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If any of this appeals then god bless you and you seem perfect.
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Tell all your friend.
In the past couple of years that I have re-submerged myself in the world of live comedy and I have discovered the joy of preview shows. Works in Progress.
I love them and I actually feel grateful that I get the chance to see these sometimes half formed ideas, or robust structured hours that require some polish. It still amazes me that comedians do this.
Think about the painter that takes their sketches out and says “what’dya tink?” to an pompous RA over opinionated member. The composer that hums a nascent tune to a passing Classical Chill Out CD owner and then asks their opinion. The comedian that scribbles an idea into a Tesco version of a Moleskin and stands in front of a paying audience and speaks out loud for the first time, something they feel and hope is funny. Must be terrifying.
It is why I think that the art form of the comedian is one of the bravest, the rawest and the trickiest. Alright, alright. I know we are not talking about bomb disposal, a Paramedic on a Friday night, or a teacher with the future of our children in their wherewithal. But we are talking about artists. People that balance what they do with who they do it for. People that have to make what they want to make. Say what they want to say and then for pragmatic reasons, try to shape that into a vaguely commercial form. Something that we the public will fork out for, will support.
With the increase in awareness and availability comedy in so many delivery forms and outlets, lots of people have become ‘experts’ in comedy, very quickly. And then you can take that opinion and push it out to 30 people. Really easily. We do.
Funny Looking was never imagined as a review outlet. Sometimes I will say, out loud even, “all reviewers are cunts”. I don’t think I mean it. Some reviewers raise the form high and show a dignity in their writing, an honesty and more importantly a high degree of self awareness, that lets the reader know that this is what that performance means to them, personally. Bruce Dessau stands out to me as a reviewer that balances knowledge, honesty and opinion. And I certainly don’t agree with everything he says. But he says it compellingly well.
Two things stood out recently. One was the conversation I had with the three people I took to see David Trent at the “How The Light Gets In festival of ideas” in Hay on Wye. This was a preview show for This Is All I Have, his show for this years Edinburgh Festival and the follow up to the hugely brilliant Spontaneous Comedian. This was the second time I had seen the preview show, the first at Mach Fest. It is a testament to to what I think about the show so far that I returned to see it again and if I get to Ed Fest this year, I fully intend to see the final product.
Another testament to the show, as well as the rolling swell of laughter throughout, was the fact that three people who had known nothing of David Trent were discussing the show, how much they enjoyed it, how much they got from it, how clever and funny it was and how original they considered it. There. That is my review in this paragraph. I’m not going to talk about any content. It was a preview. Bits will change. Come in, go out. I will say, there was real progression and development since Mach and my very favourite bit, a video piece was still in it. But what right do I have to even offer this observation? I feel arrogant even committing that to Flog.
There was a point in the show, not even noticed by one of my party, where somebody left. The show wasn’t for them, they didn’t want to stay, they were not enjoying it. They left. (On a secondary note their stated reason for leaving was at massive misreading of a bit that nobody else in the room agreed with).
Great. I’m not enjoying this. I’m leaving. I get that. I respect that. (They were massively wrong in my opinion but they stuck to theirs)
What I struggle with is:
I’m not enjoying this.
It isn’t funny.
I’m staying to the end no matter how unfunny it is to me.
I’m going to make sure I enthusiastically tell you how unfunny it is.
Paid reviewers. Maybe I understand. But others. Leave. Forget it. Let it go. Why would you tell us why it isn’t funny? How can somebody be definitive?
This links to the second point I have been thinking about. It comes from a rare comment on the website. Very welcome but intriguing.
On the previous Flog, about the Brian Gittins Radio Show Archive we have going, (for shits and giggles), (you can see that here), somebody left a link at the bottom to a review of Gittins at Glastonbury from the prestigious local-to-Glastonbury website. The reviewer didn’t enjoy Gittins. So much that they would have left – but: ‘stayed to the end so I could write about it.’ swiftly followed by ‘If I’m honest, the hokey cokey segment at the end did actually have me crying with laughter’. So a bizarre, confusing, mixed bag of a review, left at my doorstep by somebody I do not know, wanting to let me know they don’t like Gittins.
It all seems like a lot of effort for something so meaningless.
