Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards ‘Best Newcomer’ Nominee ‘Dane Baptiste’ is performing his debut hour at Soho Theatre from 26th – 31st January. These are exclusive interviews with Dane so you can find out more about one of the most exciting and emerging talents in comedy.
So Dane, having done thousands of gigs – what was your first ever gig like?
My first gig was pretty good. There was quite a significant string of events that lead up to it. I was newly single and had my weekends free. I went to a comedy club with my friends, and one of them spoke to the promoter on my behalf. He said “You’ve got two weeks to do five minutes”. I spent those two weeks trying to write the funniest stuff that I could think of – and failed. It was only with about four days to go and the demise of a rebound relationship I was in that allowed me to concentrate on things that I actually felt at the time, and the truth felt like it was funnier.
This gig also turned out to be some weird school reunion, as well as having a large amount of people from my hood in South London, (yes hood, it was that type of show) showing up for that night. With that added pressure, that five minute set flew by, and I was sure that I’d found my calling.
Since then, having people I grew up with in the audience has always been the best motivation to keep me on my toes, as failure amongst my peers would me entering the witness protection programme. (Note: This gig created a false sense of greatness, and I bombed spectacularly later that year, my ego needed years of physiotherapy, and I was what I called ‘covered in boos’ some of which I still find under my fingernails today.)
How have you found that your material has changed since you first started gigging?
I’ve done a lot of work on both the black and mainstream circuit, so I’ve always challenged myself to craft material that would work for the diverse groups of people that are patrons to both of these circuits. This means constantly creating material that is relatable, original and not patronising, while still being funny because apparently I’m more masochistic than self-deprecating.
I think that as my comedy career has allowed me to widen my horizons through travelling and interacting with such a diverse range of acts and audience members; in turn the topics I cover in my material has been able to become lot more diverse. I’ve encountered a number of different people with varying ideas on the world both on and off stage, which has meant that I’ve had to do the research to see where their perspective comes from. This has allowed me to learn more about these sub-categories of society, and have new concepts form from new ways of thinking. Also being that the comedy scene has grown so much; the possibility of people having ideas for jokes that are similar to your own is a substantial risk; so I’ve worked to make sure the punchlines are so unique that they can only be a component of my set.
Are there any comedians that influence your comedy? How and to what extent does it influence your writing and performance?
I think I’d be worryingly conceited if there wasn’t! I have always loved comedy since I was a child and would like to think my ‘act’ is an amalgam of all of the various comedic influences I have a pre-comedy and post comedy list, in terms of the people that helped to push me in the direction of doing stand up. I also have a post-comedy list of acts that I’ve worked with/watched that continue to inspire to work harder and create better. That being said, I can’t list them all, because I feel that I take something from each performer that I see and enjoy!
Pre-Stand Up: Richard Pryor, Paul Mooney, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Hale and Pace, French and Saunders, Lenny Henry, Roseanne Barr, Russ Abbott, Bob Monkhouse, Richard Blackwood, Victoria Wood, Paul Whitehouse, Dave Chappelle, CHRIS ROCK, Russell Peters, Harry Enfield etc
Post-Stand Up: Hannibal Burress, Holly Walsh, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Celia Pacquola, Benny Boot, Danny ‘Slim’ Gray, Nabil Abdulrashid, Josh Howie, Hal Cruttenden, Simon Evans, Romesh Ranganathan, Lonely Island, Michael Che, Dick Gregory, Patrice O’Neal, Evelyn Mok, Darius Davies, Ola Gbaja Biamila, and all the other comics I work with have an influence on my work.
The amount of new and original material that you generate is rather astonishing. Do you have a process that you go about when you write your material? What advice would you give to other comedians and comedy writers who might struggle with writer’s block?
I don’t know if I can really describe a process; I’m just aware that I come up with the majority of it before I go to bed, en route to gigs and in the shower, so now I’ve had to start taking a phone in the shower so as to not miss anything. My advice to other comedians and writers is to have writing tools at the point where they are most reflective. That can be at any time, or under the influence of ‘creativity stimulating substances’. I also find going over old material with newer, more learned eyes is a good way to get new material out of what may have been old ground.
You perform at a huge variety of gigs, all over the country and to a wide demographic of audience. Does this affect your performance at all?
Not exactly. I make it a point of principle to keep the same material, as most audiences at their core as individuals have the same emotions before the layer of socially suggested labels of race, class and sexual orientation. I do try and have an opener in my set which lets the audience know that I am aware I am a foreigner in your land, and that you have your customs, but here are a series of things that will require you to transcend the first barrier which are the borders of your city/town/country.
