Catherine Bohart interview: ‘Eating is my only hobby...’
Having attended drama school in London with the aim of becoming an actress, Catherine Bohart tried her hand at stand-up, taking her debut solo show, Immaculate, to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.
The show received critical acclaim, with The Times describing it as “the sort of perfectly structured Edinburgh debut you always hope for and rarely get to see”. The thirty-something returned to the festival in 2019 with her second hour-long show, Lemon. It enjoyed a month of sold-out performances and excellent reviews before Catherine took the show on a UK and Irish tour.
Her new show, This Isn’t for You, will be stopping off in Cambridge in March. Catherine, who has appeared on numerous television programmes including Mock the Week, 8 Out of 10 Cats, The Stand Up Sketch Show, Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier, and Richard Osman’s House of Games, spoke to the Cambridge Independent while staying at her parents’ house in Dublin.
“I came to do some shows and am being very well fed and relaxed while I try and do some work,” says the London-based comic, who went on to explain the meaning behind her latest piece, This Isn’t for You: “It’s a show that I started to write in 2020 and everything about my life – and in the world – changed in that time frame, so it has been quite an evolution...
“But it is at its heart I think a show about a person – me – who lost control and has had nothing in her own control in a long time. And during the pandemic, I was dealing with an unexpected break-up and also I have obsessive compulsive disorder. Both I dealt with alone in my flat, and it was difficult but also very funny – so I hope I’ve made good fun out of this.”
Catherine adds: “In a way, the only good thing to be said about Covid is there was no one untouched by it. Obviously people experience it in different measure but it is interesting to come out into a world where we have all had such a collective experience; to try to unpack that and be light-hearted with it is, I think, important now, because it’s been some heavy duty stuff for a long time.”
What did Catherine discover about herself as a person during that whole period? “I’m deeply uncomfortable being alone... I really like to busy myself – to make myself feel both important and in charge – and I didn’t realise eating is my only hobby. I also realised – I ran an online weekly gig during lockdown – how much comics benefit from audiences as much as audiences benefit from comedians.
“I think it was so vital to me to have people to connect with, and I was actually really proud of all the other stand-ups who came and did the show because everyone had funny things and different things to say.”
The weekly shows – called Gigless – played host to 143 comedians, many of whom were new and up-and-coming or struggling without regular work. All of the takings were split evenly each week between the organisers and the acts.
“We did 68 shows and it really kept me going during lockdown,” says Catherine, who also won a Chortle Award for Legend of Lockdown on the back of its success, describing the accolade as “really nice”. She continues: “It [the award] has my name on it but it was myself, Andrew White and Helen Bauer who ran it, and we had such a great audience.
“We had 100 people who probably came to every show and then, given the day or the acts on, we’d have between another 100 or another 200 on top of that. There was a real regular base, which was amazing.”
Some of the well-known names who performed included Jason Manford, Russell Kane, Ed Byrne, Desiree Burch, and Fin Taylor. “I think the thing with live and Zoom is they’re so often compared to one another, which I think is a shame because they are such different beasts,” says Catherine, who lists among her comedy inspirations the likes of Joan Rivers, Dylan Moran, Dara Ó Briain, Helen Bauer, and Katherine Ryan.
“I think they’re both excellent for different reasons. Obviously nothing compares to live, in terms of the energy and the connection you have with an audience, but in terms of access to comedy, I think online has been a revelation because it’s more affordable for more people, it’s more likely people will go by themselves, it’s more likely people with physical access issues can come to the show – and I think that’s really amazing.”