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Tapley, Wallis, and Amused Bystander

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, famous alumnus. And, in all fairness, he was reasonably famous before we started.

I’ve been teaching Nick Wallis, Breakfast presenter for BBC Surrey, how to do standup comedy, in aid of Comic Relief for the last few weeks. Summaries of bits of our lessons can be found here, here, here, here, & here.

Having exposed himself to the hecklers and monsters of Reigate a couple of Fridays ago, last week Nick had to go and perform for a minute in front of Jo Brand, Jon Culshaw, Hugh Dennis and Emma Freud last week. He had to do actual standup in front of actual standups. You can read all the details, including how Nick felt he was going to be ‘sick on the spot,’ and watch a video of his performance here.

Teaching standup is an odd thing. One week you may be fearing for your students’ safety, the next wiping a tear from your eye as the knob gag that you helped them work up from a weak pun is rapturously received by an audience of… tens, usually.

Still, doing this with Nick has been especially gratifying. Not only has it been heartening to see him take to comedy so easily, but it’s also been a way of raising money for Comic Relief. It’s rare that a a profession so mired in (and fuelled by) cynicism and bitterness gives you an opportunity to do something so utterly wholesome.

What was particularly encouraging was the way in which the judges said that Nick was “most like an actual standup”, “comfortable”, and “so good looking”. I am going to take credit for all of those things…

My notes would be: if you’re going to do an improvised bit, Nick, make sure you’ve got a punchline to end it with, and a way of getting back to the material you’ve prepared. And, stop putting in extra words again, you’re swamping your punchlines with verbiage! But I shall berate you thoroughly for all that next time I see you.

Well done. Next stop: the Komedia on March 17th!

If you’d like the same sort of comedy tuition that Nick Wallis has been receiving, why not drop me an email about one-to-one lessons, or look at the Courses page?

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Rick Wakeman in 30. October 2003 in Somerville, MA

Image via Wikipedia

The CRCCISC posts are a series of tips to help Nick Wallis, breakfast presenter for BBC Surrey, prepare for his first standup gig, at The Komedia, on March 17th. There are more details in this post.

Dear Nick,

The second lesson is even easier than the first. It’s simple: be forgiving. Be understanding. When you look at the world and notice its absurdities and ridiculousness, pause for a minute to try and understand why it might have got itself into such an absurd state, before condemning it out of hand.

Admittedly, condemning things out of hand is funny. Anger is funny. Your frustrations are funny. But they’ll only take you so far. About as far as being Rick Wakeman in an episode of Grumpy Old Men. And no one wants that.

Comedy has enough middle-class white men sneering at a world that doesn’t quiet defer to them in the way they’d like. You’ll get laughs pointing out everyone else’s deficiencies, but you may well lose your soul in the process.

Keep your bitterness, your ire, your condemnation as arrows in your comic quiver; they’re all easy ones to fall back on. Spend a day trying to find the other kinds of comedy in world. Glory in silliness; see humankind’s foibles as symptoms of what we’re trying to get right, rather than evidence of all we get wrong; meet the world with an open and generous heart.

Above all, if you go to meet someone to talk about standup and you find they may have been out at the Chortle Awards until incredibly late, doing unmentionable things to the free bar, and that they’re now in no real state to see their own feet, never mind tutor anyone in comedy, be forgiving. Be understanding. Be quiet.

And maybe bring them some paracetamols.

Tapley, Wallis, and Amused Bystander

What could possibly go wrong?

There are certain small moments of indescribable joy when one’s teaching comedy. There’s seeing a quiet child suddenly find a huge voice when you’re playing improvisation games in a school. There’s watching new jokes coming into being. There’s the look of unadulterated horror on a breakfast DJ’s face as he realises that he has agreed, for Comic Relief, to perform an original set at a proper comedy club in front of a proper audience in a few weeks’ time.

That last one’s my new favourite. You can see his mind’s eye roving over each imagined hostile face, and sweating its way through each uncomfortable, silent second. This is going to be fun.

Yes, as those of you who listened to BBC Surrey (104-104.6 on your FM dial) the other morning will know, I’ll be training Nick Wallis, presenter of the breakfast show, in comedy for the next couple of weeks. Then, on March 17th, he’ll be performing a set, in front of a room full of paying punters, at The Komedia in Brighton.

Nick, of course, will be fine. Not only are (in my Treason Show experience) Komedia crowds delightful in the extreme (and VERY forgiving), but the fact that it’s for charity should mean that no one is going to be judging him too harshly. None of that, of course, will stop him visualising a room so quiet that you can hear people’s expectations crumbling.

Especially now that I’ve mentioned it.

The fact that it’s for charity is a double-edged sword, however.  If I fail to train Nick well enough, we will actually be making the lives of the less-fortunate much, much worse. I get the feeling that for every gag he does that falls flat, Lenny Henry will personally close a hospital in Somalia. For every weak pun, Billy Connolly will throw sawdust and scorpions into the well of a village in Burkina Faso. Each time Nick fluffs a line, Richard Curtis will punch a child carer.

So we’d better get it right…

I’ll be keeping track of Nick’s progress here over the next few weeks, and he will be blogging about it over there. In the meantime, if you run a comedy night in Surrey, and have a spare five minutes to give to Nick between February 25th and March 17th, drop me a line…

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