CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
LO: Two years. I played in various bands for years before that, but as soon as I started writing comic songs, music audiences hated me. I think they took my trying to make them laugh as some kind of challenge to their coolness. So I started playing comedy nights, and I’ve never looked back.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
LO: I make dark musical comedy with a leaning towards storytelling. My onstage persona is a strict, deadpan, teacherly sort of chap, who sings dirty songs, but doesn’t necessarily approve of them.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
LO: The Goon Show and Monty Python are probably my comedy heroes. Of today’s generation, I like Bill Bailey and Rich Hall. But mostly I take my influence from folks like Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and various alt-cabaret songwriters who spin a good yarn and are big on drama. I try to do all that, whilst weaving in a few of the funnies.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
LO: Nope! I’d never have guessed I would end up doing comedy. I stumbled across it largely by accident. But I’ve always loved being on stage, and though I secretly enjoyed being the one clownish ham on a bill full of earnest acoustic musicians baring their souls, I’m very glad I found my way into comedy. I’ve been going up to the Edinburgh Fringe as a punter since I was ten, so I suppose it’s not surprising that I’ve ended up in this game.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
LO: When I write songs, I still tend to think of things in terms of tracks on albums. I’m half way through making a new album which will form most of the content of my Edinburgh show this year. An album and an Edinburgh show are both around the same length, maybe 50 minutes, so I find that helps me focus. When it comes to the songs themselves, I tend to sit and write lyrics in cafes, then go home to write the music. If I try to write lyrics at home, Netflix just stares at me and I don’t stand a chance.
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?
LO: My day job is composing music for film, theatre and other things, so the two definitely feed into each other. I tend to perform equally on the stand-up and cabaret circuits, so between these different things, I just about scrape a decent living.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the amateur comedy circuit?
LO: What I like most about the small-scale comedy circuit is that the big boys will muck in with much newer acts. Everyone needs to try out new material in front of small audiences, and as a pretty new act, I think it’s great that you might suddenly find yourself on a bill with Milton Jones or Russell Howard. The fame hierarchies are all broken down. As a singer-songwriter, you’d never rock up to your Monday night open mic at the 12 Bar Club to find Mumford & Sons fiddling around with a new ten minutes. As for what I dislike, well, it wouldn’t be gentlemanly to say.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
LO: I like my captives firm but fair. Sometimes, if something you’ve said doesn’t quite wash, audiences can give up on you. I like the kind of folks who will laugh at things they like, pummel you with stony silence for things they don’t, but still allow you to win them back over with your next line. They’re the good ones. Keeping you sharp without crushing your spirit.
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?
LO: Apart from the occasional vague Buddy Holly jab (which is hardly insulting) I don’t tend to get heckled much. Someone heckled me in the form of a survey at a gig in Brighton once. He walked calmly up to me mid-song and handed me a piece of paper, upon which was written a string of heckles of a fairly low quality: “are those glasses real?” (Poor effort) through to “was the last song about tits or vaginas?” (Clearly he hadn’t been paying attention). By the time my song had finished and I could answer him, he’d gone. Not quite sure who won that battle.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
LO: I suppose my advice would be to make the kind of comedy that YOU find funny and interesting. Don’t try to fit yourself into a pre-existing mould because you think it’ll make you more accessible or commercially viable. You’re more likely to turn heads by offering something grown from your genuine interest. And if you’re on a bill with lots of other new acts, it may be wise not to open with a joke about what you look like and where you come from.