Updated: Dec 16, 2019
In the last post we talked about the role of the stand-up comedian as someone who looks at the world sideways and says "there's something funny going on here... people need to know!"
We also talked about the strange insider-outsider space comedians inhabit and how we as an audience, want someone to observe, stand up and point at the way we live and act as a reminder for a society to keep itself in check.
So now let's focus on
'Why was Stand-up Comedy good for me personally'
I have a confession to make; you might be sitting there thinking 'I'd never have the guts to do that' - well you know what, me neither, in fact I wrestled with that feeling for most of my formative years, but I loved it and always hungered after it.
You are what you eat
It might be a cliché, but what you put it are the ingredients that add up to
make you - you.
As a young'n I grew up on a steady diet of comedy:
Then I said "F*CK the pudding!" and became a hairy, spotty, greasy disenfranchised teenager instead, I picked up the plates from the table, smashed them on the floor and fuelled my angst through Bill Hicks, Dylan Moran and Stewart Lee.
I saw the bill, scoffed at the bourgeois decor and tossed my 'wafer thin mints' at the maitre d' and with the help of George Carlin, Brass eye, Lenny Bruce I finally whipped the table cloth off to look underneath, shouted Sacré Bleu! and dropped my french clichés on to the floor - like an avant-garde beret tosser.
But I was always - and still am - hungry for more.
What was it about comedy and particularly about Stand-up Comedy?
There was a mystique about the way stand-ups crafted their words, voice, actions, ideas and impressions of the world into something wonderful - laughter.
to say what no one else was willing to say,
to burn with the energy of a thousand suns
to dare to be defiant, critical and questioning of everything and still be charming, affable
to challenge the world, customs and traditions around them, to be ironic, satirical, sardonic, sharp, down right dark and brooding at times- but still make something light out of it
to seriously take on the maxim -‘don’t take yourself too seriously’
but also the bravery to be vulnerable and not only let, but invite everyone else in to their experiences and reflective views on the world.
In short, to have the wisdom, wit and wherewithal to look within and speak out.
So here is where I tell you that I just rushed up on stage one night, grabbed the mic and everyone exploded with laughter. But that's not the truth, the truth is I became a teacher.
How teaching taught me to Stand-up.
I found myself Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) in Spain, but it was then I realised - the craft of teaching is a lot like stand-up comedy.
you're speaking in public,
you're in front of a (sometimes) rowdy audience,
you’ve prepped material, but you have no idea how well it will go down
you have to be quick, think fast, act, enact and react at the drop of a hat
you’ve got people in front of you, you’ve got ideas behind you (or in the back of your head) and you’ve got to connect the two together.
Fundamentally, the core action of teaching and stand-up is the same - it's all about connecting people, with ideas - that is the craft.
I realised I’d (sort of) been doing stand-up the whole time and teaching English in as a second language had shown me the value of attempting to communicate - you have to constantly negotiate, adapt and find your way in the moment - this is what a stand-up does ... and I'm doing it!
Here's what I knew:
I loved wordplay
I learned more by having to think on my feet
I loved the back and forth of dialogue - when it’s done right - everyone wins
I yearned to learn not just how to do it, but like any good educator I wanted to dive into the theory behind it
Thats when I found the Masters Degree in Stand-up Comedy at the University of Kent and next time, we'll go through all the 'oh no's, oh yeahs! and
show how taking Stand-up Comedy seriously, improved my life both on stage and off stage ... I began my journey to find out how to: