MONDAY morning after the first weekend of the Fringe. There will be hangovers. Surely? Actually, no. At 11am four comedians troop into the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian in Edinburgh bright-eyed and alcohol-free.
“I’m Irish so I drink every day,” says Catherine Bohart, “but I’m performing so I’ve not had any more than three drinks any given evening, which I think makes me a hero.”
“If you had asked me 10 years ago, probably about 50,” admits Ingrid Oliver when asked about her intake of units of alcohol so far, “but genuinely I had one glass of wine in the first week. I’ve grown up. It’s really boring. I’m going to have to go out at some point.”
Not right now though. This morning there’s just coffee and croissants and conversation.
Here’s the deal. We’ve got four comedians together, one each from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland to talk about the Fringe and to ask stupid questions. You know the kind of thing. Does comedy have a nationality? Is the patriarchy still a thing? And what’s the best service station in Britain? (Jo Caulfield has the right answer. It’s Tebay.)
But where are our manners? Some introductions. From the left we have Bohart, 29, from Dublin, who is on her third Fringe. Jay Lafferty is from Greenock. This is her 13th year in Edinburgh, but it’s her first solo show. She ran out of excuses for not going it alone, she says.
Londoner Oliver is best known as one half of comedy duo Watson and Oliver with Lorna Watson, but this year she is flying solo with a scripted character show called Speech! (“It’s very different. I miss having other people around,” she admits.)
And Caulfield is here to represent Wales, although she grew up in England, has Northern Irish parents and now lives in Leith and so could pinch-hit for all four home nations. “But in football I always support Wales,” she says. Which is good enough for us.

Everything is going fine for all four this Fringe. So far. But it’s early and there are no guarantees in stand-up. That, they say, is the fun of it.
“You can have a great gig, feel like a god, get on the Tube and wonder why everyone doesn’t know who you are,” says Bohart. “And the next day you can die on your hole and that’s my favourite thing about it.”
It was Bertolt Brecht, of course, who once said: “He who laughs last has not yet heard the bad news.” But really that kind of attitude isn’t going to get you a 10-minute slot at the Pleasance.
So shall we get started?

JAY LAFFERTY: “Funny is funny no matter where you’re from. A lot of people when I’m flyering say: ‘Oh, I don’t want to come in case I don’t understand you.’
“I say: ‘Do you understand me just now?’
“They’re like: ‘Yeah.’
“‘Well, you’ll understand me then.’”
CATHERINE BOHART: “I think it does. The same jokes work in the UK and Ireland, but they work for different reasons. There’s a shorthand that comes from the same lived experience which means I don’t have to explain as much Catholic rhetoric in Ireland as I do here.”
INGRID OLIVER: “Comedy definitely has a nationality. I’ve got German family and when I go to Germany I’m always amazed at how different the sense of humour is.
"Our biggest exports to Germany are Mr Bean and Benny Hill. It’s that very big slapstick humour.
“I saw one of the main talk shows on German television a few years ago. The comedian hosting it was talking to camera, and he reached under the desk and started – I’m not joking – blacking up. He had black grease paint and put on a Rasta wig.
“The audience was going absolutely crazy because they knew the character he was about to do – a Rastafarian cab driver.”
JO CAULFIELD: “Doing stand-up in Stockholm I immediately felt: ‘Oh, you’re like us because you are dark.’ And by us I mean Britain and Ireland. There is a darkness. We’re not cheery. North European. It’s dark and cold.
“That’s why there are not a lot of comedy clubs in Spain and Italy and places with lovely food and nice climates.”
JC: “I think in comedy you get a fair shot because if you’re funny they’ll laugh. People won’t go: ‘I’m not laughing because she’s a woman.’”
JL: “I’m asked all the time whether I’m a feminist comic. I think in 2017 we should all be feminist comics, whether you’re male or female. I’m very tired of being asked what it’s like to be a female comic because I’ve never been a male comic.”
IO: “One year Lorna and I were so hungover doing our show that we had to have a bucket backstage in case one of us was going to be sick. We both vomited before the show, then we went on stage, did the show absolutely green and sweating profusely and we both vowed never to do a show hungover again.”
And you stuck to that?
JL: “I went to see a late show at the Stand and Phil Nicol was headlining and there had been a drunk guy in the audience who had been heckling all the acts and giving the compere a hard time.
“At the end of the show Phil Nicol came out and he’s obviously seen all this and he tore this person apart. He wrote a song about him and he had everyone in the audience singing it and it was hilarious.
“But the next morning I was walking to a show about 11am and there were these drunken revellers who had obviously been up all night walking back and they were singing the song and I was able to join in with them.”
CB: “Last year on several occasions I saw Stewart Lee being flyered and I think that’s the best thing about the Fringe. You have a whole bunch of people who come here to adore certain well-known incredible comics … As they should be.
“And you have a whole load of people who go: ‘Do you want to come to my show? I’ll be a tree.’
“It’s exciting that there are people who have been doing comedy for three minutes and people who have been doing comedy for three decades. And we’re all here to sell our wares.”
JC: “A couple of years ago the woman working the door said: ‘Oh, three women walked out of your show, Jo.’ And I’m not a show people walk out of. She said; ‘I had to ask them why.’ It was three Japanese ladies and they said: ‘Will she do anything else? Does she sing or change her outfit?’ She said no and they went: ‘So it’s just a woman talking?’ Yeah, that’s what it is.”
CB: “I think people take comedy awfully seriously. I am sure it has many uses. It is cathartic. It sometimes makes us think. But mainly we are just telling jokes and having a nice night out.”
IO: “I went to a funeral the other day – my grandfather’s funeral, actually. I was very upset and so was my brother and we ended up talking about the silly things my grandfather had done and laughing. I think it’s fairly accepted that if you can laugh at things it takes the power out of it. Whatever’s going on, it makes it OK, which is incredible.”

