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Karen Sherrard

What comedy most inspires you?

I'm inspired by many styles of comedy but I love things to have a dark edge that borders on tragedy. I enjoy straight stand-up but prefer characters and a through story but don't particularly like mainstream, joke-heavy sitcoms. One of my favourite series is Pulling - I think Sharon Horgan is stupendous. I also loved Spaced, The Royle Family, Father Ted, Alan Partridge....oh, the list goes on. I recently liked This Country and Fleabag too.

Which comedian most inspires you?

Victoria Wood and Steve Coogan. Both of them are masters of finding the perfect words.

Which comedian scares the shit out of you because you know you'll never be that good?

The League of Gentlemen have a delicious darkness that only they can do.

Why and how did you get into comedy?

I trained as an actor but wanted to eat once in a while, so worked in different fields, namely radio broadcasting and tourism overseas. I missed performing and started writing comic monologues that I performed with the Cardiff Cafe Writers once in a while. I then signed up to do a 5 minute spot on Rhod Gilbert's Comedy Playground (known as the Dickabout) and it went well, so I started to look for gigs and it grew from there.

What drives you to do what you do?

It's the thing I feel most comfortable doing.

Describe your perfect Tuesday.

I'd go to Ponty Lido for a swim, then have a nice long dog walk. Lunch with some pals then a local gig with a decent fee and a lovely audience. Home by 11 (Obviously it's perpetual summer in this scenario).

Describe your worst experience on a coach.

Whilst working in South America I was on a 48 hour bus journey from Lima to Tacna in Peru. However, we got to a small village called Fiscal where they had set up a blockade to protest about their lack of running water, so we were trapped there for an additional 48 hours. One toilet block, no water, a closed snooker hall and a restaurant serving only limpets. Megabus is a luxury.

Best sofa you've ever slept on?

My friend Kathy in Bristol has an awesome sofa and a wonderful welcome. But the prize goes to my cousin Jeff and his partner Devon in Edinburgh. They put me up for the whole of August last year and were the best hosts imaginable. Technically a sofa-bed, buy hey.

Best piece of advice a comedian ever gave you?

I've never specifically been given advice but general consensus is not to get too worried about competitions.

Worst piece of advice a critic ever gave you?

Again, I've only been reviewed once and it was a nice one. An audience review in Edinburgh last year was pretty nasty, though I wouldn't describe it as advice.

Tell us a joke.

Two goldfish in a goldfish bowl. One turns to the other and says "how do you drive this thing?" That was my friend misunderstanding the two goldfish in a tank joke.

What's the furthest you've travelled for the least amount of money/open spot?

Ugh, I went to Essex to play to 8 men in a sports bar mid-Olympics. It makes me cringe to think of it.

Who are you looking forward to seeing in Edinburgh this year?

I'm not going but if I was, I'd look out for Trygve Wakenshawe if he's there, Bec Hill and my various friends who are doing shows.

On a scale of 1-10 , how hungry are you right now?

1. I've just had a cup of cocoa and a caramel waffle.

I actually stopped doing comedy around Christmas time after gradually fading out over about a year. I stopped asking for gigs but was offered enough to keep me going for a year, then just faded out. I wouldn't say I've given up, but just felt tired and jaded and that I'd reached my potential and couldn't progress further without a massive effort that I didn't have energy for. I have a partner now after 15 years being single and spending my nights driving to Cornwall and back for 50 quid just no longer appeals.

How was lockdown been for you?

Lockdown was a process for me. The initial panic of how to make a living lasted a couple of weeks. One of my work contracts had just ended anyway and I was already starting to worry about income, so this exacerbated it. However, I managed to secure a fair bit of emergency funding for a charity that I work for so I managed to keep my head above water.

I actually loved simplifying my life. I spent time in the garden, walking on the mountains and enjoyed not having to travel or go shopping. My partner and I camped in the garden, floated in a large paddling pool and observed all the changing moments of nature. I tried to limit my time watching the news as I was aware how much some people were suffering. 

My Mum then had a stroke and lay undiscovered on her hall floor for I don't know how long. This burst my happy bubble and turned life around a bit. She's still in hospital but coming home soon, and will need constant care. She lives in Pembrokeshire so I'm considering moving down there and setting up an arts retreat / glamping centre. I find this prospect really exciting.

Have you been more or less productive?

I'm finding the idea of lockdown far more difficult as winter approaches, the services I'll need to help Mum won't be so readily available and I'm fed up of not being able to make proper plans. I'm also seething about how the government have dealt with it. I understand any government would have been floored by this, but by now I expect them to have a handle on how to manage the crisis and pushing on with Brexit and HS2 is unforgivable whilst everything is so uncertain.

Anything else you'd like to say?

Mostly, this is a reminder that none of us are really in control of our futures, no matter how hard we try. This is at once terrifying and liberating. 

I hope I take from this the enjoyment to be had from small pleasures, being at home, self care, exploring locally, spending little, cooking, time with loved ones, nature and even letting go of plans, hopes and dreams and living for the moment. 

In terms of being productive, artistically no, but I have been industriously producing jams, cordials, lollies, vinegar, preserves, fruit gins and vodkas, as well as natural dyes, all from home grown and foraged items. I've turned into a hedgerow capitalist. 

I have not missed comedy. I'd like to say I have, but I haven't. I haven't even watched much TV, I've been mostly outdoors.

I wouldn't have been at Mach or Edinburgh but feel for those who would have been. It's such a huge investment and effort just to be wasted. Photo - Karen Sherrard as a finalist of Welsh Unsigned Standup Award 2016 by Sophia Salmassi

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