The comedian relives her teenage years as a fervent evangelical Christian in her new show. As she prepares for the Edinburgh festival, she talks about preaching in shopping centres and comic resurrection.
Fearlessly speaking the truth. Arena crowds hanging on your every word. Healing the oppressed spirits of your followers. What better preparation for a career in comedy than an adolescence spent as an evangelical Christian? Katy Brand had just such teenage years, and is now taking to the comedy stage (where else?) to tell her story. It’s not just one of the most eye-catching shows of the upcoming Edinburgh fringe, but a creative rebirth for a performer who’d lost her comedy mojo (“I’d decided I wouldn’t do it any more,” she says) after the 2010 demise of her ITV2 sketch hit Katy Brand’s Big Ass Show.
I Was a Teenage Christian gives Brand’s account of being in the thrall of what her show now calls “a happy-clappy, charismatic, evangelical church” in her native Buckinghamshire. It’s not a fate she can lay at her parents’ door: they were irreligious, and bemused by their daughter’s born-again zeal. Brand converted aged 13, after a week’s holiday in St Ives with Christian family friends. “And I didn’t look back, for seven years,” she says. “I went three or four times a week, every week, to one church event or another. It became my whole life.
“I got involved in the tea-making, I got involved in painting homeless shelters. I was completely in love with the worship bandleader, who was interchangeable in my head with Jesus.” She set up a stall in the local shopping centre, soapbox preaching, converting the heathen. “I was such a dick!”, she blushes. But at the time, who knew that it wasn’t cool? “It doesn’t feel like you’re some mad religious nut, because there’s loads of teenagers around and you’re doing thrilling stuff.” Such as? “Well, church summer camp felt like a festival. Loads of people your age, hanging out, camping – albeit definitely nothaving sex.”