Comedy Blogedy and Angel Comedy first invited Second City to teach and perform in London just over a year ago and what a dream it’s been over the past two weeks to see classes bursting with improv talent ready to be nurtured. From complete beginners learning the very basics of improv right through to the advanced level classes, honing their sketch and character skills, building scenes, reconstructing them and making them even funnier than the last time, it’s been an incredible experience watching so many people explore a new way of developing their talents.
With classes in the day, in the last week there was an Angel Comedy Improv Week spectacular, which included performances from The Noise Next Door, Abandoman, Max and Ivan, Showstoppers and Austentatious. The Second City Players (Kevin Frank, Lisa Merchant and Jason DeRosse) performed with some of the best improvisers in the UK delighting Angel Comedy audiences in some very special shows.
Thank you to everyone that took classes, whether it was a full week intensive or drop-in masterclasses on the weekend, the press that featured this venture, everyone that came to see the shows and the whole team at Angel Comedy who have helped behind the scenes.
We hope that either studying or watching the principles of improv will help you get more from your work and more from the laughter – whether it’s stand-up and sketch or business and leisure or even a simple conversation where ‘Yes…and’ makes it even more entertaining.
So in short, thanks everyone who was a part of Second City’s visit to London and thanks Second City!
Photo: Jason DeRosse (Second City), Barry Ferns (Angel Comedy), Sara Shulman (Comedy Blogedy), Lisa Merchant (Second City), Kevin Frank (Second City)
Some of the press that featured Second City:
SWAG, a short silent comedy film, written by and starring Musical Comedy Award Winner 2014 David Elms, directed by Matt Holt and produced by Sara Shulman has won ‘Best Foreign Short’ at the LA Indie Film Festival.
The soundtrack for the film, written by emerging composer Gabriel Chernick, has won a Silver Medal at the Global Music Awards for Outstanding Achievement.
The film has also been accepted into the Cannes Film Festival Court Métrage (Short Film Corner) and will be available in the digital library as well as screening booths during the Cannes Film Festival in May.
Sara Shulman, who produced the short film, said: “We are absolutely delighted that the film and soundtrack have received awards. Everyone in Team SWAG has put a huge amount of effort into the film and we are so pleased that individual talents and the film as a whole have been recognised by the international film festival community.”
SWAG features some of the best new and emerging comedy talent in the UK, such as Ellie White, Adam Hess, Lolly Adefope, Rhys James, Natasia Demetriou, Phil Wang, Pierre Novellie, Patrick Turpin, Alex Owen, Ben Ashenden, Jack Barry, Orry Gibbens, Stevie Martin, Liz Smith, Adam Lawrence, Joe Bannister, Lizzie Daykin and Mark Davison, who received a ‘Best Supporting Actor’ nomination at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival for his role in the film.
David Elms was nominated for Best Actor at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival and Simon Elsbury was nominated for Best Cinematographer.
Poster designed by Imogen Lloyd
Graphics by Tom Lobo-Brennan
The 3rd annual LONDON SKETCHFEST
Friday 1st – Sunday 3rd May – The Cinema Museum – Elephant & Castle
Discovering Britain’s funniest alternative comedy London SketchFest returns for its third consecutive year, following two sell-out years with critical acclaim as the UK’s most exciting new national comedy festival.
Celebrating live, scripted comedy the festival shines a spotlight on the best and most exciting comedy acts, handpicked each year. Established in 2013 as an alternative to mainstream stand-up comedy festivals, SketchFest has gained a reputation for discovering unknown comedy talents – with a showcase of 12 unsigned acts performing in front of a panel of industry judges that includes Alex Hardy (the comedy editor for The Times), Kate Copstick (revered Scotsman comedy critic) amongst others. Many of its winners have since gone on to sign development deals for TV.
Alongside it’s Best New Act Competition the festival also boasts a Feature Series with established talent who can be found across TV and radio. It also has a film competition Sketch Screen highlighting the best new video comedy talent run in conjunction with COFILMIC comedy film festival. And for 2015 it’s introducing two new parts to its programme – the Solo Series featuring exciting character and single-performer acts and Sketch Scribe where aspiring sketch writers will get a chance to have their work performed by comedy troupes and win a mentor session with a leading comedy professional.
