Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How to Be Funny - Learn how to do Stand-up in Brighton

Copyright: Janet Cameron
Contemporary humour is sharp and cutting-edge. You need to be dedicated to make it on the city comedy circuit - a good tutor can show you how.
In Victorian times, most comedy was centred around slapstick and wordplay. For example, one of Victorian comedian Thomas Lawrence's jokes was his advice to bachelors who
planned to marry:
"There's nothing to be frightened at. Surely it is only like bathing in cold water - one plunge and it's all over."

Today, we are more sophisticated and comedians, allegedly, have to be taught how to get the most laughs for their comedy routine. So can stand-up comedy be taught? According to "A life of funny business" in the weekend magazine supplement to the Argus, Brighton's local newspaper, it most certainly can.

Categories of Humour

Most forms of humour can be broken down into categories, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology. These are:

·      slapstick

·      misunderstanding/farce

·      innuendo

·      pun/wordplay

·      mimicry/parody/satire

·      irony/sarcasm

·      exaggeration

·      analogy/comic metaphor

·      inappropriate response

·      comic repetition

·      reversal of reality

·      black humour

Everyone Can Learn to be Funny

Tutor, Jill Edwards, began one of the United Kingdom's first stand-up comedy courses around twenty years ago, and, according to the Argus article, it is still one of the most famous courses in the business. Famous names have passed through Jill Edwards' capable hands, including those of Jimmy Carr and Iranian comedian Shappi Khorsandi. "The fact is," Edwards told the Argus reporter, "comedy can be taught. Not everyone will end up on TV because it's not just about telling jokes; it's about your personality, your dedication, even whether you look "right" on telly."

Edwards insists that everyone can learn to be funny. Being funny can be a useful skill even if you are not planning to make a career of it. The techniques used by comedians can be adapted for business situations like presentations, although the moves chosen need to be subtle and appropriate. Understanding how humour works can help people gain confidence when speaking in public.

The Typical Stand-Up Comedy Student Does Not Exist

Edwards teaches at the Komedia theatre in Gardner Street, Brighton. Among her students are young mothers, office workers, an accountant or two and they range from the very young to senior citizens. Sometimes there are people who have recently been made redundant and want to regain their confidence. Among the skills they will learn are timing, stage presence and how to write their material.

One of Edwards' students told me, "We have to write loads and loads. Absolutely pages. And then we go through and Jill picks out a phrase here and there. And that phrase will be worked into the set. The rest is redundant and has to be thrown away, but that's how we get a quality routine."

Of course, some people find it more difficult to be funny, but Jill Edwards says she works hard to make sure everyone gets something out of the course. Those who excel end up on her advanced class in neighbouring Steine Street in the centre of Brighton. Those who don't make it to the advanced class still end up with a great experience and a DVD of their set performance. Most achieve gigs in local pubs and bars, and although they are unlikely to be paid, they have a great time and sometimes free drinks courtesy of the publican or customers.

Edwards says she doesn't get much out of the jokes herself. Unfortunately, she is far too busy assessing them.


·      Meakin, Nione, "A life of funny business," Magazine Supplement to the Argus,Brighton, 10.03.2012.

·      Colman, Andrew M. Oxford Dictionary of Psychology, Oxford University Press, 2006.

·      Britten, Nick, "Victorian jokes reveal history of humour, but we are not amused." 08.08.2006. Accessed: 10.03.2012.


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