Doomscrolling: find out how to cope, at Camden Fringe 2023

Journalist-turned-comic, Suchandrika Chakrabarti, knows all about the pitfalls - and some solutions - for our endless news and gossip obsession

As a former journalist (turned BBC Radio 4 and Have I Got News For You comedy writer), Suchandrika Chakrabarti was a professional doomscroller.

Her mix of comedy and first hand experience in this new show might just heal your crippling phone addiction, while digging deep into the history of distraction. Plus she’s also running some special ‘Best Of Camden Fringe’ events too…

 

Tell us about your path to stand-up?

I always wanted to try it, but didn’t really know how to get started. I’ve spent most of my career as a journalist working shifts in newsrooms, so I couldn’t really commit to something regular outside of work. I started hosting a podcast called Black Mirror Cracked in 2017 and, as a result, kept getting asked if I did stand-up. Eventually I kind of wondered why I didn’t!

Three years later after going freelance, I enrolled on a course at The Bill Murray, taught by the very wise Ben Target; a month after that, lockdown began, and I quickly learned a lot about online gigs.

 

What is your particular interest/fascination/fear in our modern-day obsession with doomscrolling?

I think it’s part of a wider fascination with having been brought up in the 90s before the internet, then being thrown headlong into the world of mobiles and WiFi from the age of 16. So much of what I was taught about the world has been disrupted by these new technologies.

As a teenager, I would watch Sex and the City on Channel 4 at the turn of the century, late at night after my parents had gone to bed and would think, “So that’s what my 30s will be like then. Yeah, newspaper journalism looks like a good career move.” [Narrator: It was not]

I’ve worked at a number of national newspapers and their websites, and the two jobs are not the same, despite them both apparently happening in the same room. To be a digital journalist is not to live in a cute Manhattan studio with a whole room for your Louboutins, it’s mostly about doomscrolling on a professional – perhaps even industrial – level, so you spot a good story before anyone else does and flag it up to the editor on the desk that day. That can feel like the only way to stand out from the crowd and win Brownie points at work. It’s not good for your brain, which never really switches off.

The doomscroll is the source of and distribution for all news now – which reminds me of that bit from The Simpsons about alcohol being the source of and solution to all life’s problems. As someone who’s been inside the digital news machine, but is now very much outside of it, I thought I could find some humour in it, and even find a way of helping people deal with doomscrolling.

 

What can we ever do about our addiction to checking our damn phones?

It’s tricky, because they’re made to slot specifically into our psychological needs. Witness that video from a while back of a two-year-old zooming in on a magazine page with their fingers, and wondering why it doesn’t work as well as an iPad.

I think we need to start with accepting that distractions have always existed, and that human beings thirst for knowledge and gossip. Novels were seen as trash by the learned a few centuries ago when they first came out, but that’s the main format I studied during my English degree. We see them as worthy forms of storytelling now. That kind of shift had happened again and again over time.

Maybe we can make sense of this digital hellscape and shape it into something that works for us? I’m nothing if not optimistic.

 

What topics do you always love to cover in a show?

Psychology, the analogue vs the digital world, my parents, the future, how I’m going to explain this mess of an era to my niece, who’s currently five but can ask a Paxman-level question whenever she feels like it.

 

Tell us a bit more about your ‘Best of Camden Fringe’ events too?

I’ve been in a bit of an ongoing email conversation with the Camden Fringe founders, Zena and Michelle, so when we finally met at the launch party recently, we quickly landed on the idea of setting up these stand-up nights. They’re a way of getting comic performers together to celebrate and promote their shows. For the audience, it’s a great opportunity to find their new fave comedian.

I’ve been up to Edinburgh Fringe in the past and just hopped onto mixed-bill spots (I took my debut comedy hour up last year), and it’s really fun. I’m looking forward to these nights, and you can find out all about them here.

 

If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?

A parrot: I’d be able to fly and talk, plus mix it up with pirates. Talk about a triple-threat!

 

In 5 words, tell us why everyone must see Doomscrolling?

We’re all doomed… not really!

Camden Fringe 2023 //  See Doomscrolling at Camden Comedy Club on 24th and 26th August  Tickets and info here.

Additionally, Suchandrika presents four Best of Camden Fringe nights on 5th & 6th, and 20th & 23rd August at Camden Comedy Club.

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