Comedy Blogedy: How long have you been gigging in stand-up?
Joz Norris: My first gig was about three years ago at the Queen Charlotte pub in Norwich, for Laugh Out Loud, the student comedy club at UEA. Over the next two years, I worked closely with LOL and ended up co-running it myself for a year or so. It was all very amateur, and we only gigged once a month to an audience of predominantly our friends and fellow students, although I did occasionally branch out into other comedy nights in Norwich. I always loved doing it though, so I eventually made the decision to move to London and try to start working on the London circuit, which is altogether a more serious and full-on thing in comparison. I’ve been gigging in London and trying to make a career of it for about eight months now.
Comedy Blogedy: How would you describe your comedy?
Joz Norris: At the moment it’s going through a lot of changes – for a long time I was splitting my time between two projects, one of which was my standup writing, which sort of existed in a bubble of its own. The style of it was essentially vaguely naive and cynical ponderings or rantings about what confused me about the world, but in the rest of my time I was working on an online webseries I was writing and producing involving a character called Matt Fisher and his opinions on life after graduating – it was essentially a more unrestrained and un-self-aware version of myself, and provided me with opportunities to practise writing comedy in a more conversational, natural style. I think for a long time I was too scared to try out that sort of material onstage and stuck to more rigid routines in my standup, but more recently I’ve been bringing the Matt Fisher stuff to my standup sets and am really enjoying the responses I get to it – audiences seem to quite like disarmed by having somebody wander onstage and just chat to them and reveal awful things about himself rather than telling structured jokes. Certainly, I seem to feel more comfortable doing it than doing some of my other older jokes, so I think that’s the way it’s going now – I’m doing a one-man show as Matt Fisher in December, so trialling the material live is a good way to prepare for that.
Comedy Blogedy: Which comedians influence your comedy?
Joz Norris: Growing up, I was a huge fan of Eddie Izzard and Billy Connolly – again, I think I really admire the naturalness and the conversational style they had, the fact that you didn’t need to make any effort to “get” the things they were saying, you just had to sit back and engage with them and their stories would come to life in front of you. I love Lee Evans as well, his material’s so brilliantly simple, but the incredible level of effort he puts into his performance makes it truly stellar. I’m also strongly influenced by a lot of TV comedy, as I try to balance my standup with other comedy writing/acting work – I love Peep Show, and I think that Michael Winterbottom’s “The Trip” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon last year was one of the most brilliant pieces of comedy I’d ever seen – it takes really brilliant writing and performing to create something so utterly sad and honest that’s still side-splittingly hilarious.
Comedy Blogedy: Did you always want to go into comedy?
Joz Norris: Not always – I always wanted to go into writing and acting, but I went through a rather weird phase in my teens where I think I took myself far too seriously and tried to write plays and novels that I hoped would win enormous critical acclaim! I wrote a trilogy of plays about my own subconscious eating its godson, which should serve as a general indicator of the sort of thing I was trying to do. A very good friend of mine eventually sat me down and explained to me (very nicely) that my efforts at being taken seriously didn’t quite succeed on the terms they wanted to succeed on, but that on the occasions I tried to be funny, it made people laugh. This took off further at uni, where a comedian who ran the comedy club read some sitcom scripts I wrote for the student radio station, and enjoyed them so much he suggested I should try stand-up. I never tried to be taken seriously again, and I’ve been working solidly on trying to work out what’s funny about myself ever since.
Comedy Blogedy: How do you go about writing your material?
Joz Norris: I’m pretty un-methodical about it, to be honest. I’ve never sat down and tried self-consciously to write material, it’s always something that happens quite naturally, almost by accident, rather than something I try to force or drag out of myself, but that’s probably to do with the kind of comedy I prefer. Sometimes it will be a conversation with someone that unlocks something in my brain that spirals into a rant or a funny imagined scenario or fantasy or so on. When I’m writing my character stuff for the webseries, I tend to just think of all the things I think to myself but then stop myself from saying because of that voice we all have that says “Don’t say that, you’ll look an idiot.” Effectively, I just remove that voice and write it all down. I seem to do 99% of my “writing” while walking along at night – not sure what it is about that kind of environment that fires my imagination so much, but it’s always when my brain does most of its funny work.
Comedy Blogedy: 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?
Joz Norris: It’s not full-time, but comedy is certainly something I want to pursue as a career, and I’ve been working very hard to try and make progress in the field, which is now gradually beginning to take off. I’ve done a number of varied temp jobs to support myself in the meantime, but none of them have ever found their way into my routines, although I’ve had the odd job which easily could be turned into a funny anecdote – in May, I had to dress up as a banana and wander around Islington giving out free apples to promote a health club. I think I find it hard to think of very much genuinely funny stuff I could say about the workplace, so I tend to look elsewhere for comedy ideas – what I really need is a funny boss to throw me brilliant anecdotes!
Comedy Blogedy: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the amateur comedy circuit?