I’ll also change the delivery in terms of pace and pitch; as this can make a huge difference to people who may not speak English as a first language, or have a different dialect. Growing up in Lewisham, South East London, the use of slang changes when you go to North London, which you have to be aware of, so that nothing is lost in translation. I also mumble anyway, so it’s good practice for me to pronounce and project. I have a weird voice anyway, so it’s good to distinguish myself by letting everyone know that my voice never fully broke – hooray.
There are several viewpoints about whether a comedian should gig every night of the week or be more selective about the gigs they choose to do. You’re an act that gigs every night of the week and often performs at several gigs each night. Why do you think it’s important to do this? How has it affected your growth as a performer?
I’m not sure about the professional importance of gigging every night. I do it because I can honestly say I love it. I’ve never been musically inclined, but I have a lot of affinity for rapping, in that its spoken word with a rhythm, which is similar to stand up. I try to write on average three minutes of material that’s workable each week, as I feel that’s the equivalent of the output of a productive rapper.
I was brought up in an immigrant household, where working hard, with no breaks, particularly in the legal, clerical or medical profession was the direction I was pushed. I guess I try and alleviate my guilt by trying to apply that work ethic to comedy. It’s meant that I’ve been able to propel myself to a good position in comedy, where I have the experience and material to capitalise on the occasional great gig opportunity I’m offered.
A lot of people find the idea of stand-up quite terrifying because you might get heckled. Is this something you’ve experienced? What do you find is the best way to deal with a heckler?
The best way to deal with a heckler as a comic is to take a breath and look at who is speaking to you. I know that initially when someone breaks your stride whilst the adrenaline is pumping, there is a conflict between fight or flight, and you can become flustered. This can look bad because the crowd trusts you, and if you appear to lose control, they can lose their trust, and having a rapport without any trust is nigh impossible. Sometimes taking that time to digest what has been said in the same way the audience does with you is the best way to prepare a response for a heckler.
You always have to remember that this person is not braver than you are; making comments anonymously in darkness surrounded by friends/supporters without the pressure of success doesn’t take any courage. On the totem pole of scumbags, hecklers are above internet trolls, but below flashers.
Hecklers are usually frustrated comics, trying to see if they are funny enough to do it, and using you as their punchbag. Again, until they do anything about getting on stage, they are still the equivalent of the fat guy shouting at Sky Sports when the football is on; yes his friends agree, but the truth is if he could really do better – he would. With that in mind, the important thing is to remember that battles with hecklers are about egos, and the more training you have with being able to take a bruise to yours, the easier it is to damage someone else’s. Just roll with the punches.
There’s been a lot of discussion in the media about diversity on television and within entertainment. Have you found this has made an impact on your stand-up at all?
I don’t think it’s had a direct influence on my comedy at all. I’ve always strived to be unique in comedy, in that I’ve performed for predominantly black audiences, asian audiences and white audiences without changing the material, as I believe that the people I’m performing for are the same at their core.
Television however, by nature is about image – and aesthetic similar to my own hasn’t been seen on TV for over two decades. And while it hasn’t impacted my stand up so far as material; the responses from audiences are ones of positivity but also bewilderment that televised comedy formats don’t reflect the diversity seen at live shows.
The viewpoint that TV currently offers is very narrow; so much to the point that a ‘one woman on the panel’ became a requisite for that type of show to continue. I won’t go into conspiracy theory, but the statistics speak for themselves, and much like England/Britain’s other sources of national pride, like its football, failure to incorporate and nurture diversity into their power structures will just lead to a steady decline.
You’re taking your debut hour of stand-up ‘Citizen Dane’ to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. How have you found the process of writing and constructing an hour’s solo show? How does it compare to writing shorter sets that you might perform at a club?
I have found it fun and stressful at the same time. My first draft of my show was done in November, and at the time was a ‘Frankenstein of my comedic gold’, but after seven months of previews and previewing the show in four countries, it’s become something completely different. It’s gone from an artificial pastiche of my previous sets to an organic, fully functional show, and I’m happy about that.
The show is about me introducing myself to the industry, festival and the world, and it’s been a great experience. I don’t talk about my life and family in my usual sets; and this show covers all of that. A lot of the stories in there are based on true events, albeit embellished for comedic effect, but the majority of things in there are all flashbacks from my past where I said to myself, “If I survive this, I’ll tell the whole world what I witnessed”.
