Alison Spittle wrapped up her residency at the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh on the 26th of August to overwhelmingly positive reviews. This was the end of her third year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where she debuted her new show, ‘Mother of God’. I spoke to her the following morning, about her comedy, writing, and all that falls in between.
Spittle, who brought ‘Mother of God’ to Dublin for the Fringe Festival here from the 7th to the 13th of September, felt this to be one of her best years in Edinburgh yet. Garnering positive review upon positive review, Spittle finished up her run feeling pretty confident about this year’s outcome, “It’s been a really great year, we’ve had terrible years before, but this has been a really great year”. However, Edinburgh Fringe is a labour intensive process. “I nearly lost my voice, I was doing comedy four times a day, but it was a real honour to get out there in front of audiences.”
It’s nice to have the writing element and go, “you take it from here”
Alongside ‘Mother of God’, this Dublin Fringe sees the debut of her first play, ‘Starlet’. A dark comedy, ‘Starlet’ examines “the minutiae of rural life and the socio-politics between men and women in an area that feels like it was left behind in the mid-2000’s”, and Spittle is incredibly excited to see how it turns out, but is also very happy to be taking a step back from the process. “In stand up, you’re the writer, you’re the director, and you’re the performer. So, It’s nice to have the writing element and go, ‘You take it from here.’”. Due to run in Smock Alley Theatre’s Boys School from the 17th to the 22nd of September, Spittle aims to tackle the young people left behind in the boom and bust, and how they make their way, with her comedic tones layered over the top. As for the cast, she couldn’t speak more highly of them. In fact, when asked what excited her most about turning to classical theatre, it was the cast she highlighted, “They’re both very very funny people, but I also know that they’re very talented actors.” she said of lead actors Roxanna Nic Liam and Peter McGann.
I’m obsessed with death, and I think a lot of people are
When it comes to her comedy, Spittle feels very comfortable making her home in the darker side of things, but is hesitant to describe herself as a dark comic. “I’m drawn to silly stuff, but I’m also drawn to a lot of comedy about death, because I’m obsessed with death, and I think a lot of people are.” Between her RTÉ series, ‘Nowhere Fast’, and ‘Starlet’, she has clearly honed out a niche in the dark side of comedy, which makes the vibrant nature of her stand up really stand out. Her stage at Edinburgh was decked out in a handmade technicolour backdrop, her promo posters vibrant in hue, her costuming including a multicolour cape and a flower crown, Spittle doesn’t look like the kind of woman who would write a comedy show about the death notices on a local radio show, but no one can disagree that she does so incredibly well. On top of that, she feels it to be necessary to find the funny side of serious and high impact topics, saying “A relief laugh is one of the best things in the world.”
When asked about where she prefers to make her content, stage or screen, she was very conclusive in her answer. “Live work at the moment, definitely. It’s what I’ve been focusing on but they both scratch different itches.” She is keen to share her love of live performance, and of stand up comedy in particular, but acknowledges that it’s hard to make a long term career in. Speaking of her screen work, she shared that she’s working on a few pieces, but that with television, “You don’t believe you’re putting something on telly until you see it”. The pieces that she’s working on, she’s very passionate about, but whether it gets to screen is “a matter for the broadcasters, really.”
While we were discussing ‘Nowhere Fast’, which aired in 2017, her background in radio arose. She shared that she got started while in Ballyfermot College, sharing “I probably wouldn’t see myself as a creative person, if it wasn’t for going to college and doing radio.” However, while she saw her start in radio, and still holds a lot of love for the medium, it isn’t something she sees herself returning to. “What I loved about radio is that it’s very intimate with the audience, you’re kind of talking directly to them, but with my podcast now I wouldn’t want to go back…I don’t think it can offer me the kind of things I thought it could.”
To hear her talk about it, her podcast ‘The Alison Spittle Show’, is clearly one of her great loves. In fact, podcast listeners are some of her favourite fans to meet, as it’s easier to have a proper chat about it. It’s an interview show, that reached its current medium through a natural progression of trial and error. It’s hosted names like Sharon Horgan, Neil Delamere, Bláithín de Burca and Rhea Butcher. “I started a few years ago because me and a couple of mates were like ‘Ah, we’ll do a chat show’” and over time bits and pieces were filed off until it reached its current, incredibly entertaining format.
It’s clear that Spittle loves podcasting as a medium, “I’m delighted that there’s lots of podcasts, everyone kind of has their own little niches, and I’m always searching myself for a podcast to listen to.” She feels that Irish people in particular are so into podcasts because of our cultural attachment to the radio, and now its natural digital progression, the podcast. “I really like the new boom and I’m really excited for the future.” She feels podcasts “Have to be super, super niche. Like my podcast is not super, super niche, it was at some point, but everyone’s doing interview podcasts now. You either have to be super niche or put your own spin on it.” She also commended her producer, Sarah Garvey, who is the “driving force” behind ‘The Alison Spittle Show’.
As for her own listening, she’s “really into ‘Cocaine and Rhinestones’, a 20th century country music media podcast, I’m not even into country music that much, but it’s just a really well done podcast.” Also, she suggests ‘You Must Remember This’, a history podcast about Hollywood. As for Irish grown pods, she listens to “‘Up to 90’ with Julie and Emma, which is two Irish comedians talking about the 90’s. “They’re just both hilarious, and they’re getting a real audience together now.” She also listens to ‘Comedians, Comedians’ a lot, another interview podcast which focuses on comedians and comedy.
Spittle has a lot of art to share, and a lot of ways in which she shares it, none of which are to be taken lightly. Even after wrapping up a stint at one of the most draining comedy festivals in the world, she remains an absolute joy to talk to. If you’re looking for a comedian who is as funny as she is lovely, and doesn’t shy away from going for the joke, Alison Spittle is the woman for you. She will be at Cork Podcast Festival and Gallagher Redline in October. Check out her podcast on headstuff.org/the-alison-spittle-show, and keep an eye on her website, alisonspittle.com, for any upcoming gigs.