Entertainment & Arts

From Footlights to the first-timers

It has been 29 years since the first ever Edinburgh comedy awards were handed out to a group of bright-eyed student members of the Cambridge Footlights.

The unruly bunch of unknowns comprised a few names perhaps more recognisable nowadays, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and Tony Slattery, to name but four.

As organisers ready the list of nominees for the 30th award, we talk to three very different comedians at the break of their comedy careers.

DANIEL SLOSS

At the age of 19-years-old, Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss is already making a name for himself in British comedy. At the age of 16, he wrote jokes for Frankie Boyle on Mock The Week and did his first full show last year.

This year, he turned down university to concentrate on his act. Sloss's new show My Generation takes a pop at older people as well as addressing the trials of living at home with his parents and younger brothers and sisters.

You turn 20 next month and will no longer be a 'teenage comedian'. Does this mean your material will change completely?

I will have to quit! No, but I've had a lot of reviewers saying: 'You do lots of jokes about being young,' but they don't say to women comedians: 'You do lots of jokes about being women'... I'm not playing on it, it's just what I know so, when I turn 20, I'll still be young but I won't be doing the teenage stuff.

Were you viewed with suspicion last year because you were so young?

It wasn't so much suspicion, it was more like when you walk out on stage, they look at you and go: 'Really? You're six, how could you possibly make us laugh?' They weren't expecting me to be any good, which made the gigs a bit easier.

How do different ages react to you?

Teenagers who come to comedy shows are normally picked on for being young, whereas when I come on, they can relate to it. Older people between 25 and 45, they have kids my age and they get the jokes. But the over 65s hate me. Everything I stand for is offensive, my existence is the worst thing that could have possibly happened.

What would a best newcomer award nomination mean to you?

For me, the award is given to a stand up who has a different look, has a different way of doing things. I'm just a normal stand up. I don't claim to change comedy, so a nomination would be lovely but it's never going to happen.

Daniel Sloss: My Generation is on at the Pleasance Dome until 30 August.

BO BURNHAM

Another teenage comedian, 19-year-old Massachusetts-born Bo Burnham is nevertheless a very different performer. Mixing satirical songs with comedy haiku and intricate wordplay, Burnham became a YouTube sensation whose videos have had more than 60 million hits.

His performances brought him to the attention of US comedy director Judd Apatow (Knocked Up, Superbad) who is now working on a film with him. Burnham's show Words, Words, Words marks his debut at the Edinburgh Fringe.

How did you get started in comedy?

I put some songs I'd recorded on YouTube, that I did when I was 16, and they built up a momentum. Then I started doing them live and started working on an act and I've been doing that for about two years now.

Do you enjoy messing up an audience's expectations?

When people hear about a 19-year-old singing comedian, they think it's just a kid singing about hooking up with girls and stuff. I like giving little back-handed swipes to all the people who write me off because of my age or what I do. It's more about constantly misdirecting people.

Have you had any audiences that just didn't get it?

Yeah, I had a show at an army academy. That didn't go well. Bombing is good and healthy and fun. It's good to have the struggle. If you just do okay, then you've lost them. But if you bomb, it's so much fun.

You do jokes about Shakespeare, haiku and quantum mechanics. Do younger audiences get you?

I'm a big nerdy dude. I have young audiences that are really nerdy and really cool. I try and mix it up so there is stuff for the kids. I had a parent come up and say: 'I don't approve of your material but if my son got all of your jokes, I'd be really happy.'

What is the project you're working on with Judd Apatow?

I'm writing a movie musical, I don't know if it's going to be made or not - but it's been really fun. I've been thinking about recording a rap album as well, so my stand up becomes more stand up and my music becomes more music. I have no five-year plan though.

Bo Burnham: Words, Words, Words is on at the Pleasance Dome until 29 August

ANDI OSHO

Andi Osho is a 37-year-old Londoner who grew up in the East End to Nigerian parents. An actress and writer, she came to comedy later in her career. Her debut show Afroblighty plots her journey towards finding her own identity, taking in stereotypes, the BNP, political correctness and America's first black president.

Is this your first full-length show?

In 2007, I came up as an actor and did a Shakespeare for Breakfast thing which kicked off the whole festival. A couple of years ago I did some bits and pieces. but this is my debut doing a full hour-long show.

You started out acting, so when did the comedy kick in?

When I was acting on TV and stuff, I was always playing serious roles like police officers - telling people that their husbands had died. I guess it was a lack of acting work really. I always wanted to do this. I did a comedy course and then I did some gigs and now here I am, haemorrhaging cash in Edinburgh.

Was it a steep learning curve?

I was absolutely terrified the first time, I'll never forget it. I was standing backstage, and I was so nervous that I could barely speak. Then I had this sudden moment of calm. It must be like the moment they call your name before an execution. I thought 'I might as well just enjoy it,' and I did.

Are you aware of playing to audiences who, year after year, see a lot of comedy and will compare you with other comics?

Yeah, but that always happens. I just come up here to improve as a comic. I'm already thinking 'What would I like to do next year, and how can I get better?'

Andi Osho's Afroblighty is on at the Stand III & IV until 29 August