Comedian, Abigoliah Schamaun grew up in mid-West America before moving to New York and then London. Her intelligent, topical and thought-provoking show, Do You Know Who I Think I Am? looks at the differences between how American’s ask for things (‘I want that’) and how British people ask for things (‘If you don’t mind it would be wonderful if that could be possible but I don’t want to be a bother’) along with the differences between men and women when it comes to personal grooming and her plans on tackling gun control issues in America. Carmel Thomason catches up with her ahead of her stop at The Lowry.
You were missed in Edinburgh this year. How did you spend your summer?
Abigoliah: “Oh well thank you! I had a great August of traveling around the country and playing all the clubs. Then went off to Colorado to do some backpacking. I thought I’d have real FoMo because this is the first time I’ve missed a festival since my first Fringe in 2010. But I didn’t miss it at all! I stayed busy with other gigs then got to go to one of the most beautiful places in the US to spend some time in nature. It was a great summer”.
Have you been to Salford or Manchester before?
Abigoliah: “Yeah, Manchester has always held a special place in my heart. The first year I moved here I played a club with Toby Hadoke where I talked to absolute silence to a room of 200 people. That bomb was nearly 5 years ago and it still hurts to think about it.. I felt like I might not have a career in the UK after all. People didn’t ‘get me’. After the show I drank my troubles away with Toby and he offered for me to come to Manchester to play his club, XS Malarkey. I went, and had THE BEST time. It was a great gig everyone ‘got it’ and I’ve since been back several times. In a way Manchester restored my faith in my own comedy and kept me in the UK”.
Your press photos are posed with guns and cigars – what is that about?
Abigoliah: “My boyfriend, Tom Watts, is a cinematographer, and he took the pictures and we came up with the concept together. We were trying to go for a Tank Girl/Hollywood Glam look for the posters and I didn’t actually want to use a gun. But no one in London seemed to be able to loan me a bazooka. So we used a fake handgun. We didn’t get the exact desired effect but I think we made some compelling press shots”.
You’re a confident person – are you as confident off the stage as you are on stage?
Abigoliah: “Yes…no…sometimes. I think everyone, even the most confident people in the world, have wobbles. I think it’s natural to look around every now and then and think, “Is this right?” But when I do, I just remind myself of where I’ve come from and what I’ve done to get to where I am. And my confidence is restored”.
What are your tips for being more confident?
Abigoliah: “Be forthright and ask for what you want without apology. If someone say no, fine. You’re exactly where you were before you asked without harm.
“Accept and love the body you’re in now. Even if you want to make changes it’s easier to come from a place of positivity than negativity.
“Know your worth. Take stock of what you’ve done and how hard you’ve worked. Remind yourself that hard work gives you the right to ask for things and progress further in your career”.
What part does yoga play in your show and in life in general?
Abigoliah: “I mention I’m a yoga instructor in the show. But don’t really go on about it much here. I find yoga to be a restorative exercise both physically and mentally. It keeps me balanced. Sometimes I’m out of shape. Sometimes I’m in shape. But no matter what I can always do yoga. I just do a little more or less depending on my fitness level”.
As an American comedian working in England, what do you find are the differences in the audiences?
Abigoliah: “Americans will cheer information. English Audience don’t. For example, if you walk on stage in America and say, ‘I just got married’. The whole room will applaud that information. Yet, in the UK if you go on stage and say, ‘I just got married’. The audience just keeps looking at you as if to say, ‘Yes, go on…get to the funny bit’.
What do you personally find funny?
Abigoliah: “Whenever I’m stressed out and having a bit of a strop my boyfriend does a very accurate impression of me that always makes me laugh whether I want to or not’.
Is anything off-limits as a subject in your comedy?
Abigoliah: “No. Anything can be discussed so long as it comes from a place of compassion and intelligence”.
It’s almost 10 years since you were a finalist in the Funny Women Comedy Awards. How important was that for you and what advice would you give new comics starting out?
Abigoliah: “I didn’t know it was a competition. I thought I had just signed up to do a mixed bill show in Edinburgh and then I was told I made a final. I’ve been nominated for other things since then. To be honest, no award has ever really impacted my career. Constant performing has. I forget about it until someone brings it up in an interview”.
Is there anything else you’d like to say about your show?
Abigoliah: “You can buy tickets at abigoliah.com/tour. But only buy tickets if you don’t take life too seriously and appreciate an American accent. I can only do my accent. It’s a lot of American sounds coming at you”.