Not many comedians have a story quite like Milo Edwards as he started out in the Cambridge Footlights before heading over to Russia and performing comedy over there for three years. If you’ve caught him live you’ll know what an incredibly funny comedian he is and if you haven’t we’d recommend you doing so right now, and we’re not alone in praising him either with The Tab calling him “Effortlessly funny” and The Cambridge Student saying “Hilarious’ ★★★★”. Here he talks about his debut Edinburgh show, what it’s like to perform comedy in Russia, what it was like to be part of The Cambridge Footlights, how Trump and Brexit have affected his comedy, and the time he had to follow an act that consisted of an old lady singing soviet ballads while two girls did a striptease act next to her.
Comedy To Watch: How would you describe your comedy to someone who wasn’t previously aware of your good self?
Milo: It’s a bit of a mixture of some storytelling with what I’d call an almost analytical style, I like taking an idea that I’m interested in and pushing it as far as it will do in terms of breaking it down to its most ridiculous constituent parts.
CTW: What can you tell us about your new show Pindos?
Milo: The show is all about how I moved to Russia and became a TV comedian out there, and why I ended up coming back. As a result it leans a bit more towards storytelling because it’s based on a 3 year period of my life and what happened to me, but there are some fun analytical tangents in it. I think in some ways the part of the show I most enjoy performing is a little tangent about ‘the problem with 9/11’ which has been keeping audiences on their toes. It’s a fun show and I’m really pleased with how it’s coming together, so hopefully audiences at the Fringe will love it and I can stop sleeping on people’s sofas…
CTW: You’ve performed stand up in Russia, what are the differences to doing it there compared to the UK? And is there any material you can’t perform in Russia?
Milo: I’d say that in Russia they have a fundamentally similar sense of humour to Brits in that it can be quite dry and dark, but there’s a major differences when it comes to doing live comedy: firstly stand-up has only really existed there for about 5 years and what stand-up is is still mostly defined by one TV show (which I was on) so if you’re trying to do anything too modern, unusual or that wouldn’t be allowed on TV you can lose a crowd. In terms of material, the TV is heavily censored, for socially conservative tastes as much as politics – it’s hard to do material about sex, porn, drugs or even drinking on the TV and there’s certainly no swearing, but live you can more or less do what you want unless it’s completely incomprehensible for cultural reasons, although you might get told off by some old lady afterwards (as has happened to me more than once).
CTW: Why did you decide to come back to the UK? And do you ever consider returning to Russia?
Milo: It was really a whole host of things. It’s definitely getting more difficult to live there as a foreigner administratively and whilst I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous, it’s definitely getting sketchier. But for me it was mostly about developing more as a comedian, because I felt like I’d hit the ceiling of what I could learn there and I wanted to be in a more stimulating creative environment, which London has been great for, although I am a hell of a lot poorer!
CRWL You were part of the Cambridge Footlights, can you tell us about your time there? And how do you feel your comedy has evolved since then?
Milo: Like any club it has its warts for sure, but I definitely think it gave me huge opportunities to develop as a comic because we had so much scope to experiment in front of friendly crowds, working with other interesting comics – and we had to write new material all the time because Cambridge is so small. You see some comics who started in London write 10 mins of material in their first two years: we’d do that in our first two months or less. That said, because the crowds are so nice and experimentation is encouraged I think most of us didn’t come out of it with much idea of the professionalism you need on the pro circuit and how tight and precise you need to be to work on a professional or TV level. In that sense I think my comedy has gotten way more efficient than it was and my word count per joke is a lot lower, but sometimes I look back on old Footlights stuff and think ‘I never write anything that crazy now!’ and think maybe I should start doing it that way again.
CTW: A lot has happened politically over the past few years what with Brexit and Trump, has that affected your comedy in any way?
Milo: I’ve definitely become a lot more political in the last two years. I always used to be kind of a milquetoast centrist lib type, but I never took that much of an interest and I used to find people who were always shouting about politics a bit tiresome. But a combination of how dire everything has been in the last two years, and running the political comedy podcast Trashfuture, has kind of turned me into a raving socialist (which I have to say my Dad is not happy about). So I think my comedy has gotten a bit more political too and it’s something I address in the show, but I try not to be party political as I don’t want to alienate people. I only really do political stuff when I can approach it from more of a ‘surely we can all agree on this at least’ kind of angle.
CTW: What do you most love about doing stand up?
Milo: It’s a rush. There’s nothing better than when a new bit of material goes better than expected of when a crowd really goes with your whole set from start to finish. But to be honest. the more I’ve done it I’ve also come to really enjoy fighting a crowd when they don’t like one of your bits or it makes them squeamish and trying to make them enjoy it, it’s very satisfying when you pull it off! But also not having to get up early in the morning is nice.
CTW: And conversely, is there any aspect of the job that you don’t like?
Milo: It’s very intense and you need to be mentally resilient to do it, because not only is it crushing financial and career insecurity for an initial indefinite period but it’s also that as much as you can consciously override it you always feel as good as your last gig, which is fine when they go well, but when you have a bad one, especially an important one, it can take a toll on you and you’ve got to be able to ride that out.
CTW: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you since you started performing?
Milo: There’s so many things I can’t even remember them all but I once was doing a gig in Siberia and I discovered that my task was to follow an act that consisted of an old lady singing soviet ballads while two girls did a striptease act next to her. That was a difficult room to get control of because I think most of them were wondering when I was taking my pants off.
CTW: If money were no object, what would you like to create?
Milo: Apart from a civilisation that won’t be extinct in 50 years? I think creatively the main plus of stand-up is that you don’t really need much money to make it but I’d love a bit more budget for venues and promotion. That said with money I’d love to make some comic feature films, a good friend of mine is a talented director and we’ve got some ideas we’d love to shoot.
CTW: What one piece of underrated comedy do you wish more people knew about?
Milo: There’s a youtube mockumentary from about 2010 called High Renaissance Man about an art history student at Bristol and I re-watched it recently and I think it might still be one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched.
CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?
Milo: ‘Milo, I know you get this all the time but how are you so SEXY? What’s the secret?’
Well, I don’t like to reveal trade secrets (haha!) but it’s moisturiser and the Gregg’s steak bake.