A couple of recent podcasts have really resonated for me. (And I listen to a lot of podcasts) Tom Allen on the brilliant Comedians Comedian podcast and why comedians as artists deserve our support. It is so worth a listen to and moved me with it’s honesty. Also John Hodgman on the Nerdist podcast, talking about the schism between the world of being a nerd and the negativity of hipsters. Have a listen to them both. They are worth your time.
Then again my enthusiasm for them might move you to take the time, effort and consideration to find an obscure review, telling me something I like is disregardable and un liked by you. I’ll be alright with that. Or take the honest route and walk out. You might still be wrong though.
David Trent will be appearing at Group Therapy Comedy in Manchester on Saturday the 30th of June.
It has got unseemly. Hasn’t it? Our enthusiasm for this man.
It seems that at the same time this podcast and concept was born. In some dark corner of the south coast, Brian Gittins, a seemingly unsuccessful stand up, took to broadcasting.
Discovering his live Spreaker podcast only 2 or 3 in, it quickly became the must listen to event. Why? I have no idea.
Whole episodes where given over to testing an effective contact with Skype.
Terrible robots and their creators called in.
Super star callers were elevated to mythic levels and we dreamed they would call in. Then they disappeared.
David Edwards came into our lives.
Poppy & Titty Girl. Adam Warren & Charles Petrescu. We worried for Snotface but we hoped he would call.
And we called in. Initially burnt and rejected for being boring. I found my corner. Sometimes I sing to Brian.
I sing when I am worried for him. Happy for him. Sad for him.
It is the only place I sing. I have found a voice. Brian gave me that.
Brian Gittins might have left Spreaker forever.
It is harder to find the older shows. On Spreaker or on iTunes. So I have given them a home. An archive. A memorial.
I pledge to put every single episode in that archive. And keep it there. For you.
You can help me. Listen to an episode. Comment on it. Who called in? What was discussed? What went wrong? What was played? Lets make this the authoritative Brian Gittins archive on the Internet, way above all the rest.
Now you can go right back to the start. Come on that journey that some of us have been on. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll get angry. Bored. And annoyed.
It is what he would have wanted.
Lets start this by explaining just how excited I was to see Daniel Kitson at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. It was in my diary as “KITSON!” – birthdays get ‘mum’s birthday’, parties get ‘party?’ but for the best comedian in the world, I went all out with capitals and an explanation mark.
The show, as you would expect, was wonderful. Such a brilliant range of thoughts coupled with perfectly marauding sentences and a beautiful use of language. This was all backed up with smut…lots of smut.
It had been an enjoyable evening for my friends and I which was a bit of a relief. My girlfriend had been ill since the Mach Comedy fest after a badly judged twenty minutes sat in a tent. Book a B&B for Mach 2014, friends.
The ever consummate gentleman, I had packed a bottle of water which I discreetly offered to her during the 1hr40 minute performance. The words of her doctor ringing in my ears “keep hydrated, for the love of God, keep hydrated”
On leaving the theatre I noticed the couple behind me muttering about people talking near by. I hadn’t noticed anything and thought nothing more of it until I got home and did a quick search for #kitson on Twitter – the man himself searches for himself and I wanted to as well. I enjoy seeing people’s immediate reactions to such great performances.
As expected there were the usual lovely comments and then I stumbled across one from a familiar looking face. It was the girl from behind and she was moaning about the ‘idiots’ in front. Threatening a ‘campaign against people talking in performances’.
From a further perusal of her Twitter feed this individual reviews things for a couple of blogs. We at Funny Looking will never be reviewers. We want to celebrate and enthuse not write a ‘review’ that more often than not ruins punchlines. Nor do we take ourselves so seriously.
It didn’t detract from the point that I had impacted negatively on someone’s evening. I hate people talking at gigs – I’ve politely asked people in the past to quiet down a bit or move to the back. However the nitpicking of this evening was on a new level. Friends sat next to us had not even noticed us reach for a drink or give our smug knowing nods at lines we recognised from a warm up gig we had bagged tickets for months previously. Still it made me think, “Am I a dickhead?”
It spun me into something of an existential crisis. Am I a bad audience member? Well I’ve asked this question so I can’t be but isn’t that what a bad audience member would say?! The fact it paralleled an argument Kitson had made thirty minutes earlier made me realise just how far in advance he must plan his shows. He really is out to make you laugh and think in ways that no other comedian can. There is something for everyone (especially if you are a nervous, cardigan wearing liberal with an ill girlfriend)
I wasn’t going to take this slur on my character! I spun careful 140 character long rebukes subtly explaining how I clearly had learnt more from the show than she ever would but I was never happy enough to hit the send button.
