Kate Barron (Photography Natasha PSZENICKI)
A lot of people made big changes in life during the pandemic, but nothing more than Canadian comedian Kate Barron. Just a few months into a new life in the UK – after separating with his long-term partner in Canada, quitting his job and home and eventually moved here with the intention of taking comedy seriously as a career, only a home To be trapped in London with people she barely knew – she made a secret decision. Without telling her flatmates, she got on an airplane, flew to Turkey, signed some forms she literally couldn’t read and, without revealing any spirit, had 80 percent of her stomach removed. .
By the time someone in his family found out and saw him again, he had shed 13 stone which, to give you some contemporary context, was almost exactly the weight of Chris Evans to play Captain America.
The Baron’s decision, the journey to make it, and the journey to its beginnings are the themes of his new Edinburgh show, Losing Myself. And as soon as she weaves a really extreme transformation story, you start to realize how the world isn’t set up for big guys.
It’s hard to develop your own style because there aren’t enough clothes available in stores, and where they are, they’re usually “far behind where no one is going to see you”. Flying long distances in economy is physical torture – for the overweight, all kinds of chairs are a source of panic. Baron tells a story about coming to a lovely dinner, “and all my skinny little pretty friends took all the chairs without arms,” she says. Too embarrassed to speak, the Baron spent four hours eating and drinking what was effectively a vicious ass.
(Photography Natasha Pszenicki, aided by Monty Vans)
There’s a lot of shame she offers on the show, but her attitude toward it isn’t remotely self-pitying. When a friend at that dinner saw a preview of the show, she was horrified. “She’s like, ‘I’m so sorry, I never thought about it’ — and I’m like, ‘It’s OK,’” Barron says when we meet at the Standard’s photo studio after shooting her.
“I also never said anything. So it can’t be entirely on you, because I never said it. I just took these moments of restlessness and anxiety and I absorbed them all, making it really It got painful and lonely, but I was too ashamed to have those conversations with my friends.”
But of course it’s not up to you, I say. “I think it is and it isn’t,” she says. “You want to have close relationships with people and I don’t think I was even really authentic with them. My weight was definitely wearing my mental health out on the outside. And it was just visible to people But I couldn’t expect people to know all these things about me if I wasn’t honest with them.
“And my friends, after losing all this weight, were going, ‘I didn’t even know this was an issue for you.’ I thought you were super confident and happy with who you are. You never let it show that you were anything else. And it just goes to show how different it can be, because it’s all I thought. “
And yet for the past seven years, at her heaviest weight (she won’t reveal her weight, but shows me a picture of herself on stage and she actually looks like a different woman), she’s been on stage night after night. But getting up was to stand up, something that most people, no matter their size or shape, don’t dream of doing.
“I wanted to do it since childhood,” she says, “but I didn’t have the guts. And I thought it was one of those things that only famous people do. I didn’t know you were famous by doing comedy.” can be.”
She doesn’t come from a performing family, but they were loud and “crazy”. She and her brother and sister were raised largely by her grandmother while her parents worked, and “I was definitely like, ‘Look at me, look at me. I’m the kid.’ That’s why I’m so obnoxious.”
But until he realized that comedy was something anyone could stab, at the age of 20, “I had no confidence; They would eat me alive there. I couldn’t do it.” She comes from a family of older people, but she had gained weight. “It happens slowly. You just start getting less and less comfortable in your own skin and in the world.”
Ultimately it was the lockdown that pushed the Baron to the point of drastic action. “I just finally went, ‘That’s it.’ And I think maybe it was covid, it was not being able to perform, it was being alone here and being away from people and distractions.
“I’m pretty much a ‘go go go’ kind of person. When I first moved here, for the entire first year, I had a full-time job and I was doing about 12 shows a week, yet still had a social life. Was trying to live and make friends in a new city and everything. I just wouldn’t let myself slow down for a minute. Because if you slow down, you’ll basically hear your thoughts.” And then Covid hit, and there was nothing but thoughts.
“I just thought, ‘What am I doing with my life? I’m really sad.’ And finally, you need to take accountability for that, ultimately you can’t blame your upbringing or the poor nutrition we have, or being working class. And my parents, they only knew what they knew, And he was doing his best. And you know, I haven’t been with him for almost 20 years. So is that really his problem still? Or is it mine? I just had to make it my own and go, ‘ I’m still in my 30s; I can choose to keep it under control.”
(Photography Natasha PSZENICKI)
She didn’t go into it completely casually. Baron understood that his action was drastic and began receiving regular therapy before traveling to deal with the inevitable emotional rollercoaster. “I was like, ‘Okay, what are we going to talk about? My bad relationship with my family, or my f*** boys?’ And she was like, ‘No, I think you have the worst relationship in your life.’ And I was like, ‘Hey, Coach, I’m paying you a lot of money. Isn’t that going to make me feel good?’”
The doctor was right, though. “I just hated myself. Whatever you thought of me when you saw me as a grown man, I guarantee you, I thought, but much, much worse. And so on.” Like I used to talk to myself all the time. I try very hard not to do that now.”
Surgery has not been a magic bullet. Part of Baron’s show goes into the extremely strict diet he had to follow after surgery, and the weird things he’s not allowed to do (you can’t chew gum, drink through a straw, or drink carbonated beverages). Because it creates a lot of air in your small stomach; all that precious space must be preserved for nutrition). And there are other, less obvious disadvantages. Shopping is still a nightmare, but for different reasons.
“Because I was always older, the clothes I’d be attracted to would be big, dark, oversized baggy clothes to hide myself. So now I don’t even know what my style is. I’ll go to Westfield and I I’ll be totally overwhelmed. Where can I even start? How do you find your style later? [so many] years?”
She is still getting used to her new self. Even now “I’ll see a chair now or a booth at a restaurant, I’ll be like, ‘I can’t fit.’ I’ll catch myself in the mirror sometimes and I don’t even really recognize myself. But I don’t even really recognize who I was before. I look at these pictures sometimes, and I go Who was she? I don’t feel like her anymore.”
The Baron says he is happier now than ever. She just turned 39, and on August 10, “it’ll be seven years since I went up and did my first open mic,” she says proudly.
She’s a little jealous of comics her age, she says, who have been on stage for decades, but then adds that as long as she lived a little more, she’d have “nothing to talk about. Me. [earlier] The comedy was very superficial. It was like dating and sex; easy jokes. It’s the first time I’ve ever spoken openly and talked about vulnerable things on stage, and really have something to say. ,
It seems to be having an effect. Barron is developing his latest show on stage, and after a recent gig, “I had a woman who was crying. She came up to me later and said, Can I hug you? And tomorrow One night I had another guy, this really classically handsome man, great physique. And he was like, ‘You probably don’t think that’s true, but I’m telling you, a lot of that shit comes home’ Gone.’ And I was like, ‘Whoa.’ I don’t know why, maybe there’s someone older in his life and he’s never really thought about these things before, or maybe he was a bully, or maybe he had a weight problem. I don’t know. But it’s been really interesting to get feedback from people. And I feel like, because I’m more genuine on stage, I think people can feel it, that’s why they’re giving me so much more love and appreciation now.
“How often do people really focus, listen to you and share your thoughts and ideas? I think comedy is the most beautiful, pure art. I love it.”
Kate Barron: Losing Myself Is Just the Tonic at the Tron, Edinburgh from August 4-14 and 16-28; adfringe.com