CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
JH: Three and a half years.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
JH: I have no idea how to do that… so here is my 20 minute set in 20 seconds:
“Hello guys, guess who I look like! I’m single by the way. Isn’t dating frustrating? I travel on buses and trains and I am concerned about society. I’m not afraid to laugh at a man in a wheelchair (if he does something funny) and I’ll tell you a thing or two about nightclub toilets. I had a cat but he is dead now… Never mind that! Listen to this instead! It’s some satire cleverly disguised as a shocking insight into human biology! Like that? Well then have some more filth! That’s enough? Oh! OK then! Sorry! But before I go, please enjoy this……. exquisite callback!!!”
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
JH: I love Bill Hicks, Louis CK, Doug Stanhope, Patrice O’Neal, Bill Burr, Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson, Dylan Moran and loads more but I’m not sure how much direct influence they have on my own approach to comedy.
I think my friends (both growing up and in my adult life) are probably the biggest influence on it as they are the people who I have shared the most laughs with.
Most of the stuff I do on stage, I can imagine myself saying to my friends at a pub table… though they would probably cut me off mid-way through my set ups with something funnier.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
JH: I always wanted to be funny. Some of my earliest memories are trying to make my family laugh. Then my best friends were typically the people who made me laugh the most and who laughed the most at the things I said.
I never thought actually being a stand up was possible though as the people I was used to seeing on TV and DVD were just SO funny. I had no idea that it would have taken them ages to get their sets to that level and I think that naïvety made me think it was an impossible dream.
Had I known that you just need 5 minutes when you start out I think I would have got into comedy much sooner!
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
JH: My approach has changed a fair bit over the years. I used to type out big scripts for myself when I first started but they were very time consuming and difficult to memorise. Looking back it was also the antithesis of how I had been ‘funny’ in real life up to that point, pub-table banter and storytelling being a largely unscripted endeavour…
Now I jot down ideas that occur to me in a note book. Then I try to think of 5 or 6 funny things to say about each one. Then I go on stage at an open mic night with a few notes and try to improvise my way to the funny bits.
Repeating this process gradually results in less ‘umming and arring’, superfluous words and phrases are naturally edited out and eventually the routine becomes what I would loosely call “tight”.
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?
JH: I recently folded my business in order to pursue comedy full time but when I started practically my whole set was about being self-employed. It quickly became apparent though that talking about one thing for 10 minutes gets boring so I threw most of it out and developed a more eclectic set (see: How would you describe your comedy?)
I miss having a job in some ways as when I had one I felt like more of a normal person who does comedy… rather than a strange person who does very little with his time and yet still feels compelled to travel the country talking to strangers about it.
I should probably read more…
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the comedy circuit?
JH: By far my favourite thing is meeting other comics. I’ve made a bunch of great friends since starting out in comedy. Road trips to gigs are so much fun.
Also, the Edinburgh Festival is amazing. To do a job where you are professionally obliged to get drunk for a month, at the world’s biggest party, while doing the thing you love all day is an absolute privilege.
The most frustrating thing is having a shit gig that was your fault. The urge to immediately get back on stage and correct your mistakes is so strong. All those people think you are shit. They will always think that. And there is nothing you can do. You cannot go back on stage. If you did, they would throw things. Luckily, within the first 3 minutes of your set, all 10 of them had already forgotten your name.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
JH: The ones that go to The Stand in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle. They should do seminars where they teach all other audiences the best way to behave.
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?
JH: I have long hair and a beard so I get “Jesus” quite a lot. I quite enjoy it though as I have a bunch of jokes about that which I can do right after the heckle thus creating the illusion of a spontaneous and all-conquering wit.
The best heckle I’ve ever had was when I mentioned that my cat had died and man shouted out “why didn’t you heal it?”
My response was to thank him, write it down on my hand and resolve to crowbar it into my set at the nearest opportunity.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
JH: Write and perform as much as possible and think about what you are doing as you do it. If you do that you’ll gradually work it all out for yourself in the way that most suits you.
Jay will be performing his show Free Comic at Dragonfly at 22:10 from 2nd – 23rd August. More info.