Back when he used to do comedy, Russell Brand liked to say that his life was “essentially a string of embarrassing and shameful incidents punctuated only by telling people about the embarrassing and shameful incidents.”
Nothing unusual about that – that’s stand-up. Comics mine their personal ‘oh-no-they-didn't’ moments for the entertainment of an audience.
Yve Blake has a different approach. The 21-year old comedian mines the ‘oh-no-they-didn’t’ incidents of others, sets them to music, adds a few dance moves, and then performs them, for the entertainment of an audience.
Blake, who was born in Sydney and moved to London three years ago, solicits her real-life stories online, via anonymous contributions to her website whowewere.com. She calls it “co-writing with the internet.” To date, she has over a thousand “collaborators”, from 154 cities, who have sent her stories, confessions and secrets in the hope that she might transform them into a funny song.
For her first crowd-sourced show, Then, in 2014, she asked people who they felt they used to be. “I was aware of the way that we are using the internet to perform the best possible version of our lives. It’s a place where we go to better ourselves so I was curious to see if I could use the internet to ask people to ‘under-perform’. To anonymously tell me things that they wouldn’t want to admit to,” explains Blake. “I’m interested in the ways that we’re fallible.”
The confessions ranged from a woman who used to believe that she would marry Bill Murray to a man who was terrified about being a father.
Last month, Blake uploaded a few songs from Then to YouTube. “The Race Was On”, a musical tale of one girl’s quest to lose her virginity, melds the dance routines of a Britney Spears video with the filthy lyrics of a Book of Mormon while “Absofruitly” charts a romance behind the tills of a supermarket in grocery puns (“I could only think of her and how we’d made a great pear”, etc). Ask her for her influences and they are, unsurprisingly, a mixed bag: “Ellen DeGeneres, Tim Minchin, and Bjork – for her visuals.”
Blake’s second show, Lie Collector, opens on Wednesday 11 February at Vault Festival, in the tunnels under London’s Waterloo Station. This time, in a bid to extract even more honesty, Blake has asked the public to share the biggest fibs they have ever told. “I thought, what’s the last thing they would be likely to tell me? Lies”, she says. “That was naïve. This time around it was really difficult to get people to respond in the same way.”
Still, she has gathered enough for another hour of songs, which will cover everything from trivial flatmate spats – “It’s Not Stealing If It’s Food” - to rather more disturbing deceptions like prank pregnancies and hidden debt. All human life is there, apart from Blake’s own life. Why so coy? “I’m not really interested in putting my own story on stage. An hour standing on a stage, that’s about enough of me and my ego. I don’t really inject my own stories into it.”
Why does she think strangers trust her to make light of their secrets? Perhaps they just want their five minutes of fame, in musical form? “I think a lot of the stories I’m sent have never been said out loud before, they’ve never found another outlet. So maybe there’s a sense of release in it. There’s a quote, ‘To laugh at yourself is to love yourself.’ I never want to be the kind of comedian who is just taking people down.”
Lie Collector, 11 February to 1 March, 9.15pm, Vault Festival, Waterloo Leake St Tunnels, London (www.vaultfestival.com)
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