Saturday, December 10, 2011

It ain't funny being funny

Different Spin Article 9th November 2011
The Star Metro

MY latest obsession is watching An Idiot Abroad — a travel documentary series that features former radio producer Karl Pilkington and is co-created with comedians Ricky Gervais and Steven Merchant.

This comical travelogue basically charts Karl’s reactions when travelling, as well as the situations he is placed in and cultural differences and idiosyncrasies in the countries he visits.

The ongoing theme is that Karl has no interest in global travel and likes to remain safe within his comfort zone.

This is the brilliant part — Ricky and Steven make him go to all these places and plan (unpleasant) surprises for him along the way.

What makes this show very appealing is Karl’s pure honesty. His unperturbed yet candid reactions to the ‘pranks’ thrown at him by friends Ricky and Steven, is hilarious yet endearing.

I have a huge respect for content providers. From the writers to the talents and form of medium used to execute good material. And just like how I am motivated to write after reading a good book or article, I have flirted with the idea of doing comedy after watching dosages of Karl’s adventures.

On a crazed impulse, I agreed to do a Comedy Open Mic to fulfil my bucket list.

When I first decided to do it a few weeks ago, I was on an unexplainable, inspired high and was confident that it was going to be okay. I blame this on Karl, Ricky and Steven.

Two days leading to the event, I am a nervous wreck and have no idea why I submitted myself to such scrutiny.

My manager says I’ll be fine as “I’m used to being on stage” but hosting, acting and emceeing is NOT stand-up. What have I gotten myself into?

Malaysia’s King Of Comedy, Harith Iskander, gave me a few pointers.

He told me to just relax and prepare some original ‘bits’ and rehearse it a few times in front of the mirror.

But that’s just it — how do you come up with funny ‘bits’? I watch the likes of Ricky Gervais, Russel Peters, Chris Rock and our local comedians Harith, Douglas and Joanne Kam performing stand-up so effortlessly.

Unlike theatrical comedy that I’ve done, stand-up is openly devoted to getting immediate laughs from the audience to which the feedback from the crowd is instant and crucial for the comedian’s act.

Audiences expect a stand-up comedian to provide a steady stream of laughs – so naturally the performer is always under great pressure to deliver a good string of funny ‘bits’.

Most comics find this pressure to be threatening but thrilling at the same time. I find this daunting.

I want my audience to laugh with me. Not AT me.

My first impression of comedians are of them being funny smartmouths all the time.

I was wrong. I have the honour of being quite chummy with some of our local stand-ups, and funnily (pardon the pun) , they are normally quite serious.

They are also intelligent as it takes a smart person to come up with smart jokes. The skills attributed to stand-up are diverse. From writing, editing and performing, the stand-up comedian is also the producer and technician for the act.

Many stand-up comedians work for years to develop 45 minutes of material or ‘bits’ and usually perform their jokes repeatedly, slowly perfecting them over time.

Uh-oh. I have less than two days to come up with some funny material, to rehearse the act and to make it look natural. Tell me again — why did I sign up for this?

I tried pulling out an hour ago but was told that it was too late as the promos were already out. This is not funny at all. It didn’t help when the organiser sent a ‘friendly e-mail’ telling us open–micers that at the absolute worst, “it’s just three minutes of heckling” and “no one has died from performing bad jokes on stage”.

Wonderful.

It isn’t funny when you are on the other side of the field. It is serious business and I am sweating in nervous anticipation of this gig.

I have got to calm down and remember that the essence of comedy is fun and laughter. Here’s to winging it on my first try. Wish me luck!

A picture with Regina taken at the BEE, Solaris. A few minutes after my open mic session. Phew!


By the time this article is published, Daphne would have proudly popped her comical cherry the night before. Here’s hoping that her ego and emotional state of being is still intact and not heckled to pieces. She highly recommends watching ‘An Idiot Abroad’. Tweet your jokes and thoughts to her at @daphCLPT

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