Interview: Rhona Cameron

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Being a stand-up comedienne and author is hard work. finds Rhona Cameron suffering from a serious case of press fatigue, having an entire day of interviews both behind and ahead of her.

‘It’s hard to comprehend how much press has to happen when you’ve got a book and a new tour going on at the same time,’ she says.

“I”m going straight from a radio thing to a magazine thing to something else.

“It’s quite difficult to keep doing press things and still being enthusiastic and going “here I am, ready to talk about myself… again…” I’ve just declared a two day press ban!”

Cameron certainly has plenty to publicise.

With her new tour, One Nighter, already underway until January 2009, a run of shows at the Gilded Balloon for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival next week, and a novel out in paperback, it’s no surprise that the press are all over her.

I promise to be short and sweet, and Cameron has a break for some cereal. Despite the exhaustion, she is engaging, and eager to talk about, well, pretty much everything.

In fact, she gives the impression that she would rather talk about something other than her career, taking off on tangents when something interests her, which is a refreshing thing for a journalist to hear.

I try to ask some questions.

Cameron, however, is more interested in who I am than talking about herself. She asks me about I explain.

“Hmm, hard news and politics?’ She muses, “That’s unusual. I thought in the gay media it was all about looking at bums and lesbians in vests.”

We have a chat about gays in general.

“I can’t really understand it when people live in this little gay world.

“I mean, different types of people are obviously going to be drawn to the some things.

“It’s like The Sopranos. Lots of heterosexual men and women watch it, but I’m guessing not many gay men watch it. But then perhaps more lesbians watch it.

“I’m interested in that kind of demographic.

“I like being in a lesbian tribe, but I can’t imagine being in that totally gay bubble.

“I suppose it’s different when you’re younger, but when you get into your forties you start thinking, “for f*ck’s sake!”

“[The gay scene] is also quite based on looks.

“In a way that’s good; when I first started to go to gay bars it was quite limited on the lesbian front, and all the lesbians were actually middle aged men.

“So it’s nice to have some image-consciousness, but it’s a bit too much.

“I used to go to the Candy Bar a lot when I was younger, but that was when I was drinking; it was just a big drunken lez-fest really.

“I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t imagine going there now.”

Cameron is continuing her return to comedy, following a few year’s break, next week at the Gilded Balloon at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival.

“I’m staying with my mum until I can move into my festival flat.

“It’s nice and everything, you know, sleeping in my childhood room, playing golf and going running, but I do need to get out!

“My mum says things like “Do you want soup before you go into town tomorrow?” and I’m like, “I don’t know, thats 24 hours away!”

The new tour, comprised of spanking new material, will cover quite a distance in a few months.

“Unless you’re the most famous comedienne in the world, you don’t really have much control over where you play,’ Cameron says.

“I mean, my favourites are places like Manchester, Leeds, Scotland, and Brighton; they’re very warm places.

“By the way, did you know that Brighton is the least religious place in the country?

I didn’t.

“Well, it is. I suppose people move there because it’s nice and by the sea, so it’s not full of people who were born there, lived there and die there. So maybe it’s more open-minded.

“Anyway, everyone has a different demographic appeal, and as a northerner and woman I think I have an appeal in those places.

“Having said that you can never tell what a place will be like.

“I had a gig in Truro in Cornwall in July, and I thought it would be crap, but actually there was a lovely audience.”

Cameron’s first book, 1979, an autobiographical account of a year of her life, was published in 2003 and received critical acclaim.

Last year her first novel, The Naked Drinking Club, was published, and released in paperback on 7th August this year.

The novel is the story of a young woman travelling in Australia. I asked Cameron if she had always planned to write books.

“Like most comedians, I can do quite a few things; a lot of comedians can act and write and be serious.

“I think comedians generally possess a lot of depth.

“I’ve always thought I would write; I’ve written sitcoms, I’ve written stand up, so it makes sense.

“I knew I had a story to tell. I knew all my life that I was going to tell the story of 1979 somehow.

“Then Ebury Press said, “Were moving into fiction, do you fancy that?” and that’s how The Naked Drinking Club started.

“I wanted to write something that deals with drinking, adoption and a person in their 20s.

“There’s some of myself in that central character, but the setting and the other characters are fictional.

“It’s not really autobiographical as such, but everyone writes about what they know.

“Irvine Welsh has been writing about drugs for years, Nick Hornby writes about being a middle-aged bloke, so what I’ve done is really a very normal thing.

“It was easier in a way to write 1979.

“Whilst I was writing [1979] I was expelling a lot of feelings about the loss of my father and other things, so I was really locked into it when I wrote it.

“A novel has to be manufactured as it takes a lot more structure, although I found it easier to write the darker bits.

“I’ve spent most of my life being quite dark really!

With so many projects on the go, Cameron says she needs to concentrate her efforts for next year.

‘I need to think next year about what I’m doing with my stand up.

I need to think about whether I’m going to do more festivals abroad and things.

Or, I might take the shows into a different direction and do something new; I might write a play for next year’s Edinburgh Festival, in which case I’d have to start writing it this winter.

There might be a new book. I could write about another part of my life, maybe it’ll be a sequel called 1989.

I’ve been talking to my publisher, but if I decide to do more shows then there won’t be one next year, I don’t know at the moment.

One thing is sure; there will be plenty to watch out for from Cameron for the next few years.

Rhona Cameron will play The Gilded Balloon on 18th-25th August at 7.30pm at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

1979 and The Naked Drinking Club are published by Ebury Press and are available from Amazon.