Maisie Adam: ‘I’ve never taken my dad’s travel advice again’

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Maisie Adam: ‘I’ve never taken my dad’s travel advice again’

Words by Joanne Brookfield

With a 70s skinhead look, a new fiance and a dad with no idea what he’s talking about, Maisie Adam is on her way to Melbourne International Comedy Festival with “loads of reason to be cheerful.”

When it comes to actually setting foot in Melbourne, Maisie Adam has had a few false starts. She got close in 2020, squeezing in a season in Adelaide “then somebody ate a bat” and rather than make her Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut then, she was on a plane heading back to Britain.

However, it was her father who, several years prior, really steered her in the wrong direction. The English stand-up, who has just racked up close to 100 dates on a sold-out UK tour of her show Buzzed that saw her adding extra shows, did a different kind of tour back in 2016.

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A round-the-world trip with her brother saw Australia on the list but the only person they knew who had been here before was their father, who’d travelled “when he was maybe about 19 years old”. He advised them “don’t bother with Melbourne, it’s full of concrete. There’s nothing there, start at Sydney and work your way up”.

Adam is suitably incredulous as she recounts the consequences of having listened to him. “Everywhere we went on that trip,” she says emphatically, “we did Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, every single hostel we stayed in, every single one, anybody else that was in a hostel would ask ‘have you been to Melbourne? It’s amaaaaazing, isn’t it?”

“I’ve never taken my dad’s travel advice again,” she says with a laugh. So Adam is, finally, embarking on her Melbourne International Comedy Festival debut with Buzzed. (She’s working a double-shift this festival, also performing alongside fellow Brits Ian Smith and Markus Birdman as part of the enduringly popular ‘Best of the Edinburgh Fest’ showcase gig). “It’s such a fun show to do,” she tells Beat, close to midnight from her home in Brighton, England, having just flown back in from shooting a TV appearance on music game show The Hit List in Glasgow (she won, by the way).

Adam has plenty of TV credits to her name – Mock the Week, Have I Got News for You, QI, Roast Battle, 8 Out of 10 Cats, Hypothetical and The Stand-Up Sketch Show – having risen quickly within the ranks of professional comedy.

She’s originally from North Yorkshire and for cultural context, she explains “people expect that my dad is a farmer, that I grew up in a field and that we’re constantly complaining about the price of things. And I would say that only that last one is true. Everything’s cheap up north”.

While most comedians will prepare a “tight five” or “a ten” for their first gig, referring to minutes, Adam did a whole hour. “When I decided to give stand-up a go, my only experience of stand-up was when I’d travel into the nearest city to watch a comedian,” she says of living in a rural area without its own comedy scene. “And of course, they would come with an hour, at least, with an interval. So there was no open mic nights near where I live, you were either ‘you’ve never done it before’, or ‘you’re a professional’”.

When a local literary festival put the call out for expressions of interest, she said she’d like to do stand-up and they gave her a 60-minute slot. Working in a shop at the time, she’d been jotting down comedy ideas on the back of the till roll, fished them all out of the tin she’d been storing them in and set about writing her first hour.

Looking back, she’s impressed and amused at her own naivete. “Then when bookers at open mic nights would ask me if I had a ten, and I’d go have I got a ten? I’ve got an hour, mate!” It’s a brilliant origin story, especially as less than a year later she’d go on to win the nationwide So You Think You’re Funny? competition  (which made her only the fourth woman to have done so in its’ 30-year history) which is “a who’s who of British comedy. It’s amazing, and it’s all my heroes on there” she says of previous winners.

“That changed everything because I got signed off the back of that and that’s led to me getting TV work and it all stems from that, really,” she says of her success.

While the pandemic disrupted her first Melbourne season, lockdown did allow her to experiment with a “Chelsea” haircut, where the head is shaved but a fringe and some hair over the ears remain, (“I’m quite nervous about coming to Australia with it with your sunshine on me scalp, so I might have to get a lovely big hat”) and spend time with her fiance, who usually runs a cocktail bar (“I was the tester of new cocktail ideas, so it was a wonderful time for me -I can’t remember a lot of it!”)

Buzzed is very much written as a response to the weight of the pandemic and the varying tolls it took on us all. “I wanted to write a really optimistic, uplifting show that was looking forward, looking ahead, rather than sort of reflecting on the last couple of years,” she explains. “I came out of that period just wanting to really laugh and find the joy in pretty much anything that makes me happy.”

With a successful UK tour and Edinburgh run behind her already, she says “there’s loads of reasons to be cheerful and the feedback of the show is that everybody kind of leaves feeling that way”. As she prepares to leave for Melbourne, she’s also got some feelings. “I’m so excited to see how wrong my dad is!”

Maise Adam’s Buzzed is playing at Melbourne Town Hall’s Cloak Room, 100 Swanston Street as part of Melbourne International Comedy Festival on Monday 3 April, Monday 10 April and Monday 17 April at 7.40pm. Buy tickets here.