Updated: Sep 15
Hello my name is Martin Billingham and I am a Stand-up-aholic and yes I have studied Stand-up Comedy as a masters degree.
I starting writing this post awhile ago as an overview of why I’m grateful for having been part of the Masters in Stand-up Comedy course at the University of Kent and what I’d learned on a personal level, but then this Vice article came out and listed the course as ‘one of the most useless in Europe’ so I'm going nail my colours to the flag and show Vice just what they've got wrong looking from the outside-in. I can show you what it looks like from the inside-out.
Studying stand-up comedy was:
Good for me as a person
Good for me as a professional
And why someone studying Stand-up Comedy is good for the rest of us
(these are split into several posts, so for now hold onto your horses, your bicycles and nuclear submarines - more to come soon)
'So I studied Stand-up Comedy' - Part 2
So I’m here to get on stage, get in the spotlight and stand-up in front of you (sat down, in a small dark room, in front of a dim blueish light of computer screen) and show you why I’m proud to have performed and studied stand-up comedy.
Why was it good for me personally?
The confidence to speak out
Now, there are a dozen different things that a stand-up comedian does, but first and foremost for me is to see and point at the absurd - that is - the weirdness of our world
The Stand-up comedian is the precocious child pointing directly at the Emperor's new clothes (and lack thereof) he sees it - we all see it, but where we are bound by societal norms the child is not. He sees the dangling veil of pomposity and decides to give it a good prick (that's your first nob gag, there may be more if you're lucky)
Side note: in stand-up we call this ridicule of power 'punching up or kicking up'
What's important to think on here is why this kind of 'wisdom of children' is such a pervasive cultural trope - we want someone to question what is taken for granted - we allow a child to do this because they have a strange nether position - not quite in and not quite out of society - they are insider-outsiders. This is the very state of the stand-up comedian.
Stand-up comedians are given an artistic licence - a comic licence - we want them to say the un-sayable, to point at the un-pointable and yes we want you to laugh, to feel some relief, but also to think.
I'll leave the last word on this idea from the wisdom of a child - a speech given by a Year 7 student as part of the @SABSalford project.
“Sometimes if you can make an audience laugh at something it helps them to be interested, but then you can turn it serious and they listen on another level”
I hope we can all find time to focus on that iconoclastic inner child of ours and find a way to