The last time I talked to Nathan Lang for a blog – “Comic Nathan Lang: ‘Self-loathing is not normal unless you are a comedian’” was in December 2019, just before the pandemic hit. It was also shortly after the birth of his first daughter, named Chilli Bobcat.
I asked him why she was named Chilli Bobcat.
“I was going to call her Strawberry,” he told me, “until a friend said: Remember she’ll go to school one day.”
Chilli Bobcat is now 2½. And he has a second daughter, now aged 2 months. She has been named Wolf.
Now read on.
JOHN: Why Wolf? Surely that is a boy’s name. What is a female wolf called anyway? Just a wolf, I suppose…
NATHAN: Possibly a bitch, because it’s a type of dog…
JOHN: So you were right: better to call her Wolf. What are you plugging?
NATHAN: I thought we were just having a chat.
JOHN: I thought you were plugging something.
NATHAN: Well, I’m doing a series of three monthly comedy cabaret shows, raising money for Hackney Night Shelter. I’ve done Christmas cabaret fundraisers for them the last three years at the same venue – Grow in Hackney.
The Hackney Night Shelter used to be called the Hackney Winter Night Shelter, but they’ve now gone year-round because of the demand for their services. It’s a critical time for them, because they’ve just moved into two permanent shelter venues, serving all the year round, so they need more money to do it but, for the last almost two years, because of the pandemic…
JOHN: This is one of your Big Wowie shows?
NATHAN: Yes. We were about two start a regular live cabaret – Big Wowie Cabaret – in March 2020 but, of course, lockdown kicked in and we had to cancel that. So we went online with an interactive character show. We did it every month for eight months on Zoom. It had to be on Zoom because it was interactive. It was two hours; loads of fun; and we started to ‘find’ our audience – people who were really into it.
But our last online show was in June and it got – what do you call it? – ‘bombed’?… Sabotaged by a bunch of kids who got the Zoom link and just jumped in, went absolutely mental and, with Zoom, whoever speaks the loudest gets the spotlight.
They were playing very loud YouTube clips and making rude gestures. Basically interrupting the show so, for the first hour, we couldn’t really start but we out-crazied them and got rid of them. It was still a debacle, though.
But now we are live again.
JOHN: People have to wear masks?
NATHAN: No. The venue takes a lot of Covid precautions and there’s a healthy distance between the performers and the audience. The venue – Grow, by the River Lea – has made a stage which is a floating pontoon and the audience sits outside – there are heaters and stuff. So it’s by the canal, the stage is a floating pontoon and, if you don’t like one of the acts, you pull a lever and the stage flips over and the next act steps on. They’re just comedians. If they drown, no matter.
NATHAN: Alright, I’m joking, but the stage IS a floating pontoon. It maintains a healthy distance and makes the audience feel safe.
JOHN: Why the name Big Wowie?
NATHAN: I always fantasied about the worst chocolate bar in the world. That’s why the logo is a chocolate bar wrapper. And the worst chocolate bar in the world is a thin tube of flavourless wafer with a little bit of chocolate drizzled on the top and it’s just a hollow wafer tube wrapped up in this glamorous chocolate bar wrapping. When you bite into it the whole thing just crumbles and you go: “Oh! Big Wowie!”
JOHN: This is a good image for the show? Hollow, tasteless and crumbling?
NATHAN: Maybe when I explain it like that it doesn’t sound so good… I think maybe I was trying to be ironic… I think most people would think BIG WOWIE!!!!
But, to me, it’s…
JOHN: …an empty chocolate bar.
NATHAN: Maybe it’s just a hollow dream… (LAUGHS)
My actual dream for Big Wowie was always to connect the local community and the Hackney community is really special to me because, when I stepped off the boat 15 years ago as an immigrant from Australia…
JOHN: You love Hackney.
JOHN: Yet you just moved to Margate in April this year. Why?
NATHAN: I’m a conformist. I follow the trends. When you live in Hackney for 15 years, then have a family, you move to Margate. And we can pick up French radio here.
JOHN: So… the Big Wowie show is raising money for the Hackney Night Shelter.
NATHAN: Three shows… October 12th, November 9th, December 14th. And we have a sponsor – a local business INTUNE that makes CBD drinks.
JOHN: The active ingredient in marijuana?
NATHAN: Yes, but they have distilled the good stuff without the intoxicant. So it’s made from natural ingredients and it’s mood-enhancing, but you don’t get high. You are not macrodosing marijuana when you drink them.
JOHN: So during the 18 months or so of pandemic mayhem, what did you do?
NATHAN: I was doing Big Wowie’s online and I was making comedy videos.
We went up to Scotland for Christmas 2020 (my wife is Scots) and, about two days later, there was a national lockdown and we couldn’t leave Scotland. Well you couldn’t leave your shire; you couldn’t even leave your town. Fortunately because we had family up there, we had a place to stay and it turned out OK because there was more space and we were right by a forest and Chilli was happy.
JOHN: Your wife is a…
NATHAN: …a psychotherapist. She took a year off.
JOHN: The pandemic must have…
NATHAN: You would think so. Yeah, lockdown was hard. It certainly tightened the screws on my mental health. I started therapy again. My therapist is in Australia – online therapy via Zoom.
JOHN: Presumably you are not allowed to get therapy from your wife…
NATHAN: I get that from her constantly. (LAUGHS) She says very insightful, wonderful things but you’re not allowed to have any clients you know. My wife knows, as a therapist, that I need to talk about her to my therapist. Though, in fairness, I talk to her about my therapist, because she’s fascinated in the process. I struck gold with my therapist and my wife is fascinated to know why she’s so good.
JOHN: In the new year, you have new projects…?
NATHAN: I haven’t really got time for much in my life right now. I’m running Big Wowie every month, I’ve got two children and I’m the primary carer… My wife’s going to go back to full-time work.
It’s very fulfilling being a present father, because my own father was an absent father and then he left us when I was four.
JOHN: Are you going up to the Edinburgh Fringe next year?
NATHAN: No. Because my child’s birthday is August 5th. Basically my second daughter has ruined my live comedy career.
JOHN: Well, she IS called Wolf, so I guess it’s best not to annoy her too much.
NATHAN: I tried to have her cut out early so it wouldn’t interrupt my future Edinburgh Fringe plans, but… Well, if the Fringe starts after August 5th one year, I might go up.
JOHN: A lesson to all performers there. They should control their base urges nine months before August.
NATHAN: Also I’ve got to have something to say in a Fringe show which is not “Being a father…”.
JOHN: You are tied-down.
NATHAN: I’m a happy house husband.
JOHN: And that’s great. You’ll get psychological insight into the human condition and can write novels about it.