CB: How long have you been gigging in comedy?
TT: Since July 2011.
CB: How would you describe your comedy?
TT: I tend to go with “low energy musical whimsy”. I think I lean towards writing ‘joke jokes’ … but sing them. Misdirection, one- and two-liners, torturous puns etc. I’ve been described as alternative quite a lot but Chortle reviewed me as “unoriginal” so I think I’ve got range.
CB: Which comedians influence your comedy?
TT: Apparently I must be influenced by David O’Doherty because of the whole tiny keyboard thing. I am influenced by the portability of the whole tiny keyboard thing. My first few gigs were keyboardless; a few stories about nightclubs and driving lessons plus some rambling ad-libs. Then I decided to make use of my degree (music) and try some songs. I enjoyed playing with the imparted form and structure. Plus the whole history and tradition of music, which informs our response to sounds: major equals happy etc. My opening song wouldn’t work without a jaunty, happy, major accompaniment.
I realise I haven’t mentioned any comedians.
Mark Maier was the first comedian I ever saw live. He inspired me to try stand-up so I see him as a pretty big influence. Watching John Gordillo, more than anyone, has provoked me to write better and be better. I also really like Noel James’ silliness and quirkiness, I think I’ve channeled some of that in my act.
CB: Did you always want to go into comedy?
TT: I remember doing a lot of improv and devised pieces in drama groups at school and I would always try and be funny. People were surprised as I would never ever speak in class. In sixth form, I entered various public speaking competitions where I would essentially perform mini stand-up routines, it was at these events that I really discovered the buzz you can get from making people laugh and, from that moment, I just wanted to recreate that buzz as much as possible. The drug analogy is true.
CB: How do you go about writing your material?
TT: My best material tends to come to me pretty much fully formed. I’m not a comedy genius, I think this is common. You see something or hear something and the joke just comes to you. Bit-by-bit, gig-by-gig, you can build these nuggets into full routines and songs.
The alternative is sitting staring at my notebook or, worse, my laptop, striving for jokes. Typically this will result in producing something incredibly formulaic which is dropped after the fated three failures.
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?
TT: I don’t gig full time but I’m lucky to have a pretty flexible day job, which allows me to gig quite a bit. It’s a hobby insomuch as I enjoy performing and that’s why I do it but it’s also a part-time job which provides me with a little bit of beer money. And I don’t drink beer so I’m pretty much rolling in lime and sodas.
CB: What do you find the most enjoyable and frustrating parts of the amateur comedy circuit?
TT: The great thing about (some) amateur nights is that anything goes. There’s a freedom there which disappears when an audience has paid £10 for a ticket and you yourself have been paid to be as funny as possible.
You learn and develop so much more from being the 5 minute open spot on a pro bill than doing 20 minutes at an open mic. This is the whole hobby/job thing. The frustrating part of the amateur comedy circuit should be trying to get off it.
CB: What’s your favourite type of audience to perform to?
TT: My favourite type of audience would be 200 comedy literate, regular comedy goers in a low-ceilinged, darkened room with a raised stage and a good quality lighting and sound system. Obviously this isn’t always possible so I would settle with an audience of people who want to be there and want to laugh. It’s amazing how many people come to comedy nights but have no desire to laugh. Trendy people don’t laugh because it’s such a hackneyed way of expressing emotion.
I quite like lively rooms (but not rowdy) as there’s an excitement and energy there which lifts your performance and, providing you don’t overindulge, you can get some good chat out of it. Liverpool can be great for this.
Polite crowds can be frustrating. You perform to silence and then, during the interval, everyone comes up to you and tells you how much they enjoyed it. “We couldn’t stop smiling.” Smiling is the same sound as dying on my hole.
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?
TT: I honestly can’t recall ever being heckled. Not aggressively. Maybe I’ve been fortunate not to play those gigs. Most interruptions are just people wanting to help. Or someone too bladdered to make much sense.
Chatting and whispering is worse because the culprits don’t think they’re being disruptive – shouting out is disruptive – so they can get defensive if you handle it too harshly.
I did a compilation show in Edinburgh at half midnight in a lovely wood-paneled, barely-windowed sauna. Seeing someone fall asleep during your banker can be pretty demoralising.
CB: What advice would you give to new acts thinking of starting out in comedy?
TT: Gig a lot and then keep gigging. Also, keep writing. Find a solid 10 but keep writing. Your best jokes might just come to you but you still need to condition yourself to write them down and make them work on stage. Or take that really good, organic nugget of an idea and work it into a routine or a song.
By writing a lot and gigging a lot you will discover things that you are really happy with and realise that your early stuff was absolutely awful.