The Comedy Bucket List
Performing comedy is an educational experience, just like any creative pursuit, or at least it should be. There is a theory in education that we learn best when we are challenged or stretched and less well when we are comfortable. I tend to believe that the same also applies to comedy. It is when we are challenging ourselves creatively that we learn the most and this is very important in order to develop as a performer. There are times when we need to learn and there are times when we need to apply what we’ve learnt, being challenged in the former helps us to be comfortable in the latter.
Some of these challenges might be performing in a ‘tough room’ or an environment that does not suit us, so we learn to become more flexible or versatile, either that or simply come to decide that certain events are not right for us (or we aren’t right for them). I call these performative challenges and may also include changing the way we deal with the audience and environment around us. Other challenges are more concerned with stretching oneself creatively, trying new approaches, styles or forms of comedy and are often pre-planned and worked on in private before they are brought into a public arena. From time to time I like to challenge myself in this way, pushing myself into trying something completely unlike my normal comedy style. I’ve learnt a lot from this ‘comedy bucket list’ of things I have wanted to try – even if the lesson has been to never do anything quite like that again. It can often be difficult to find opportunities to try new material, let alone some of the crazier ideas, most of which I would never dream of doing at a paid gig or a night where I felt the need to impress, for whatever reason. I am grateful to the people who run the kind of low-stakes comedy nights where it is possible to take such risks.Here is my comedy bucket list to date:
Perform with an unusual prop: I did this very early on performing with a giant teddy bear. It was fun at the time but when I think about this now, I cringe.
Character act: A rather ridiculous set as an ex-pat ghost ‘living’ in Beijing who bemoaned not being able to get into Heaven (a Beijing nightclub), was sad about his former girlfriend moving on (he now haunts her) and who briefly dated a Chinese ghost but broke it off because of the pressure to meet the ancestors. A lot of fun but very, very silly.
Jokes in other languages: This is something I have played with from time to time and have performed jokes in French, German, Mandarin and Latin.
Roast someone: In Beijing roasts were a traditional event if a comedian was leaving the city and I have taken part in a few. I have also roasted a couple of people since being back in the UK.
Be roasted: I have been roasted twice, once when I left Beijing and once as part of my stag proceedings – both were a lot of fun.
100% crowd work: I have done this a couple of times but not for quite a while. It was fun and taught me a lot about thinking on my feet (and asking questions you already know what the answer might be).
Double act: I once performed alongside another comedian, the lovely Scott Forsyth, to perform some ‘subway songs’. It was fun being on stage with another person and is something I may look to do again one day.
Comedy game: I have created a few comedy games, all based on the notion of guessing who a quote belongs to and inspired by my first such game, ‘Hopkins or Hitler?’ which I still occasionally still perform.
Comedy song: This is the most recent addition to the list. I performed a comedy song on bass guitar at a musical comedy event I ran and was keen to perform another song on double bass at an open mic night. It was a bit of a disaster because I can’t sing and struggle to play an instrument and attempt to sing. It did however stretch me creatively and whilst performing and hopefully I’ll benefit from this, even if I don’t ever return to doing a comedy song (which is probably for the best).