Citizen Dane is different to my club sets as, because it actually covers parts of my life, I have to deliver the material with the identical mindset I had at that time. This may involve assuming an infantile or adolescent manner which seems to work well, as it paints a more vivid picture. As I have more time to connect to the audience, and they are indulging me for more than the usual 20-25 minutes, I am trying to put as much as possible in there to create something almost cinematic.
Singing, choreographed dancing, thrills, chills, triumph, failure, war, famine, pestilence, death, and desserts all feature in my debut show. I’ve written about three shows in the process of crafting one, which has led to the stress and the recent gentrification of my chin by a few white hairs appearing in some of the richer parts. But as long as the show prospers, we can all co-exist.
Whilst the style of your material is more observational, there’s a real sense of your own perspective and experience in the topics you talk about, which audiences seem to find a strong connection with (and find very funny!). What would you want audiences to take away after seeing you perform?
My show is about the fact that until I did comedy, I never felt like I fit in with any of the social structures or situations I found myself in. That has been a trend that has continued throughout my entire life; and it has always been comedy which I’ve used as my sword and shield in order to survive in these conditions. My perspective has always been so unique because I’m never privy to the statement, “Ah just like me” whenever I get into a conversation with most people, so I’ve always had to talk about things from my own perspective, but do it in a way that people are able to relate to it despite having little to no knowledge of the situations that I’m describing.
I hope really that’s what happens wholesale to audiences after the show, that they feel they’ve learnt about me and found a parallel to an aspect of their own lives. But more than anything I hope that people that watch my show are entertained in a way that no other show at the Fringe is able to offer them, and that they see something that previous fringe offerings haven’t given them.
So far as older members; I’m hoping to revive nostalgia about a time when there was some diversity of acts on television, for younger people, parts of the show have social networks ablaze with new hashtags for some of the more original ideas, and for any industry that watch; they see a creative piece of my vision, and realise that this is essential for the evolution of the festival and the comedy industry as a whole. But I’d really like is for people to watch my show and let me know, “Yes Dane, you were completely right in that situation THEY were crazy, you’re a marine for handling that the way you did, you should write a book/go on tour/the world needs to hear this!”
Dane Baptiste: Citizen Dane at Soho Theatre
Mon 26 – Sat 31 Jan at 7pm
£10 Mon – Wed, £12.50 Thu – Sat
As someone addicted to comedy, each gig is another opportunity to find that laughter hit, that moment when you see talent and you think “this is why I love stand-up comedy. This is what it’s all about”.
That unique, raw and emerging comic voice that oozes confidence, creativity and commitment to an art that most often seems so simple. Alex Edelman is such a talent and his debut hour at the Edinburgh Fringe is a stunning display of how exciting it can be to watch an emerging writer and performer.
Alex has been performing comedy since he was 15-years-old, starting in the US and has now gigged all around the world. I asked Alex to write about some of his ‘local favourites’ in places he has performed.
An insight into the life of a comedian that you don’t often see on stage. I cannot recommend enough that you go and see him if he’s in a town near you.
For an exclusive feature written by Alex about his first gig and starting in stand-up comedy, click here:
For another exclusive feature written by Alex about his favourite locations around the world, click here:
Alex Edelman: Millenial at Soho Theatre
Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards ‘Best Newcomer’ Winner 2014
Tue 13 – Sat 31 Jan at 8.30pm (1hour)
£10 Tue 13 – Thu 15, £12.50 (£10) Mon – Thu, £15 (£12.50) Fri – Sat
CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
ZB: I caught the comedy bug my freshman year of college and never fully recovered. Now, it’s full-blown Comeditus, and the only relief is nonstop bits — good and bad.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
ZB: I used to do neuroscience research, so a lot of my jokes are about science and the brain, what a weird hunk of electric meat that is. Science can feel huge and inaccessible, so I love to find humor in relating science to daily life. I also try not to make mean jokes, except to myself. There’s enough wrong with me that I don’t need to go after anyone else yet.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
ZB: To be perfectly cliche: Jimmy Kimmel, George Carlin, Louis CK, John Mulaney, Hannibal Burress. To be less cliche, but more honest: Adam Wagner, Jon Millstein, Jamie Brew, Adam Weinrib, Will Ruehle, Sam Helman, Nik Gonzales, Luke Kelly-Clyne, Lauren Ireland.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
ZB: Let’s just say that my Bar-Mitzvah was Jewish Comedian-themed.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
ZB: Anytime a dumb idea pops up, I write it down in a notebook that I carry in my back left pocket. Whenever I fill one up, I funnel all these thoughts into various documents on my computer (SketchIdeas.docx, StandupIdeas.docx, TreatiesOfVersailles.docx, etc.). I flesh out the ideas that still make me laugh, and then perform the best one or two that might actually be funny. Only the best ones make it through alive, Hunger Games-style. It’s really a natural selection of ideas.
