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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 6:45 pm 
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hey guys, this is a topic that I have been discussing with a few of my comedian friends, and i thought it worth bringing up here, to see what you all think. I am a new act, done about 50 gigs, and always get a reasonable response, but I recon that as soon as I leave the stage I am forgotten. It's not because i am a bad comedian (I hope), but it's because the only difference between me and the other acts on is natural talent, and time on stage. We all use the same "alternate" style of telling anecdotes relating funny stories to everyday life. There are plenty comedians who make it big using this style, but for a new act trying to break into the big time, is it better to take some risks and try a completely new style, rather than perpetuate a tried and trusted method. Is it time for some comedy evolution?
I have this theorey, and this is me as a comedy punter speaking, years ago the old "mainstream" type of comedy was the 'ol style of telling funny stories using every racial steroetype and whatever to enhance it, and then finished up with the most important part of the storey, the punchline. The acts talked the punters through the whole routine,and effectively told them when to laugh. It was a style that worked great, and if it 'aint broke, why fix it?
But then along came the observational comic, where the whole point was laughing at the story, which applied to real life, and shock-horror, there was no punchline. It became known as observational comedy, and had the advantage that punters had to work a little to understand the joke, and it made them feel that bit more intelligent. The comics preferred this style as the punters found it hard to retell their story to their friends later on. They knew they had laughed hard, but couldn't make other people laugh, so those other people had to go along and see the act if they wanted to get the joke (try telling someone a Tommy Tiernan bit, and see if they laugh). You can imagine that when the alternate comedians started emerging, the mainstream guys got a little nervous, as they could see that their style of comedy could be coming to an end, and they could be demoted to entaining seniors on a weekend in Brighton.
But these days, mot comics are doing alternative comedy, it has effectively become mainstream. People can go along to the club, and have a great night, but would not be able tell you who they saw. I can see tht the old style observational comedy is reaching saturation point, sure you even have Civil Engineers like myself giving it a go, so it's time to start a new style of comedy. With the current craze of reality tv and the like, it's no coincidences that the most popular sit-coms are shows like The Royle Family, The office, and to a lesser extent I'm Alan Partridge which has no jokes or punchlines, but basically show people like you, exactly like you on tv, and that is why we love them. It is still observational comedy, but they have taken it a step further, by taking out the laugh-a-minute style (so popular with the yanks), but yet it still works, and it is comic brilliance. The audience has to work hard to get the joke, which is why people either love those shows or hate them, but hose who love them realise that a change in comedy is on the way.
However how can this be applied to standup? I have seen some great attempts, and some pathethic attempts at a new style of stand-up, but I don't know if any of these styles will take off. One of the best of these acts is a mime from Dublin, who does observational comedy without speaking! However while he always goes down well (one of the few guys I've ever seen to get a standing ovation), yet in the semis of the Beeb new comedy awards, despite doing a great set, the judges shot him down.
Anyway this rant has gone on way too long, thanks to everyone who read it, and i'd be interested in some of your comments.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 6:53 pm 
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I read the first two lines, got bored and scrolled to the last line. You need to be a bit more punchy.
Try again or edit the above I say. :D

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 7:50 pm 
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Good rant, and some good points made (I took the trouble to read it all :) )

I agree with most of your points, but I do think there are different styles of stand-up coming through, it's just none of them can be described as the mainstream yet (and may never be).

If you treat traditional standup as "An ethnic minority walked into a bar and the barman said blah blah blah etc...",

and what we consider Alternative/Observation to be "Hey, so what's the deal with airline food, isn't it small and blah blah blah etc...."

...then I think you'll find a lot of sucessful contemporary standup goes beyond either of those two pidgeon-holes.

One particular 'post-observational' style which seems to be gathering more and more momentum of late is character-based standup. It is true that most standups tend to adopt a poersona to some degree in stage, but I think we are now starting to see standup in which the character itself that is portrayed IS the main element of the humour, not just the vessel for delivering the Jokes/observations. Kind of like The Office or Alan partridge but in a standup format. Steve Coogan of course does a lot of this, delivering a character-based set on stange, but in a standup format (one bloke in stage with a microphone directly addressing the audience).


