How to write a comedy show

The longest set I’ve done is 20 minutes, but next week Friday the 16th of September, I am doing a half an hour work in progress at Laugh and Cry at The Lion and Unicorn Pub in Kentish Town. But how to do it? Should I treat it like long set, just doing more jokes than usual, or give it a narrative?

Most comedians tend to centre their shows around a theme or a story, this involves writing specific jokes to fit with that story, so is it easier for your first show just to get all your best material together and screw the narrative arc?

I thought about doing a show about my father’s death (I’m sure I heard somewhere that Stewart Lee thinks this is one of the main reasons Edinburgh shows have become hack), but I don’t know if that’s too personal, or worse, too reductionist. I don’t want to have to leave out some of my best jokes, or force the show too much to fit to a theme.

Sometimes a show’s theme or story can change along the way as well. When I went to see Bridget Christie’s preview (which was hilarious), the Brexit result hadn’t come out yet, as it was on the day of the referendum, and she did make some jokes about it, but apparently after that happened, her show became much more focussed on Brexit. I might have to see it again now.

I do think that having a ‘schtick’ or a theme can make audiences more inclined to come and see your show, but on the flip side, if it’s a good show, it doesn’t matter. Some of the best shows I have seen have had a story, and some of them haven’t. Some of them are a collections of little stories; snippets into a person’s life. I’m going to spend some time writing down all my ideas, and jokes I already have, and see what happens. Maybe a theme I hadn’t even thought of will come out of it…

Date at the Tate

On Saturday I was on my way to do Shaggers at Leicester Square Theatre when I got a message from a guy I’ve been talking to from Tinder asking to meet up that evening. I did initially invite him to the gig, although I’m quite glad he didn’t come now…

He suggested we meet at 9 and go to to Tate Modern (which is now open until 10 on Fridays and Saturdays). I thought that sounded cool and artsy so I agreed to meet him.

The gig was awesome and it was really fun being able to do all my dirtiest jokes. The audience seemed to enjoy my set, although one man did look shocked when I said the words, ‘but I don’t see you sipping out of my mooncup’. Apparently even at a sex themed comedy show, I’m still pushing the boundaries. Which I love doing. The show finished at 8.30 and I walked across the Thames to go and meet my date.

This man has spent the last few weeks or so basically being my news source. He likes to send me politics links, weather updates, pictures of the sky, and ask me stuff like who I think is going to win Euro 2016. (I can’t even remember who won now…was it France?!) Anyway, I was quite intrigued by his method of communicating and thought we might get along.

The problem with internet dating is you have no idea what a person is really like until you meet them. When I go on a date with someone, I generally know within 5 seconds if I am attracted to them or not. Which sounds like a really quick assessment. But that’s just how I am.

We meet, and I quickly realise he is not my type at all. I know that’s shallow, but I think that sexual attraction is very important, especially as I am not really looking for a relationship at the moment, more just some fun. I also don’t think that looks and personality are mutually exclusive and that when you meet someone in person you get a sense of that person as a whole and their general vibe.

But it’s rude to say straight away ‘Sorry I don’t fancy you, I’m going home’, plus I do (usually) like art galleries, so we go into the Tate and I think ‘well it closes at 10, so I can bail after that’.

The new building has a nice viewing platform, and the sky looks beautiful. I guess it could be quite romantic if you were there with the right person. I’m more interested in taking photos though.

Picture of the London Night Sky

We go back inside and see the Louise Bourgeois exhibition I have heard so much about, sadly I think I don’t really get it. It’s full of body shaped sculptures and dolls and I don’t understand or enjoy looking at them. I do like the spider on the wall though, I think spiders are beautiful and most people look at me oddly when I say this.

Picture of Louise Bourgeois's Spider

The gallery assistants keep telling him my date he’s not allowed drinks in the exhibitions, as he is carrying round an (unopened) coke can. (I ask him later when we are going back to the tube why he hasn’t drank it and he says he found it in a Boris bike and doesn’t want it. Right.)

We look at a few more rooms and nothing really grabs my attention. We talk about how art is all about networking and good marketing. For example, how the hell do you convince someone that this is worth putting on display?