CB: What impact has studying neuroscience had on your comedy?
ZB: Life-wise, I was on the medical school track doing research and everything, so by having this background, there’s more pressure to not blow my degree on the pursuit of yuks — the saddest name for comedy. Content-wise, it’s a juicy reservoir to draw from for jokes. Brains are so weird, have you ever looked at one? I love em.
CB: As a Segment Director for Jimmy Kimmel Live, do you find this work influences your comedy at all?
ZB: Oh yeah, being surrounded by the funniest humans all the time is nuts, I feel very fortunate just to be in the building and learn from them.
CB: You also write and perform sketches with Garlic Jackson – do you find that your process for writing sketch comedy differs to stand-up?
ZB: Mostly in terms of collaboration. Sketch is very group-focused, from concept to stage and it evolves largely based on: what does the group find funny? Whereas stand up is more just you, naked, alone, and characterless: what do you find funny?
CB: As well stand-up and sketch comedy, you’re also a filmmaker and your work has been part of the official selection for many international film festivals. Do you find there is a difference writing and directing comedy for short films as opposed to your work in other comedic mediums?
ZB: With sketch, stand up, satire, etc., everything is in pursuit of the next joke. It’s rapid-fire. Bang bang bang. I love it, but it relies on more stock characters to get there. Film audiences don’t have the same jokes-per-minute expectations, so you can sit with characters longer and flesh them out. And then when you do land on a joke, it’s such sweet sweet release.
CB: Do you have a favourite venue to perform in?
ZB: There are two: 1) The PIT in NYC is where Garlic Jackson began its live show. They just gave us an hour every month and let us do our thing, so we were able to experiment and get a lot weirder and do these random visual jokes that are very hard to describe in a script or without an audience to interact with. I miss it dearly. 2) Lower Solomon auditorium at Brown University, the first place I ever did stand up and then continued to every month until I graduated. It’s really where I became a person, and the audiences there were so onboard and loving. I would marry that room if I could.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
ZB: Enjoyable — You meet the coolest, smartest, most compassionate, talented people in the world. Frustrating — You meet the lamest, dumbest, most self-absorbed, talentless people in the world.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
ZB: College crowds. They’re usually right with you and DTL (down to laugh).
CB: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started gigging? Do you enjoy being heckled? What’s the best heckle you’ve had?
ZB: Not really. Mostly from my inner monologue as I try to fall asleep.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
ZB: Always hate the last thing you did. The next thing will be better for it.
Ben Rosen is a stand-up comedian based in New York and a Creative for Buzzfeed.
CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
BR: It was actually exactly 5 years last week. Woo.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
BR: Terrible. Just kidding. Well… sometimes. This is always the hardest question for me to answer because I’ve never liked putting myself in any specific category. I feel like that just puts limitations on what I’m supposed to do. My goal with comedy has always been to use humor to change the way someone thinks about something. In my opinion, that’s where the power of the art is.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
BR: There’s so many great ones out there. Off the top of my head: Dave Attell, Chris Rock, Dave Chapelle, Mitch Hedberg. I actually saw Pete Holmes live and don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in a while.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
BR: Absolutely. I’m not making this up – when I was 5 years old, my report card from my pre-school teacher said “Ben loves to tell jokes and write his own name.” I still do… on both accounts.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
BR: I prefer to do it with pressure. Having an important show is the quickest way for me to get to the meat of the jokes. To find concepts for material, it’s about having the antenna up at all times. I space out constantly. When I think of something weird or different, I jot it down. To work out the wording of a joke – this is going to sound psychotic – I actually put my ear buds in and walk around the city talking to myself as if I’m on the phone with someone. I know that sounds crazy haha but it works. Sometimes I slip in a pause as if the other person is talking to me… add in a “yea dude, totally.” It lets me try the joke out with some energy and passion and keeps the other pedestrians from calling the cops. I need a safe space to yell and move around and get worked up. When I lived in Baltimore, I could work my bits out in the car, but now I don’t have one.
CB:As a Creative for BuzzFeed, how do you find this work influences your comedy?
BR: It helps so much. At first, I was weary about having a job like this because I thought creativity was like a battery that would need to recharge. I didn’t want to burn out during the day and have nothing left for stand-up. That’s not the case at all. The better analogy is that it’s a muscle that you work out. The more you work on it, the better you get.
CB: You perform stand-up comedy all around the U.S. How do you find different states compare?
