Thurs 12th April 1pm - 4pm at Burdalls Yard

The Art of Stand-up Comedy. Workshop 12th April - Texture.

The subject of this workshop session is Texture - the many and various ways of decorating, embellishing and making the content of your act look and sound more like yours and less like anybody else’s. From the language you use - your ‘personal argot’ to the range of emotional voices you chose to speak with - your ‘attitude palette’. There are also a whole bunch of tropes and devices that we have started to explore. . . from chanted sloganeering to whispered asides, repeated dialogue, snapshot characterisation, personification, alliteration, sound effects, costume and make-up, simile, hyperbole, understatement, posture, gesture, facial expression, mugging and mimicry, movement and mime. And even farmyard impressions and acting.

They may not all seem appropriate but don’t let that stop you trying them out. This is a workshop. It’s fine to make mistakes. Go for it!

Homework: 1st Half.

Latest update of your Bill Matter.

Contributions for your list of “I’ve never seen that before.” .

And a short piece on ‘Events while trying make people laugh.’

In your presentation, keep up your search for possible ways of expressing and delivering the truth about how you are feeling at any given time.

And continue to celebrate your own personal quirks - some you have already been successful at this without any prompting from us eg:

Matt is given to arbitrary outbursts of anger for no apparent reason tempered by a warm twinkle in his eye.

Joey appears incapable of starting a sentence without interrupting himself and corpsing

And Beth seems physically unsettled, about to either curl up or take flight - gauche yet oddly graceful.

we can only encourage further experiment


Homework: 2nd Half

Pose three multiple choice quiz questions concerning some detail of your life that you disclosed to the group in a previous exercise.

Eg: - Tom might ask:

What was the name of the unicorn in my game of Peggle?
Was it A) Dobbin? B) Bjorn? or C) Boaty McBoatface?.

Or Lydia:

Name the televised costume drama I was so enamoured with?
Was it A) Pride and Prejudice? B) Victoria? or C) Benidorm?

The actual questions and answers will take less than a minute the rest of the time is yours to express yourself, confront life’s cliches and decode the Zeitgeist.

Just Me Then

Bath Spa Workshop Homework for 10th March 2018.

This exercise is a parody of observational comedy.

In 1980 the ‘just me then’ routine was recognised by some Alternative Comedians as a signature routine of some of the more advanced traditional club comedians. Like the rest of their material it was hard to say who had created the original, because like everything else, they had stolen it, customised it a bit, and then claimed it as their own. It takes the form of a male confessional shared with the whole audience “You know what it's like when…” then owning-up to a previous night of drunken debauchery, coming home late to a slanging match with ‘the wife” before passing out in a puddle of their own shit n vomit. All capped with the punch-line “We’ve all been there, Yeah?? No? Oh! Just me then.”

The original parody was from Alexei Sayle. He used the structure and assuming a shared culture asked the audience confidentially – “Do you remember what it was like when yer parents went out and you’d sneak into their bedroom, stand in front of the wardrobe mirror and take all your clothes off? Yeah? Yeah?”

In less than two minutes he is describing having poured a saucepan of warm baked beans down the front of his underpants and rubbing it into his groin, wearing some of his mum’s clothing, putting on his dad’s crash helmet, bashing himself over the head with a baseball bat and shouting at himself in Welsh – “Yaki Da! Yaki Da! Yaki Da!” Lost in the reverie he finally catches himself out and acknowledges the audi-ence’s presence; and then, attempting to hide his embarrass-ment, answers the question he asked earlier “No? Oh! Just me then.”

Homework: Use the same structure to describe a typical embarrassing situation and then get inventive and escalate into surrealism, exposing the familiar tropes and behaviour of your own tribe - past or present. And, for the sake of the exercise, use the original punch line.

Inner nerd

Bath Spa Workshop Homework for 17th February 2018.

Den Levett and I have developed a very useful workshop exercise, which explores two, if not more fundamentals of stand-up comedy - Timing and Attitude. It involves standing up in performance mode and exposing your inner nerd to the rest of the group.

All you have to do is just go on about something you know thoroughly or intimately. It doesn't necessarily have to be something useful like 'how to apply a tourniquet'; it can be something you have never given voice to before like a series of brief cameo descriptions of all your aunts on your mother's side. The idea is to get on a roll and lose yourself in it.

In Exeter a few years back we had our first train spotter and he was a corker. Over a period of three days and without much encouragement, he seized the opportunity and delivered the goods. In the initial exercises he was seen as amiable, earnest, honest, pedantic, slightly awkward and prone to bluster when excited. When 'a bit of a mad professor' was mentioned, he took it on board and started performing as if he was giving a lecture.

Gregory had never been on a stage before and he may choose never to again, but in a ten minute showcase performance he took a studio theatre audience of thirty people giggling through the history of Britain's railways on the 12.08 from Kings Cross to Edinburgh (with a 17 minute fuel stop) and imparted more esoteric information than any of us could handle. The curl of his comic attitude - that his serious façade could never contain his passion and enthusiasm - revealed him as intelligent, endearing and intriguingly dotty. We ended up loving him almost as much he loved his subject.

Don't write anything down other than a few bullet points. Aim for about 4-5 minutes.

List and Curl

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank…

Homework for Workshop at Bath Spa Saturday 27th Jan 2018.
Write a thankyou list. Note: Text to be delivered at the workshop in the here and now.

Thank anyone who has ever influenced you in any way and give the briefest of explanations why or none at all, (you can witter on forever but that's another plot). Thank them with love, thank them with irony, thank them with humour, bewilderment, disdain, hero-worship, anger or best wishes. Spit out their names, drool at the very thought of them, salute them, shout at them one last time, delight at their memory, Corpse at the very thought of them. Family, friends, lovers, comrades, politicians and celebs, obscure people known only to you - neighbours from hell, neighbours from heaven, bass guitarists of forgotten punk bands, kids you went to school with and who disgraced or excelled themselves, teachers who helped, hindered or humiliated you, priests, publicans, probation officers, shop keepers, show offs and shit-stirrers, and all those people that must exist because somebody must have written that ad or road safety jingle that drove you insane or designed that tower that blocks your view of the setting sun.

Mention at least one unfortunate, who there but for the grace etc and at least one talentless chancer who represents everything that is right or wrong or whatever about the appalling and or wonderful society in which you live or scrabble about on the fringes of. Get surreal with it, silly with it, serious, seditious and scatological with it. Regress, pontificate, condemn, celebrate, but keep it personal, make it all about you and your loves, hates, likes, dislikes, fantasies and predilections. Enjoy yourself with it.

Include yourself in relation to each of them. Use the excuse of distance of time to diss yourself and your bad behaviour and thank those who must have overlooked it, forgave you and loved you despite it.

Read it out loud to yourself, improvising any thoughts as you go. Sum up with emotional emphasis your feelings towards your subjects as you speak their name, adding the secondary stuff and extras as you would asides or throwaway background information.

Tick anything that tickles you. Cut out the stuff that just helped the process. Don't analyse it too much but put it in some sort of order and share it with us.

Running time 3 - 5 minutes.