Comedy: Interview: Ellen Waddell

Steve Wright, July 13, 2017

Bristol performer and comedian Ellen Waddell brings an advance showcase of her Edinburgh Fringe show to the Wardrobe Theatre.

In her new one-woman show, the former rock star and acclaimed performer tackles the necessity of lying in life, love, friendship – and when applying for administrative jobs at truck logistics companies.

The no-holds-barred confessional comedy show follows Ellen, a former liar, as she travels back in time to the worst year of her life: 2012. It was a year she left her job as a bona-fide rock star to move back in with her mum. Despite being jobless, sad, and devastatingly single, Ellen found she couldn’t stop lying to everyone she met about how fantastic her life was.

In a series of re-enactments, Ellen relives some of the biggest lies she told that year, to her friends, family and potential lovers, before finally asking the ultimate question: just what is so scary about telling the truth?

Ellen Waddell is a writer, director, comedian and performance artist. During her time as a rock star playing bass for indie-pop band Los Campesinos! she released four albums, toured the world, and performed on The Late Show with David Letterman.

“She left her job as a bona-fide rock star to move back in with her mum.” Why, may we ask? And any regrets?
I just really like my mum’s cooking. No, jokes. Without giving too much away, as the full tantalizing answer to that question will be revealed in the show, it was a combination of wanting a change and getting tinnitus. I haven’t regretted it because if you are not fully committed to something as life-encompassing as being in a band, it’s unfair on everyone else involved. Also I have enjoyed the new journey I have been on since, writing, performing and doing stand-up. Although I definitely miss the exciting countries I got to visit, and the plane journeys. I love a good plane journey where I can watch terrible romantic comedies and drink free wine.

“Just what is so scary about telling the truth?” Yes, indeed – what is?
It just makes life a little bit harder doesn’t it? Especially if it’s an uncomfortable truth about yourself or how you feel about someone else. For me, I didn’t like showing that I was ‘weak’ and I wanted to appear in control and perfect at all times. I thought that’s what people expected of me. Telling people the truth just made me feel all hot and sticky and weird.

And what is the problem with lying, sometimes? Isn’t it just, under a different label, using your imagination? Storytelling?
Lying is essential of course. Especially with comedy. I lie on stage all the time, it’s necessary for snappy punchlines. I have a joke in this show about meeting Mary Berry backstage at Radio 4, and how she was watching a snuff film on her iPhone. It never happened. We have never met. I hope she doesn’t sue.
However regularly lying in real life about your feelings can be poisonous. It can eat away at you until you do something drastic (my own experience of which I talk about in the show), or until you don’t recognize who you are anymore. I don’t want to sound like Oprah but being honest with yourself and people you love is a healthy thing to do. But obviously, if something funny happened to your friend – like, they met Mary Berry backstage at Radio 4, and she was watching a snuff film on her iPhone – you steal that story for yourself.

Did the lies you told that year fall into different groups – e.g. boasting lies, I’m-OK-lies; lies to friends, lies to lovers; etc? Were some simple one-liners, and did others grow into big elaborate parallel lives? The lies I told were a mix of I’m-OK-lies and I-love-all-the-same-stuff-as-you-please-like-me-lies. So basically pretending to be someone who was super together and happy to my friends, and someone who was into everything that a potential lover was into. Like Jean-Luc Goddard. Some of the lies got me into trouble and embarrassing situations, which kind of snowballed. In the show, I relive those moments for the audience. Those lucky people.

Has your lie quotient fallen since 2012?
Yes! I am a slightly better-adjusted person now, better at standing up for herself and also admitting when she is sad, angry, sleepy or heartbroken. I actually allow myself to feel sad now. And I don’t stay in situations which make me feel rubbish, I can be honest with myself and people if I am just not enjoying something. Although saying that, I did tell my mum I liked her new shoes earlier, and I did not like her new shoes.

Ellen Waddell: It’s Better to Lie Than to Tell The Truth and End Up in a Ditch Crying Wardrobe Theatre, Thursday, July 20 to Friday, July 21. For more info and to book tickets, visit thewardrobetheatre.com/livetheatre/better-lie-tell-truth-end-alone-ditch-crying

Read more: Interview: Simon Amstell

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