BR: The biggest difference I’ve noticed is that audiences in major cities like LA and New York are built for speed. They want to hear your jokes and they don’t want any extra words. Smaller cities love good stories… and poop jokes. My hometown just cannot get enough poop jokes.
CB: Do you find that you have to change your material at all for different areas of the country?
BR: A little. There are some references that don’t really have the same weight when I travel around. I was surprised how few people knew what AirBnB was.
CB: Do you have a favorite venue to perform in?
BR: There’s a place in Manhattan called “The Metropolitan Room.” It’s primarily a jazz room but they do a few comedy nights. It seats about 100 people and with the low ceiling, the laughs just stack on top of each other. It’s always a fun show.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
BR: I don’t think I could overstate how fortunate I feel being associated with all of the impossibly talented, hardworking, courageous, brilliant people in the comedy industry. It’s really something special. Now as far as the downside goes, I wouldn’t put it in the “frustrated” category yet, but I’m definitely concerned about how few people follow comedians’ careers. People take pride in knowing a band before they become huge, but there aren’t many people who care about a working comedian until their famous. I just wish more people got to know the comics when they were young. We’re really accessible!… and funny… and we smell good.
CB: Do you find that the New York comedy scene is the most competitive city to get on the bill for or would you say other cities are more competitive?
BR: In my experience, yeah. That’s why so many people move here. Look, I was starting to get steady work at the clubs in Baltimore before I moved and it was just my first year doing it. There’s more clubs in NYC, but there’s also a lot more comics and the audiences have a low tolerance for inexperienced comedians. If you move to New York and you’re not already a household name, expect to muck around at the open mics for the next couple of years. Muck is a English term for the f word, I believe.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
BR: Any audience that is willing to have some fun. I can’t stand self-righteous audiences who come to a show with their arms crossed. Dude, when did we become SO sensitive? You can feel it. Everyone is ready to pounce all over the comedians just so they can write an angry blog post and get a few twitter followers. I had one girl tell me that I shouldn’t joke about heroin. Why are you protecting heroin? You’re saying I can make fun of myself but heroin gets a pass? Fuck heroin.
CB: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started gigging? Do you enjoy being heckled?
BR: I think that’s a bit of a misconception. Most people don’t heckle, at least not in the way you think they do. Occasionally I’ll get some helpers. You know, people who shout something out because they want to help you finish your jokes during the pauses. It’s certainly not the best when you’re working out the kinks on a new bit, but to be honest, I love playing around with the audience. People who yell out at a comedy show usually fall to pieces when you ask them a follow up question.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
BR: If you’re going to do it, make sure you’re really hard on yourself before you get on stage. Ask yourself if you really think people are going to laugh at those words you wrote down. Would you actually laugh out loud if you heard someone say that? Is it surprising enough? Is it clever? When you get on stage, you should expect no laughs. Know that you are going to hear silence and you’ll be happy with whatever extra you get. Also, if you get famous… please book me on a show.
I remember the first time I saw Katherine Ryan – it was in Edinburgh at the Pleasance where she performed her debut hour, ‘Little Miss Conception’. I sat on the front row and was so excited by this new fresh talent that articulated an honesty I hadn’t quite heard in a while. The show was full of songs, photos of Katherine from childhood through to adolescence, and a wealth of both savvy yet sassy, unique comedy.
Over the past few years, as Katherine has made increasingly more appearances on TV and is now a favourite on many panel shows, often this mainstream popularity can dampen the initial creativity that made talent so exciting when they started out. However, it couldn’t be more encouraging that Katherine’s stand-up has retained the same raw and brutal honesty that I loved so much when I first saw her perform.
Hers is a comic voice and style that has now evolved with a much more satirical bite; analysing contemporary pop culture and commenting on the not-so-often-heard commentary regarding the general awkwardness of celebrity lifestyle all performed with the same energy and conviction as is embedded into each and every punch-line.
Katherine’s skill at being able to discuss the frivolous nature of modern media whilst fluidly moving to serious and often controversial issues, particularly for women, is a skill not to be ignored. There’s a real heart and warmth to her stand-up, a consistent personal sensibility and sharing of her own experiences, which shows there is just as much substance to her very confident style too.
Katherine is currently on a national tour, which also includes excellent comedians providing support, so you can see this very funny comedian as well as some of the best emerging talent.
Click here for tickets to Katherine Ryan’s ‘Glam Role Model’ tour and see her in action.
CB: How did you get into directing comedy?
