CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
JF: I’ve been gigging for about ten months at the standard open mic haunts around London with a bit of a break between my first rambling, incoherent five minutes and the following 20 or so slightly more coherent, rambling five minutes that have followed.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
JF: When I think about what I talk about I feel like it’s all pretty personal – somewhat unsurprisingly for a self obsessed millennial. Other than that I would describe it as political (but in the vague way that a sixth former who has just discovered broadsheet newspapers is political) and possibly curious – I’ve noticed that bits and pieces that I write are basically me trying to work out what I think about an issue or myself.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
JF: I had a mate who was really into Josie Long, they made me go and watch her about four years ago and I’ve really admired her ever since – she’s incredibly astute and endearing. I think the way Andy Zaltzman meshes together ideas and deeply banal pop cultural trivia is also a big influence on me. For someone with such a small repertoire of material I talk about snooker a lot. I’ve always loved Russell Brand as well, we used to talk about the Radio 2 podcast at school the morning after it came out like The Guardian recapped episodes of The Wire. I was gutted when it got canned. In terms of more recent comedians I’m definitely into Liam Williams, he’s top of the game right now.The way he simultaneously talks about stuff that’s thematically pretty complex and also recognises the intellectual hubris inherent in that is hilarious and inspiring.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
JF: I’ve always secretly harboured the (still probably misplaced) belief that I could be funny and the ambition to do something or to write comedically. I’d also always had “Sports Journalist” as my career goal since school but with stand up in the back of my mind. When I finished Uni though I realised that I didn’t actually enjoy all the stuff that surrounded the journalism and the pressures of that industry either in radio or in print, I just liked the writing or speaking bit. That was when I properly admitted to myself that stand up and comedy writing was the thing I actually wanted to do. From there I just started planning find a job which would pay London rent so I could pursue and focus on comedy as far as possible on the side.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
JF: I basically write about the anxieties or interests or conversations I have so it all comes from that. Things that I am worried about or that I can’t seem to quite make sense of seem to come up constantly. Every time I am on public transport or I am bored I just write shit in a notebook and every so often something comes out that can be honed into a bit that might be half decent. Also, the Soho Young Company Comedy Lab was incredibly useful for writing as there were loads of really cool people that would help with the writing process and offer feedback every week. I can’t do the second term of it at the moment but I would love to go back.
CB: Do you gig as a comedy performer full time or is it more of a part-time hobby? If so, do you find that your main job influences your material?
JF: Strictly part time. I work for an educational charity in real life and have only just started comedy wise so it’s a hobby that hopefully I’ll learn to get better at – especially as the standard on the circuit is so high. I think the job definitely influences the material in as much as the organisation I work for is quite new and full of really informed, passionate young people who enjoy asking questions working shit out – I’m lucky enough to leech off that and use it for selfish ends.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
JF: Being on stage is the most positive and enjoyable bit and seeing hundreds of brilliant acts that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise is a close second. As a fan of comedy going to open mic nights means you actually get to watch loads of interesting people which is great. The most frustrating part is that for every cool new act you see you invariably see some bloke talking about paedos or fat people or how women are rubbish which is dispiriting and gross. Similarly frustrating is the tendency for seemingly everyone who wants to do stand up to shit all over each other constantly on Facebook groups. It’s weird and alienating for people just keen to perform.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
JF: At this point – any. I think there are distinctions though, even on the open mic circuit, between rooms that are very open to any kind of meandering, discursive or warped material and places where you need straight up and down gags about porn or tindr or both. I feel less anxious in the former.
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?
JF: I’ve yet to be heckled but given my hair colour, questionable fashion sense and massive forehead it’s only a matter of time before something brutal happens.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
JF: I’m not good enough or knowledgeable enough to offer any proper “make sure you always do a sound check” style advice so my main piece of wisdom would be – don’t ask for any advice on any Facebook groups. The amount of people who ask for first gig recommendations only to get needlessly gunned down by angry open mic scene stalwarts is outrageous. Just try and work out the vageries of it for yourself, it’s less hassle.