Stand-up comedy: Speaking out & Searching in

Updated: Sep 15


Not just skill, not just knowledge but also philosophy


In the last post (catch up here) we talked about the role of the stand-up comedian - someone who looks at the world sideways and says "there's something funny going on... people need to know!"

Also 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'

(and probably for you too)


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 in are the ingredients that add up to

make you - you.


As a young'n I grew up on a steady diet of comedy:

For starters the energy, the Joie de vivre of Billy Connolly, Rik Mayall and Robin Williams


An 'amuse bouche' of the surreal through Monty Python, Bill Bailey, Kevin Eldon


A main course of backwards looking, forwards looking, outward looking and inward looking Black Adder, Red Dwarf, The Simpsons, Frasier.


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 is it that we get from Stand-up Comedy?

They're the witty, razor sharp raconteurs (I promise, that's the last bit of french i'll use)


Craftsmen of words, voice, actions, ideas and impressions of the world.


Skilfully, they can:

  • Say what no one else was willing to

  • Burn brightly with passionate discourse

  • Dare to be defiant, critical and questioning of everything, yet still be charmingly affable.

  • 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


  • Seriously take on the maxim -‘don’t take yourself too seriously’

Most of all, they've got sheer guts to be open and vulnerable, then use that vulnerability as a way to invite others to connect and - even just for an hour - to look at the world from a different point of view.


To do what we won't do


Comedians publicly do, what we're all afraid to do - to drop the mask of civility and polite discourse and get us (the audience) to take on the role of part-time pop-philosophers and disgruntled investigative journalists of the human condition.


In short, it's not just the skill of the comedian that's valuable, its the opportunity to let an audience play their way, with their ideas in their playground.


A confession

So here's the part in the story where I should tell you that I woke up one day, lightbulb hovering overhead, rushed up on stage one night, grabbed the mic, instantly became the 'chosen one' and everyone not only died from laughter but their minds exploded, Jackson Pollock-ing (its word if I say it is) them into a brave new world of laughter and thought.


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 - in retrospect - this wasn't a diversion.


It was actually this experience that made me realise - the craft of teaching is a lot like stand-up comedy.


Why Teaching is like Stand up comedy

  1. you're speaking in public,

  2. you're in front of a (sometimes) rowdy audience,

  3. you’ve prepped material, but you have no idea how well it will go down

  4. you have to be quick, think fast, act, enact and react at the drop of a hat

  5. 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 - the ideas to the people, and vice versa

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 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 I wanted to learn what works and why

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! of that experience 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:


Listen, Learn Stand-up & Speak.


'So I studied Stand-up Comedy' - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3




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