Interview: Harriet Braine

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As anyone who reads this site will know, I love musical comedy when it’s done well and Harriet Braine is one of the very best at doing so. It’s not just me who thinks this either, with the Metro saying “If you like musical comedy with a twist, Harriet will have you howling”, the Huffington Post commenting “A breath of fresh air in a world that still likes a ‘knob’ joke” while Claire Smith of Beyond The Joke said “Her songs are delightful, smart, bubbling with wit”. She’s also won Best Newcomer at the Musical Comedy Awards, the Funny Women Stage Award 2016 and was a finalist in So You Think You’re Funny the same year, and was crowned Buxton Fringe Individual Comedy Award Winner with her acclaimed debut solo show Total Eclipse of the Art, so it’s surely a matter of time before she becomes deservedly hugely famous. In this interview she talks about her new show Les Admirables, The DesignSpark podcast she produces with Dr Lucy Rogers and Bec Hill, her most unusual gig, her best celebrity anecdote, and how she’d like to make a podcast where she and guest comedians form a band and create a song.

Comedy To Watch: How would you sell your comedy to someone unaware of your good self?

Harriet: I mostly do songs, some parodies, some not, lots of word play and silly voices. It’s surprisingly funny considering the subject matter, which is dead people.

CTW: And what can you tell us about your new show, Les Admirables?

Harriet: It’s about some really cool women from the history of science, including my grandmothers who were both scientists. Admirable people, hence the title. But don’t worry, it’s not earnest or preachy, and I make fun of myself throughout.

CTW: You previously performed at the Edinburgh festival in 2017 with the sell out show Total Eclipse of the Art, what were your fondest / happiest memories of your time there?

Harriet: I had such a great time, I loved pretty much every day of it, especially when audience was absolutely packed in at nearly double the ‘official’ capacity of the room some days. That felt great. I had a really lovely day off as well, walked round the coast from Leith to Portobello beach, then back via Arthur’s Seat. Proper trek. Also I got into quite an unhealthy but extremely delicious pancake habit, I was on several a day by the last week. I needed it though. I was exhausted.

CTW: And were there any elements you dislike about it?

Harriet: The first show of the run didn’t go brilliantly, to be honest! And there was a reviewer in… also there was a point, I think the last Monday of the run or something, where I nearly cried onstage I was so tired. There were reviewers in then too.

CTW: You co-host the History Makers and The DesignSpark podcasts with Dr Lucy Rogers and Bec Hill, can you tell us about them, and what your favourite moments from the podcast are?

Harriet: I see the History Makers episodes as a sort of pilot or trial run for what has become The DesignSpark podcast. Each episode focuses on an area of tech, medical tech for example, or big data and other pervasive phenomena, and we each bring a unique perspective it. Broadly speaking, I talk about the past, focusing on inventors or the history of the idea, Bec talks about the present through anecdotes and stories, and Lucy focuses on the technical aspects but also the possible future of each topic. I was a robot during the first series, and I quite enjoyed getting into that character, but I think I prefer being myself, as I can chip in with human jokes when I feel the need. Going off script a lot in the second series was so much fun – not that much of it probably made the edit!

CTW: Are there any other subjects that you’d like to do a podcast about, and if so, what might they be?

Harriet: I’ve had an idea that I’m not sure would work, but I’d love to try it, where me and a guest comedian(s) try to form a band and learn a song together. When I was in bands, there was always so many laughs and funny fails in rehearsal, and I always thought “aw I wish we’d been recording all this top bants!”.

CTW: What’s the most unusual gig you’ve done, and what happened that night?

Harriet: I was booked to perform at a private party which just so happened to be taking place where I work during the day (a very nice museum with a very nice ballroom). However, I learnt during the evening that I wasn’t going to be performing on the nice stage in the ballroom, but on the boat back to central London. So I had to set up an amp, mic stand, and other stuff really quickly while the boat set off, do the 20 mins I was booked for, (competing with a loud engine) and then quickly take down all my gear to disembark. it was quite stressful, but I’d do it again!

CTW: Apart from musical comedy and podcasting, is there anything else you’d like to do in the comedy world?

Harriet: I’d like to do some comic acting, on TV or stage. I’ve always loved creating characters and doing it at a more serious level would be amazing.

CTW: And if money were no object, what would you like to create?

Harriet: I’d like to be the new Tim Minchin and write and stage a comedy musical.

CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?

Harriet: Give us your best celebrity anecdote. Oh all right then! in 2017 I hung out with Ed Byrne and Dara Ó Briain in Edinburgh and saw The Elvis Dead with them.

Alex Finch. Photograph (c) Karla Gowlett.
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Related Links:
You can buy tickets for Harriet’s Edinburgh shows here.
And details of her Edinburgh Previews are here.
The DesignSpark Podcast’s site.
Harriet on Twitter.
Harriet on Facebook.
Harriet’s Youtube Channel.

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