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Quitting Comedy Interview

Prepare for the unfiltered and hilariously raw comedy play Quitting Comedy, a captivating mixed-media comedic play, hitting the stage at PBH's Free Fringe @ Legends - Upstairs at Edinburgh Fringe 2023 from August 5th to 21st and August 23rd to 27th at 19:20.

Written and performed by New York based comedians Caroline Hanes and Malia Simon, this thought-provoking production pulls back the curtain on the hidden struggles within the comedy industry, while delivering a satirical exploration of the eternal question: is it time to quit comedy?

Set against the backdrop of the cutthroat comedy scene in New York City, Quitting Comedy blends satirical stand-up routines, a cast of zany characters, and a dose of social commentary to shed light on the challenges faced by two aspiring female comedians. Through a mix of their real stand-up material and scripted satire, Caroline and Malia caricaturize stereotypes about both male and female comedians, revealing misguided attempts to address sexism in the male-dominated industry. The show navigates the inherently funny experience of watching bad comedy, portraying comedians who resort to insulting their audiences and pandering to social media algorithms.

Exploring themes such as the anxiety of choosing a life path, sexism, friendship, sexuality, and the intricate workings of the comedy and entertainment industry, the play takes audiences on a journey that resonates with quarter-life crises and the challenges of existence in a complex world.

I spoke to Caroline and Malia whilst the show is playing at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe.

What inspired your show and how did you develop it? Caroline: All of the hilariously awkward and difficult situations we’ve found ourselves in and the people we’ve met on the New York comedy scene. And our friendship, which has developed and grown ever since I sat down next to Malia three years ago at an open mic in a dark basement. The show features satirical reenactments from our life, but they are closer to reality than you might think! 
Malia: Being witness to so much bad comedy. We're not saying we’re the greatest comedians in the world—in fact, the show includes our own real stand-up, which makes us look like good or bad comedians depending on how the sets go that day. The point of the “show within a show,” element was to pull back the curtain a little on comedians and shed light on the absurdity of it all, the very pursuit of comedy. 

Has there been times in your career where you’ve considered walking away? 
Malia: Yes. This morning. 
Caroline: It’s a constant looming question. That’s one of the major themes of the show. Pursuing comedy as a career often feels like an almost paradoxical thing (how do you take comedy “seriously” without totally ruining the fun!?). So in the show we try to show the thought process of this cycle of wanting to quit and then coming back again, which I think can be applied to so many of life’s challenges. 

What keeps you inspired? 
Caroline: Getting out of my routine and trying new things as a performer. Becoming more comfortable on stage is so exciting because you can take risks and bring more of your true personality to your act. Being at the Fringe and getting to perform in so many shows every day has been incredible. You can try the same joke five different ways in one day and by the end of your last show you’ve figured out the best version. 
Malia: Seeing great comedy, and people who are doing it for the love of it. Being at the Fringe is great for that. It’s so inspiring to watch comedians who write about real things and darkness and death and somehow make it funny. And then there’s pure silly comedy about nothing at all, which is equally great. Either way, it inspires me most to see people using comedy to let themselves be totally free. At its best, that’s what it can be. 

What do you want an audience member to take away from seeing the show? 
Malia: Comedy is hard, life is hard. Even though the idea is tempting, there is no “quitting,”---just moving forward and making good friends who love you even when you suck. 
Caroline: Even though the characters in our show are absurd, we think they’re quite relatable and this snapshot of their lives can teach audiences about finding satisfaction in life even when you feel far from reaching your goals. 

Can you describe the show in 3 words? 
Caroline: fast-paced, goofy, edgy 
Malia: absurd, intimate, experimental

Catch Quitting Comedy at PBH's Free Fringe @ Legends - Upstairs at Edinburgh Fringe 2023 from August 5th to 21st and August 23rd to 27th at 19:20.

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