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 05, 2003 10:31 pm 
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Some great points. well done mate, but I can't remember your name


so erm, sorry.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 1:03 am 
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I read all the above, and agree you are right to worry. BUT I wouldn't worry if you don't get an answer (if that makes sense). I was fortunate enough, tonight, to share a long train ride home with some of the audience I played to. They had been at the Chuckle Club the week before but couldn't name any of the acts they saw. And these are professional acts. If you are good enough you will join this group of acts that nobody knows the name of.

From what I have heard people are loyal to clubs rather than comedians.

Something positive though, they were early 20's and were big fans of live comedy.

I don't think I have made any valid points.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 1:47 am 
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I agree with your sentiment, and with an attitude like that, and a few good jokes, I think you'll go far, abitofacomedianarewe (but get a new stage-name).

I gotta say though, a lot of people keep saying, alternative comedy needs a change, let's have a comedy revolution, etc etc. - as i see it though you can only do what you find funny. I tell jokes, and that's about it. It's not going to change lives, I'm not going to get my own tv show, and I'm not going to herald in a new age of comedy. If someone comes along who does, fair play to them. But you can only do what you find funny - I for one can't just summon up some amazing alternative to alternative comedy, and anyone who can is a brave talented person.

I agree that something's got to give. The folk of Britian won't make do with Jongleurs-style observations forever. At some point, everyone in the country is going to realise that men and women are different, that airlines ask you stupid questions upon check-in, and that lots of Australians work in bars.

In Oliver Double's book Stand-Up (which I recommend), he notes that while music hall stayed the same for decades, and the working club circuit stayed the same for decades, alternative comedy has changed a lot in only 20 years. So who knows?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 1:49 am 
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i aggree that character-based stand-up is definately becoming a regular, and popular style right now. it seems that having a distinctive persona or visual look gets more recognition.
eg: bobcat Goldthwaite, Daniel Kitson ("the speccy one with that beard") etc, etc....

I love character comedy. and it's acts who break away from the usual average delivery or have something distinctive about them, that tend to stick in my mind the most. all depends on what rocks yer boat, really. people seem to enjoy an exaggerated character or observational satire of a socal group, characters in pop culture, etc. maybe because it's still something (much like your straight observational material) that people can relate to, recognise, laugh along with, and all that.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 11:21 am 
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I wonder what you mean by successful? Money? Fame? Brilliant ability? Recognition?

If you mean get on tv, it has a lot to do with your ability to talk the jargon with the big boys, getting producers excited etc as well as a set which marks you down as someone good, -but not too risky - with a marked originality on stage.

If you want to be a successful comedian then you work out the best way you can to get the audience laughing.

If you want to be an influencial and great comedian - but perhaps not have the same success or recognition by tv - then you really explore the medium. Take risks, do things that no one has ever tried before, and push it to the limit.

How is up to you... you find what you're best at.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 11:21 am 
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Whisper it quietly, in case egos get bruised, but what Adam says is right - even regular comedy-goers tend to go our for a non-specific 'night of comedy' rather than seeking our a specific act, which is why it takes years to get any sort of recogition to the wider public.

But it's a mistake to think of comedy in the black and white of alternative and mainstream. Is Dave Allen a 'mainstream' comic because he started out before 1980... is Tim Vine an 'alternative' comic? The 'alternative comedy' boom was restoring things to the way they should be - people doing their own acts in their own style, rather than following the same template of every other act on the working men's club scene.

There's not alternative and mainstream comedy, only good comedy and bad. And bad comedy comes from following established trains of thought - whether it's 'my mother-in-law's so fat...' or a routine that starts 'anyone here smoke weed' and ending with a line about the munchies.

Basically, giving the audience what you think they want leads to blandness and staleness. But I think that's also a flaw in Abitofacomedian's argument about what to do with his (?) own set to stand out, as it appears to be trying to look for trends to cash in on, rather than examining what makes you laugh, and applying your own talents in that direction.

