Gareth Berliner and Kiruna Stamell took time out of their busy schedule to join us in the Canalside Cafe for an fascinating interview in the run-up to There’s Something Funny in the Honey.
In a fascinating discussion, they touched on a wide variety of topics, including their respective careers, their views on the comedy and arts scene, their new double act, and how audiences react to their different disabilities.
How did you get into Standup Comedy?
Kiruna: Originally I was a dancer and then became an actress before moving into standup comedy. I still spend a lot of time working on stage outside of comedy.
Gareth: I went on holiday to Portugal and there was a barmaid who I tried to impress with lots of jokes. I enjoyed the attention. It was one of the things I wanted to do, but I didn’t do anything about it until a mate of mine booked me a show which forced me to get on stage.
The show didn’t bomb and I moved on from there. I find comedy very cathartic. My first show was about my health and trying to kill myself, I used it as a way to exercise my bad thoughts.
How did you two meet?
G: I was working at the Soho Theatre and I saw Kiruna, I thought she was attractive.
K: Gareth was with some blonde woman on his arm so I thought he was a stereotypical comedian.
G: A mutual friend of ours suggested a date. We clicked instantly. I’m not used to having such an easy connection with somebody else. We spent a day together and that turned into four days. We got used to each other very quickly. I fart a lot due to my condition and it was one of the things I had to break to Kiruna.
K: It was a choice between keeping a distance from farts or cuddles. I chose cuddles.
G: After six months I proposed. We got married on September 29th. We hope to have a honey moon at the end of the year in the Isle of Wight staying in a 1950’s Winnebago.
You have a new show as a double act, how are the preparations coming along?
G: We are putting a lot of rehearsal time in. We have free office space in the MAC helping me to avoid procrastination, which working at home leads to. We have trialled the show at the Brighton Comedy festival; we plan to step up the act next year including the Leicester Comedy festival which will be our first joint paid gig.
K: The show does have a focus on comedy but it also works as a theatre production as well. The show is a bit soppy in places, and we were a bit worried that audiences would be turned off by this, but the reception we had in Brighton was very positive.
The show does have a cynical side to it as well, just like Gareth’s solo show. We still deal with the topic of discrimination in the show for example we look at who was persecuted more Jews or dwarves. (Gareth is Jewish and Kiruna is a dwarf).
Do you still have to deal with prejudices in your comedy shows?
G: I have to deal with it less than Kiruna does. People do not immediately realise that I have a disability until I mention it in my act whilst with Kiruna it is obvious what her disability is.
It can be difficult sometimes to find a way to deal with it, especially if we are being heckled.
K: Sometimes the audience does not know how to react to me. They can’t relax sometimes and that can make the atmosphere tense. I don’t want to live in a bubble though and I want to interact with others.
Do you get typecast in certain roles?
K: I did get offers in certain areas that suggested that might happen. I rejected them to avoid that from happening. Peter Dinklage (who plays Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones) has done a great job of changing the perception of what a person with disabilities can do.
Do you do much travelling?
G: I do, it is part of the job as a stand up comic.
K: I recently spent 3 months in Sweden. I like travelling. I went to the town that I am named after. Skype is a lifesaver it means we can still interact whilst we are apart.
Do you visit Australia often? (Kiruna’s home country)
K: About once a year.
G: We do plan to tour of our double act in Australia in 2013 in the cities of Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne. We’re also doing the Edinburgh Fringe as well.
What do you think of the Edinburgh festival?
G: It is a double edged sword. It is a great way to get exposure. When I went I came back with an agent and it helped my phone ring for the rest of the year. The festival is very expensive to do though, you have to pay your own way for a month. Only the biggest names make any money from it. You need to have a killer show to make it worthwhile.
What do you know about environmental issues?
G: We know a bit, we try to do the things we can. We recycle, we buy free range eggs; hens should be able play ping pong if they want to.
K: We enjoy the outdoors. Our wedding became known as Wedstock. It was an eco wedding in an tent in a field. Very environmentally friendly.
Finally, what is your favourite apple? (apples are one of the many fruits pollinated by bees)
K: Pink lady