Monday, 21 April 2008

stand up workshop- a new departure- or always been there?!

image above-with thanks to flickr

my CSM evening in class stand up was cancelled...and still raring to dangle a toe into the murky waters of comedy to either help simply boost my confidence in my performance persona or develop some new humourous storytelling ideas...i found a one dayer on saturday 19th april with bull comedy, run by brian luff and georgina having walked into the room a nervous blob (everyone i spoke to about this said, my- you've got balls...)i then found myself sitting shiftily waiting to have to go up and simply say my name into the mic and get others to guess what i do for a living, at the weekend, car i drive (!), based on my appearance(usual floral vintage dress), body language and voice. this was really revealing- first guess drama teacher and second person said- no- she's pretty geeky, i think she's a librarian! also- nah, she works in fashion, or advertising.
pretty interesting, huh! i like the librarian idea...hmmm. alter ego? the point of this was in considering your BRAND- either dress neutrally so everyone has to visualise entirely by your voice, story/body language or set the scene as it was, through your walking on stage. we talked a lot about mic technique and had to practice coming on stage (running), on the wave of the applause as it was to keep the momentum high, and tell a joke- i was so nervous i told my what do you call a sheep with no legs joke, (a cloud *if you care*) which fell flat as it is asking a question directly you walk on stage...ooops.

anyway, the rest of the morning analysed a range of comedians styles and brands, and how brian felt the best type of acts were confessional, anecdotal, observational, as well as tips and techniques for writing material.
we talked about tools/formulas to try out;
  • comedy lists- like cheese shop scene in monty python;
  • use of opposites; mad man v sane man, noisy v quiet man, big v small. old v new- it was important to think the more extreme opposite the better- eg ancient v latest modern.
  • PAIN- people love watching other's pain- so getting to build to this is good. laughing at other people's torture.
  • substitution- remove the most important item in a story and substitute it for the most extreme opposite- eg big train; taking out the buffalo replacing with jockeys
we were then asked to develop a story based on something we wouldn't tell our mothers. having talked about my nan's unfortunate cat floral tribute at her funeral to others recently, i though this might make a good subject to start with, to develop using the tools we had discussed. we had to take it in turns to come on stage and tell our story. am debating whether to record mine and post on here..hmm, would be good to see what i looked like- i think this has always been my problem- i get so nervous and feel like am really shaking but to others this might not be roughly went like this;

brian as compere bigs up the crowd, and brings on a chair at my request (partly as i asked for it due to wanting to be more intimate and was feeling faint!), announcing me, and everyone applaudes. i calmly and slowly walk on, sit down and take the mic, sit still and look across the front row. i then say;

my nans' last request was to have a cat wreath for her funeral. nanny had 14 cats....

and then i go onto talk about this story, embellishing with intricate details, using lists, subversion, opposites, building the story with an unexpected twist. and people seemed drawn in and laughed with the story. i felt even light years away form my nunnery story telling- i love humour and had found some tools to tailor it to suit me.

the feedback was really great and i loved sitting there telling the story. the story worked, it was quite bizarre, eccentric even. and i feel that i found a potential brand i like;


stand up gave me a very confident voice for my obsessive loves with subversive-ironic-star-martin-parr and minute-attention-to-mundane-detail-douglas coupland!! i have been thinking for a while about the jilly cooper novel, harriet poole (i used this in a leaving speech from a job 7 years ago)...might be good material for some kind of ironic playfulness? brian luff did however say i reminded him a lot of the comedian josie long- so need to be aware of this; any thoughts? (i'd never heard of her); i also think that photography is very important to me so incorporation of this would be different;

i need to think about what i got out of this and the direction it takes me- i now have a real interest in stand up and think it would be good to persue two different practices, with tools and formulae for story telling to feed into my live art MA work. i can see the georgina starr photo still clearly in my head in either worlds, projections of photo (flickr is a great source of ideas for a performance slide show lecture style set) . i also think the funny thing is so much about the relationship between what you say, the way you say it, body language, timing, and non-verbal- devloping ideas purely on gesturing with body/objects to generate humour could be funny (mary poppins bag pulling out the very long lampshade )

i have (nervously) booked a stand up open spot in a pub ( 5 mins) in august and entered a competiton in june. but i won't post where yet...yikes. that'll be the test i guess.


Mz. Noodle said...

see how this workshop feeds into the practice you have been building on the MA. I definitely think you can incorporate the photos into it. And the spreading out of all the junk.

My impression reading this is that you think it's somehow separate? I don't really see why that would be. Can you explain more?

harriet said...

good question lena, i suppose the context is whats making it different for me, the approaches to storytelling, experimenting with photography, engaging in a conversation yes...its just i'm not working on a stage in my MA work- and the participation is much more two way- heckling can be a positive or a negative thing i guess.

that all said i need to watch more stand up and see whats possible and invent my own brand more, i can imagine more performance art type departures. the course tutor said not to involve props in the first 5 minute spot, i was thinking, quirky obejcts, flickr already after that point see theres a more set scene in that field that i'm learning about as of 2 days ago...framing in live art in terms of choosing a site is much more open- multi-media feeds and things can expand this site tho


Douglas said...

Very brave of you to stand up there--I like the game of-- guess who I am-- I play it all the time on the tube--but never find out if I'm right or completely off the mark

Sound all very worthy. Lots of info for you. My suggestion would be to take these classes with a grain of--whatever..they are kind of like self help books--i think if you analyze humor too much you kill it. But what sounds useful from your blog is about presences. The idea of a presence you have to respond to immediately, is something you have instinctually, the caution is when one begins to analyze that the questions dip in.

I whole heartedly believe that with focused, concise and timed material your work will be speak volumes-- as far as images or objects forget about the "rules" I think you'll certainly find the right means that fits your voice.

harriet said...

thanks doug. yes, the presence element is what i'm deliberating across everything thats performing in my work- or when something is not, for me its about working out what is 'speaking' and when to best effect this-verbally and non-verbally- photos, me, participant, space, etc

participation in this format interests me-although its very much me up here, you down there, and the 'who's in control' can change very quickly-the tutor talked about it being a conversation with the audience- don't think this is the right arena for the kinds of intimate conversations i wish to engage in my work- but i can see how others respond to my stories and explore thinking on my feet

yes about humour needs to be fresh, immediate- my story i told on saturday i might develp a couple of bits but try not to over rehearse so it feels like the first time, and allow for variations- i went into auto pilot a bit at the nunnery and now want to be more playful, conversational, a structure but not mapped out all the content before an encounter