Picture of Three Blank Canvases

I feel like art in a gallery should be at least a bit better than something I could make or just buy from a shop. Apparently this is not the case.

After a disappointing hour we walk back to the tube and my date tells me about how him and his last girlfriend dated for 5 years without having sex because she was religious (but he isn’t) and she wanted him to convert so they broke up. He also tells me that he was shocked when he came to England and saw people with Down Syndrome, as in Latvia where he is from ‘disabled people stay at home’. Wtf?!

When I get out of the tube there’s a message from him saying it was nice to meet me. I tell him it was good to meet him too (I’ve had worse dates and he did make me laugh a couple of times), but that I don’t think we have enough chemistry to meet again. He then says ‘why? I liked you’, so I tell him that he’s not my type (there’s really no need to ask for more information if someone says you don’t have enough chemistry). Do you want me to text back ‘I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP WITH YOU?!’

The next day he sends me a picture of the sky and I don’t reply.

The End

 

 

‘Decision’ – Art Review

I made the decision to go to Carsten Höller’s ‘Decision’ as soon as I saw the pictures of the flying machine you could go on. Any exhibition that has something like that is my sort of exhibition. More on the flying machine later.

We began by walking through almost pitch black corridors, using our hands on the walls to navigate the surroundings. I found this bit really fun and was slightly sad when it was over and we reached the first room, but soon forgot about the corridors when I got to push a contraption with mushroom parts around in a circle.

mushrooms

After the mushrooms, there was a room with a pile of red and white pills on the floor that were dropping from the ceiling. One of the gallery assistants told us to take one, a woman asked him what was in them and he said ‘flour and glucose, it will give you energy.’ So we thought, ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ and took one of the pills.

IMG-20150903-WA0026

After the pills, there were a variety of exhibits, including a bug, two engorged snakes,  a video about music in the Congo (with two screens, sometimes with differing perspectives of what was happening), a video of a forest on a 3D headset, twin beds, upside down goggles (which were incredibly disorientating) and a gigantic dice. This excited me, as I used to be so obsessed with dice that I would collect them. Unfortunately only children were allowed to climb inside.

dice2

Finally we reached the flying machines outside, where you are up in the air, flying round in a circle, and were told the wait was around an hour. I wished I hadn’t left my jumper and jacket in the lockers, but since it was the main reason I wanted to come, my stubbornness meant we had to wait. When watching other people on them (some of which seemed to really enjoy it, some not so much), I thought the rides should be shorter so that the queue wouldn’t be as long, but once I got up there I realised that you don’t want to come down; it’s strangely relaxing and you get into a sort of contemplative and meditative state. After doing a few fun poses for photos, of course.

flying

Last were the slides, which were like those water slides at swimming pools but with no water. I found out that I should have left my bag in the lockers, as the gallery assistant almost didn’t want me to go on due to health and safety and made me swear to accept responsibility for any injury. I’m not sure what she thought was going to happen as the slides were more than big enough to accommodate myself and my bag. It may have made me go faster though, I don’t know. The sliding felt like it was over way too quickly.

slide 1

The health and safety rules in the exhibition were generally peculiar. At the flying machines a woman came along with a headscarf and the gallery assistant told her she may wait for ages only to find out at the front of the queue that she would have to take her headscarf off to go on. I’m not sure why she wouldn’t be able to put the helmet on top, it’s not like she had a massive head or a Carmen Miranda style fruit display going on. She understandably didn’t look happy with this and decided not to wait. Yet there was no warning to diabetics not to take the pills earlier on (which turned out to be classic placebo sugar pills that didn’t make us larger, smaller, or noticeably different in any way).

The booklet says that ‘Decision’ is about ‘transporting people between different physical and psychological states’, bringing about ‘moments of not knowing’. This was definitely true, and made it stand out from other art exhibitions. I particularly enjoyed the interactive nature and would like to see more of that in general, as it evokes the idea of art not being finished until someone has experienced it. The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ vibe was a nice touch as well and made it feel like a mini adventure. It’s only on for one more day, so go tomorrow if you want to take random pills, fly through the air and slide back down to earth.

Carsten Höller, ‘Decision’, 10 June – 6 September 2015, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, £13.50 Standard Non Gift Aid Entry