Joz Norris: I think the answer to both is the people – nothing helps to nurture comedy better than the encouragement and support of other people, whether that comes in the form of constructive criticism, or just a fun conversation that sets your mind working on a new idea. Meeting other comics who are fun, supportive, and passionate about what they do, and who really enjoy working together with you to push comedy ideas in new directions, and to help encourage you to be as good as you can be, is enormously fulfilling. On the other hand, regrettably, there are a fair few comedians on the circuit (and I of course won’t mention any names – they’re in the minority, but they are out there) who think they are somehow above talking to or listening to other comedians. Even in the case of comedians who are further up the comedy ladder than you, that’s unforgivable. I think even stars at the top of their game always need to learn from, and listen to others to learn how they can be the best they can. I’m always keen to hear people’s suggestions on what I can do to be better, so when you meet a comedian who seems to think that they’re objectively better than you, and that there’s nothing they can possibly learn from the comics around them, and that the whole night is somehow beneath them, it can really sour a night. The worst thing to have as a comedian is a bad attitude. You have to be open and friendly and willing to learn in order to get anywhere at all.
Comedy Blogedy: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
Joz Norris: For me, the most important thing is that they want to be there. There are a few free comedy nights in pubs across London where you end up performing to a group of people who just came in for a drink and have ended up being subjected to a comedy night they weren’t expecting, and that’s always rather difficult. When people have deliberately gone out for a night of comedy, and possibly paid for it, then you get a room of people who want to laugh, and will naturally be more receptive. I also like audiences who are willing to do a little work themselves to get the humour, who don’t just want very simple jokes, but who are willing to take the ride into more unconventional material and reap the rewards of it.
Comedy Blogedy: Have you been heckled a lot since you’ve started gigging? Do you enjoy being heckled? What’s the best heckle you’ve had?
Joz Norris: It’s not happened very much, to be honest. I think it’s not very common at the mostly amateur level I’m gigging at at the moment – I think it’s more associated with the more corporate, jobbing type of comedy night such as Jongleurs or similar. I’ve never really had a heckle that I really struggled with, or that really impressed me, but the best heckler I’ve ever seen was some really drunk old Irish rocker who looked half-starved and wandered into a comedy night halfway through the headliner’s set, loudly proclaiming “Don’t mind me, I work at the barber’s down the road.” The headliner made a few jokes about his absurdly confident entry, then moved onto other material, at which point the guy got up and wandered off, loudly shouting “I’ve got to go and feed my f***ing cat.” That guy had a hell of a lot of confidence, or just zero shame.
Comedy Blogedy: What advice would you give to new acts thinking about starting out in comedy?
Joz Norris: I think it helped me a LOT to spend as long as I did gigging to audiences of friendly students that often had a lot of my friends in them – the trouble with the London circuit is that there are so many nights that, if you just launch yourself right into it, then a lot of your first gigs might be to quite difficult, unfriendly or small audiences. I know it’s sometimes misleading to gig to audiences of friends, as you get an exaggerated response, but it helped me to have a year or so of working out exactly how and why I was funny, without ever having to put up with a really horrible audience. I’d say, try to find the friendliest gigs possible or, if you have a friend who runs a gig, go there first. Do your best to have your first few gigs full of friendly faces, because doing your first gig to a room full of judgemental strangers could put you off for life. You have to know you really want to do it, because it is hard and it can be occasionally dispiriting. But you need to know in your heart of hearts that that surge of joy and adrenaline you get when you have a room full of people laughing at what you have to say is more than worth the hard work it takes!
Laughing Horse Free Festival and Up in Arms Theatre Company present:
Joz Norris is Matt Fisher: Uberperson
Written and performed by Joz Norris
Produced by Barney Norris
Venue 146 – Laughing Horse @ The Phoenix, 46-48A Broughton Street
3rd-12th August, 00:00 – 01:00
Box Office – 01315570234
Joz Norris, the comic mind behind “one of the most exciting comic character creations on the up-and-coming comedy scene” (Comedy Blogedy) brings his new show – a unique blend of acutely observed character comedy, absurdism and hilariously indulgent fantasy – to the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time ever, produced by Barney Norris of the critically acclaimed Up in Arms Theatre Company, fresh from their successful run of the new play “Missing.”
Norris takes on the mantle of Matt Fisher, aspiring rockstar, comedian and Billy Joel fan, a self-absorbed manchild gleefully happy to imagine himself the next great thing in the entertainment business, while his audiences are happy to find hilarity in his total inability to recognise the flaws in his own character. Matt aims hubristically to present the Ultimate One-Man Show, an evening of song, dance, comedy, mime, chat, self-help, flirtation and boasting in a no-holds-barred extravaganza. Even his own rampant egomania, lack of self-awareness and embittered support act won’t get in the way of his self-imposed mission to take the Fringe by storm!
Joz Norris is a critically acclaimed young comic who, in the last year, has performed at the UK premiere of Ben Miller’s directorial debut “Huge,” as well as appearing on E4’s “Show and Tell” with Chris Addison and on Knockout Comedy’s “Knockout TV” pilot.
“If there’s a space to watch, it’s this one!” – Sara Shulman, Comedy Blogedy
“Norris is an astonishing character actor…this was some of the most original and involving comedy I’ve seen in some time.” – Lyndsey Bass, Theatre Geek
“For this young and talented comedian, the future is obviously bright.” – Matt Higgins, The Comedy Journal
With support from some of the most exciting faces emerging on the comedy scene at the moment – John Kearns, Amy Hoggart, Richard Todd, Joe Charman, Jim Lacy, Nathan Wilcock, Sarah Arnold and Michael Clarke.