For 2015 the London Sketch Comedy Festival will be leaving its roots in East London and moving to the newly regenerated Elephant & Castle where it will take over The Cinema Museum for three days alongside a second stage at The Artworks, a newly launched container space.
Produced by The Laughing Guild, a not-for-profit organization setup to support and develop British comedy talent, the 2015 festival will be presenting some of the most exciting comedy acts on the circuit from the worlds of sketch, character and improv. Highlights include The Noise Next Door (BBC Taster), Late Night Gimp Fight (new Impractical Jokers), Hennessy & Friends (featuring Miranda Hennessy from Give Out Girls & Plebs), So On & So Forth (Radio 4), critically-acclaimed newcomers Massive Dad and winners from last year’s festival Gein’s Family Giftshop, In Cahoots and This Glorious Monster. With more acts still being confirmed it’s set to be the most exciting festival yet!
“…the best up-and-coming troupes gather for Sketchfest” THE INDEPENDENT (RADAR) 2014
“Sketchfest is a great way to see established and up-coming sketch acts alongside each other in the same night, or if your stamina is up to it, across the full festival” THE LONDONIST
“Presenting an impressive roster of well known sketch artists alongside some of the best up and coming comedians on the circuit, London Sketchfest is a long overdue platform for sketchtalent”THE LONDON WORD
‘London SketchFest threw up some pretty special talent – comedians who will be having a big impact very soon, if there’s any justice’ LONDON IS FUNNY
‘Weird, wide-ranging and whimsical, SketchFest reinvigorates a sketch scene increasingly overshadowed by all-conquering stand-up megastars. That can only be a good thing’ THE TELEGRAPH
‘SketchFest wins a battle for comic hearts and minds’ THE STAGE
‘Perfect for the YouTube generation’ EVENING STANDARD
Festival tickets = £65 Day Tickets = £25 Show Tickets = £14
All tickets are purchased on the website, using the festival’s e-commerce system.
Second City, the improv organisation that started the careers of performers such as Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler and John Belushi will be setting up shop in London’s own Angel Comedy in the heart of Islington in May to teach improv classes in the day and perform in the evening. This is the first time in their history. So who are the improv experts running the training classes?
Kevin is a writer, musician, improviser and has been a professional actor for 30 years. During this time, he has performed in over 60 television commercials and has had countless appearances on popular series television. Kevin hosted the nationally syndicated children’s game show Kidstreet for five years (350 episodes) and he enjoyed success as the host of Animal Planets’ Pet Project, which received 4 Gemini nominations, including Best Host in a Lifestyle & Information Program. He can also be heard as many of the voices in the Thomas the Tank Engine 1st feature movie.
Kevin began his career studying improvisational comedy with the Second City in Toronto. He rose through the ranks, eventually performing on the main stage at the Old Firehall. He is now Artistic Director of the Second City Training Centre and teaches improv to today’s new hopefuls. In the spring of 2014 Kevin had the pleasure of narrating a Children’s Story with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 9 sold out performances at Roy Thomson Hall. When Kevin isn’t improvising he can be found behind his drum kit keeping time for Glendale One. Their CD, Live at Asylum Artists is creating a buzz on the Indie scene. You can check them out on iTunes!
Lisa Merchant has been improvising and acting for 28 years. She is a multiple nominee and winner of numerous Canadian Comedy Awards. Lisa was one of the cast of the Gemini nominated Joe Blow Show. She created and produced Toronto’s longest running comedy festival, March of Dames. Some television credits include: Murdoch Mysteries, Train 48, Listen Missy, Go Girl!, to name a few.
Lisa performs monthly in Monkey Toast, the live improvised talk show, now in its 12th year. Lisa is an understudy for the highly acclaimed Women Fully Clothed. She is a 20+ year Senior Faculty member at The Second City Training Centre and corporate facilitator with The Second City Communications division. Additionally she is extremely proud to have delivered improvisation workshops to Canada’s Olympic Team hopefuls for the London 2012 Summer Games as well as Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
Jason DeRosse is the Canadian Comedy Award Winner 2013 for both Best Male Improviser and Best Improv Troupe (Mantown) . He is a recent alumni of the Second City Toronto where he wrote and performed in four amazingly-well received revues and five Second City Touring Company Shows.
