady has been cautious about is bisexuality. But she's been partly inspired by the openness of a new generation of comics. "I briefly mentioned being bi in my second show but I didn’t feel comfortable talking about it onstage. But now the younger comics are talking about it – and I saw a really great Aussie, Laura Davis, talking about it. Then I did stuff about it on Apollo... the amount of engagement I’ve got from just mentioning it has encouraged me to talk about it a lot more.

"I’m just really basically interested in identity." She adds, "I think national identity is really silly. I get told a lot of stuff about the nature of being Scottish by English people, which is something they can’t seem to help."

And since the Brexit referendum, these attitudes have worsened. "We did a run through for a panel show and an English comic said, 'Fern, do you have schools in Scotland?' I was so angry that I didn’t speak for the rest of the thing. If I react aggressively then that plays into the idea that that’s what we’re all like… so that’s still a thing, and certain English people who would say things like that anyway are getting more like that now Brexit is happening."

This isn't something she'll miss in Adelaide or Melbourne. "I’ve had some of the best shows of my life in Australia. You get taken a different way. Because I'm Scottish, people in England think I’m more working class than I am, and it comes with the assumptions that I’m drunk onstage or something. But gigging in Australia there’s none of that baggage."