Daisy Earl is really excited about this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. It will be her first time doing a full hour set – she’s done 30 and 45 minute sets before, but an hour will let her really get her teeth into her material.
During this hour, she will delve into what it meant for her to turn 30. Daisy explains that she wasn’t happy with her life or her job when she reached this landmark birthday, two years ago. She was drinking a lot, single, and unhappy with her body. She made a list of things she wanted to change – get sober, get a boyfriend, lose weight (she’s “still trying with that last one,” she admits wryly). Her new show, entitled Fairy Elephant, is about what happened next (she likes to refer to herself as “plus-sized,” her mother likes to refer to her as a “fairy elephant”). Ultimately she wanted to “get happy”, which is something she thinks a lot of people can relate to.
Turning 30 has clearly been a pivotal point in her life, so I ask Daisy what she learnt from her 20s. “Absinthe is not my best friend,” she laughs. “Drinking is not the answer.”
She also emphasises the importance of “celebrating the mediocrity,” that a normal life can be a happy one, although social media has made this a difficult task: “social media has made a strange world – a highlight reel of sorts.”
Using herself as an example, she tells me what people might garner from her own social media presence: they’d see she performs at the Comedy Store in London and supports Tom Stade on his nationwide tour – on Instagram her life looks great, but what it doesn’t show is that she still struggles with her mental health. “The show [Fairy Elephant] is quite exposing in that way,” she says. In other words, it’s not just the highlight reel.
Daisy was living in Dublin when she started doing comedy. She went to her first stand-up night on a “boring” date (the man, not the stand-up). He left early, she stayed, and made friends with some comics who encouraged her to pursue comedy herself.
For the first three years of her comedy career she was drinking a lot. She says: “I’m probably a better comic now, but it was easier when I was drinking… drunk me was an absolute liability, though. I’d have fun, but also I’d no doubt offend someone or lose my shoe. Drunk me was much less present than sober me.”
There’s more than one person involved in a comedy gig, and the tech people and bar staff aren’t there on a night out or to have fun. She emphasises the importance of respecting the other people you work alongside. She says all of this breezily, assuring me: “Now I don’t drink, and I’m delightful.”
Another theme of Fairy Elephant is body image, which is something I’m interested in getting her thoughts on. Daisy tells me that she put on weight in her early 20s and admits that she didn’t have the healthiest lifestyle. “Being someone who’s bigger, people can treat you differently,” she says, matter-of-factly, “whether that’s people on the street or your bosses at work.”
She expresses frustration with the diet industry, humorously despairing at before and after weight loss photos: “they’re mad… The ‘before’ photos are always in bad lighting, while the ‘after’ photos are taken in really good lighting, and they’re suddenly wearing a business suit and they’ve got these children with them. It’s like, hang on, these children look about ten, and there’s only a year between the photos.”
I ask her what she thinks about the body positivity movement: “it’s amazing.” She’s still turning up at Slimming World and doing her best but she’s losing weight for her health, not any other reason. She has some issues with the movement, too. For argument’s sake, she compares being overweight to smoking. “Obviously you wouldn’t go outside and shout at smokers for being unhealthy, but equally you would find it odd if a friend who smoked said they were part of the ‘black lungs are beautiful campaign,’ you know?” She applies that same logic to being overweight. “You don’t want to have a chat about it with a random man in a nightclub,” but, equally, she thinks it’s irresponsible to encourage anything unhealthy.
I’m curious about what else inspires her comedy. “I’m unlucky in life but I try to see the funny side,” she says. For example, a few years ago her house flooded; “I had to live in a Travelodge for a bit.” Although this “wasn’t very funny at the time,” she saw the potential for a good piece of stand-up.
“It’s harder to make people laugh in a regular social situation than in a comedy club – it’s more involuntary, less expected.” If something funny happens in daily life and a friend laughs at a story, then she’ll take that as a sign to include it in a set.
She’s a big fan of Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show, who she saw live when he was touring in Ireland. “His stand-up is amazing. He talked about serious stuff, like apartheid and growing up mixed race in South Africa, but you never felt sorry for him,” she says.
“He’s a genius, incredible… I really look up to him.” She wants to achieve something similar in her shows, talking about sobriety, mental health, and other heavier topics, but wants people to laugh while they’re watching and think about it afterwards.
It seems likely that audiences will come away from Fairy Elephant with a lot to think about; Daisy’s honest, self-deprecating humour will resonate with many people. Her humour may segue into vulnerable discussions around addiction and anxiety, but after my conversation with her I have no doubt that she’ll do this deftly, sensitively, and to a lot of laughs.
Catch Daisy at the Edinburgh Fringe from 31st July to 26th August at Patter Hoose.