Saturday, 4 September 2010

Went down the Comedy Club the other day ...

What is it about stand-up comedians' material? I reckon 90 per cent of the success of an act is the performer's guts and personality of getting up on stage in the first place. It's really hard to come up with original stuff, so the trick is to get audiences to like you by the force of your own personality.

Thursday's session at the Soho Comedy Club was an initiation into this world. The compere's warm-up established where people are from, so as not to offend the punters and trigger specific jokes about Australians, Belgians, Norwegians and city planners (examples of whom were all in the audience). The evening split into three parts: two comedians then a drink's refuelling break, two comedians then another watering break, then the headline act: one Stuart Black.

The best joke came from Nathaniel Metcalfe, a formerly unemployed couch potato (now a comedic couch potato) involving audience participation from the Norwegian guy: apparently certain English phrases in Norwegian make native speakers sound like Geordies (I won't spoil the gag by saying which phrases).

One big no-no. However badly things are going, don't lambast the audience for not laughing, however sweetly you smile. I wonder whether the comedian who tried this tactic on Thursday, Nick Sun, will be invited back again. He was lucky to get away in one piece, and wouldn't have done in a Glaswegian working men's club.

Also, where were the female performers? It was weird watching a procession of men without anyone thinking this was unusual.

Regarding the material itself, one liners seem to me like compiling crosswords. Decide the punchline, the answer, and then construct the joke backwards. So, here goes:

  • Sherlock Holmes solved the famous Christmas dinner poisoning case. He deduced that the proof of the pudding was in the eating.
  • Christ was a school caretaker before becoming a carpenter. Jesus swept.
  • David Cameron is struggling to get agreement for tackling the budget deficit with his Cabinet, as the first cut is the deepest.
  • It goes without saying, so I won't bother.
  • In the kingdom of the seeing, the one-eyed man is a museum specimen.
  • It's no use crying over spilt milk, you'll only dilute it.
  • Jack of all trades, no work-life balance.
  • Laughter is the best medicine, only if it's at someone else's expense.
  • Hypochondria is not for the faint-hearted, although digitalis helps.
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth, you don't know where it's been.
  • Love thy neighbour as thyself, within personal space limits.
  • Never speak ill of the dead. There's no point, they've already gone.
  • Once bitten, twice shy, takes no account of mambas, vampires and black widows.
  • Procrastination is the thief of ,,,, er, what was I saying?
  • Put your best foot forward. Not the best advice for an amputee.
  • Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Unless I'm crushed by a falling bookcase.
I have probably invertently stolen from Jimmy Carr, Tim Vine, or even Bob Monkhouse, but the technique seems clear.

Perhaps observational comedians like Eddie Izzard and Dara O'Briain are therefore the most inventive?
(YouTube video contains swearing and sexual references: be warned.)

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