TD: As with lots of things, directing comedy just sort of happened… I really never meant it to. I just made things that I liked and made me laugh and then suddenly realized that most of my films sit on the verge of comedy (be it fairly dry and awkward). Then I started directing films for the Pleasance Theatre and have since had the wonderful chance to work with some superb comedians.
CB: Did you always want to make films?
TD: Not at all! I always wanted to be IN films! I got into making animation and then film came naturally as a result. Somewhere along the way I realised I preferred being in control of the film and telling actors what to do rather than acting.
CB: Have you found your work is influenced by any particular directors or filmmakers?
TD: Absolutely! David Lynch is maybe an obvious one, but a big influence. As I started with animation, I was always infatuated Wallace and Gromit (Nick Park) and Tim Burton and then later Henry Selick and Adam Elliot – both fantastic stop-frame animation directors! More recently it’s been Wez Anderson, Ben Wheatley and Paul Thomas Anderson. They all have a dark wit and intriguing outlook on life.
CB: Having studied Illustration at university, how have you found this has impacted on your comedy filmmaking?
TD: An Illustration degree was the best thing I ever did! It’s so broad and varied and teaches you to think, examine and deconstruct everything around you. Illustration is looking at something, working out what’s interesting and intriguing and then visualizing it! And that’s what comedy is I suppose… finding something interesting or funny in everyday life.
CB: You were also the director of Pleasance TV at the Edinburgh Fringe this year – how was your experience of the Edinburgh Fringe in this capacity?
TD: Working at the Edinburgh Festival was the best thing I ever did! (as well as Illustration…)
This year was my 6th year working for the Pleasance and my second directing Pleasance TV. Like a lot of people I go back reluctantly but wouldn’t really rather be anywhere else! Making films at the festival is fantastic though. Especially working with the Pleasance as there is an incredible wealth of performers, all excited to make things and do as much as possible in the manic month. Making films at the festival makes you feel part of the creative community there, which is really exciting especially when you get the chance to work with the likes of Tim Key – or at one point Tim Key and Bo Burnham!
CB: You’re currently running a Kickstarter campaign with composer Joss Holden-Rea for a film musical called Altern-i-life. It’s described as a story about “the residents of a small English town and the strange parallel lives they lead in an online world”. What inspired you to make this film?
TD: Well, both Joss and I are huge Musical fans and we didn’t know of many others so we clung together and decided to make one! Altern-i-life is inspired by the town I grew up in (Dursley, Gloucestershire) and by the absurdist British films and TV such as Sightseers and League of Gentlemen.
It came from the ridiculousness of how much time we all spend on Facebook comparing our fake lives to other people’s fake lives. This internet life is something that everyone experiences to some degree, but some take it to a whole other level of commitment and obsession – like the users of Second Life.
CB: What interests and excites you about the collaboration between film and musicals that interests you?
TD: There just aren’t that many short musical films – it doesn’t happen very often or at all. So that’s exciting – seeing if it’s something people like and can relate to.
Film also allows you to fine tune and perfect a performance without any hint of it feeling tired. It’s the worst when you see a theatre performance that seems tired and over performed (not that it happens very often). I like higher level of control and attention that you can put into film.
CB: There is a strong interactive element to the film – what interests you in the relationship that multimedia and technology have with comedy and filmmaking?
TD: I think it’s really exciting when something is interactive and playful with its format. It drags you into it and becomes more like a game! It also means you have more of an input in what you want to see which is nice.
Lots of my favorite live performances have been immersive and experiential theatre and comedy and so it’s nice to try and translate this into something that does a similar thing online. A little like the sensation of www.takethislollipop.com.
Good film is also not exclusive to feature films anymore. TV and online series have become more and more prevalent and respected as good and important pieces of work.
CB: At the heart of the project, your aim is to introduce wider audiences to musicals through the online world. Do you think a technological experience of a musical is more apt for younger generations or do you think it would enhance audience’s interest in the traditional medium?
TD: It’s really interesting, if you ask the vast majority of people if they like musicals, the answer is ‘NO’. But then you say, ‘What about Mary Poppins? Or Greece? Or Oliver?’ and suddenly it’s ‘Oh yes, well I like those’. The ‘Musical’ is a huge genre that people often think of as cheesy American over dramatic theatre, but it’s just not!
Film is incredibly accessible – more so than theatre because we spend so much time already at our computers – and it’s free (or this one will be). This film is also dark, modern and very English and hopefully is a slight expansion of the genre that might reach a wider less Musical-ly inclined audience! Imagine ‘This is England’ meets ‘The League of Gentlemen’ meets ‘Singing in The Rain’…
It’s important to us that it’s free and that it’s online because we really want it to be as accessible as possible and so yes, hopefully making a musical that people can access online and without going to the theatre will introduce more people to the diversity of the Musical!
