Sex and Sobriety Are Center Stage in "Walk of Shame"
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Sex and Sobriety Are Center Stage in "Walk of Shame"
Eleanor Conway’s one-woman show Walk of Shame is everything you’d hope for. Imagine an X-rated TED talk complete with slide show visuals morphed with brilliant stand up, hilarious mortifying stories and charming honesty. The show covers her extreme adventures in Tinder, her black out drinking, her addictive personality and her entrée into porn, just to name a few. Nothing is off limits and she apologizes for none of it and that’s what makes this show so great. Fellow addicts will laugh in identification with what makes us tick but the show is broader than that, appealing to everybody, elucidating the modern addict in all of us.
I was treated to a video of the sold out show in Halifax, England where she opened with “When you run out of matches on Tinder, you have to move. So hello Halifax!” She admits to trying to “lay off cock for the moment” because she’s “scared of catching something….like feelings.” In her own words, “this show is about the extremes I go to in life.” Now, at three years sober, Eleanor sat down with us to discuss life, sobriety and her new walking masterpiece.
The Fix: I loved how you talked about your Tinder addiction, sexting and the weird shift between feeling empowered at first and ashamed later. I certainly identified with that. Have other women shared their experiences with you?
Eleanor Conway: Thanks so much. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I think anyone that’s been single in the last five years really relates to all that stuff. I get a lot of women coming up to me after the show or sending me messages online thanking me for talking so honestly and openly. Speaking as a straight woman, there’s definitely been such a shift in focus from searching for a long-term partner to being more open to a more casual dating lifestyle.
I know in myself I’m far more programmed to gravitate towards a quick dopamine hit via a swipe over a more slow building connection. I’m not sure that’s entirely a good thing, but here we are. I think there’s still a bit of taboo and shame around straight women expressing themselves honestly in this department, in a way that doesn’t seem to exist in the world of Grindr and gay hookups. Maybe I can be a gay man in my next life?
Were you chronicling this as you went along to possibly use in a book or stand up because it’s SO detailed? Or do you just have a rain man memory despite being loaded for most of those escapades?
I wrote a secret blog intermittently in the first year or two of sobriety, which I read recently and saw that a lot of the material was present in those early blog posts. Thank you for saying it’s detailed. I had to cut so much out in order to fit into a 70 minute show so not everything I wanted to say or retell is in it. I’d love to expand and write a book one day though.
How much of the show is scripted and how much is improv? You seem very free on stage and it feels so off the cuff. Is every show pretty much the same?
I’d say 85% of the show is scripted. There are spaces for improv in the show which keeps things loose. It’s really important to have that there, so that I can find a more personalized way to connect with the audience that evening. It keeps it fresh.
Congratulations on your string of sold out shows. Why do you think the show has been such a success…aside from your comic brilliance, I mean?
Ah man, thanks. I knew it was a good show but yeah the run of sellouts has been unbelievable. I took the show up to the comedy festival in Edinburgh in 2016, and I was performing to up to 200 people some nights which is insane for a debut show! Since then I’ve taken it round the UK and sold out a 30 date tour as well as another sell out run at Edinburgh Festival and I’m on tour for the foreseeable future.
A lot of women come out and watch comedy for the first time when they come to see “Walk of Shame” which is an amazing accomplishment to think I have the ability to do that. In terms of why, I don’t know. I think it’s a combination of things. Its funny, it’s honest and there’s raw emotion there. You know I’m not perfect. I’m flawed and I am unapologetic about that, which I’ve been told is refreshing. The show changed my life and people enjoy being part of that success.
You really touch on a lot of taboo and sensitive subjects which personally I love. Was there anything you felt frightened or even embarrassed to include but you forced yourself?
Everything! At the start I definitely felt incredibly uncomfortable doing some parts of the show, especially in the middle of a month long fringe when I felt tired, vulnerable and insecure. Some bits were incredibly clunky and awkward at the start, like really terrible. I didn’t feel I could completely own what I was saying but I kept them in and kept going. Things really changed after I took a couple months break after last fringe, got on tour with a fresh head and I was able to wear the show in a way I couldn’t previously. The most awkward and clunky bits previously became my favorite and the most standout bits of the show. And the more love I’ve gotten from audiences as I’ve gone along on the tour, the more my internal confidence has grown and not just in a bravado-led way. I have a new internal nugget of self-love and pride that really wasn’t there before. I feel really proud of what I’ve accomplished in the last year or so.
I liked that you talked about sobriety and recovery but kept the subject matter wide enough to appeal to “normies.” Was that something you thought about? Not to limit the show’s appeal to just people in recovery?
Yeah I think the idea of addiction in modern life is very prevalent right now. Before an addict was Lindsay Lohan on the front cover of the Enquirer, now it’s anyone with a Snapchat login. I see myself twitching for my phone on a minute-by-minute basis. I got sober and was like “I’m cured!” but then developed addictive behaviors around other things. I have no idea where I’ll be in the future and so that’s why it’s quite broad, to keep myself a bit safer. The focus of the show is more around where my extreme tendencies take me in life and then what happens when you chuck alcohol in the mix, rather than a straight “recovery show.”
You touch on your moment of clarity in the show briefly. What did make you get sober?
There were loads of things to be honest. I got sober in 2014, but knew it was potentially on the cards back in 2011. Just the usual really. A constant cycle of making it home from wherever I’d woken up and crashing until early evening where I could do it again. Probably not too dissimilar from lots of early 20’s city dwellers, however when you hit your 30’s, it takes a very different shine. There’s a point where I was no longer surprised at where I would click out of a blackout: zoo, hospital, car wreckages, sex…Don’t get me wrong, I had A LOT OF FUN amongst that. But really I was in a bit of denial about how much I could accomplish with that kind of partying in my life and the way I drink I knew I couldn’t be successful while booze was part of it. So after a Facebook brag about how wasted I was after a three-day bender, someone reached out and brought me in.
How do you stay on the straight and narrow? 12 step? Yoga? Jogs around Kensington Garden?
I’m like the worst example of a sober person. I did 90 in 90, but now have my favorite meetings I go to and then step it up if I’m feeling crazy. I’m really crap at all the stuff you’re supposed to do though. I try and meditate when I remember. I was on a daily gratitude email list but took myself off it when it grew too big and the notifications drove me crazy! I do try to hand things over, realize that I’m not in control of the whole universe, that I can’t bend it to my will, do a mental inventory as I go, and when I feel envious try to send love that person’s way. That’s really tough for me though, dealing with professional envy; it’s part of the reason I got sober. Comedy isn’t always fair and there’s always someone doing better than you and finding internal peace within that and the huge ego that comes with the rest of me is a constant challenge. But I’m not prescriptive in keeping sober. Calling my sober mates and going to meetings and listening to others works for me for the moment. I do get teased about how batshit I was in early meetings though. Hahaha! I’m so much calmer now.
What’s next for you?
I’m on a tour baby…You can check out where and when, here….. www.eleanorconway.com