The first week of the stand-up comedy course was an interesting evening. I bumped into a familiar face (Tim Wilson, who worked for Business Link back when Cul-de-Sac – my idea for an online West Midlands music magazine – was still in wet ink on the drawing board) and was recognised by course tutor James Cook as the man behind Who’s Laughing Now.

I found the first session quite demanding. There was a lot of admin and getting to know each other, why we were there, and all of that stuff. Plus there was a game to try to come up with jokes involving something in the news (the Beckhams) and a household object (a colander). Obviously this isn’t something that I find very easy as I couldn’t come up with anything in the time allotted (and to be honest I was more interested in grabbing a drink because the room was very warm). I guess this is something I’ll have to work on. James told us the key is to write a list of words and terms that you associate with each and see where there are connections, and that’s where you can make the joke. I’ll have to remember that.

There’s homework to do for Monday – write 3 minutes of material. I still haven’t put anything down in long form, but have been scribbling notes in a pad all week, every time a thought has come to me. I’m still at a stage where I don’t really have confidence that these ideas are a) genuinely original or b) funny but that might get better with time. I need to spend some time tomorrow hammering some of these ideas into shape and seeing what I can do with them.I think there might be a little bit of half-decent stuff in there but it needs time, skill and creative thinking to hone them so that they do the necessary work.

I think I’m still trying to find my voice, or the kind of comedy I would like to write and perform myself. I like so many different types of comedy from the perspective of a fan and also a critic, but knowing what suits your own voice seems harder to come by especially when there are so many things you’d like to be able to do. So far I’ve written a few pun-based jokes, which may or may not be very funny, came up with a great idea for a joke and then found that it had been told several times before (curses!), and jotted down a few observations and notes about things which are personal to me and that I know about.

I think it’s the latter that I’d be most comfortable with, ironically, despite my lack of stage experience and not really enjoying talking about very personal things to strangers, but it feels most natural so far. What I’ve found more difficult is hitting the jokes in those subject areas, and I suppose this will take more work during the course. As someone who doesn’t feel naturally funny, I don’t want any of my material to feel too forced, but at the same time I’d like to have written a few more jokes by this point. With having a day job, other freelance work to do and trying to squeeze in ‘life’ stuff too (not to mention needing to overcome the tiredness from commuting), I haven’t been able to devote as much time as I’d like to this yet.

I’m not looking forward to performing any of this material in front of the class just yet, as I think I need to build up to that. I think it’s going to require spending more time per week writing, practicing and remembering material if I’m going to feel able to go on a stage on April 2nd as part of the showcase, but that’s the goal. Ultimately, the two things I want to get out of the course are a) greater self-confidence and self-worth and b) good habits of writing regularly, as fiction and scripts are the main goals for the future. It’s going to be a long road to achieve both/either!

Having reviewed several stand-up comedians in the past (albeit none of them very harshly), I hope this course will give me a better insight and appreciation of the type of mentality and personality it takes to get up on stage and be funny. And this is a lesson that’s only just begun…

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