In the end I took the route Kitson advised in his show. I read her Twitter feed, found something that I vehemently disagreed with, concluded SHE was the dickhead and went to bed.
One half of Funny Looking, Peter Jones had donated his fee for this column to the Campaign To Stop People Talking During Performances.
I’ve been performing comedy for nearly 2 years (or 102 gigs, depending on whether you prefer imperial or metric measurements). In comedic terms, I’m still a toddler, but, I’m a toddler who has written extensively about his experiences in comedy (see my gig diary: www.poursomegravyonme.co.uk). Think of me as some kind of weird precocious baby whose favourite toy is an abacus. So when the Funny Looking Fellas asked me to write this piece about the original intentions I had for my my comedy writing and how they’ve changed, I knew it was time to drop the ridiculous childhood analogy and just write the bleeding thing.
After thinking about it for thirty seconds, I realised I could brilliantly answer the brief in one sentence: “My only intention was to try and be funny and that’s still true now.” And while in some ways it is true, it’s also ’s also far from telling the whole story.
I’d never performed in any capacity, or even considered it as a possibility, until my friend Vic suggested in late 2010 that I should try stand up. I’m a lifelong comedy fan and being funny has always been important to me, so the idea really appealed; I just didn’t know where to start. I’d been expressing my humour online for a few years – on my stupid blog “The World of Sherby” (www.sherby57.co.uk) and a sporadically released podcast “The Gravy Boat” (http://thegravyboat.podbean.com) – so the idea of generating funny content wasn’t entirely foreign, but thinking of stand-up material was quite a different prospect.
Seriously. Stop and think about it for a minute. Where would you start? Even if you knew what kind of comedy you’d like to do, or if you’re a naturally funny person in everyday life, what would you say if you were actually on stage?
Difficult, isn’t it?
My first gig would be in May 2011, so I knew I had a few months to generate material. I just needed to find a mechanism to do so. As I wanted my material to reflect my sense of humour, the only method I could think of was to write down everything that I said, or thought of, that made me laugh. After a few months, this resulted in several notebooks full full of ideas which ranged from fully formed ‘Christmas cracker’ jokes (http://poursomegravyonme.co.uk/2013/01/29/i-dont-like-jokes-oh-no-i-love-them/) to weird little thoughts that made me laugh for no particular reason. Although I still didn’t have any usable material, at least I had some building blocks.
OK. So, I’m sat with a pile of (possibly) humourous lego, which I want to turn into a shiny, new car (comedy routine). Surely I now needed to unfold some instructions (intentions) with which to achieve my goal. Well, yes and no. When I looked to expand the daft thoughts in the notebook, I concentrated on trying to make them funny in a way that was funny to me. This was a case of repeatedly saying them out loud and trying to add something funny to each subsequent iteration. As the individual chunks of material took shape, I then had to work out how they’d be presented and linked together. Fortunately, this also didn’t require a master plan. Because my ideas were all essentially nonsense, and because I like acting daft, there was a natural way for me to perform the bits. I was influenced by the sort of comedy that I didn’t want to do, and the things that I wouldn’t say. Another factor was the compulsion to add a layer of self referential ‘jokes about jokes’. Although it might seem self indulgent to introduce meta-comedy into your first set, it actually came from a need to be honest. Having watched a lot of comedy (and being a good decade older than the average newbie comic), I had become acutely aware of how even the most honest stand-up set was actually a construct. My knowing winks at the audience would be my way of saying “yes…yes…I know I’m lying, but it’s just for fun.” In many ways, it felt almost inevitable what my routine would be. In the subsequent couple of years, I’ve added a few methods for creating different types of material, and developed an increasing awareness for what does – or doesn’t – work for me, but but this primarily remains the way I produce material.
Clearly, the idea of “just being funny” isn’t entirely true. I don’t sit down with a blank page and write with a specific purpose in mind, but but I do have a clear idea of what I want to achieve with my comedy and the journey on which I want to take the audience. A functioning piece of stand-up material rarely arrives fully formed. The process of turning an idea into a bit, which then fits into a routine, which then fits into the structure of a set, is one that requires work. It’s a process that is inherently filtered by your own likes, dislikes, taste and intent.