Jason’s also an alumni of the Canadian Comedy Award winning troupe The Sketchersons and performed for over four years in their weekly show Sunday Night Live .
Currently on stage in Toronto you can find Jason with the improv juggernaut Mantown, the hilarious sketchprov troupe PB&J and the trio Maybe (Toronto Star has called them possibly the “…next generation of great Canadian Sketch Comedy”).
Jason DeRosse’s television highlights include: Meet The Family (currently on CityTV), Hotbox, Scare Tactics and Sketcherson TV.
His latest writing endeavours for television and film are with Toonbox Entertainment where he was nominated for his writing on The Beet Party and given a “Special Thanks” for the movie The Nut Job starring the voices of Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser and Katherine Heigl.
Apply for improv classes with Second City:
‘SWAG’ is a short silent comedy film written by and starring David Elms, directed by Matt Holt and produced by Sara Shulman.
Director’s Award at the North Carolina Film Festival
“Outstanding Quality Entertainment” – Patrick Manss, Program Director
Award of Merit at the San Francisco Film Awards
LA Indie Film Festival
Tickets: 9:30pm on 7th March 2015 – LA Premiere
Let Live Theatre
916 N. Formosa Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90046
Going South on Formosa from Santa Monica Blvd. it is the Blue Building at the end of the block. There is a 60 car parking lot that is on either side of the building feel free to park here. Additional street parking is available as well as parking in the Gateway Mall, home of Target.
Los Angeles Short Film Festival
Sunday, March 15th
The Promenade Playhouse
1404 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA 90401
6:30pm – 8:00pm
Eastern North Carolina Film Festival
David Elms for Best Actor – Los Angeles Short Film Festival
Mark Davison for Best Supporting Actor – Los Angeles Short Film Festival
Simon Elsbury for Best Cinematographer – Los Angeles Short Film Festival
Thank you to all the cast and crew for their hard work, time and effort, everyone that funded the film, attended the fundraising gigs and screening and supported the film!
Tash Demetriou, Pierre Novellie, Phil Wang, Patrick Turpin
Market Stall Owner
Adam Hess, Stevie Martin, Phoebe Walsh, Liz Smith, Rhys James, Lolly Adefope, Will Green, Tessa Coates
Lizzie Daykin, Adam Lawrence, Hamish Colville, Charles Lyons
Joe Bannister, Ben Ashenden, Alex Owen
Director of Phootgraphy
Additional Camera Assistants
Richard Perry, Oli Ford
Hair & Make Up
Art Department & Poster Design
Rob Morris, David Herd
Tom Lobo Brennan
With thanks to:
Adam Kay, Alex Pudney, Beth Aynsley, Emma Pawle, Gabi Herrett, Gilly Black, Henry Piechoczek, Janet French, Jasper Fry, Jennifer Priestley, John Galvin, Josh Lawton, Laura Sorenson, Neville Galvin, Ollie Black, Richard Elms, Richard Hanrahan, Rohan Acharya, Ryan Taylor & The Pleasance Theatre, Nicholas Flugge
A Dave Has Mates / Humour Me Production
Comedy Blogedy is incredibly excited to announce that, working in partnership with Angel Comedy, Second City are making their UK debut in May providing training courses and performing improv for two weeks in London!
“Second City is the best job anybody in the American Theatre can get. It’s incomparable. If you come through Second City training, I think you can do anything.” BILL MURRAY
“Second City was the happiest time of my life” TINA FEY
“That was really where I learned everything about comedy, performance, even about life.” STEVE CARELL
“I went from high school to Second City, and I felt like I got accepted to Harvard” MIKE MYERS
Second City is the organisation that started the careers of performers such as Bill Murray, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler and John Belushi and will be setting up shop in London’s own Angel Comedy in the heart of Islington.
Second City has spawned multiple comedy empires, almost everyone in the business of American Comedy has come through one of their courses over the past 50 years and is widely recognised as the most influential training centre for comedians, actors and directors alike.
For a limited run of two weeks at the beginning of May, UK performers will get the chance to take part in workshops aimed at teaching and honing the techniques and skills that have inspired so many prominent stars. The courses will be officially accredited from the Second City Training Centre taught by working professionals, all of which are former Second City performers themselves. As well as the classes, audiences will get the chance to see world-class improvisers perform nightly on the Angel Comedy Stage as part of the newly inaugural ‘Festival of Improvisation’.
