CB: How long have you been gigging in stand-up?
DB: I’ve been gigging on and off for around three years, mostly at my university and a couple of open mic nights around Southampton. Before uni, the closest I came to stand-up was probably playing Tim Minchin songs at school concerts. You know… the three or so Tim Minchin songs that are actually safe for a school environment.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
DB: One of the guys I live with once described me as “a wizard of confusion”. I do like a bit of deconstruction, and weaving multiple trains of thought in and out of each other. I also like interacting with the audience in ways they’re perhaps not expecting… there’re a lot of balls to juggle. I don’t know, I just write the stuff. If you come back to me in a month, I’ll probably have a completely different answer.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
DB: I have tried now for about half an hour to answer this question, so I’m just going to list some comedians I like off the top of my head, ’cause that’s probably the most honest way to approach it. Izzard, Amstell, Bailey, Minchin, Watts, Noble, Galifianakis, Bamford, Notaro… oh man, Tig Notaro. I only caught up with her work in the last month or so, and ‘Live’ is one of the most astounding things I’ve ever listened to. It’s so sincere.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
DB: I didn’t always know, no. My first aspiration as a kid was to become an astronaut, but I’m not American enough and too unfit for space. I realised that I really love performing (theatre, music, whatever) at sixth form, and it was there that I discovered that making people laugh is quite probably the performance equivalent of crack. There’s absolutely nothing like it. I am a junkie, and my vice is giggles.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
DB: I don’t have a fixed writing routine – if something comes to me, I note it down. Usually on my phone. Which makes me feel like some sort of technological cheat. I should buy a notepad. I should buy… two notepads.
CB: 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?
DB: While I’m doing my degree, it’s a hobby; after that… who knows? I’ve honestly no clue.
I don’t think there’s much humour to be derived from electronic engineering, so I steer clear from it in my stand-up. Unless people want to hear jokes about shift registers and Kirchoff’s Current Law… but I’ve not encountered anybody like that at a gig, not yet. (I realise that some of my more recent material involves in a minor way both Kant and supersymmetry. I am a hypocrite of massive proportion.)
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the open mic comedy circuit?
DB: It is fantastic when it goes well. That sounds obvious, mainly because it is pretty obvious, but it’s certainly one of the better parts of the open mic game. I also love the unpredictability of it – you can plan your set all you want, but when you’re up there, you might end up doing something you’ve never thought about before.
The most frustrating part for me is picking myself up after a really bad gig and giving it another shot. In reality, there are a huge number of variables as to why a gig can go wrong – wrong audience, wrong time, forgetting bits of your set, bad environment, bad delivery… but for me it can be difficult in the period after a really bad set to acknowledge that there are reasons other than “I’m awful at this, maybe I should stop and become a hermit.” I’ve gotten a lot better over the years, though.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
DB: Any audience who is actually there specifically for comedy. I’ve performed at some ‘general purpose’ open mics and it is so much harder to get the audience on your side. People who are there to laugh are easier to make laugh, he said, stating the obvious.
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?
DB: I’ve managed to have zero heckler encounters. It’s gonna happen one day, though, it’s inevitable. I get very annoyed with the concept in general, though… there’s audience interaction as part of a set, and that’s awesome. I’m totally down for that – and there are some comics out there who thrive on the ‘competition’ with the audience. If it works for you, that’s cool. But when somebody in the audience decides to interrupt something when it’s obviously been worked on and worked on… it’s astoundingly rude, in my opinion. Sometimes I think they’re the people that recognise how great it must feel to be the one causing the laughter, but don’t have the nerve to get up on stage and give it a go themselves. God lord, I sound so crotchety.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
DB: My favourite piece of advice comes from Neil Gaiman. “If you cannot be wise, pretend to be somebody who is wise, and then just behave like they would.” If you’re afraid, just pretend to be somebody who isn’t. It works remarkably well. In fact, just watch all of his ‘Make Good Art’ speech. It’s on t’interwebs.