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Thursday, November 16

So What's Funny Then?

I've heard comedians occasionally say something like the above while searching for their next bit of material in their set. 'What else do I want to talk about?' It's a tough question. As someone who has more failed attempts at starting a bit of material than succesfully completed AND funny bits, I can sympathise. It's hard to make something funny when you can see why it should be, so to sit down with either a blank piece of paper, or a topic that you want to be funny with, is a tricky sticky situation, much like the second poo of the day after a strong curry the night before.

The secret is in the extremes, I think. If you start with something exceedingly contrived, its contrivance can make big patterns of amusement. If you start with something totally uncontrived and find its naturally funny side then that too works. It's the uncomfortable middle ground where one's trying to force the humour out which can result in all sorts of crap. I've written two songs this year which fall into that category. Neither has been performed to an audience, because I don't find them funny enough. If I think it's not funny, I don't expect an audience to. This is not quite true of all my material. Some things I do, I no longer find that amusing personally, but I know that they will make the audience laugh if I do them in a certain way. They've become a bit like a magical incantation. Do this. Do that. Then the laughter happens here and then there. Such pieces are useful for getting a barometer reading from a room. . . But. . . I think I'd rather do things that I find hilarious and which I'm genuinely amused to be doing.

One of the best sounds from I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is the sound of Barry Cryer laughing. He'll laugh at everyone's jokes, not just his own, and the secret to a good programme is when the panel members are making each other laugh either with some damned clever jokes, or the audacity of some really bad ones. So it's the spontaneity of the humour which gives it its power. We're back to my first rule of comedy: be funny!

I listened to my Colchester gig the other day and I know where I was going wrong. For much of the performance, I wasn't feeling especially funny nor enjoying myself. As it happened I had a reasonable with about me and kept crowd control for much of it, but there's a difference between charisma and a motor mouth. Normally I feed off the audience's reaction, and my best gigs have been when a happy audience make me feel so happy that my funny gets turned on to the max. So the secret to being funny is probably to bring the funny with you whatever the mood of the room.

That's harder than it sounds.


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