The 3ft 6ins comic often runs into problems when she gets to venues only to find them woefully unprepared for her. Performing perched on a table or a precarious platform is not uncommon.
‘Promoters will go “our stage is fairly high”, then you get there and it’s like seven inches!’ she tells The Guide. ‘That’s not very high for me – I need a high stage.
‘We had an issue at a gig the other night, it was in a wine bar and everybody was on the level. They wouldn’t let me stand on a table because,’ she puts on a whiny voice, ‘‘that’s against health and safety’’. So they said they had these theatre podiums - they had one in another venue and it could be there in 15-20 minutes. But I was supposed to be the first on and it was already running late, so the promoter’s freaking out.
‘They get this thing, and it turns out it’s even shorter than the actual stage. So they’re trying to put this coffee table on top of this stage on top of the podium. And that’s not working, and we’re like: “Screw it, the show’s got to start!”
‘So we ended up putting my step stool on top of a bar stool, which had a back on it, and I sat on that, clearly I couldn’t move around and do my physical bits, but at least we got the show started – half-an-hour late.
‘Never a dull moment,’ she laughs.
This will be the first ever Comedy All Stars show at The New Theatre Royal, where Tanyalee joins Gary Delany, Ed Gamble and compere James Alderson.
Tanyalee grew up in Winnipeg before heading to Vancouver to try and make it as an actor and eventually going all ‘Thelma and Louise’ in 1997 with a friend – telling the border officers they were going to America to play bingo, but actually headed for LA. There was also a lengthy stint in Las Vegas, but she’s been a resident in the UK since 2010, winning fans and appearing on TV’s The John Bishop Show and Live at The Apollo.
While there’s no escaping her height, it’s Tanyalee who has often put it front and centre in her material. ‘I have been criticised in some circles and told I shouldn’t focus so much on my height and do “regular” material, but on the flipside of that, why should I compete with everyone else over the same generic material when I have this interesting perspective on life? People are so curious about my life and I’m so honest about it, and I think they appreciate it.‘
She’s also been frankly explicit about some of her health problems, turning them into the basis of her hit Edinburgh Festival show Big Trouble in Little ‘Gina.
‘It was such a horrible experience and I went through months and months of torture, trying to get blood transfusions and getting blood clots, it’s one of those things where it’s therapy, it’s cathartic writing a show about it, but it wasn’t for everybody and I certainly got mixed reviews for it, but it was something different and I needed to do it and I don’t have any regrets - and hey, it was in Edinburgh! If you’re going to do a show like this, where else are you going to do it?
‘Some people don’t get it, and that’s fine, but I’m having fun and as long as I’m enjoying it, that’s the most important thing - and the fact that the audience are still enjoying it, I’ll keep doing it.’
You may very well have seen Tanyalee on TV - she’s graced two of the biggest comedy shows currently on.
‘John Bishop has been a fan and a huge supporter – I worked with him back in the day before he was THE John Bishop. When he got his show he had creative control where he could pick the comics he could have on his show, and I was one of them. Then I got Live at The Apollo off of that, it was an amazing break for me.’
Away from comedy, Tanyalee is on the board of directors for a new anti-bullying charity, Great As You Are.
‘Right now we’re running it in 16 pilot schools.
‘I still get bullied so it’s something near and dear to my heart, even though I’m not a big fan of children’, she laughs, ‘I absolutely love what I do working in the schools, the kids really respond to me, and it’s very rewarding.’
COMEDY ALL STARS
New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
Friday, June 9