Legally Cheeky debuts at the Fringe this month

BY ELEANOR NOYCE, IMAGE BY ABIGOLIAH SCHAMAUN

Born in Greenville, Ohio, Abigoliah Schamaun brings Legally Cheeky, the tale of her fight for a British visa post-Brexit, to the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month. With her TikToks having amassed more than 10 million views, Abigoliah spends much of her time telling brilliant stories about American tourists telling British people that their currency looks like “pirate money.” Living with ADHD, she brings a unique perspective to the world of comedy, similarly hosting the Neurodivergent Moments podcast alongside fellow comedian Joe Wells. Plus, she’s known for her blue hair and pink suit.

DIVA: Could you tell me a little bit about Legally Cheeky and what we can expect from it?

In 2019 my partner and I applied for a Partnership VISA so I could remain in the UK. We were told it’d be easy. It was not. We wound up having to go to court. It’s an hour of comedy where I tell the whole story. It was, stressful, ridiculous, and a very emotional time.

DIVA: You describe yourself as a “scrappy underdog” fighting the UK Government in a “high stakes fight” for your rights. Could you tell me a little bit about how politics influences your comedy?  How does it manifest?

I wouldn’t categorise myself as an overtly political comedian. I’m more of a storyteller. But in this case politics and the acrimonious debate around immigration directly affected my life. Instead of commenting on the UK Immigration System, I’m sharing my lived experience. It’s not political, it’s personal. But like a lot of people, I didn’t really think of the politics of it all until it touched me directly.

DIVA: What purpose do you think that comedy has in shedding a light on society? Do you think comedy has a responsibility to attack and expose these political injustices?

I think comedy should be funny first and foremost and everything else is extra. I think a comedian has the responsibility to talk about whatever ridiculous thing is bouncing around their head. Whenever I’ve tried to talk about something political because it’s “in the news” or a “worthy subject” it always comes off as preachy and inauthentic. (That’s probably not everyone, but it’s what happens with me.) When someone has the point of view and comedy shops to expose injustices I think it’s amazing.

DIVA: You grew up in America and originally began your career in New York. Since moving to London in 2014, how have you experienced the nuances between British and American comedy? What are the differences – whether in humour, crowd, reception etc.?

The big difference is American Audiences will applaud if you mention a life milestone. You just have to walk on stage and say, “I just got married!”- applause. Whereas in the UK, if you walk on stage and say something like that, the audience just kind of looks at you as if to say, “Alright…and?” Some people say UK audiences are more reserved, but I disagree. They listen really well. And they laugh really hard. They just don’t see a reason to respond to an announcement that has nothing to do with them. I love it.

DIVA: You’ve perceived yourself as – or at least at one time – as living The American Dream in London. Has that bubble burst post-Brexit, as you’ve referenced?

After going through a very long immigration process, I’ve never felt more luck to live in a country I wasn’t born in. It’s a great privilege that not everyone gets access to and I don’t take it for granted. Brexit breaks my heart and I find the Tory Government’s policies upsetting and disappointing to say the least. But I feel that way about American politics as well.

DIVA: You have ADHD (me too!) and co-host the Neurodivergent Moments podcast. I love the story about your ADHD brain placing tampons in the fridge. Could you tell me a little bit about the podcast and what inspired it?

Neurodivergent Moments is hosted by me and Joe Wells, an amazing autistic comedian also performing at The Fringe. A lot of podcasts around neurodiversity are very serious and we wanted to make one that’s more light-hearted. We talk to other creatives about those little moments in your life when you do or say something that reminds you, “Oh, my brain is wired differently!”

It’s been a lot of fun to work with Joe on it. We’ve had some amazing guests like Angela Barnes and Sara Gibbs. We just did our first ever live show at Latitude Festival with poet Luke Wright. And we have our listeners write in to share their own Neurodivergent Moments, and it’s great to share and laugh at the little things and celebrate our sometimes awkward but fabulous minds!

DIVA: How does your ADHD interact with your comedy? Do you reference it in your stand-up at all?

ADHD isn’t just a condition that makes it hard for you to sit still and focus. That’s just one part of a very big and complicated condition. ADHD can cause lower amounts of dopamine in the brain than what a neurotypical person might have. So, I’d argue the whole reason I am a stand-up comedian is BECAUSE I have ADHD. Performing live is a big rush and the ultimate dopamine hit.

Abigoliah Schamaun: Legally Cheeky is at Just The Tonic At The Tron from 4-28 August. For ticketing information, visit abigoliah.com/gigs.

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