‘If you weren’t funny I probably wouldn’t be mates with you’ said erm, a ‘mate’. Despite this being the very definition of a backwards compliment I still, regarded it as a compliment because humour, is important to me. I chase a laugh about 80% of the time I communicate and yes, this is probably to mask my own insecurities and anxiety but I still love making people laugh and I’m fascinated by why and how we laugh.
While I enjoy making people laugh does that mean I am cut out for stand up? To answer this question I signed up for ‘Beat the Frog’, an open Mic night at Manchester’s famous comedy club, Frog and Bucket. I was due to perform in May but then Corona hit and all joyful, scary, thrilling activity was suspended. Instead the scariest thing that happened to me in May was an old lady came within three feet of me and a man, in a car, sneezed with his window open as I walked past.
I have been writing down my funny thoughts for months but have no way of knowing if it is actually funny because it is entirely subjective and after three hours of crouching over a laptop on your own, nothing feels like it will be funny ever again and I am filled with existential dread.
I needed help from someone ‘in the know’ not necessarily to read my stuff but at least give me some tips on how to approach the process of writing comedy. I asked Ros Bell booker at XS Malarkey who said ‘I understand the desire to have a how to guide but it’s a lot more personal than that…. The best advice I can give you is go to loads of stand up shows (or) watch them online, pay attention to who you like. Why do you like them? Are they absurd? Observational? Narrative? Then start writing what you think is funny. If it makes you laugh, chances are it’ll make someone else laugh.’
Despite wanting to try stand up, I rarely watch stand up, live or online, so followed Ros’s advice and looked up mainly female or LGBT comedians and after watching a Sara Pascoe set, happened across Fern Brady who is a dry, sharp, bisexual Glaswegian who definitely makes me laugh and the kind of laughter that descends into a sneaky snigger as she vocalises the dark, odd, silly thoughts that people have in their head but rarely say out loud.
This, I guess, is a good example of surreal comedy and something I would love to emulate. Surreal comedy is not the broad, brush strokes of someone like Russell Howard who covers lots of relatable, popular topics such as deriding Donald Trump’s vanity and stupidity.
I have a lot to learn about what could work on stage, but from what I can gather, avoiding perfectionism in your writing and being your authentic self, are important. This is how I aspire to be in real life so, stand up could work for me. But the only way I will know is if I try and hopefully this will be sooner rather than later. But, for the time being, I will have to get my laughs wherever I can, but ideally in the same physical space as other people and not through a laptop!
XS Malarkey offers some quality live comedy on Twitch on a Tuesday night featuring conversations with the comedians as well. It is free, with the option to donate.