Andrew Sim is a Scottish stand-up comedian performing at the Scotch on Ice comedy festival in Reykjavík, from February 8-10th.
He has an interesting background for comedy, having embraced his bisexuality and gender fluidity, while discussing traumatic family issues in his sets. We talked with Andrew about his offbeat comedy, his non-binary experience and what people can expect at the Scotch on Ice festival.
How did you end up as a part of the Scotch on Ice festival?
“I became part of the Scotch on Ice Comedy Festival through getting to know the founders Ingibjörg Rósa and Helgi Steinar Gunnlaugsson while they lived in Edinburgh.
I ran a weekly workshop for new comics to experiment and Ingibjörg came along to a number of sessions. She then bounced off some ideas for the festival and I helped in anyway I could. She then very generously offered me a chance to come over for the festival and here I am.”
“My material will be mostly conversational observations about sexuality, gender and growing up … I sometimes have a tendency to break out into weird singing bits …”
What can people expect from you at the festival?
“Well I’m performing on the Thursday and Friday nights doing fifteen minute sets at each. My material will be mostly conversational observations about sexuality, gender and growing up. However, I sometimes have a tendency to break out into weird singing bits and I love playing with the audience! So each performance will be slightly different.”
You go into some deep and dark personal stuff in your material, how does it feel to put your life into the spotlight like that?
“I feel stand up is one of the purest art forms if you let it be. Some comics do characters or hide themselves in personas which leads to audiences misunderstanding the person in front of them. For me being completely open and honest about my life, no matter how dark or deep, has allowed me to hit another level of performance. I’m highly inspired by the work of Tig Notaro, a fantastic gay American comic, who revolutionised the way I saw personal storytelling. Instead of being ashamed or scared to go deeply personal, I now make it the only way I do comedy and the audience connects to my flaws, aspirations and heartaches.”
You talk a bit on stage about your relationship with your mother. Can you tell us more about that?
“In my club sets I discuss my mother’s sexuality, as she is now with a woman, and how that affected my teenage life. In my recent solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe I explored my toxic relationship with her over those years. Incidentally, being bisexual myself it had nothing to do with her sexuality, but instead it was about her systematic manipulation and mental abuse which still has ramifications to my mental well-being today. It was hard to make it funny! But I feel I achieved it.”
Can you tell us about gender fluidity and how you experience that identity?
“I’ve always been categorised as a weak and slightly feminine man. For years I felt lesser than because I didn’t fit in to the male form in anyway. It wasn’t until I let go of my toxic masculine that I felt free to open up about my experience. I could then identify through descriptions from others that gender fluid was a great fit when it came to how I viewed myself and the world. I feel neither male or female, but a happy middle which doesn’t feel forced for me.”
Do you experience misconceptions from people regarding what it means to be genderfluid?
“Strangely enough I’ve had no real backlash from the heteronormative community as most people just want to understand. It’s actually from the LGBTQ+ community I’ve sadly had some difficult encounters. Because, as some of them have put it, I dress like a ‘straight boy’ so they discount my gender fluidity as me misunderstanding what gender fluid is. This hurt as I thought that they would be more understanding of my predicament. Even though I’ve had homophobic comments and violent altercations with straight people, I’ve had a certain amount of ignorance from the LGBTQ+ community as well. This is something I like to approach in my sets since I need to objectively and fairly criticise all forms of ignorance.”
“Strangely enough I’ve had no real backlash from the heteronormative community … It’s actually from the LGBTQ+ community I’ve sadly had some difficult encounters.”
Did coming out change at all how you approach your comedy?
“Coming out was the first step to accept that I myself was someone to be listened to, not just my funny routines. The difference meant that I was more confident, decisive about subject matter and I enjoyed the openness of it. I was personally out of the closet way before I was speaking about it on stage, but when I decided I needed to make my performances more personal I knew it was time to talk about it.”
What made you interested in comedy to begin with?
“I grew up around a family that loved watching and listening to comedy. We would listen to Billy Connolly in the car as a family and it was so exciting to listen to such a fantastic storyteller even at a young age. So as I grew older I started listening to more and more until I then knew that I had to do it myself. Signed myself up at fourteen for the school talent show and it went brilliantly. I’ve been obsessed ever since.”
What was the comedy scene like for you growing up?
“The comedy scene was a weird experience when I started performing regularly at seventeen. I would perform in a rough nightclub basement in Aberdeen on a Tuesday night, then in History class Wednesday morning. When it went well I’d be a god at night and a complete nobody in the morning. I thought it would be different as soon as I got away from school; no one warned me it’s exactly same except you replace school with ‘real job that pays the bills’. The big thing for me though was the fact that I didn’t really know who I was at that age. So I made many mistakes on stage simply because I was ignorant to the world and made many social mistakes with comics leading to me being unofficially blacklisted on a number of occasions. I’ve learned from those mistakes and have started to find my flow on stage as well as off.”
Are you excited about coming to Iceland? Have you been here before?
“I’m really excited to get away since I’ve recently been working in my family’s betting shop which is very far away from my interests! I’ve never been to Iceland, but I’m looking forward to experiencing the people and culture. I’m actually heading to New York for three months after the trip to Iceland, so this is my little holiday before the madness happens over there!”
Anything exciting planned in your spare time here?
“I have nothing planned yet which means I’ll improvise and do whatever takes my fancy. It’s my favourite thing to do when I’m in a new place. I’ve done some research so I might travel around and see more of Iceland than just Reykjavik, but I’m always open to suggestions. I’m gonna check out Rainbow Reykjavik as well since it’s on at the same time.”