Stevie Martin is hot property right now. A comedian, writer, podcast host and voiceover artist, the multifaceted millennial has enough balls in the air to make you feel giddy (and a little mundane) just from reading about her work, writes Holly O’Mahony…
As a journalist, Stevie’s written for nationals as well as a number of glossies and ‘woke’ online magazines. Then there’s her brilliantly funny, weekly podcast Nobody Panic (formerly The Debrief Podcast), which she co-hosts with comedian Tessa Coates. As a comedian herself, Stevie’s one third of comedy troupe Massive Dad, and has performed sketches on Russell Howard’s Good News among other high-profile TV shows.
A solo performer too, Stevie is taking her latest one-woman show Hot Content to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer. Before she does, though, she’s previewing it at the Tramshed in Woolwich on Friday July 12. “It’s a sketch, character and stand-up show about how inundated we all are with the internet, and how I’m probably not helping myself by perpetuating it constantly,” she laughs.
Stevie first got into comedy while studying at Durham University. Back then, she was part of a sketch group called The Durham Revue. “After we graduated, I became a journalist who wrote about comedy, editing one of the Fringe magazines, before moving onto women’s magazines, until I realised I missed it and wanted to take a show up again,” she recalls. “So I formed a sketch group [Massive Dad] on the side of my day job with two other ex-Durham Revue members, Liz Kingsman and Tessa Coates, and then gradually comedy overtook journalism.”
Are the things that attracted Stevie to comedy back then still the things she loves about it now? “Edinburgh is a lot harder when you’re not going up for a fun month doing a low-key show with mates,” she muses. This year, the stakes are certainly higher than that for Stevie, who’s performing a total of 26 shows over the course of the festival, in a Bristo Square Underbelly venue in the heart of the Fringe. “I still get excited when the lights go down and the show is about to start. And there’s nothing better than doing it to an audience who really get it. That’s still the biggest high there is.”
Despite her growing profile and becoming a better-known name on the comedy circuit, Stevie admits she finds it impossible to turn down gigs others might deem too small or not, perhaps, a prestigious career move. “I still do everything!” she laughs. “I have a possibly unhealthy view that you never know where your next big opportunity is coming from, so you should say yes to everything,” she explains.
“Jobs very rarely come from straightforward auditioning, but from someone having seen you at some weird night you weren’t really up for doing or a silly sketch you put on YouTube that you thought nobody watched. So I like to do as much as I can.”
Now an Edinburgh Fringe veteran, Stevie has several tips for others planning on sticking the festival out for the long haul this summer. “Try not to eat junk food every day, even though as the third week drags on it becomes impossible,” she chuckles. “Go somewhere other than the city, like the beach or for walks through the surrounding country. And don’t read reviews [if you’re performing],” she says. “I’ve been six times with shows and twice as a journalist, and I’ve not managed to follow these three pieces of advice once.”
The comedian has wise words, too, for those wanting to get into comedy, who are hesitant about dipping their toe in its often unforgiving waters. “Give yourself a deadline. Booking myself into a gig before I’d even written anything is the only way I started,” she admits. “You just have to keep doing it until you get a handle on the nerves. I still get nervous, but it feels different than it did even last year.”
Whether or not you’re familiar with Stevie’s comedy, you may know her as the co-host of Nobody Panic – especially if you’re a woman in your 20s or 30s, the demographic the show is aimed at. The podcast covers the various aspects and hurdles of adult life – from how to deal with a terrible boss to overcoming your fears – in a way that’s funny, insightful and reassuring all at once. It’s a comforting listen for those of us who feel like we’re ‘adulting’ in our lives but not really grownups. “I cannot stand the word ‘adulting’,” says Stevie, who at the same time admits it was the obsession with the word while she was a women’s magazine journalist that ultimately inspired the podcast.
“I wanted to model a podcast on popular features I’d written – and all of them were how-tos. So I thought it would be a good idea to look at which pieces performed the best and then turn them into podcast episodes,” she says.
“My life was in a complete mess at that point. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, so it became a good way to almost give myself advice,” she confesses. “I still love finding out about the topics each week and researching them – there’s always some advice that I try and take for myself, even if I don’t actually end up following it.”
Stevie and Tessa knew that if the topics they covered were interesting to them, there was a strong chance they’d resonate with listeners at a similar stage in life, too. Still, neither predicted the podcast would garner the loyal following it has done or be the rip-roaring success it is today, regularly selling out live shows. “We are really chuffed,” smiles Stevie. “The live podcasts are especially fun because it takes the numbers off the screen and translates them into actual people watching you. I love meeting people who listen, it really makes the late night editing worth it.”
Back when she was a straightforward journalist with a clear route ahead of herself, Stevie would set herself five-year career plans. Now, with several professional strings to her bow, she prefers to go with the flow. “I have no real idea what’s next so I find it helps to just sort of roll with it a bit more,” she says. “I always know what I want to achieve year by year, and have found that’s a much happier way to live.” It’s certainly no less ambitious. Stevie has plans to tap into yet another industry in the near future, by writing her first book. “Whether or not I do that is another thing altogether, but I’ve said it now, so I’ll have to,” she laughs.
Stevie is well-versed in juggling different jobs, but does she feel she’s struck the almost mythical ideal of a healthy work-life balance? One with enough time for each of her professional pursuits, plus downtime for hobbies, relationships, pets (Stevie owns a tortoise), life admin, everything else and sleep? “It’s a constant battle to try and achieve the perfect work-life balance and I am absolutely not there yet! Maybe we should do that as a podcast episode?” Stevie, if you’re reading this, that sounds exactly like the episode we need.
Stevie Martin is previewing her new show Hot Content at The Tramshed, 51-53 Woolwich New Road, SE18 6ES, on July 12 at 7:30pm. Admission: £10/£7 concessions. www.glypt.co.uk
Stevie is also bringing Hot Content to Underbelly Buttercup as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. July 31 – August 25, at 6:35pm. www.tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/stevie-martin-hot-content
Photo: Tash Pszenicki