By Gareth Mohen
AUSTRALIAN comic Denise Scott is currently one very busy lady. Right now she’s at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with her stand-up show Regrets. She’s also possibly using her stilt-wearing partner John as an attraction for the kids and she is very probably being mistaken for Angela Merkel. It’s a tough life for one of Australia’s funniest comedians.
“If I was doing a kids show it would be sold out,” she says of her Fringe performances, laughing with her trademark chuckle.
“It’s bizarre. Every parent wants their child to have their photo taken with John.”
Scott is talking about her partner – of 31 years – John, who she has dressed up in a suit printed with the design of her Fringe show leaflet, and extendable trouser legs so he can wear stilts, while playing his ukulele. Scott wears an apron with the same print.
“I’ve never thought in visual terms before. The suit and apron are my first design. I’ve been with John for 31 years and I thought ‘if he’s going to flier for me I’ll put him in a suit covered in my face’.
“He’s been amazing. He’s been on stilts since we got here, well… not since … (she pauses and corrects herself) obviously he has rests. I was doing the Assembly Gala the other night, and sure it’s only five minutes, but I was nervous. But no (I couldn’t rest and get my head right), I had to run around and shop and stuff because John had to have a bath to recover. And he had to get a taxi to the venue. I walked.”
The show Regrets, which won Scott the 2011 Helpmann Award for comedy, follows the story of a stand-up comedy tour through Northern Queensland. It includes the usual honesty, self-deprecation and affection audiences have come to expect.
“The show really is about a most humiliating experience – like vomiting on all fours,” she explains.
“I’m on all fours by a roadside vomiting because I’ve drunk too much. That’s an unpleasant thing. I was 54 then, and 57 now, and all these young boy comics are in the van, watching me. It’s unusual I suppose for a comedian to tell a story of a woman in her fifties. It’s not very common.”
It may not be common but is obviously successful! And while the Australian locations will require Scott to do some explaining for the international audience, the Scottish have already explained a few things about their own culture.
“I didn’t realise for a start there was any rivalry between Edinburgh and Glasgow,” Scott says.
“In my show I sing ‘I belong to Glasgow’, because it’s a story that comes from the dementia unit where my mum lived. So that’s the song I’m featuring in the Edinburgh show. Great! Good on me…”
At 57, it is also Scott’s first time performing in the Edinburgh Fringe and from her voice, she sounds both elated and fearful of the outcome.
“When I was 23 I swung by. I didn’t even know there was an Edinburgh festival. That’s how worldly I was. I just happened to arrive in the middle of it. It was amazing.
“Then when I was 34 I was with the group the Natural Normans, and they came to Edinburgh. I had to leave the group, because John and I had absolutely no money and I couldn’t leave my kids. They were little and so I gave up on the whole notion. It was just too hard. So the Natural Normans came and I stayed behind…”
But she’s here now, and as if performing in a full run of shows in Edinburgh isn’t enough to keep Scott busy, she’s been appearing in Australia’s television documentary Agony Aunts, and Britain’s show Winners and Losers (screened on ITV). She’s also written a new book.
In regards to Scott’s international recognition she has been offensively mistaken for Angela Merkel.
“I think she’s quite a plain woman. I only get, ‘You look like someone from…’ – and I’m hoping it’s Winners and Losers but it’s — ‘…Chancellor of Germany’.”
So there you have it ladies and gents. ‘Angela Merkel – Chancellor of Germany’ is appearing at Fringe this year! Make sure you don’t miss her (oh, and Denise Scott too!).
Denise Scott is performing Regrets at Assembly Hall during the Edinburgh Fringe until 26 August.