CB: How can people get involved with the film?
TD: Altern-i-life is a story about living online. Therefore, we really want it to be completely funded by, and experienced through, the Internet.
We launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money to make the film and made the most ambitious trailer we could to show that it’s going to be interesting!
You can support us by pledging anything you can and sharing the project to anyone you know (really even £1 makes a huge difference). If you pledge you get some great prizes, for £1 you can watch us and call us 24h and for £1000 we’ll write and make you your own musical number (but there are loads of prizes in between!)
Georgia Sharp is an Assistant Agent at JLA and writes exclusively for Comedy Blogedy about the corporate comedy world.
As an employee of speaker bureau JLA, my 9-5 is spent booking guest speakers for corporate events. Although the 25 of us in the office keep abreast of all industries in order to fit the briefs we’re given (think guest speakers from the fields of science, politics, business and beyond), a significant amount of our time is also spent researching, watching, advising on and booking comedy. Our annual Real Variety Show is renowned for showcasing the best new corporate-friendly comedy and variety talent around, so we’re all feverishly and constantly searching for the Next Big Thing.
In a nutshell, our corporate client base expects us to locate and book the best and most appropriate talent possible for their event. Comedy-wise, this usually means finding humorous guest speakers, cabaret acts or hosts, largely for awards ceremonies, parties or dinners. Occasionally, we’re called upon to find suitably amusing guest speakers to round off a heavy day of conferences.
The countdown to Christmas is our busiest time – we’re now deep into the end-of-year awards and party season – and so at the moment I’m checking the availabilities of heaps of guest speakers and acts every day. Whilst August is a quiet month in London for comedy owing to the Edinburgh Festivals and everyone taking their summer holidays, come 1st September, the phones go mad as clients begin to think about adding value to their events via a little festive cheer. Sometimes our clients have specific guest speakers or acts very firmly in mind, but more often than not, our job is to compile options which we feel fit the bill.
We’ll book guest speakers and acts for events with a budget of a few hundred pounds, through to servicing pockets with tens of thousands to spare for top performers (and hundreds of thousands is not unheard of). As such, you’ll see that our ever-expanding roster features the biggest names in comedy, but also tonnes of up-and-coming acts – ‘old-school’ ones, too – alongside the established artists.
We book guest speakers and acts for events big and small, functional and glitzy, serious and light-hearted, low key and high profile, and everything in between and beyond. There are fees to negotiate, scripts to work on, briefing calls to diarise, and complex travel and technical logistics to plot. We might have many months for this meticulous planning, or merely hours to fill a last-minute cabaret spot or replace a pull-out.
So, what are we looking for in corporate comedians or guest speakers? Well, as indicated above, it’s certainly not a case of one-corporate-comedian-fits-all. Different events require different talent, and it’s more of a common sense approach. It boils down to finding acts that really, genuinely make us howl with laughter (and we’ve seen so many comedians that it’s rare and exciting when this happens). We really like originality, so if you’re different, distinctive, and decent, we’re interested. You’ll also need an extra-thick skin to cope with and charm the capricious corporate audience. Sometimes delightful, sometimes frustrating: to survive the difficult times you’ll need serious skill to soften stony-faces and reel in those more interested in absorbing the aperitifs than the prescribed entertainment.
It’s true that swearing profusely is generally a no-no (although whilst dropping the ‘C-bomb’ is more or less out of the question, there’s room for well-judged profanity within the right context). I’d also tread carefully with controversial subjects – listen to the brief, understand the limits, and act accordingly. Flagrantly offending the CEO of a major business with a particularly crude, crass or juvenile gag probably won’t help you land a repeat booking. It can be helpful to incorporate a cleverly tailored gag or two, but we’ll rarely, if ever, ask a comedian to explicitly alter their approach or content for an event. Acts are booked because they’re already a perfect fit, and it’ll likely fall flat if they try too hard to accommodate a client in this way.
Ultimately, and without wishing to deploy cliché, it’s simply that indefinable star quality – you ‘just know’ when you see something special and ‘corporate’. So, if you think you’re side-splittingly hilarious, unique, clean and respectful of your audience, we want to hear from you! Be pro-active, and don’t wait for us to discover you – send us clips, invite us to gigs, and show us what you’re made of.
