By Joe Fraser
Laugh at me pls
The crowd gives a chuckle. Is this going well? Seems like it. Got a whoop when I came on stage. But, then again, everyone gets a whoop when they go on stage. They’ve done it during all the workshops. We’ve literally been taught to whoop as soon as someone bloody introduces themselves. I wish I could get such appreciation when I say my name anywhere. Just “hey, I’m Joe” followed by a whoop would be a real pick-me-up in all walks of life.
Either way, I’ve just followed the compere for the evening to do some stand-up. Never done stand-up before and am currently bricking it. I’ve been on stage before. I did some acting in the past but this is something else.
Whenever I write something I always manage to squeeze comedy out of interactions between people. It’s a dialogue. That’s what I think all good scripts need. Even when it’s a drama it needs some comedic relief. The way people can bounce off each other is really engaging, in every medium. Film, TV, theatre. It keeps us interested because every bit of dialogue is a battle of words between the two speaking. People used to go to Shakespeare back in the day not necessarily because of the story (they found it as hard to follow as we do apparently) but because of the words the characters would say. And the way they would respond to each other. Shakespearean language sounded beautiful to people in Elizabethan times because no one bloody spoke like that. Common misconception.
Stand-up is very different. It’s you speaking on your own for the entire length of your bit. That’s intense. And yeah, you can get monologues in plays and everything but normally they progress a story. You stay interested because you want to see how things develop. And that’s how we started our comedy school course actually. You find an embarrassing story from your life, when you were the butt of the joke, and you tell it. That’s it. You’re not trying to get a laugh out of the rest of the class, you’re just telling an unfortunate thing that happened to you. And, yeah it can be funny.
So. Story and dialogue. That’s what my naive little mind thinks stand-up is missing. But, as I go through the course and start to learn the tips and tricks of the trade I start to realise something. Sure, it’s different in many ways but it’s actually very similar in others.
With dialogue, it’s just a matter of putting yourself in one with the audience. They are there to listen to you speak to them. Whenever the audience’s attention goes somewhere else, you go with it, just like a normal conversation. For example, if someone heckles, you have to respond. It’s not like a play where the fourth wall is there to make sure that heckling doesn’t interfere with the show. You respond to that heckler. You shut that heckler DOWN. A great tip that I’ll take from the school is the lack of necessity for segues. No, not the lame machines, but segues in a conversation. Just go to the next subject. Like normal conversations. You don’t need to think about how a story of the circus links to your upbringing in the suburbs. Unless you were brought up with the circus. In which case, godspeed.
With story, it simply follows conventions but with inserted jokes, innuendos, similes, rules of three. There’s nothing wrong with changing a story around whenever you feel like it. Making things up, sure, why not. It’s not like the audience is going to stalk you afterwards to find out if it was true. If they do, get a new audience. But if you keep it in the realm of reality, e.g. you’re not picked up by aliens on a night out, then you’ll be okay.
So, onstage at Backyard Comedy Club, I am bricking it. But, you know what, I’m glad I am. And I’m glad I did the course. It gave me an appreciation of something I didn’t have much interest in, and made me recognise that it’s bloody difficult. I kind of resorted back to my improv and act-y background during my skit but by the end I wasn’t scared. In fact, I was enjoying it. I wouldn’t mind doing it again to be honest.
A big thanks to Mr Cee and Keith for putting us group of basket-cases and odd jobs through the course and showing us that if you just go for it, you, and the audience, can have a great time.
The copy scores 77.9 in the Flesch Reading Ease test