Accio Fandom! Emma summons up Harry Potter, Marvel's She-Hulk, The X-Files and more for her debut stand-up show
When it came to settling on a theme for her debut stand-up show, there was only one obvious choice for Emma Ashley-King.
As a fan of all things deemed geeky or nerdy – sci-fi and fantasy – she wanted to pay tribute to the world that has helped shape her. And make people laugh too…
‘I've always been a geek,’ says Emma, who lives in North End, Portsmouth. ‘As young as 11/12 I really got into Buffy The Vampire Slayer and The X-Files and as a kid I'd always loved Star Wars, and Star Trek, and Pokemon when that came out, and then there was a show called Sailor Moon.
‘I loved all those things, but in school I was bullied quite a lot, and a lot of things had happened – my mother past away when I was younger – and there was a lot of sadness and things that were quite horrible.
‘But I found myself a part of something else, and I found a family through fandom.
‘It's obviously a comedy show and there's anecdotes about conventions and talking about online sites and fan-fiction, meeting actors, cosplay – all the funny quirky bits. There's some terrible one-liners and some awful comicbook puns in there as well.
‘It's a celebration of, and an ode to, all things geeky, and all the friends people make through it around the world.’
Emma performed her first stand-up spot six years ago and has been building to this while racking up around 150 gigs.
‘I don't gig as much as some comedians, I like the slow and steady wins the race approach! I try to focus on doing a few gigs a month where I give it my all, rather than book loads and wear myself out on public transport.
‘I started this as a hobby – not that I didn't take it seriously, it was never anything that I intended to do full-time.
‘When I started performing stand-up it was after attending Logan Murray's comedy course in London. At the time I'd been listening to a lot of audio books from comedians and remembered how much I’d loved being on a stage when younger.
‘I really wanted a job where I could help people, but I wasn't a nurse or a teacher, etc. But through comedy I've found a way I can help just a little bit through laughter and talking about mental health among other things that helps others feel less alone.
‘It is still a hobby, but a couple of years ago I decided to go up to Edinburgh for the Fringe for the first time, because I thought, I kind of want to put on a show, but I'm not sure.
‘I wanted to experience loads of shows and see whether this was something I wanted to continue with. I saw an awful lot of shows in the space of four days, absolutely loved it and thought, yeah, I want to do this.
‘Then Covid happened. My initial plan was to do this at Edinburgh last year, and that's obviously been delayed. But we've got Brighton as well as The Ventnor Fringe, and the Camden Fringe going ahead this year, so I thought, I'd give it a go.’
Emma admits she still suffers from anxiety before going on stage, but ‘once I'm on stage with a microphone in my hand, I’m fine.’
It was for this reason she wanted to pick a subject she knows ‘like the back of my hand,’ but she adds: ‘I've tried to do a show that appeals to all the people who are geeks, but is also accessible to everyone and that anyone can relate to.’
The show’s title is a nod to Harry Potter, ‘accio’ is the summoning charm from the books.
‘I knew I wanted a show title that told people what it was about – but was also short and catchy. I had some advice from another comedian in Edinburgh, he was saying that with show titles, particularly your first time, try to think of something that begins with an “A”. If people don't know what to see in Edinburgh, the shows are often listed A-Z.
‘So it was between this and another show title, which several comedians wanted me to call it...’
Emma goes on to explain it as something related to a piece of Jurassic Park fan-fiction, which while funny, is not appropriate for a family newspaper.
‘They all think it's hilarious, but I thought as a show title, it's not very pleasant!’
‘Then this suddenly came to me, Accio Fandom – and that was that.’
The show will also feature cabaret, burlesque, and Emma appearing as She-Hulk.
‘Where I'd been bullied in school quite badly, fandom was a good escape from this.
‘In many ways the show ties into that, especially considering the lip-sync/burlesque elements as I was frequently bullied for my appearance and made to feel small.
‘Standing on a stage and performing is a bit of a metaphorical middle finger to people who tried to tear me down and proof to myself that I just need to believe in myself.’
However, she adds with a laugh: ‘The closer it gets, the more I'm slightly regretting this choice of dressing as She-Hulk.
‘After doing a lot of open mics in London and odd gigs here and there, I decided if I was going to continue with this, I'd very much go with the attitude of in for a penny, in for a pound.
‘So I'm dressing as She-Hulk. I want to challenge myself and do something entertaining.’
EMMA ASHLEY-KING: ACCIO FANDOM
The Caxton Arms, Brighton
June 25-27, 3pm-4pm
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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