Jessie Cave is an actor, comedian and illustrator, her critically acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe show Sunrise tells the story of Jessie starting to date after a complicated breakup with the father of her children, comedian Alfie Brown. The show fuses together DIY art and confessional comedy and has been published as a book – with bonus illustrations. Funny Women editor Kate Stone caught up with Jessie to talk about her show, face pillows and oversharing…
Kate Stone: Sunrise was one of the most honest, sweet and vulnerable shows I saw at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. How do you allow yourself to be so vulnerable in your writing, illustrations and on stage?
Jessie Cave: It just seems to happen and I can’t stop. I’ve always documented my life through my doodles, but because they are doodles it’s easier to hide. I didn’t mean for Sunrise to be a “show”, it was something I wrote just for me. It’s turned out to be something that I wanted to share even if that does make me quite vulnerable and exposed, and hopefully, it’s made some people feel better.
KS: The show and the book Sunrise combine your writing with your illustrations really well. What came first, drawing or comedy? And did you find it easy to combine the two?
JC: I was so happy to have been able to publish Sunrise as a book with doodles – I’m really proud of it and I think it’s quite an odd and unique little thing. I’ve always drawn and I thought that would be my career path – an illustrator for hire. But then I started acting and spent hours and days waiting around to film and in that time I started drawing more and more. And then I started using drawn puppets in my shows and doing the sets very DIY and it’s just again happened quite naturally. I feel really lucky to have an outlet like drawing. And my ‘day job’ now is my online doodle shop (jessiedoodles.com), which I love.
KS: You’ve been described by a few media outlets as queen of the oversharers. I’ve noticed the term ‘oversharing’ seems to be used a lot when discussing younger women’s comedy shows, do you think it’s ‘oversharing’ or are you all just talking about your real lives uncompromisingly?
JC: It’s so bizarre to me, this ‘oversharing’ label. I guess I talk about quite intimate things. If we were all a bit more open about sex and relationships – more honest about things such as STDs, monogamy, pregnancy, motherhood – maybe we would all feel less alone sometimes.
KS: In your foreword to the book of Sunrise, you write about your mother’s supportiveness, including sewing Alfie’s face onto a pillow, without asking you to stop being odd. Why did you choose to have the men in your life’s faces sewn onto pillows for the show?
JC: I have a recurring theme of pillows in my show and I wanted to have puppets that weren’t cardboard this year so it seemed logical to have their puppets be pillows. Pillows remind you of home, bed, safety. Pillows that aren’t yours, in another person’s bed, can be strange and scary, unfamiliar – which was what I felt when I was dating post-breakup. I found it quite comforting to have the men in my life on pillows. I could hug them if the show was going badly. I felt quite protective of them. My mum never even questioned it.
KS: Do you think Sunrise will be the last time you’ll write about Alfie?
JC: I doubt it. I love writing about him. I could probably write about him and our babies forever. But for now at least I’m not going to be writing about him, or us, or me. I have found my voice with writing this year and am really excited about writing new, completely imaginary characters. It feels like a holiday!
KS: How does it feel to be taking Sunrise on tour in 2019?
JC: I feel like I’ve worked really hard and earned the right to tour this show and very lucky to have this opportunity. I can’t wait to see how it goes down in places other than London and Edinburgh. It’s the last show I’m going to be doing for a while as I have other writing projects next year so I’m going to make the most of it and finish with a happy two final weeks at the Soho Theatre in March.
Lastly, who are your favourite funny women?
My mum. My sister. My daughter.
The book of Sunrise by Jessie Cave, published with full-colour, never-before-seen doodles, is out now, published by Nick Hern Books. Get a set of free exclusive postcards, featuring Jessie’s artwork from the book, when you order your copy here!
The UK tour of Sunrise starts on 24th February. Find the full list of venues and dates here!