By Philly Bains
Keith, veteran comedian and the head of Comedy School, was sitting opposite our class of seven students, sweating.
Wiping beads from his brow, a colleague Mr. Cee said:
‘He looks scared now – guess what he’s like in front of an audience.’
It was the end of a long day redecorating the school’s interiors as part of the ‘design your studio’ project. Energy levels were low, people were ill, but with a few more decent jokes cracked by Mr. Cee, we were ready for the workshop.
Comedy keeps people going.
As a kid, I was quite shy and had some issues with bullying. Being funny was a great way of solving both problems. Entering the big bad world, outside of education, I don’t think I’d turn half of my misfortunes into positives if it wasn’t for a sense of humor.
I’ve tried to stand up before and hated it. Largely because I was encouraged to be someone I’m not.
This class was different though. We could be, dramatic pause, whatever we wanted.
The class started with listing our favourite comedians. Where to begin. Louis CK is a genius and if I end up half as brilliant as him, I’ll die happy. Then there’s the mysterious Dan Kitson, who refuses to go on TV – so can only really be seen live – he’s brilliant. There’s Katherine Ryan, there’s Jim Jefferies. List goes on.
We then thought about why we liked them. Interestingly Michael McIntyre wasn’t mentioned in our top 10 list, and yet, he’s basically the most popular comedian in the UK – certainly in terms of DVD sales. ‘He does it for the 80%.’ Said Mr. Cee. ‘But if we look at a comedian like Frankie Boyle, he’s after the other 20%.’
The question then beckons, who are you doing it for?
Writing is a lot like comedy.
Kurt Vonnegut once said, ‘Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”
He wrote for his sister, she died young. Maybe it was a way to keep her alive. Writing stories.
Whilst creating copy for an advert might not seem that higher stakes, I do think this philosophy is really important. Form your reader so clearly in your head that you can imagine them sitting across from you, like an old friend (ideally!). Then talk to them. In normal language.
It can be harder than you think.
In Deanna’s master class, I realized writing around people changes what I want to say. Up until SCA, I’ve always written alone, so my stories have always been quite introverted. Not something you’d read out without pulling a shocked face/ awkward face, for example.
Shuv me in a room filled with 50 students and bam, all change.
Back to comedy school, Mr. Cee has given us some homework. We’re going to start jotting down things we love and hate in different areas of our lives. Knowing that what I commit to paper will be read to a room full of people (albeit 10) I wonder who I’ll write for.
I guess we’ll find out next class.