For someone who has only performed 100 gigs, this is all exceptionally grand talk. At my level, the ultimate aim is still to just be funny on a consistent basis.
Ste Price will be appearing in Multi-Levelled Morons at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe (Jeykll & Hyde, 13:30 daily). He would like to point out that he’s in character in the photo and so isn’t the pompous jackass that it makes him appear.
You can find out more about Ste at my web-site, here.
Please visit his blogs:
Pour Some Gravy On Me – thoughts on random stuff, including the gig diary.
The World Of Sherby57 – lots of stupid stuff. Very stupid stuff.
As I am sure you are aware, this month, March 2013, we have a fantastic interview with Michael J. Dolan. Michael is a stand-up based here in the North West and is one of those annoying comedians that thinks and cares and strives to be both funny but also thoughtful and entertaining.
Because of this terrible affliction of being both self reflective and empathetic he recently came out as a misogynist. Here, in this Flog post, we are going to give you all the component parts, put together in handy package, to allow you the informed Funny Looking listener the chance to see all the facets of the discussion and come up with your own response.
Could your discursive essays, finally squeezing all the fun out of comedy, be handed in next Monday. Alternatively leave us a comment below on how annoying we are.
Fit the 1st
Listen to the first part of our podcast, up to the first part of our interview with Michael. You can find it here. Of course!
Fit the 2nd
Fit the 3rd
Now read the article that Michael wrote on the fantastic website The Skinny. Have a think about the things he says. Do you agree? Is Michael being too harsh upon himself? Should Michael go to jail? I’ll be at risk of being too flippant about this very thoughtful discussion?
Fit the 4th
Now listen to our special Spreaker podcast. Here I have put an extract of the Woman’s Hour discussion in question. Listen for yourself.
Fit the Final
Now listen to the remaining part of the interview with Michael J Dolan. (Remember the full interview you will be published as a Bonus podcast by the end of this month)
Extension Activities (for Spoffs)
I mentioned a very famous joke by Billy Connolly from the mythical 1970s, time almost forgotten by many people but not Gav. You can watch said joke here and perhaps compare and contrast.
Please hand in all essays with Harvard referencing as usual – much love and looking forward to parents evening.
And welcome – especially if you are here as a result of the Radio Scotland BBC Comedy Cafe or the Brian Gittins Spreaker Radio Show. What lovely people you are!
We are very excited to announce the #AskArthur Live Podcast this week. Your chance to talk to the the man himself.
When: Thursday 24th Jan – 9pm
How: Skype in – funnylooking pod – leave Questions on our Twitter feed & Facebook with #AskArthur and we will find it and try to ask it.
Now what: Tell your pals!
Gav & Pete
Not content with waffling on about comedy for the past year, Funny Looking are now starting our own blog. We really are partying like it’s 2002.
The Flog (as it will be known and eventually chanted) is a place for you, me and any old Joe Sixpack to share some thoughts on comedy. This could be in the form of reviews, opinion pieces or whatever you see fit. We’re definitely hoping for some seedy Robin Ince fan fiction.
“Oh Robin, when you talk about science, it makes me feel things I’ve not felt in years”
The Flog is aiming to be a community of passionate people writing about things they love. Funny Looking is all about championing things that make you laugh, from the God-like Kitson and Lee to the utter glory of CBeebies. Our passion is to share these things with others and in turn find new stuff too. It’s as honest an endeavour as you are likely to ever find.
With little to no marketing effort, we are already getting a few hundred listens to every pod and the aim of 2013 is to push this even further. We already have chatted with some surprisingly amazing people including Arthur Smith, Andy Zaltzman, Simon Munnery and Pappy’s so trust us when we say, we’re a bit of a big deal. (Sarcasm)
So what now…
Getting in touch is definitely the first option. You can do that by all the usual means – twitter/facebook/email. Let us know what you want to say and we will hopefully be able to give you the platform to share it.
A few rules…
1. Needlessly controversial is boring. Smartly explaining your opinions and making people think is not.
2. “Women in comedy” comment pieces are boring. Celebrating someone/anyone who makes you smile is not.
3. If you waffle, we’ll probably edit it.
4. Don’t be a dick (this is a rule for life, not just the Flog)
Right, get going lovely reader.
All the best
Gav & Pete