Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Nat Luurtsema: A funny thing happened when I broke up with my boyfriend

Nat Luurtsema

Even by the soul-baring standards of confessional stand-up, Nat Luurtsema is more fearless than most. Not only was her Edinburgh festival show Here She Be! – which she's bringing to Belfast's Out to Lunch festival in a fortnight's time – focussed on her break-up from her boyfriend of three-and-a-half years, that boyfriend (fellow comedian Tom Craine) happens to remain a member of her sketch comedy group, Jigsaw. Oh, and his Edinburgh show was about exactly the same break-up, but from his perspective.

"I would do my show about breaking up with him and then I'd run over to the Pleasance Courtyard and do my sketch show with him, and then he would run across the courtyard and do his solo show about breaking up with me!" she says.

The entire arrangement sounds awkward at best, and Luurtsema says that the two didn't realise that they had written their entire shows about each other until they got to the festival. "Of course, the break-up had been on our minds and we'd both developed [material]," she says. "But we never talked about it – it was only when we got to Edinburgh and suddenly there were a lot of press articles on the fact the two shows were a mirror."

Luurtsema insists that she and Craine remain best friends, and that all is fair in love and comedy. "It's not really painful," she says. "When we first started going out, he had some material about an ex-girlfriend and I said he should pretend it's all me, just so the gags flow more easily. And we've always had that kind of relationship – if it serves the stand-up, we don't mind being lied about."

That approach may serve the comedy well, but how conducive is confessional comedy to a settled personal life? Not very, it seems.

"I gig most evenings and I must meet hundreds of people a week, so you'd think it must be easy," says Nat. "My friend said to me, 'Yeah, maybe you should stop telling jokes about your previous relationships ...'.

Luurtsema's first book, Cuckoo In The Nest, was a memoir of the time she was forced to move back in with her parents at the age of 28, after it proved harder than she imagined to find a new flat.

"I was so lonely and we were squabbling so much," she recalls. "I started writing a blog for no other reason than that I'd have no-one to talk to at four in the morning when I came in from a gig. The Sunday Times picked it up and by Christmas I had a book deal."

While Craine, a fellow comedian, might be seen as fair game for some public ribbing, parents are an altogether different matter. So how did they deal with their home life being available for public consumption?

"They had no problems with it," says Nat. "But then when they were being interviewed by journalists, who were asking questions that showed they knew things about my parents' private life, I think they found that weird. I'm not sure I'd open my family to such public scrutiny again."

But then perhaps she won't have to. Luurtsema is fast developing a reputation as something of a polymath. Her first screenplay, for the short film Island Queen, was long-listed for a BAFTA and her first feature film, Annie Has Body Issues, starts shooting in May. All this while writing her second book. After spending so much time talking about herself and those around her, it sounds like she is ready to move on.

"I enjoy writing films, because they can't be about me," she says. "Especially this feature film. I really enjoy the fact that I'm not taking anything of myself out there with me. I get to be different."

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