Isa Bonachera’s stand up is pretty unique as over the past few years her shows have explored subjects as diverse as how after she quit her PHD and then later her job she found that giving something up is a great idea, a Spanish artist who wanted to be the greatest of his generation despite not having any talent, and how she was bullied while growing up in Spain. A finalist in the BBC New Comedy Award, Phoenix Artist Club Cabaret Award, Leicester Square Sketch Off! and Leicester Square New Comedian of the Year competitions, she’s not only a very, very funny stand up but she’s also adapted Ramón María del Valle-Inclán’s “Luces de Bohemia” to the stage, created political cartoons for the Porter’s Log website and performed in a good few sketch shows, which is impressive stuff indeed. Here she tells us about her new hour of comedy, what being a cartoonist allows her to do that stand up doesn’t, the things she likes and dislikes about Edinburgh and being a comedian, and the time she did comedy for eleven seconds while dressed as Scooby Doo.
Comedy To Watch: How would you describe your comedy to someone who wasn’t previously aware of your good self?
Isa: My comedy style has been described as “original and off-the-wall” with “well-crafted jokes” (Broadway Baby) that shows “a distinctively offbeat way of thinking, generating off-kilter punchlines that are hard to see coming” (Chortle).
CTW: What can you tell us about your new show The Great Emptiness?
Isa: The Great Emptiness is a tour of the weirdest parts of the cosmos, and a reflection on broken dreams and burn-out. An hour of original and offbeat comedy, filled with gags and plenty of out-of-this-world hilarious silliness. This show is the a real-life story about my obsession to become an astronaut, the extreme lengths I went to achieve that dream, and the events that lead to the death of that dream. This includes stories involving Mars Rovers, meeting astronauts, and my experiences accidentally being involved in some of the major scientific discoveries of the century, such as the discovery of the Higgs Boson. The Great Emptiness gives an insider view of the best and worst parts of the world of science, and critiques the toxic culture of overwork that preys on people’s dreams.
CTW: You’re back at Edinburgh this year, what’s your favourite thing about the festival?
Isa: The opportunity to live and breathe comedy 24/7 for a month. I love that I conveniently can see as many shows as I want each day, and the non-stop gigging.
CTW: And are there any aspects you don’t like?
Isa: Some people trying to take advantage of the performers for their financial gain. The Edinburgh Fringe does attract people that prey on people’s dreams.
CTW: You’re also a cartoonist, can you tell us a little about the process of creating them? And does it allow you to do anything that stand up doesn’t?
Isa: I don’t like to be political on stage because I don’t want to alienate anyone in the audience. Being a cartoonist allows me to tell more political jokes, or jokes that only work as a visual gag. It all started because, when I started doing comedy as a second language, I struggled to express the jokes that I had in my head, so using cartoons was an outlet to get my comedy out. Since then I never stop doing them.
CTW: A lot has happened politically over the past few years what with Brexit and Trump, has that affected your comedy in any way?
Isa: Brexit and Trump made me realised that I live in a bubble of opinions, and that have different viewpoints. I also think that I have become more socially conscious and I have learnt the importance to speak up. The Great Emptiness is about my own experiences dealing with burn-out after being under continuous career-related stress for years. By talking openly about burn-out, we want shed light on the unnatural way we work, where employees are always expected to be on call.
CTW: What do you most love about doing stand up?
Isa: I love the writing process and the feeling of knowing that you have a voice and people will listen to you on stage, but I especially love the feeling of getting those sweet, sweet laughs. I also enjoy connecting with other comedians, and the lovely community of creatives that are now part of my life.
CTW: And conversely, is there any aspect of the job that you don’t like?
Isa: I don’t like how hard it is to make a living from comedy. Comedians are constantly being underpaid, and many of them don’t want speak up because they might not be booked again.
CTW: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you since you started performing?
Isa: When I first started doing stand up comedy, I signed up to the Comedy Store King Gong, which is a notoriously brutal night, but I didn’t know that. It was the Halloween edition and the performers got an email saying that we had to wear a Halloween costume, so I showed up to the gig in a Scooby Doo constume with a massive Scooby Doo head. None of the other performers wore a costume. I was on stage for 11 seconds before I got gonged off. At the time I was living in Cambridge so I had to go back in the train, after failing spectacularly, in my Scooby Doo costume.
CTW: If money were no object, what would you like to create?
Isa: I would love to create my own sitcom, and it would probably be a horror comedy.
CTW: What one piece of underrated comedy do you wish more people knew about?
Isa: Comedian Adrian Gray makes some hilarious mockumentaries, and they all deserve to be seen by more people (I did a cameo in one of his videos, too!)
CTW: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what question would you most like to ask? And what would the answer be?
Isa: Are there any surprises in your show? Well, yes! Thanks for asking. The Great Emptiness is a stand up show with a twist, and it includes planetarium projections and wearable electronics.