“At its heart, The Second City is about collaborative creation – using the tools of improvisation to build something greater than the sum of its parts. The skills we develop make people better communicators, more versatile actors, better auditionees, and (we hope) funnier. We’re so excited to work with Angel Comedy and Comedy Blogedy to bring this program to London; home of so many of our comedy heroes.” KLAUS SCHULLER – Executive Director and Producer, Second City
“In my 30 years as an actor/writer/musician I have always relied on my Improv roots to be as creative and spontaneous as the situation needs. Whether I’m jamming with my band or delivering corporate training to top executives, the fundamental tools of Improv made good things happen.” KEVIN FRANK – Artistic Director, Second City
Angel Comedy is the newest and most exciting comedy club in London, it runs nightly and is now one of the most popular comedy clubs in London, and the UK. Most nights include last minute guests and announcements, you never know who might turn up, whether the newest comedy talent or your favourite TV stalwarts trying out new material. Angel Comedy was founded and is hosted by comedian Barry Ferns, (writer for E4, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 4, 2014 Spirit of the Fringe Award Winner and Chortle Award Nominated MC) from their home at The Camden Head in Angel, Islington, N1.
“We’re incredibly proud to be introducing Second City to the London comedy scene. Nurturing and training new comedy talent is at the core of what Angel Comedy does, and it’s what Second City has been doing for over 50 years, along the way producing the biggest comedy performers in the world today. We are hugely excited to see how their history, knowledge and insight manifests in the new generation of UK comedy performers. Hugely excited #understatement” BARRY FERNS, Founder & MC at Angel Comedy
Partnering with Comedy Blogedy “the UK’s leading comedy blog” (Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards) seems a natural fit to bring the world-class training ground to the UK. The site which features interviews with established comedians, but also concentrates on seeking out the newest in emerging talent is known for it’s support of comics in their developing stages. Run by Sara Shulman who has often been asked to lend her opinion on various National Comedy competitions (Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Awards – Scout, Chortle Comedy Awards, Musical Comedy Awards, Up The Creek One’s to Watch, London Sketchfest) the partnership here seeks to allow UK acts access for the first time to the teachings of this world renowned institution.
“We’re really excited to be working with Second City. We’re all incredibly passionate about the importance of supporting and promoting talent, which is an important feature of Comedy Blogedy, and the training Second City can provide has huge potential to add even more creativity, innovation and humour to comedy in the UK.” SARA SHULMAN, Editor & Founder of Comedy Blogedy
In addition to the courses, there will be a week-long Festival of Improvisation that will run form the 10th – 16th at Angel Comedy, showcasing the UK’s best improvisers alongside the Second City alumni – expect the unscripted – and come and see what Bill Murray/ Tina Fey/ Mike Myers have been making all the fuss about.
The week long Festival of Improvisation will also run form the 10th- 16th showcasing the UK’s best improvisers alongside alumni from the states.
“The entire tradition of American satire can be summed up in three words: The Second City” NEW YORK TIMES
Courses run : 4th – 8th, 11th – 15th May
Festival of Improvisation: 10th-16th May
APPLICATIONS & MORE INFORMATION:
Eric Lampaert is a comedian and actor that has appeared on BBC2, BBC3, Ch4, Ch5, E4, ITV2, HBO including shows such as Life’s Too Short, Cardinal Burns and The Midnight Beast. Eric is also in Dizzee Rascal’s music video ‘Bassline Junkie’ and Scouting For Girls’ ‘Love How It Hurts’ respective music videos as well as Sky’s advert with Bruce Willis. Eric studied at École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris & Middlesex University in London.
Eric also won the Latitude Comedy Competition (2010), the Laughing Horse Big Comedy Competition (2008), was a Raindance Short Film Nominee 2011 and named a T4 Rising Star of 2012.
Eric Lampaert is performing his show ‘Accidental Racist’ at Soho Theatre on Monday 17th February and is also the co-creator of Comedians Cinema Club, which takes places at Aces & Eights in Tuffnell Park. More info
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.
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