BOYBLUE MEETS ACTOR and comedian
"It's funny when a comedian says they don't like talking about themselves." BOYBLUE TALKS TO COMEDIAN ROB CAWSEY.
My first impression of Rob Cawsey was that of a quirky character in a HBO sitcom that doesn't make it past the pilot episode. In his beaten Converse and baggy jumper, we scouted for a seat in the Tate Modern's café. It was clogged with customers and Cawsey was presently nervous, aware that he wanted to cover a lot in this interview.
Rob Cawsey is an actor, writer and comedian. After necking a macchiato I stared down at the scrawled jottings in my notebook, mostly pulled from watching videos of his debut show, Simon Slack: The Fantasist that premiered at Edinburgh Fringe last summer, and his press files. Staring at the Wikipedia-grade profile of Cawsey I'd written-up in advance, I hit the record button and jumped into a world of colour as he spoke. If we started here with the Business section, we're jumping straight to the Sunday funnies.
Sitting down with Cawsey, he's preparing for his upcoming solo performance, Rob Cawsey: Just Cruising, at the Soho Theatre. When I question him on how the show came about, he admits he feels awkward answering it as he feels like he recycles a press release each time. But after hearing about it, I can't say in my five years on-the-job I've heard a press release like this before.
"I've been going up to Edinburgh for about seven years and I have a double act [with comedian Gabriel Bisset-Smith] called Guilt & Shame. I was Shame because I felt no shame. The dynamic was of a straight guy and a gay guy dealing with the issues that come about from that, such as gay dating versus heterosexual dating.
"As a double act of over four years, we hit a stage of wanting to take a break from one another. We decided to take time apart and I did a solo show. I was terrified of going up to Edinburgh alone," it was then that Rob swallowed a mint leaf from his tea. You get free live-comedy interviewing him.
Things took off for Cawsey rather quickly. Back in 2014, Cawsey performed Guilt & Shame: Acting Straight for Edinburgh Underbelly and at the Soho Theatre. Alongside the live comedy, Cawsey's trade extends into acting; appearing in the BBC Dramas, The Last Hours of Laura K and Close To The Enemy. Returning to comedy in 2016, he's been listed countlessly as 'Unmissable' by journalists and audience alike.
2016 saw Cawsey perform Simon Slack: The Fantasist at various UK Festivals, including Edinburgh Fringe. "Simon Slack was my first solo act and focused on a man in his bedroom and the fantasies he had." He tells me he felt his debut show was "a work-in-progress. I was terrified on the first night at 11 o'clock with all the drunk, crazy people in Edinburgh in the room. I did it, thankfully, and Soho Theatre came to the show and asked if I wanted to do it as part of their programme."
As part of Guilt & Shame, he and Bisset-Smith have a track record of sell-out runs in the Soho Theatre. "The Soho Theatre," he tells me, is his "creative home." Cawsey's upcoming show is set in the theatre's Soho Upstairs section. A dedicated space for comedians, duos and groups that have been "tearing up the fringe," as the press release lists.
So, how did Just Cruising come about? The Fisher-Price Facebook Life was the pivotal point of reference. Noun: Watching your Facebook feed become overrun with Minion memes, White Zinafedel, and 30+ photos-a-day of baby George.
"The show came about as I'm at a time in my life where a lot of my friends are settling down and having children. I wanted to make a show about that as I'm compelled to write a show about what it means to be a gay man in a heteronormative world of doing the thing that you're advertised to do from a young age as it's the 'normal' life."
"So, Gabriel took a year out and co-wrote this show together with me. He directed the show, too. It's the same creative team from Guilt & Shame, but it's just me on the stage." Just the Shame this time around.
"My first show was an exaggerated version of me and the fantasies we all have and get sucked into. Especially as artists have a lot of periods in their life when they simply sit there writing," a job that involves sitting in a room and writing? As a journalist, I have to know what this lucrative, immobile job is.
"For this show, I wanted to be more out there and write about trying to find love. It's a physical comedy show without many words, so, the best way to describe the show in four words would be: 'Mr. Bean goes cruising.'
"There's a lot of audience participation as I need guys to go on dates with! It's safe," he tells me, so you will not be harmed in the making of this comedy act. "In terms of doing the show, as there's a lot of audience participation, it makes the show different every time. Every guy makes the show different, as dating is in real life.
"I was yearning to explore love in a way I didn't in my first show. As soon as I started to write a show about dating, I suddenly met a guy I really liked and became my boyfriend. We've broken up since, but I still had material from old Grindr dates." Love works in mysterious ways. I can't help but wonder if Cawsey should run his own webinar series on dating.
As he finishes his mint tea, I press him for the capital Question, why comedy? "I've always used laughter as a means of survival. To not being bullied in school. Doing impressions of people on the telly in the playground... I used to weirdly do impressions of Mr. Bean. Comedy has always been about survival."
Are you surviving then? I ask.
Considering he choked on the mint leaves in his tea, this answer seems accurate.
You can watch Rob Cawsey: Just Cruising at Soho Theatre, Tuesday 3rd - Wednesday 4th April. Book here.
Words: Josh Milton