Where Funny Meets Dan: A Little More Confident

Since the announcement that I’ll be starring at this Sunday’s Gorillamania 1, I’d been quite frankly shitting myself, until tonight. The Open Mic nights I’ve performed at previously have been a whole different ball game – after all, nobody expects anything from you at an Open Mic: they get what they’re given. I’ve been bothered in particular by the following semi-irrational concerns:

  • Can I produce enough original material by Sunday to make my act long enough to be worth performing?

  • How much of my previous material is acceptable for re-use, considering that a number of people in the (paying) audience will have seen some of it before?

  • Is any of this stuff even funny?

  • Why do people keep trying to help me? Am I doing that badly?

A lot of this problem comes from the fact that I have a very unusual sense of humour, which doesn’t really translate very well to anybody else. For example, here are several of the funniest things I have ever thought about:

  • Planting lettuces in fields in a formation such that, viewed from the air, they would spell out words. I would call them the "Lettuce of the Alphabet."

  • Inventing a ray that disassembles trifles into their constituent ingredients: custard, jelly, etc – if you crank up the power you can even reverse engineer the custard back to eggs and sugar, for example, or back to a chicken, or back to an egg, or back to a chicken. No, of course it wouldn’t work on cakes.

  • How useful letterboxes are, because it’s very difficult to push a newspaper – especially one of the extra thick Sunday papers – through a solid wooden door.

These are genuinely some of the funniest things I’ve ever thought about. The first of them had me laughing out loud, at random intervals, for several days, and still makes me smile. But I understand that these things aren’t actually funny… at least: by the consensus of the so called "normal" people who unfortunately make up the typical comedy club audience, even in Aberystwyth.

It’s sometimes difficult for me to "get" the jokes that normal people seem to appreciate, except for the crude ones, because the childish part of me (and almost every man, I think) is still amused by rude words. Sometimes I wonder if I’m laughing too hard at a particularly mainstream comedian, to compensate for my deeper misunderstanding of which bit was the punchline. Sometimes I wonder if I think too hard about the whole thing.

Thankfully I’ve found a cross-over where the circles of funny things and things only Dan thinks are funny cross over, and it’s an area called absurdity. If you’ve heard me recite poetry inspired by teapots, or talk about famous people’s birthday parties, you’ve seen what I mean. If you’ve seen me laugh out loud while bombing during a piece of genuine political satire, you know what happens when I try too hard. If you’ve seen a crazy woman do a set in The Angel all about Crab Apple Surfing, you’ve seen what happens when absurdity goes too far (I found that quite charming and with great potential, if a little unrefined, by the audience weren’t impressed, and she saw it). So; absurdity it is. If you come along and see me on Sunday, that’s what you’ll be seeing – the patently bizarre. If it works, great: I’ve got plenty more where that came from. If not, then you’ll see me at a lot more Open Mic nights until I learn to tell a real joke. Either way: it’s a learning experience, and that’s what I’m looking for.

My mum once said, of my youngest sister (who has a very similar, bizarre, sense of humour), she "laughs at the funniest things." That line, in itself, is perhaps the best joke I have ever heard. And I’m not kidding.

7 replies to Where Funny Meets Dan: A Little More Confident

  1. Judging by the size of your notebook – yes. I find things always take longer than I think they will.

    None of it. Admittedly, you’re no professional, and i’m sure nobody expects you to be original *and* funny all the time, but having seen the amount of stuff you’ve churned out, I’d be quite disappointed if I came along and you were reverting to stuff we’ve laughed at before.
    Actually, if there was a particular thing and you can work one hell of a callback, that’s ok to repeat.

    Yes. See: birthdays and running jokes. I love them! Oh, and some of the other stuff makes me giggle as well.

    I keep “trying to help you” because I want to steal your reject jokes, and to palm off all my tasteless ones on to you to make funny. :P

    One other thing – I tried out some of my jokes on my dad, and he didn’t laugh much. But as he said – people are more inclined to laugh when they’re in large groups. I wouldn’t worry if drunken pub people haven’t been overly responsive, they’re a) drunken, b) in a pub, not a comedy night, and c) drunken.

    I like absurdity. I like laughing. You’ll kick ass. I’ll buy you a drink afterwards. :)

  2. I’m here to give you a vote of confidence.
    I think these kind of things all the time. I’d give my co-workers comedy gold and all I’d ever get in return would be quizical, annoyed, frightened looks.
    The best I get from Katie is groaning.

    I particularly like the thing about lettuce. Punning is possibly the most underappreciated of the comedy arts. msotly because it’s usually done badly by tabloid press. When done right, there’s nothing better.

    I think most people disagree with this last statement but I stand firm.

    Stand proud brother, don’t be afraid to try new things on an audience, don’t shy away from absurditiy (or things that Dan finds funny) and show those philestines what funny really means.

  3. I know what you mean.

    With regards to the jokes you find funny: try re-working the joke. Change the order of the words, or the build-up, entirely. If it still isn’t working for you I’d suggest cutting the joke, because what is a comedian who doesn’t tell funny jokes? I love my idea of a new label for cigarettes; “Smoking may enhance the taste of your bacon and kippers” but nobody else does and that pisses me off. I’ve made me laugh, I’m the one up here performing ergo you must laugh!

    On the re-use of material it has to be up to you. Play it by ear. If you don’t recognise the audience or if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of one of your ‘older’ jokes then use it. I always play it by ear but then…

    People will keep trying to help you because you’re doing stand-up comedy. Since everyone is funny at some point some people get the impression that they are an authroity on it. Some people are writers who want you to perform their material. Others are making conversation. What I always found frustrating was that somebody would tell me something that didn’t fit my style and I’d have to smile and nod. I imagine with an absurdist route you’ll be doing that a lot.

    Finally, as I’m sure you know, the absurdist route can be a great one for one-liners. You mis-pronounce soemthing and then turn it into a joke or you just randomly stop in the middle of a set to throw in a one-liner.

    All the best.

    Have faith.

  4. Oh shit, what the smegs that word i use…the one were you put your head in some chicks clevege!?! You know what i mean, that time, you know…hehe. Now THAT was funny.

    As if i cant remeber the word for it…

  5. Well, I did find the lettuce thing amusing, but obviously not as much as you did…

    Far too much stand-up nowadays seems to focus on satirical observations or sarcastic… it would be a pleasant change to have puns, surrealism and huge, huge tangents….

    Or maybe I’ve just been watching too much 80s comedy lately. Either way it’s almost the same as offending people. It’s up to them if they want to find it funny or not. I guess the key would be to find some common ground between you and the audience.

    But what do I know. If I ever tried stand-up it would probably be so surreal and pointless no-one would get it…

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