Monday, August 01, 2011

Doing a comedy course at The Comedy Store in Manchester with John Cooper

 Well, it's been something I've been thinking about for quite a while. If I had one of those bucket list things then the resurrection of my stand-up 'comedy career' would have been on it.
N.B. Before I go any further - why the constant need to use 'little speech marks', Mark? I think it must be to signal 'irony'. Chortle. Ho and ho.

So there's doing some stand-up. Running a marathon and errmmm. I don't want to bungie jump. I could be like Gareth from the office when asked if he has any ambitions he'd like to achieve: "twins". Successful writing endeavours might once have been on my list but having almost given up writing that would be a bit stupid. And the marathon running isn't getting any closer at the moment. Perhaps I have to book in a half-marathon and that will give me a deadline so I won't embarrass myself with my pathetic performance.

 But for now: comedy. I don't even like the word. So much pressure. I'd said I needed a kick or a helping hand to do it - and a friend not only found out about a course with John Cooper aka Danny Pensive at the Comedy Store in Manchester. So I did a 6 week course. And it was very good. And there were lots of things that were similar to the writing advice I gave myself in the past where I was the expert, or an old hand. It was a nice supportive atmosphere and without wishing to use the nice again, the other people on the course were ... splendid. A mixed bag of abilities, styles and funnyness. But then who gets to decide who is funny and who isn't? You can't. You can only try - like when you are teaching writing in general - to teach ideas creation, craft - and provide a workshop that promotes people who want to have a forum to come up with new ideas and rewrite and hone those ideas.

I really do come from the writing end of the table. If there is a table. Stand-up comedians say things like - writing is really difficult. I think things like, ummm, but you're only writing a few thousand words. How hard can it be? I can write lots of words. Obviously, the key thing is making the words actually funny. And throwing away all the verbiage I normally write. That is the hard bit.

The next hard bit - once the course was over - late July 2011 - was finding places where they'll let you do gigs. Apparently there's a waiting list of 3 months to do (embarrass yourself) a gig as an unpaid opening act. Three months? To not get paid? To stand there and watch people not be very amused? Are all these beginner comedians ridiculously over-confident or mascochistic?

Why do I want to do it?
I don't really know. I did two gigs - literally a lifetime ago. Almost 20 years ago. In smokey clubs, when I was a wee boy. And some of the people I was on the bill with are still knocking around in Manchester. So I feel I have unfinished business. I just want to give it another go. If I fail I'm not going to suffer much. It's not like I don't care, it's not like I'm not ridiculously ambitious, quite the opposite, I feel too strong, too grown-up - in the words of Adam Ant, 'ridicule is nothing to be afraid of.'

For now, here's Danny Pensive, my 'mentor' and 'inspiration', he's doing a show in Edinburgh y'know. I went to his preview show and it was very silly, very naively charming and you will definitely come out smiling. He could even bring duffel coats back into fashion.


  1. I would have been doing the Comedysportz improv course at the same time that you were doing the stand up course. Further evidence on the smallness of the world.

    Did you find the course useful? I have toyed with the idea of doing it myself.

  2. I did enjoy the course. If only because John forced you, by week 3 to have 5 minutes. That week I wasn't prepared and had paper notes. That made me really nervous and I realised I'd rather just make stuff up than try and remember a running order and 'jokes' I didn't know. But all round definitely interesting and useful as you can fail quite happily again and again in the safety of a small room with other people with similar goals and with a similar level of (no) confidence. And John is obviously a very nice bloke.