Comedy Blogedy: How long have you been gigging in stand-up?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: I’ve been gigging since April 2010, when a comedian friend, Rob Deb, decided he was fed up of my constant banging on about how I was “going to give that a go at some point” and gave me a spot at a night he was running; it was a real ‘sh*t or get off the pot’ moment. Fortunately I managed to keep my nerves in check just enough that it wasn’t literal.
Comedy Blogedy: How would you describe your comedy?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: I’m a sexually desperate 28-year-old who watches a lot of Star Trek and Doctor Who and owns a number of Power Rangers action figures. My comedy reflects this.
Comedy Blogedy: Which comedians influence your comedy?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: I’d like to think that I’m an individual, just like everyone else. I grew up loving Jack Dee and Jasper Carrott, but I don’t think there’s much of them in my act; I actually look happy to be there most of the time, and I don’t have a Birmingham accent or a guitar. Richard Herring’s been a bit of an influence over the years, although I don’t think I’m too like him – especially now he’s happily married and seemingly comfortable in his life/career. I still have plenty of angst to burn.
There’s a lot of comics I admire, though; I love Peacock and Gamble (not like that), and Toby Hadoke’s Edinburgh show this year was fantastic. If I can even write a show half as good as that, then I probably won’t be nominated for the Foster’s Award.
Comedy Blogedy: Did you always want to go into comedy?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: Not at all; I always wanted to go into space. It’s an ambition I’ve slowly downgraded as my waistline’s expanded and I’ve failed to secure the relevant academic qualifications; I went from astronaut for NASA to astronaut for the European Space Agency, before jumping down a notch to thinking maybe I could be the guy who presses the buttons that make the rocket go, and now I’ve arrived at stand-up comedy. It was either this or applying to be the guy who cleans the toilets.
Comedy Blogedy: How do you go about writing your material?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: Usually by doing anything but writing my material first; I’ve always been a terrible procrastinator. If I have to write new material for a specific gig, I’ll often spend a couple of days watching a DVD boxset or playing Lego Batman 2 on the Wii. Then the day before the gig I’ll panic, and go somewhere with no internet and no graphic novels to distract me. Then once my phone and iPod batteries have both died, the creative process can begin.
My best – and worst – ideas seem to come to me shortly before I go to sleep at night. I’ve started keeping a notebook nearby so I can write them down, and there’s usually a 50:50 split between the good ideas and the absolute mind-numbing drivel. I still have the phrase ‘stalking former Blockbusters contestants’ written down in my notebook; it’s probably for the best that I never think too deeply about where that one came from.
Comedy Blogedy: Do you gig as a stand-up full time or is it more of a part-time hobby? If so, do you find that your main job influences your material?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: Gigging is a part-time hobby for me at the moment, as I don’t yet earn nearly enough from it to pay the bills (My landlady refuses to accept positive comments from audience members as a form of currency) and moving back in with my parents isn’t the option that it seems to be for a lot of open spots.
That said, I’m starting to pick up more paid spots, and hope to continue the trend; I was fortunate enough to do well in a couple of competitions towards the end of 2012 – I reached the final of Up the Creek’s One to Watch competition and won the Comedy Cafe’s New Act of 2012 competition, so who knows what the future holds?
My day job involves an office and a database, so it does influence my stand-up in that my creative juices are bottled up during the day and unleashed at night; I’m a bit like Matilda from Matilda in that respect, but Tim Minchin probably isn’t going to write any songs about me. I will ask if I meet him, though.
Comedy Blogedy: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the amateur comedy circuit?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: The most enjoyable bit of it is that it gets me out of the house and meeting people, because I don’t have a large social circle for some reason (I have tried joining various sci-fi clubs over the years, but my various theories on Star Trek continuity tend to be too radical for them). I’ve met some great people on the circuit, and they are the most enjoyable bit; that and all the laughing.
I have also met some utter pillocks though, and they are one of the most frustrating bits. Another thing that frustrates me is when you flirt with an audience member on stage and she seems really up for it, but then you go up to her and say hello afterwards and she says she was just ‘playing along with the joke’. If you are an audience member, DO NOT DO THIS PLEASE; it’s not fair on the acts, many of whom will be telling jokes about being single and desperate whilst actually being single and desperate. Also, I don’t like the gigs where you turn up and it’s just five people and a dog in the audience, and the dog is the most appreciative one.
Other than that, it’s great.
Comedy Blogedy: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: It seems like an obvious answer, but I love playing to geeks. Whilst I try where I can to tone my stuff down so that ignorant people (or ‘normal people’, as my dad calls them) can still appreciate the humour and laugh along as if they understand, there’s nothing better than being able to go all out with jokes about the things I know (and arguably care) most about in life, like Klingon mating rituals and the fact that the Daleks in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie sound uncannily like Smurfs. I’ve been lucky enough to get involved with some gigs that have allowed me to do just that, and it’s always great fun.
Comedy Blogedy: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started gigging? Do you enjoy being heckled? What’s the best heckle you’ve had?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: I don’t get many heckles. I’d like to think this is because I’m a fantastic comedian, but actually I think most audiences just reckon I’ve suffered enough already. Whenever I do get heckled, it tends to be by people who think they know more than I do about geeky things; they are almost always wrong in that assumption.
Dealing with hecklers can be fun, but every now and then one comes along that’s just so unexpected it throws you completely off your game. A few months ago I was doing a gig in Ealing, and the audience were almost entirely middle-aged and very middle class. It was a surprise, then, when a very respectable-looking woman in her late forties shouted the word “Hentai!” during one of my jokes. I’ll leave it to the readers to find out for themselves what Hentai is, but I wouldn’t recommend googling it at work; suffice to say, it was the absolute last thing I was expecting to hear.
Comedy Blogedy: What advice would you give to new acts thinking about starting out in comedy?
Pete Dillon-Trenchard: A couple of years in, I still don’t really feel like I’m qualified to give advice. So, like I do in most situations where I feel a bit uncomfortable, I’m going to resort to quoting Yoda from Star Wars:
‘Fear is the path to the dark side’ - Never be afraid to try something new. It might be awful, and you’ll work that out pretty quickly from the angry stares. But it might be brilliant. There’s a lot of acts doing the same sort of thing on the open mic circuit; you’ll get noticed quicker if you think outside the box. But don’t do geeky stuff – there’s enough of us doing that already and we famously hate confrontation.
‘Ready are you? What know you of ready?’ – You may think you’re good enough to be doing paid spots, and 20 minutes at pro nights, but unless you’re getting regularly booked for them, truth is you’re probably not good enough. Work on your craft and don’t get ahead of yourself; you’ll only annoy promoters and your fellow acts. (see also ‘That’s great, kid, now don’t get cocky’)
‘Around the survivors, a perimeter create!’ – F**k knows. But never do jokes about the short-lived 1995 Power Rangers spin-off series Masked Rider. Even the geeks in the audience won’t really get it.