Edinburgh Fringe Fest - Courtney Pauroso
Following rave reviews for her previous show Gutterplum in 2019, comedian and clown Courtney Pauroso returns to the Edinburgh Festival as sex robot Vanessa 5000. Over the course of a product demonstration, Vanessa 5000 grows increasingly conflicted about technology, modernity and her own existence. Courtney presents an hour of physical and indecorous comedy that takes you on a journey through the uncanny valley.
Courtney gave us the low down on creating Vanessa 5000, her respect for British audiences and tells us about her incredibly famous spirit guide.
Your previous show ‘Gutterplum’ was a smash hit, there were 4 and 5 stars all over the place. What can we expect from ‘Vanessa 5000’?
‘Gutterplum’ spans a woman’s entire lifetime in an hour, and perhaps was partly an exploration of my fear of getting old, which is of course inevitable or at least the best-case scenario. It has a lot of heart and I think is ultimately triumphant and optimistic. It’s very human. Alternately, Vanessa 5000 is literally a robot, and the show is maybe my way of exploring my fear of “the future.” As a clown I’m always dealing with these themes through absurdity, and I’d much rather leave an audience asking questions than feeling pummelled with a message, but I myself am curious as to whether the new show will find optimism or if it will be more interesting if it’s a bit of a horror! Regardless, I promise the comedy will be very, genuinely stupid (in a good way) and very physical.
How do American audiences differ from British audiences?
A wise man once said to me “Just because people in LA laugh doesn’t mean it’s funny.” British audiences play harder to get, and I respect them for it. Performing at Fringe is a great way to see if your material actually works, or if your American friends who you pressured into seeing your workshop shows over and over again were just being nice to you. No offense. Oh no, I’m scaring myself.
What have been some highlights of creating the show?
My development process is very improvisational at first. I just start forcing myself to do a whole hour, with a loose plan, and through flopping and suffering and feeling stuck in front of an audience, I force myself to find good ideas in the moment and hone what works (this time with my director Corey Podell) until the show reveals itself, (or so I hope.) Working in the unknown this way can feel a little scary, but I’m always delighted and mystified at the happy accidents that occur when I just follow an impulse, like when a random improvised line ends up being a central call-back, or when “mistakes” end up being blessings in disguise that point you in the right direction. It’s very satisfying to put the puzzle pieces together this way . . . when I’m not totally suffering, that is.
What’s your favourite, and least favourite thing about performing at the Fringe?
Performing at the Fringe is a ball. It’s really kind of magical. I mean, you’ve got thousands of artists from all over the world flocking to a magnificent ancient city to perform in smelly pubs and lecture halls and converted shipping containers for a whole month every summer. What could be more rad? It’s hard not to come out the other side of it exhausted and malnourished, but even that part of it is kind of fun. You feel like a survivor. I guess my least favourite thing is schlepping my costumes and props around everywhere, but it’s totally worth it. Also, I can’t wait to eat late night food truck snacks and drink cider.
You’ve previously collaborated with powerhouses Dr. Brown and Natalie Palamides – if you could do a collaboration with any comedian, alive or dead, who would it be?
I don’t know why he’d bother with me, but a psychic once told me that Robin Williams was my spirit guide. Upon leaving my session I jokingly looked to the heavens and asked Robin Williams to guide me to something, and moments later, in the middle of an empty strip mall in rural California, I stumbled upon a perfectly clean wig that ended up solving a very particular puzzle in my last show. Sure, it was probably a coincidence, but I’m still gonna roll with it. Robin Williams was a powerhouse. All that chaotic energy but backed up with precision and a big-hearted vulnerability that really made him next level. So silly, but very beautiful and complex. And a great actor. I aspire to that, why not?
Courtney Pauroso: Vanessa 5000 will be performed at 9pm in Pleasance Courtyard (Beneath) from 2nd – 27th August (Not 16th)