In recent years there has been a “fashion” for some celebrities to try their hand at stand-up comedy. We’ve had DVDs from ex-Cricketer Phil Tufnell, sitcom actor Ricky Tomlinson and creator of The Office and Extras Ricky Gervais. Whilst for Tomlinson and Gervais it seems a natural progression of their comedy careers, it seems a bit incongruous for Tufnell. With some of the celebs you get a lesson in how NOT to be comedian.
Each of the above three have had success with the transition despite some seeing it as a cynical ploy of cashing in on their successes in other areas.
Less successfully, back in the mid-1990s John Wayne Bobbitt tried his hand at stand-up. Bobbitt was briefly notorious after his then-wife Lorena took a pair of scissors and cut off his… you know… little fella. After surgeons saved the day, Bobbitt took to the stage hoping there was more than one thing would be a successful stand-up. (I thank you)
Unsurprisingly his material mainly focused on the incident with apparent mixed response. I don’t even think he became a middle act, let alone release a DVD. Again, a lesson in how NOT to be a comedian. Thus a career in porn beckoned. As per usual (?)
Which leads us on to the most recent experimenter, former Neighbours actor and sometime 80s pop star, Craig McLachlan. He appeared on a sports show in his native Australia and, to all intents and purposes, he died on his arse. The clip got re-played the following week. (I think the footage) you’re about to see is about a year old):
After checking out the clip you’ll notice several things…
His material leaves a lot to be desired. He is performing on t.v. but he is using quite offensive humour. It seems as though he desperately tries to wring laughter out of subjects like incest, Muslims and, worst of all, his stint on Neighbours.
It’s all very well mocking your former career, but the difficulty, I think, lies in the fact that he appeared in Neighbours in 1987. That’s 22 years ago (at time of writing). I can’t even remember what I watched on t.v. 22 minutes ago, let alone 22 years. Apart from it not being current, it’s asking a lot of your audience to recall something that far back.
The most memorable thing from that whole period of Neighbours, as a non-fan, was when Kylie Minogue’s character got married.
He goes on to make jokes about Muslim religious chanting saying that now they are actually singing a lyric from his hit song “Mona” (Check out the”Mona” music video clip here, if you dare – he seems a bit Stalky McStalkerton to me). Personally, I don’t find the joke at all funny. It certainly could be construed as being offensive. On top of that, I think he butchers the delivery. The chant he gives is just far too long to make the joke work.
Then in my mind he commits two cardinal sins in one… which borders on genius if you ask me. Firstly, he starts to talk about poo. This is just puerile and a topic that went out with the Ark. This may have been cutting edge back at the early days of the alternative comedy movement, but not any more.
Secondly, not only does he talk about the poopie topic, he asks the audience’s opinion. Whilst this isn’t always a bad thing, it is when the line you utter is “what’s worse than poo?” You are just setting yourself up for a HUGE fall by asking them that.
Then the inevitable heckle comes back. It’s a classic one too, taken from 101 Classic Heckler Clichés: “you are!” This has to be right up there with the top ones like “got any material?” and “get off, you’re sh*t!”
At one point, he evens gives us the cursory, “no, I’m not kidding” when it’s obvious that he is. Why Craig, why? Before long the audience has tired of McLachan’s material and slaughter him with a rousing chant of “off! off! off!” Another lesson in how NOT to be a comedian.
You might think I sound a bit harsh, but when you’ve been heckled by 200 schoolkids, or you’ve had to battle a drunken heckler for 20 minutes of a 40 minute one man show like I have, you lack sympathy for someone in a situation like MacLachan-features here.
You are perhaps also thinking; “Jay, that’s stand-up comedy. It is perilous. I do speaking gigs so I’m NEVER going to face a heckler”
I wouldn’t be so sure of that. I’ve sat in the audience and watched a speaker battle a drunken heckler at a charity event. Slowly but surely the crowd turned against the speaker, who just soldiered on rather than cutting his, and our, losses.
What lessons can we learn from this?
1. Watch your material. Performing in a comedy club with what’s considered “blue material” is one thing, performing that same material a Prime-time t.v. show, is probably not the wisest of decisions. Also, try to keep current, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to talk about the current t.v. shows. No sooner do you say “hey why’s Eldorado’s so bad?” it’s gone and been replaced by something else. Try to create timeless material that you can continue to develop.
2. Avoid cutting edge. What’s cutting edge to some comics is just crass and unfunny to others. Too many comedians try and be edgy for the sake of being edgy because they realise every subject’s been done already. But it’s because every subject’s been done that you can re-cover subjects in your own unique voice.
3. Don’t allow hecklers in. If you aren’t good at dealing with hecklers why invite them into your comedy home? Don’t have questions that set you up for a fall, like “what’s worse than poo?” Also, don’t start chatting to the audience and when they don’t stop tell them to shut up. I’ve seen that done too. Don’t start what you can’t handle.
4. Deal with it. If you do get heckled, deal with the heckler graciously. You have to regain control of the situation, without tearing them to shreds right off the bat. If you go in all guns blazing you risk turning the audience against you.
5. Bail out. If you can’t deal with the heckler, and you can’t regain the authority then make a gracious exit. A simple, “I’m just keeping it short tonight”. Thank them and get off.
These are just some of my thoughts about this clip and what to do in a similar situation. What’s your opinion? What would you do in a situation like this?
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