Obviously if you're a good actor, say, you'll be more inclined to try the character route - but too often that's a cop-out. The Pub Landlord is funny because he's funny, not because he's a character. Dressing up as a nun and adopting a pronounced limp and South American accent won't miraculously make you a great wit.

You have to be original AND funny. People trying too hard to overthrown the status quo with their unique, cutting-edge, never-before-seen comedy styles have been responsible for some of the direst self-indulgent drivel ever to grace a pub function room, simply because they forgot comedy's about jokes.

All comedy has punchlines, otherwise it's a lecture. Alan Partridge is full of them, just because they're not telegraphed and accompanied with a drum roll doesn't mean there aren't specific points where a laugh should come. It's the same with observational comedy - there must be laughter points, and the closer they are together, the better.

Also, is it only me that sees a flaw in claiming to look for an all-new, unique, revolutionary style of comedy by trying to replicate the success two well-established TV sitcoms?

And sitcoms created by people who were working the circuit 15 years ago at that.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 1:08 pm 
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Steve Bennett wrote:
Also, is it only me that sees a flaw in claiming to look for an all-new, unique, revolutionary style of comedy by trying to replicate the success two well-established TV sitcoms?

And sitcoms created by people who were working the circuit 15 years ago at that.

no, you're not :)


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 2:14 pm 
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Steve Bennett wrote:
You have to be original AND funny. People trying too hard to overthrown the status quo with their unique, cutting-edge, never-before-seen comedy styles have been responsible for some of the direst self-indulgent drivel ever to grace a pub function room, simply because they forgot comedy's about jokes.

All hail the true king of chortle.

I completely agree with Steve Bennett.

I do think that too much similar product will fuck the industry, however - the 'higher' up you go - the more distinctive the acts get.
What does that teach us?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 3:19 pm 
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I did read your post and replied with a tongue in cheek remark. But to address what you say. In the beginning the act needs to be funny, that just gets you by. To take it to the next level it needs to be funny and memorable. This will get the 'oh he does the blah blah routine' the next level is funny, memorable and very very funny.

I don't think the 'mainstream / alternative' thing is the issue. Tim vine is mainstream, jeff Green has become mainstream and HACK (girlfriend, women etc) but they are both very funny and memorable, so its OK (not my taste BTW)

I think its also about adapting, Manning can be very funny but tastes have changed and he is, at times, so old hat and offensive, it ruins anything good he does. Its all about balance, he now is more offensive than funny. But he does know how to tell a gag and deal with a room. (not my taste BTW)

Steve Coogan recently got away with the 'going down a cobbled street on a bike, I've not come this way before' gag. But why? Becuase it was surrounded by very good gags and some topical stuff thrown in.

Don't do what you think people want you to do, do what you want to do and see how far that takes you. Be different and daring but always be funny, then you can't go wrong*

*This is my opinion and is no way reflected in my act.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 3:24 pm 
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Oh and my mother-in law is so fat she shops at Evans

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 4:37 pm 
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One of the main reasons I want to try out something real new, is that there are just so much observations that someone can make, and if everyone (well the majority of acts in my local club) is using the same style, we appear to be going down the road of acts using the same jokes. Example, I recently did a gig where a Scottish act called Danny Bhoy was on the bill. I had seen this man once before, so was not too familiar with his work, and after his set was over I had to cross off about 2 minutes from my act, because we dealt with the same observation in a very similar way. My point is, that if our styles were different, we could have both dealt with the same topic, and earned laughs from the punters both times. Either that or do what one of the other acts suggested, move to a new scene where you wont be on the same bill as the guy you "copied". ;)

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 06, 2003 4:56 pm 
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Lloyd Stephens wrote:
jeff Green has become mainstream and HACK (girlfriend, women etc)

if you think someone is a hack for broaching the subjects of girlfriends and women, you are very sorely mistaken

it's not the subjects, it's what you do with them


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