After six sell out Edinburgh Festival runs to huge critical acclaim, the UK’s premiere improv comedy troupe, The Noise Next Door (Tom Houghton, Charlie Granville, Matt Grant, Tom Livingstone and Sam Pacelli) will be touring the UK. They have been performing since 2006 and have appeared on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Sketchorama’, performed alongside Harry Hill, Al Murray and Jason Manford, and were the first international group to perform at FRACAS, the improv festival in California. Having received standing ovations in front of corporate diners, the British forces, secondary school students and even fans at ‘Download’ the heavy metal music festival, they are definitely one of the most versatile acts in the business.
Hugely talented, very quick, incredibly creative and, not least, very funny, The Noise Next Door are one of the most exciting emerging acts in comedy. Buy tickets if they’re in a town near you!
Tour dates are as follows:
Thursday 8th BRISTOL, The Lantern
Wednesday 21st COLDFIELD, Comedy Junction
Friday 23rd CAMBRIDGE, Junction
Sunday 1st WORTHING, Drama Hall
Thursday 5th BROMSGROVE, Artrix
Saturday 28th EASTBOURNE, St Lukes
Wednesday 24th NOTTINGHAM Comedy Festival
Wednesday 1st MAIDSTONE – Hazlitt Theatre
Friday 3rd ENFIELD -Dugdale Centre
Saturday 4th STAFFORD – Gatehouse
Thursday 9th BRIGHTON- Komedia,
Friday 10th EPSOM Playhouse
Sunday 12th HARROGATE Harrogate Theatre
Thursday 16th WARWICK – Warwick Arts,
Saturday18th CARNAFON – Galerl
Thursday 23rd HARLOW Playhouse
Friday 24th DARTMOUTH The Flavel
Friday 31st Oct MILLOM Beggars Theatre
Thursday 6th ALDERSHOT West End Centre
Friday 7th CARDIFF Millennium Centre
Friday 14th BATH Komedia
Saturday 15th WOLVERHAMPTON Civic Hall
Tuesday 18th DERBY Darwin
Thursday 20th CHELTENHAM Pillar Room
Friday 21st SOUTHEND Palace Theatre
Saturday 22nd COLCHESTER Arts centre
Sunday 23rd CANTERBURY Gulbenkian
Thursday 27th BRISTOL Hen and Chicken
Friday 28th NEW MILTON Forest Arts
Saturday 29th FARNHAM The Maltings
Wednesday 3rd FAREHAM Ashcroft Arts centre,
Monday 8th MANCHESTER Comedy Store
Friday 19th EXMOUTH Pavillion, Exmouth
Saturday 20th TIVERTON – TCAT
Sunday 21st IVYBRIDGE Stowford Hal
‘It’s very rare to see improv comedy so consistently hit the mark THE LIST
‘Pure Genius’ FRINGE REVIEW
‘The sheer volume of laughter this show produced was astonishing’ EDINBURGH EVENING STANDARD
‘A multi-talented behemoth of improve comedy…. Brilliant’ FRINGE GURU
‘Masterpiece’ THREE WEEKS
‘Astonishing’ EDINBURGH EVENING NEWS
SEE THE NOISE NEXT DOOR IN ACTION:
Accessibility is one of the toughest aspects of stand-up comedy. The circuit caters for all tastes, opinions and styles. But as mental or mainstream as an act intends for their set – do the audience get it? Can they follow a comedian’s logic to the point where they form some kind of connection with what they’re saying or observing to produce laughter or even a smile?
Andrew Ryan is an Irish comedian, who started gigging in 2008 and is now one of the most exciting emerging talents in comedy and in demand as both an act and an MC at the biggest comedy clubs around the UK and Ireland.
Andrew’s quintessentially Irish storytelling abilities and cheeky, friendly demeanour make him a natural observational stand up. He has supported both Justin Moorhouse and Terry Alderton on their UK tours and performed his debut hour show ‘Ryanopoly’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2012, receiving rave reviews (‘Illuminating debut ★★★★’ – The Metro). Andrew performed his latest show ‘Life of Ryan’ at the Edinburgh Festival in August 2014.
Andrew has performed stand-up on BBC3’s Russell Howard’s Good News and BBC3’s Edinburgh Comedy Fest Live and has appeared as a guest on Sky Sunrise and as a regular panelist on BBC Radio.
Sara Shulman is the Founder and Editor of Comedy Blogedy, TEDxUCL Speaker on ‘The Power of Funny’, specialist comedy blogger for Ticketmaster and blogger for The Huffington Post. Sara was the former Head of Comedy at UCLU Rare FM and produces the Comedy Blogedy podcast ‘Humour Me’. Sara is currently a student at the National Film & Television School and has produced online comedy sketches and short films.
Photo Credit: Andy Hollingworth
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