Personas

Apologies for the long break, I’ve been in the process of moving from Bristol to London. After the last instalment, and the lessons I learned, I had to think about whether I wanted to continue in the comedy style I’d started in. I’d call that style surreal, observational, storytelling.

As well as questioning the style, I was starting to doubt my material. From my last set I could tell that my final story was too long (and a bit meandering), so I decided to get rid of it. I had spoken to a fellow comic afterwards and he gave me some good advice. He said, that unlike when he’d seen me on a different night, this time my set hadn’t connected with the room (I had to agree and I wondered why). He commented that this time I had come over a bit awkward, and the slightly surreal nature of the set didn’t seem to land. Neither the material or the style were working for me. It was time for a rethink.

My original opener was purposefully pretty weird (an impression of an emoji). The idea was to catch people’s attention, build a bit of tension in a WTF? way, and then break it, when they realised the absurdity of it. BOLD? Yes. WEIRD? Certainly. IN A GOOD WAY? Debatable.

I wondered whether weird/surreal was really the style I wanted to aim for. In fact, style is perhaps too narrow a way to think about it, it’s better to think of it as a persona. Stand-up needs to be delivered from a certain point of view and needs to be consistent with the image the person on stage gives off. This is the comic persona. I wasn’t really sure what mine was.

Persona is very important; are you grumpy and world-weary, upbeat and energetic? The persona has to tally with the material. I came to the conclusion that while my material was a bit weird, my persona wasn’t. If you’re going to go weird, you need to go properly weird. One of my comedy heroes is James Acaster, but with Acaster, it’s not just the material, everything about him is weird: the mustard corduroys, paisley waistcoat and awkward stance. It accentuates the strange material and it works. I was just going out in jeans and a polo shirt, and saying some absurd stuff. It was a mismatch.

I wasn’t really prepared to go full weird, and truly sell that material, so I felt I needed some new material to go with a new “persona”. I junked most of the original stuff, and went with a “what is the world coming to?” vibe. A little bit puzzled, little bit annoyed, and crucially, fairly observational, which is perhaps more of a strength.

The other thing I noted had gone down really well from another comedian at a different night was some stuff on Bristol itself. It was local, applicable to everybody there, and seemed to capture people’s interest. I’ve had a few funny incidents in Bristol, so I thought I’d add some of that to the set as well.

Anyhow, I got on a really good night at Jokewalk at the Ropewalk in Bristol, and it went down very well. The MC did a great job warming people up, it was packed in, maybe 50 people and for the first time in stand-up I thought I nailed it, which was a nice feeling. Onwards and upwards!

For a great set about stand-up personas, watch this four minutes from Miles Jupp. It plays with (and on) the idea of him being posh.

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