IO: “Somewhere below kissing someone for the first time and somewhere above eating a really nice cake … I can’t believe I said eating cake in an interview about female comedians but there you go.”
JL: “To please that many people at once is better than sex … My husband’s going to hate that.”



Star of BBC Two sketch show Watson & Oliver and scarf-wearing guest star in Doctor Who, Ingrid Oliver, 40, is in Edinburgh with her debut solo character comedy show, Speech!
Sum up the English in five words or less.
Irony, stoicism … Waah, can I come back to that?
How many costume changes will there be in your show?
I’ve a basic black top and trousers like a mime and then I just thrown on a scarf or a pair of glasses on top. It’s not Danny La Rue, sadly.
Are sketch comedians nicer than stand-ups?
I think there is more of a communal atmosphere among sketch comedians. There’s two of you or three or four as opposed to one person going on stage every night and doing that hard grind which must take its toll psychologically.
 Ingrid Oliver: Speech! is on at the Pleasance Courtyard until August 27 (except for August 14)



Born in North Wales, Jo Caulfield has been in a rockabilly band, run a clothes shop and is now a regular on Radio 4.

Tell us about the Welsh.
There is a poetry that is genuine in Wales. I did a gig in Cardiff at a big club – a lot of older ladies with tattoos and they want a good night.
There was a girl at the front and her husband was so good-looking I went: ‘Oh my god. He is such a handsome man.’ And the girl said: ‘I know. He’s so beautiful sometimes when I look at him I want to cry.’ Only in Wales would someone say that.”
Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. Do you agree?
There were a lot of other bands playing in Hamburg doing their 10,000 hours who didn’t turn into the Beatles.

Jo Caulfield: Older, Wiser, Smarter, Meaner is on at the Stand Comedy Club until August 27 (except for August 14 and August 21)



After studying acting Catherine Bohart started  stand-up in 2015. This year she was named on the BBC New Talent Hotlist.
Sum up Irishness in five words or less.
Generous, nosey, kind, funny and unapologetic is my experience of it.
What would you not make a joke to an English audience about?
Hating them … They don’t like being the bad guys.
What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to be a comedian?
“Oh, but you’re such a smart girl.”
Complete the following sentence. The thing about men is …
They’re easily trained.
When you’re in Edinburgh what is the thing you always do?
Lose my mind.

Catherine Bohart appears in The Comedy Reserve at the Pleasance until August 28 (except for August 14 and August 21)


Greenock’s Jay Lafferty, 35, from Greenock is a regular on BBC Radio Scotland's Breaking the News. Her show this year is called Besom. “It’s a show about labels and expectations,” she says. It will contain one Trump joke.
Sum up the Scots in five words or less.
Can I have six? We like to laugh at ourselves.
Complete the following sentence. The thing about men is ...
The thing about mayonnaise is it’s great on everything. What? Men?
What did your parents say when you told them you were going to be a comedian?
“Well, that was a waste of money.”
Jay Lafferty: Besom is on at the Gilded Balloon at Rose Theatre until August 28 (except for August 14)