October 25, 2011
Having already collared iamstaggered.com 's Andrew Shanahan and Show Me The Funny winner Patrick Monahan to get their thoughts on Comedy in Events, we've managed to track down one of the most celebrated performers at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Mat Ricardo for a quick Q&A.
"The Gentleman Juggler" was (of course) gentlemanly enough to answer a few questions on Juggling, Edinburgh and Comedy and gave us his thoughts on how they all fit into corporate gigs...
Hi Mat! How the devil are you?
I am not bad at all, thank you for asking.
For anyone unfamiliar with your work, how would you best describe your act?
I’m a comedian and juggler. I specialise in performing feats of dexterity and manipulation with household objects, which, when performed on its own, comes across as the most awful kind of showing off, so luckily, I’m also funny.
You’ve recently completed a warmly received Edinburgh run with your show ‘Three Balls and a New Suit’, how was Edinburgh for you? Any Highlights?
The Edinburgh festival is always insane, but this year, it was at a whole new level of crazy. A slow day, for me, was 5 shows, with some days doing 8 or more. It was exhausting, but completely brilliant all at the same time. I was doing my one man show, and also being the closing act in a bunch of other cabaret and variety shows across the city, so all the time that I wasn’t being funny on stage, was spent dragging a suitcase up a cobbled hill between venues. Also, I became the first ever cabaret performer to win the Herald Angel award for excellence in theatre, which knocked me for six. So all in all, I had a ball.
It seems like every year is proclaimed ‘The Return of Cabaret’ - do you think there’s been an upturn in variety and cabaret performers at this year’s festival?
Yeah, I really do. This year was the first time cabaret had its own section in the guide, and this kind of thing can help to legitimise an artform. As a variety performer, the way the scene has grown over the last couple of years is really noticeable. I always say that I feel that I’ve spent the last 20-odd years working in the wrong venues, just waiting for this circuit to appear so that I can fit into it.
‘Three Balls…’ is considerably longer than the average juggling/magic act. What were the challenges in making a 60 minute show and how did you deal with them?
I probably could have made the whole show just one juggling routine after another, but that would have been pretty dull. Instead I wanted to talk about my artform, my journey to this point, how it feels to do what I do, the ups and downs..stuff like that. When people find out what I do for a living, they often ask similar questions.. “Where do you work?”, “how did you get into it?”, so it was nice to be able to answer a few of those, and talk a little about the performers from previous generations that I take inspiration from. And to keep it all funny, of course.
Your show many props of different shapes and sizes, what’s the hardest thing to juggle?
While in Edinburgh this year, I was asked – as part of a Malcomn Hardee memorial event - to juggle wet spaghetti. Which I did. I’m still finding bits of it in my pockets.
How do you approach corporate gigs in comparison to your regular theatre/club work?
You have to work to a tighter brief. In a club, part of the reason people have paid to see me might be that they like to see me go off on tangents, improvise etc, but for a corporate event, they haven’t paid to see you, so you need to be able to deliver the best, most polished version of what you do.
Your latest show is more personal than people might expect from a Comedy/Juggling show – do you think personal material can work at Corporate gigs?
Honestly, no, I’m not sure that the material in my one man show is right for a corporate audience. My club material is much better suited – punchier and more consistently funny. Again, the difference between an audience who have bought ticket specifically to see me, versus an audience who just want a top-class comedy entertainer. Part of being professional is knowing which things to pull out of the suitcase for which audience.
I spent a wonderful month in Tokyo working and hanging out with Masaaki Sakai, whois the actor who played Monkey in the 70’s TV show “Monkey” – he’s completely awesome. I remember in the early 90’s doing a corporate event where I was supporting Bob Monkhouse – I did my spot, and then sat in the wings watching him work and learned so much. Amazing.
And finally… What’s your favourite funny song?
Currently, “I love monkeys” by the great Howard Read would be up there, alongside a few things by Des O’Connor (the cabaret star, not the old school singer), Dusty Limits, or Eastend Cabaret – which would all be far to dirty for me to discuss here!
You can catch Mat at Proud Cabaret where he has a residency thorughout October.