From journalist to comedian, Suchandrika Chakrabarti is at Edinburgh Fringe with her latest work, I miss Amy Winehouse. In her first solo show, she discusses the role that musical idol has in her life, despite never getting to meet her.
Talking more on the subject and how the piece came to be, Suchandrika has answered a few questions.
Please may you tell us a little about your show, and why you have chosen to have Amy Winehouse as the focus?
It's about nostalgia, partying in 2000s Camden and finding the solutions to missing someone. It's about being born in the analogue age but living in the digital one. It's about family, love and death. I miss Amy Winehouse, and missing someone doesn't feel great, so with the aid of slides, a laser pointy clicky thing and the hologram of the late Robert Kardashian, we're going to do what innumerable generations of philosophers have failed to do: find a solution for longing. Let's go!
How has the writing and researching process for the piece been?
I'm the same age as Amy (she'd be 40 next year, can you imagine?), and it was like time travel, reading back over her interviews. My background is in journalism, and I feel a responsibility to address in the show how the press treated her back then. I guess making this show has been part of a process of me reassessing my own past too.
How have you ensured to respectfully reflect Amy’s life and impact on her fans, while putting a lighthearted spin on the situation?
Amy is never the joke. It has always been so incredibly important to me in making this show to be respectful towards her, her family, anyone who is grieving her loss because they knew her in life. I'm not a fan of 'mean' comedy and I consider 'punching down' to be bullying. I make it very clear in the show that I didn't know Amy personally, but I am interested in the celebrity and what it means to us, plus parasocial relationships, which are only one-way. There's so much to explore. So I never want to make a joke at her expense, and, in fact, I remember how bloody funny she was, and I try to get that into the show where possible.
What would you say to Amy if she were still alive today?
I explore why it is we feel the need to see the people we admire in a 'live' setting - what do we get from that experience that we can't get from watching them on YouTube? And why did I want to bump into Amy in my Camden partying days? What would that interaction have been like? What would I have said? Would either of us have got anything out of it? Me, at 25: I would have gushed at her, the kind of stuff she heard on every night out. Me now, at 39? I'd give her the gift of being left alone. I'd say nothing. What a treat for an incredibly famous person, no?
How does it feel to be bringing your first solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe?
Exciting, daunting and my calves are on fire from all the hills, so it's a real mix. Overall, I'm loving it, even the drizzly mornings before I go flyering.
How did the shift in career from journalist to comedian occur, and how do you navigate differences in writing between contexts?
My stepping stone from journalism to comedy was writing personal essays - and I highly recommend doing that. I engage in much less newsroom journalism these days; news writing was never my dream. It's categorically so different from creative non-fiction or fiction writing that you can't really get them confused.
Which piece of work that you’ve created are you most proud of and why?
This show! I Miss Amy Winehouse is such a personal, vulnerable piece of work. I talk about the moments in my life that broke my heart the hardest - but much more than that, I find the joy that lies way on the other side of grief, and I do my best to convey that through comedy. A fair few people have come along and laughed. I never thought I'd actually be doing this. I'm so proud of my little show.
Huge thanks to Suchandrika for some truly fascinating answers and insights into the creation of your show. Best wishes for the run and beyond!
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