Fresh from a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Harriet Kemsley is touring the UK with her new critically acclaimed show ‘Honeysuckle Island’ and will perform it at Cardiff’s Glee Club on November 23.
Fed up with being told how to look and behave since she was a teenager, Harriet is taking a long hard squint at the beauty industry through her two remaining false eye lashes. She channels her personal experiences into Honeysuckle Island, sharing anecdotes and jokes on the vicious cycle of beauty enhancement.
Harriet began her stand-up career in 2011, and within months, won the Funny’s Funny contest. Harriet’s other accolades include the Leicester Mercury New Act of the Year Finalist, Up The Creek New Act of the Year and Leicester Square New Act of the Year Finalist.
Harriet’s television appearances include performing on the BBC series Live at the Apollo and a panellist on Channel 4’s 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Dave’s Hypothetical. As an actress, Harriet has appeared on both film and TV, including the film Bonobo, and on Channel 4’s Damned and BBC’s Doctor Foster. She also provided the voice of Nashandra, the final boss of the video game Dark Souls II.
Here, Harriet discusses her career in comedy and Honeysuckle Island with Andy Howells.
How did you get into stand-up comedy?
I started stand up on the advice of my parents which is quite unusual, usually parents have much higher expectations for their children. I had been doing acting and some comedy writing so it wasn’t completely out of leftfield, but it was a world that I knew nothing about. So, I just booked myself onto a five-minute open spot and never stopped. I think they regret it now.
Who are your comedy heroes and why?
I love Maria Bamford. She’s so completely unique, her jokes are super tight and hilarious and she really takes you into her world. I love Katherine Ryan as I opened for her on tour and she would kill every night while also being the kindest and most generous. And Bobby Mair my husband because I really admire his ability to think he’s tidied.
If you hadn’t become a stand-up comedian, what would you be?
I am always thinking about what I could do if I wasn’t a stand up and it disappeared over night. I have no useful qualifications. My last proper job was booking non serious appointments for the NHS, and I was quite bad at it. It turned out for three months I was using the photocopier as the fax machine and just copying appointments and not sending them. So, apologies if you live in the Camden area and you are still waiting for an appointment.
Can you tell us about your show?
The show is called Honeysuckle Island and is about a dream holiday destination I created at school when I was 11. It had zip lines and monkeys and waterfalls and then when I looked at it closely last year, I saw I’d drawn a cellulite machine. And I’d spelt cellulite right and island wrong. So, it’s looking at the beauty industry and when that noise starts, especially as I now have a young daughter – but in a FUN way.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the show?
My main aim is always to make the show as funny as possible. This very much is not a Ted Talk. But I talk about things I care about that I think people will very much be interested in. But I do always mention my historic chlamydia diagnosis, so I hope they walk away feeling less shame around their own chlamydia.
What’s the funniest or most peculiar thing that’s happened to you at a comedy gig?
I find it difficult to focus on gigs with dogs or babies in the crowd. It’s hard to gain their respect and you can’t slam them too hard or the audience will really turn on you. Crying is never the desired effect.
Have you got any other projects you are working on now that we can look out for in the future?
Touring for the rest of the year and trying to write other bits and doing some panel shows. I’m also hoping to bring my podcast back in a new improved format. And I’m toying with a fringe.