If I hadn’t stopped be­ing jeal­ous of other peo­ple, I wouldn’t have got the TV show. It’s not nice, and it’s not fair

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE - Nowhere Fast pre­mieres on RTÉ2 on Mon­day at 10pm

big­gest inspirations for the show, but says she couldn’t watch scripted se­ries while she was writ­ing: “I’d study it too much or get sad or jeal­ous.”

Last June, the team were granted fund­ing, and Ali­son and Si­mon were handed a short writ­ing dead­line. “I rely on Si­mon so much,” she smiles. “We’ve been go­ing out five years, and he’s just so clever and ta­lented, and I think we com­ple­ment each other’s strengths. We have a sim­i­lar dream of what we want to make.”

The pair ini­tially wanted the show to be darker, but Ali­son says she’s learned to pick her bat­tles.

“There was a lot of in­put from RTÉ,” she ad­mits. “Ed­die Doyle [RTÉ Head of Com­edy] has been a great sup­port… he re­ally did cham­pion me. But they do have an in­volve­ment in it, and so do the in­ter­na­tional distrib­u­tors like BBC World­wide — they have to make sure it’s not too col­lo­quial.

“The whole process is all about com­pro­mise,” she ex­plains. “When I did ra­dio, I was like a lit­tle worker bee. I loved do­ing it, but you’d do ev­ery lit­tle job pos­si­ble. You’d go down and get the boss Lu­cozade, and you’d think one day you’d be re­warded with a proper job. But then when you do stand-up, you’re no one’s worker bee. You’re your own per­son, and it was very hard to let go of that, very hard.”

She adds that it’s also been dif­fi­cult hav­ing to step back and wait for the show to be re­leased. “When I do stand-up and it’s go­ing badly, I have the con­trol to make that gig not bad by chang­ing my rou­tine, talk­ing to the au­di­ence, do­ing all these lit­tle tricks. With the TV show, my job is done, and I just have to let it out there,” she says ner­vously.

Since the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal broke, sto­ries of sex­ual ha­rass­ment have been pour­ing out about ev­ery facet of the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. The Ir­ish scene is no less toxic, Ali­son says.

“You can get some bad eggs in com­edy. But a lot of bad eggs aren’t good co­me­di­ans, and they don’t stay do­ing com­edy long,” she notes.

“I re­mem­ber I was go­ing to my first show away from Dublin, and when I got in the car this other guy was like ‘you’re very fat’. I thought, ‘oh, OK, hello’. He fan­cied him­self as an edgy co­me­dian,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I thought I just wouldn’t talk to him and talk to the other peo­ple. He was in his 50s and I was 19 or 20. Then later that night, he wouldn’t leave my ho­tel room. He just slept in an­other bed and was try­ing to wake me up — I just said ‘I’m go­ing to sleep now’. He was a very pushy guy, but he doesn’t do com­edy any­more.

“I felt so weird and so bad. In the morn­ing, the guy who was driv­ing asked me to break­fast, and this man walked out with­out his trousers on and went ‘oh, I for­got my jeans’, and he laughed. I stopped him and said ‘are you try­ing to tell that guy that we f***ed? Did we f***?’ and he stam­mered ‘no’. He thought I wouldn’t say any­thing.”

She con­tin­ues: “It’s hard to talk about, be­cause Ire­land is so small. Some men won’t be­lieve any vic­tim be­cause they think a man’s rep­u­ta­tion is so im­por­tant and you’re tak­ing away from [that]. I’m only talk­ing about that guy be­cause he doesn’t do com­edy any more.”

Ali­son de­scribes how women in Ir­ish com­edy have banded to­gether, with many comics rent­ing of­fices to­gether or or­gan­is­ing all-fe­male stand-up gigs. But she ad­mits she wasn’t al­ways so sup­port­ive of other women in the in­dus­try — she has spo­ken on her pod­cast about feeling jeal­ous of Joanne McNally’s suc­cess, say­ing: “If Joanne McNally was a lad, would I have given a s*** about her rise to fame? I’ ll tell you the truth, no.”

“It’s so poi­sonous,” she says to­day. “But you can choose to block out those feel­ings. If I hadn’t stopped be­ing jeal­ous of other peo­ple, I wouldn’t have got the TV show. It’s not nice, and it’s not fair.”

In Jan­uary, Ali­son will head­line her own show at Vicar Street, with sup­port from her friends Sofie Ha­gen and Ruth Hunter. She has long de­scribed it as her dream venue, and now that she has landed top billing, she says she’s still grap­pling with that pe­cu­liarly mil­len­nial feeling of ‘not good enough’.

“Peo­ple are con­stantly say­ing ‘you must be so happy, you’re so suc­cess­ful’. In­side, I’m go­ing, why am I not happy? This is when I thought I’d be happy. I’m work­ing since I’m 19 chas­ing some sort of dream, and I al­ways had this al­most re­li­gious be­lief that if you work hard, you will be re­warded in the fu­ture. Af­ter putting up with s***heads for seven years of my life, my re­ward in my head was the TV show and the tour, and, I’m like, are you ever ac­tu­ally go­ing to be happy? What is wrong with you!” she says with an ex­as­per­ated sigh. “But I think I’m just pro­tect­ing my­self.

“When Vicar Street is done, then I’ll have a big think about what I want to do next, be­cause you’ve got to savour the stuff you like. When I was ap­proached to do Vicar Street, it was a big sur­prise to me. Part of me says ‘you’re not able’, but you just have to ig­nore that and keep go­ing. Ev­ery­thing I’ve thought I wasn’t able to do, I’ve done.”

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