Learning from the professionals…

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This week we had local stand-up Karen Bayley sitting in one the session to give us advice and share her experiences of life as a comedian doing gigs around the country. It was interesting listening to her talking about her writing processes, and the number of different notepads she keeps for different things. We were also joined by Joe Lycett towards the end of the session, who I’m going to see at Popcorn Comedy tonight.

I really enjoyed the practice performances by Andrew and Rob – I was unwittingly part of the latter’s set as part of the audience participation for testing his unique ‘invention’. I still find myself watching other people and think their stuff is much better than mine. This is probably a confidence thing, although my material does feel a little pedestrian compared with prop-featuring sets like Rob’s, and detailed storytelling like Andrew’s, though he clearly has a very interesting past to draw on.

I need to get to work on some new material and tightening up other bits very soon – it’s only six weeks until the showcase. I think I’ll probably be ok going on the stage now, although when you add in the microphone and an audience it may be a different story (nerves ahoy!), but my worry is still remembering stuff. I really need to get my act honed quickly so I can learn it as soon as possible and get comfortable with saying it, so I can think about how to perform it.

Journey into fear OR standing up and being counted

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I’ve written here before of my fear of standing up in front of people and delivering the stuff that I’ve written – it’s what made me keep putting off trying my material out in front of the group the past few weeks. Other people seem to have felt a similar thing. Well, this week I finally went through with it.

I was helped by what came earlier in the session – a couple of exercises where we had to stand up in front of the group and act out emotions, to show how exaggerated actions can make things funnier, and also how the physicality of performances can get extra (and bigger) laughs. First we did this in groups – something I found very uncomfortable and embarrassing – and then we did an exercise individually which involved each telling the same joke but with a different emotion, pulled at random out of a hat. I found the latter much more comfortable than expected, although I found it difficult to know how to get the emotion across when telling the joke. Nobody guessed it but I don’t think I did THAT bad a job.

In the second half of the session I did my material in front of the group – it got a really good reaction and some quite big laughs (they are a difficult audience, and most jokes seem to get a titter at best, so I was really pleased with this). Even doing it in front of the group with the benefit of notes was a big deal for me, so I’m delighted with how it went as I got lots of very good and complimentary feedback, from the tutor and from the group. Some things didn’t really work, a couple of gags can be worked on and the routine about politics – easily the most popular part – can be expanded. I’ve already been jotting ideas down all week for how I can go further with this.

Next time I practice I won’t be able to use notes. I need to do a lot of work on my material before then, but it’s getting there and I’m so glad I did the practice run last week. The overwhelmingly positive feedback was a real confidence boost. I’m still not sure how I’m going to ‘perform’ this, as a lot of it’s quite wordy and I need to keep to a script almost. And I’m still worried about forgetting stuff at gig time. But this was a big step, and I feel like I’ve achieved something quite important already by this stage of the course.

Week 4: A big ball of nervous energy

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The most recent week of the course was a break from writing material and instead looked at managing nerves, by doing an exercise where we had to think of a happy memory and use this to relax. Nerves are something I’m really worried about and especially for when I’m going to be on stage in front of people (the other worry is forgetting stuff).

Also, we watched a couple of clips – of Tim Vine and Tom Stade – to see examples of delivery, performance and how it’s sometimes possible to get laughs even when you’re not telling jokes. This made me think about how I might perform the stuff which I’m writing – a lot of it is in traditional joke formay but there are some stories and observational bits which might benefit from tweaking and using performance techniques to wring extra laughs from.

I still haven’t practiced my routine much at all, and am yet to do it in front of the group. Maybe I’ll rectify this soon.