Comedian and writer Kiri Pritchard-McLean hosts a new stand-up comedy series, Live From Barry Island, featuring emerging talent and established comedians from across the UK. In the 2nd series comedian Anna Thomas shares how since moving from Carmarthenshire to England, she has been confused for being Danish and even treats the audience to a song and a reading from her Ouija board. Carenza Skilton grabbed some time with Anna.
How did you find it filming Live from Barry Island?
I was such a big lump of nerves and excitement. Like, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t sit still at the best of times, but that day I was running about like a ferret loose in a ball pit. It was just so surreal getting the chance to not only perform alongside comedians that I’ve idolised for years, but to be part of a show that showcases and celebrates Welsh comedy in such a way felt so blooming special.
So you’ve been confused for Danish whilst moving to England. Are there any other places that you’ve been mistaken as from?
Oh, I’ve heard it all! The one’s I get most often are Geordie, Irish, or Scottish, although I once had a lovely Italian lady overhear me in a shop and ask if I was also Italian. She looked so disappointed when I said I wasn’t Italian, that I sort of wish that I just went along with it – should’ve just let her have that nice bonding moment.
What are some of the worst language barriers you’ve had in your stand-up? A lot of slang can get misinterpreted!
I won’t lie, I’ve not had many instances of slang being misinterpreted, but I did find out on stage that rissoles aren’t that big of a thing outside South Wales. Found out since, some regions of England have them, but they’re not widely known about. But yeah, I spent most of my set that night trying to explain to the audience what a rissole is, and in turn found out I don’t really know what rissoles are beyond the fact I enjoy eating them. Still won’t let myself find out what they’re made of – I quite like the mystery.
Working with Kiri and the other comedians on the programme must have been great – Have you got any funny stories from filming?
Oh, it was incredible – took all my effort not to fangirl at everyone. Was quite funny meeting Daliso Chaponda for the first time. I’m such a big fan of Daliso and I first met him moments before I was due to go on stage for Live From Barry Island. I’d been avoiding drinking and eating whilst wearing the clothes I was going to be wearing for filming, as I have the tendency to spill stuff down me. However, I got dead thirsty and my mouth got all velcro-y, so I gave in and had a sip of water but, of course, spilt it all down me. I was maybe less than 15 minutes away from being due to go on stage, so I was running about, practically on all fours, trying to figure out what to do. Of course, in that moment, I met Daliso, who was dead lovely and laughed at me having to run about, as he very aptly described it, like a rhino. Luckily, it was not the hair and beauty department’s first rodeo, so they came at me with some hair dryers and all was grand.
In 2021 you won the BBC New Comedy award – that must have been emotional! How has the past year been for you after winning?
Very emotional – I feel for anyone who tried to talk to me that evening because I was crying every five minutes. The past year has been incredible, though – so much has changed, for the better – I’ve been so lucky in the opportunities I’ve been given since the award. I’m going to be very sincere for a second, but a big thing that’s changed is my belief in myself (cringe, I know). I really look forward to my future now, whereas before the awards, I didn’t know a lot of things were possible for me, like there were so many things that I wanted to do – like screenwriting, radio, acting, etc – that I didn’t think were things I was ‘allowed’ to do, so I wouldn’t even allow myself to daydream about doing those things. However, slowly over this year, I’ve allowed myself to daydream a bit more about my future, which has made the world a bit more of an exciting place.
How does your everyday life shape your stand-up material?
I guess I’m quite a restless person in my day-to-day life, so whether I like it or not, my brain’s always going ten to the dozen with (often useless) thoughts. I get bored easily which then forces me to go into my head and think about other stuff. Whilst this was a bit of a hindrance prior to me doing stand-up, as I was often described as being ‘away with the fairies’, it’s been quite handy now that I’m doing comedy as I now have an outlet for these thoughts. Always get ideas at the most inconvenient of times though, like random jokes seem to get airdropped into my head when I’m in the shower, or walking the dogs, or the worst one was when I was getting my smear test done – couldn’t exactly get the pen and paper out in that moment.
Where has the musical comedy aspect come from?
I’m always singing songs around the house – could record entire albums of the songs I sing at my dogs. Then, a couple of years or so before I started doing comedy, I started to learn how to play the ukulele as I always like having something to tinker with. I used to record these silly little videos of my progress with the ukulele, which I found quite funny as I haven’t an ounce of rhythm or dexterity, so the videos would sound like I was playing it with my elbows. Then, years later, I started doing stand-up comedy and figured out that, however hard I tried, I was never going to be the slick, suave stand-up thing I envisioned myself to be, as I had too many ants down my pants. So, I started to relax and be more true to myself, and rather than second-guessing what people would want to see, I started just bringing to the stage things that I find funny, and that included my daft little ukulele.
LIVE FROM BARRY ISLAND
First series Wednesday, 19 October
BBC One Wales at 10.40pm