ED2011 Comedy Reviews

The About Comedy Stand Up Comedy Course (Laughing Horse Comedy)

By | Published on Friday 19 August 2011

Laughing Horse Stand Up Course

A Mancunian having a mid-life crisis, a Grangemouth sales rep, a fourteen year old with an innocent face and devilish sense of humour, and a ThreeWeeks reviewer walk into a bar. Not the set up to the world’s worst joke, but the start of my initiation into the world of stand-up comedy. This two day course promises to teach us the basics of stand-up – joke writing, performance and not dying on stage – in a little over nine hours, before making us perform our material for real punters at a real show.

Oh god, why did I volunteer for this?

The course is run by the disarmingly-like-your-mum-only-filthy Jojo Sutherland, and she eases our nerves with a practised confidence. “You’ll be great”, she tells us, “and if not, well, fuck it, comedy’s not for you!” A professional comedian of eight years, Jojo knows the trade inside out and is happy to answer our many questions as she goes about the business of knocking us into shape.

The first day consists of exercises to put us at ease and draw out our comedic influences. We have a broad mix in our group, from fans of shock jocks to mainstream stand-up to golden oldies like Stanley Baxter, and a range of presentational styles. Jojo, who has a remarkable knack for material, helps us find an arc for our five minute sets to follow. Her real skill, though, is making each arc feel personal and fitting, despite our varied tastes and styles. It helps that the atmosphere in the room is a constant bubble of humour and supportiveness with a refreshing lack of egos or prima-donnas, which is subtly encouraged by Jojo throughout.

With each of us having been sent home to write five minutes’ worth of material, the second day is when the real work starts. Our stuff isn’t funny, but, at this point, that’s to be expected. Working with each of us individually, Jojo tweaks and tightens our material, teaching as she goes. The “Rule Of Three” – set-up, reinforce, twist – is drummed into our heads, along with comedy being about taking ideas to their illogical extremes. Jojo works her magic on the material we’ve brought with us and, by the end of the session, we’re all armed with five minutes of actual stand-up comedy. That said, the second day of the course is a touch less successful than the first. Whilst the group was still very generous and giving, the fact that JoJo’s attention needed to be focussed on one person at a time meant that the day dragged when you weren’t in the spotlight. A second tutor working with those not getting one-to-one attention would have helped at this point.

Then, all too soon, the course was over and we were clutching the mic and staring out at a joke hungry audience. Our sauve compare, Jem Brookes, made sure to look after us and ensured we got a warm round of applause after we’d survived our terrifying sets. Once it’s over, it’s easy to see why so many people want to be stand-ups. Even in a first time set, the thrill of a gag hitting the mark is a powerful drug.

Obviously, no two day course is going to make you into the next Frankie Boyle on its own, but for those thinking about a career in stand-up – or those who just want to learn a few of the skills – this is an excellent place to start.

Don’t think I’ll be giving up the day job, though.

Laughing Horse @ Edinburgh City Football Club, 6 – 7, 9 -10, 13 – 14, 16 – 17, 20 – 21, 23 – 24, 27 – 28 Aug (2 day courses), 12.15pm (4.45pm), £79.00 – £99.00, fpp32. tw rating 4/5 [ab]