Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Harriet Kemsley: Honeysuckle Island

By | Published on Friday 9 September 2022

The summer may be over, and the edfringe finished, but – as ever – the autumn months bring lots of opportunities to see companies and acts touring their Edinburgh shows. 

One such act – and she’s a bit of a TW fave – is Harriet Kemsley, who is headed to Soho Theatre this week to perform ‘Honeysuckle Island’, a set that touches on the negatives of the beauty industry, as well as finding humour in the latest events of her life. 

To find out more about the show – and the comedian behind it – I spoke to Harriet ahead of her London run. 

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the content of ‘Honeysuckle Island’?
HK: It’s lots of funny jokes about my life over the last few years, having a baby, being a ridiculous person, and it also touches on the beauty industry, but in a FUN way.

CM: Presumably the show has a theme? Where does the title come from?
HK: The show is inspired by a dream travel destination I created when I was eleven called Honeysuckle Island. It had everything a pre-teen could want – waterfalls, ziplines, monkeys.

But when I looked at it last year I saw that in the corner I had also drawn a cellulite machine. And I’d spelt cellulite right and island wrong. So it looks at the pressures on young girls from society that starts at such a young age.

CM: What made you want to focus on this subject matter?
HK: Having a baby daughter suddenly made me wake up to a lot of things. I couldn’t believe how little has changed since I was a teenager. It was eye opening to look back at my own teenage years and all the toxic fun we used to have.

CM: Will the show you perform at the Soho be exactly the same show you performed in Edinburgh or has it changed?
HK: The show changed a lot through Edinburgh and there’s a twist now at the end that I came up with halfway through the run. Things always happen as you’re performing that work their way into the show.

CM: How did the Edinburgh run go?
HK: I had a lovely time, thank you. It was great to be back at the Fringe and be walking distance from so many friends. It also felt good to be back on stage doing stand-up after having my baby – by the end of the run I felt so match fit.

CM: Your Soho run feels like it’s coming pretty close on the heels of the Edinburgh Fringe, which is notoriously tiring. Are you fully recovered?
HK: Absolutely not. Since the Fringe I have had COVID, recovered from COVID, been to two weddings – one of which involved going to Santorini for 36 hours with a baby – and filmed in Manchester and London.

The trick is maybe not to stop? I also love what I do and I definitely had a fear before having my baby that I wouldn’t be able to do my job anymore so I’m really grateful to be working!

CM: Also, it looks like you are doing a fairly long UK tour after the Soho dates. That must be tiring too. Do you enjoy touring? What do you like and dislike about it?
HK: Well, you know what, I’m on stage for an hour a day, so I’m really not going to complain about having a hard job. Since I started stand-up I’ve gigged all around the country at all sorts of venues so it’s actually so exciting to be able to take my own show on the road. It’s also really nice not to have to take the overnight Megabus this time.

CM: Can we talk a bit about your past, now? How did you end up working in comedy? Was it what you always wanted to do?
HK: I always wanted to do acting and for a long time thought I was going to be a serious actress, but people kept laughing whenever I tried to be serious and I kept being cast in comedy parts.

Then when I finished university and I didn’t know what to do next, my parents suggested that I try stand-up after they watched ‘Live At The Apollo’. I think I’m the only one in the world whose parents did that. I’m yet to meet a stand-up whose parents also recommended it!

I guess they all just had much higher expectations for their children. I didn’t know anything about stand-up but they said go and do it and don’t tell anyone, so I found an open mic night and I fell in love with it.

CM: What have been the highlights of your career thus far?
HK: Getting to do things that I used to watch when I was younger – like’ 8 Out Of 10 Cats’ – with the best stand-ups in the country is always mind blowing, and doing ‘Live At The Apollo’ felt really special, as it felt like a real circular moment. And being part of the first husband and wife team to appear on Babestation of course!

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the far future?
HK: I loved making our series ‘Bobby & Harriet Get Married’, so I would love to do something else like that. I’m planning on starting a new podcast and I would like to get a cat. The problem is I’m quite allergic so I need them to invent hypoallergenic ones because the ones without fur scare me.

CM: What’s coming up more imminently for you? In the next year?
HK: Some more panel show appearances and making some of my own  things hopefully. And maybe I’ll cut a fringe. Who knows, very exciting!

Harriet Kemsley performs ‘Honeysuckle Island’ at Soho Theatre from 13-17 Sep, see the venue website here for info and to book.

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