‘People used to say that all I would be is Alastair Campbell’s daughter’

Grace Campbell (Sarah Harry-Isaacs)

Grace Campbell (Sarah Harry-Isaacs)

“I was clearly addicted to men,” says Grace Campbell. So much so that the 28-year-old comedian’s new show in Edinburgh, A Show about Me(n), is entirely inspired by her complicated relationship with the opposite sex. “Obviously I’m not comparing it to a cocaine addiction or anything,” she adds with a laugh. “The whole point of the show is that I realize that men are less important to me than I am.”

Now, Campbell has decided to take a break from the dating world, adding, “I don’t need someone getting inside my head.” But her history of craving male attention goes back to school days: “When I was a teenager, boys really didn’t like me. But it made me want them even more. I told myself that getting a boyfriend would increase my value and make me an adult.”

It took her a year or so after breaking up with her first long-term partner to see the extent of her male concern: “I thought having a boyfriend would make all my problems go away. It was like a false promise.” She later adds about her current relationship status, “I am very happy single.”

    (Sarah Harry-Isaacs)

(Sarah Harry-Isaacs)

While A Show About Me(n) focuses primarily on Campbell’s own life, she believes it’s something many women will be able to relate to. “I’m very open and I think it can make people feel less crazy, whatever they’re going through… Women are conditioned to think that we should always be with someone,” she says. “We watched all these damn Disney movies as kids. Even in elementary school, you come home and people ask if you have a boyfriend – it’s like, ‘We’re five, why would we have a boyfriend?’”

On a personal level, Campbell thinks her own desire for male attention comes in part from growing up alongside a “prominent male figure” — her father, former New Labor press secretary and communications director Alastair Campbell. “I desperately wanted your approval. I was obsessed with him and impressed by him. My dad is literally my favorite person in the entire world,” she says.

Alastair Campbell, who started working for Blair’s government a month after the birth of his daughter, has also been a prominent figure in his comedy work. “My first hour of stand-up was about growing up in politics,” she says, referencing her 2019 show, Why I’ll Never Get Into Politics. “But it was still a lot more about my personal life. I always end up talking about sex and relationships,” she says.

Campbell talks about her childhood candidly: “I always said exactly what I was feeling the whole time,” but she didn’t always have the luxury of opening up in public: “When you have a father in politics, you have to have as much be careful what you say – and I really did.”

But what does Campbell Senior think of his comedy? “He’s my biggest fan,” she says, “he’s really so cute.” She tells a story of her father running from Whitehall to Soho to catch the last five minutes of one of his sets, “He was dripping with sweat, he just desperately wants to see” – even if his material isn’t always the most comfortable thing to do. he watch. “I talk about doing anal. He hates it, but he still comes.”

Campbell's father, Labor spin doctor Alistair, in 2001 (REUTERS)

Campbell’s father, Labor spin doctor Alistair, in 2001 (REUTERS)

The constant references to her father became irritating, however. “People used to say I was Alastair Campbell’s daughter, and that’s all I would ever be,” she says of her early days in comedy. “It’s funny in a lot of ways if I say that, but when men do it, it’s just sexist. They’re trying to cut me down. It’s not like I got into politics.”

Still, Campbell shares many of her father’s views on the UK’s current political circus. She fears that after his resignation, Boris Johnson will return to being a “jovial” party-goer and her actions as prime minister will be “normalized”. “He did such a bad, horrible job, he shouldn’t be allowed to get away with everything.”

Your family talks about politics all the time. “My father discovered [Boris’ resignation] really anticlimactic. He’s been preparing to leave for so long, but the Conservatives are still in power. F*** knows what’s going to happen with the next election. Two years to go, Brexit has still happened – none of these things will be undone now. They all lie, all the time.” But are they able to hope for the future? “My father has ambition. He thinks he can be part of turning things around.”

Politics, however, is not Campbell’s career. “Comedy is so natural. I love doing shows and being around people,” she says. But that doesn’t end with his work on stage – Campbell has also collected an online following. Her Instagram is full of short videos and she regularly asks her followers to respond to funny polls about dating and sex. “I definitely had to dedicate time to it, but social media has helped me reach new people, which is great.”

However, playing live is where Campbell’s heart lies. While she hopes her show will make women “feel better,” she’s still frustrated that she barely sees men in her audience. “If you bring back my obsession with men validating me – they can follow me on Instagram and send me scary messages about my boobs, but they don’t spend money or time coming to watch me – I don’t rate it. ”

The few men who do come, says Campbell, are mostly accompanied by their girlfriends: “I like to engage them — not in an intimidating way, but I want them to be able to laugh at themselves.” And how do men in the comedy industry react to it in general? “I tend not to interact with them,” she laughs. “The few I work with I have already examined.”

Campbell is proud of the work she has done and her attitude towards the industry. “In work environments, I don’t give a shit – I get that from my dad. I’ve always had this sense of trust, I don’t let people piss me off – it’s really weird that I haven’t had that in my love life. I had no limits or self-control until this year. If I had a hunch, I would just say, I wouldn’t even think about it.”

Grace Campbell: A Show About Me(n) is at Gilded Balloon Teviot, Edinburgh, through August 29; edfringe. with

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