THIS MONDAY’S comedy workshop is the penultimate session for Theo Theobald’s comedy hopefuls and, with four of the five now done, the final sets are taking shape. Here is Standard editor Tristan Harris’ views on how it is going.
THERE were mixed emotions at this week’s Comedy Skool.
Whilst we have come a long way since week one and are becoming more confident about taking to the stage, performing the material is becoming harder due to the number of times we have heard our own stuff and gone over it and also how often we have heard each other’s material. It’s almost like you are saying to yourself: ‘I like these comedians and I’m going to watch all of their DVDs every Monday for five weeks’.
To quote one of the group: ‘I’m getting sick and tired of hearing it now’ and that is the dilemma facing us all.
It needs to be rehearsed to the point where we know what we are going to say and how we are going to say it but we need to deliver it with the freshness we had when we first wrote it.
We also discussed the power of the microphone. Whilst holding the mic you are the one everyone is listening to but it can make you shrink into yourself unless you make a concerted effort to project the comedy persona you are striving to be – effectively an exaggerated version of yourself and who you are.
This week we all suffered the same fate. We all performed our sets too fast. For most of us it was half a case of ‘we know this and we want to get it done’ and the other half was down to nerves. But, during discussions on stage craft and delivery, we found speeding up your performance was the worst thing you could do. If anything comedy has to be delivered slower than you would speak normally to someone in the office or the pub.
For a comedy set to be successful you have to ensure the audience hears everything you have to say so they can buy into it and go with you all the way on the journey you are taking them on.
In the last week I stuck to the set I had written, road-testing parts of it on different people and I then recorded an MP3 of the whole lot from start to finish, but only listened back to it once – shortly before this week’s workshop.
When I took the mic this week, I felt much better about performing but realise the next few days are going to be spent rehearsing not only what I have written, but also at the right pace. ‘Less is more’ with comedy and it is better to perform less material at the right tempo with the right pauses than to perform more material but in a way that most of it gets lost because it is delivered too quickly. You don’t want audience members nudging each other asking: ‘What did he just say?’
As with any art form the scheduled pauses and gaps are just as important and powerful as the parts which are packed with information.
The other thing I have struggled with is the opening as it is an awkward situation. Walking on and saying: ‘Here I am, I am here to make you laugh’ (which is what every stand-up comedian is declaring when they open their set) is an alien concept to most people.
I came up with a better ‘ice breaker’ than I had used previously but that added time onto an already over-running script.
So I took the bold step this week and got rid a whole section. The transition between that part and the others was disjointed and hampered the overall theme. But, by slowing down to make the rest of the material more effective and including the new opening should improve my set overall.
After hearing us all Theo said: “The good news is we have a show and I think we are further on than any group has been on one of my Comedy Skools but there is still work to be done.”
There is now just one session left for fine tuning and then we go live. Part of me is petrified but the rest of me is buzzing.
The Comedy Skool show takes place in the Artrix Studio at 7.30pm on October 28. Tickets are £8 (£7 for over 60s and students). They are available at www.artrix.co.uk or by calling 01527 577330.
Theo has a new stand-up Comedy Skool starting at The Core Theatre, Solihull, starting on Thursday, October 19. There are six sessions before the students take to the stage for the show at The Core Theatre on November 17. Visit www.thecoretheatresolihull.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.