Stand-up in Eight

Six weeks ago, on a cold, dark evening in November, I made my way down to Kings Cross in London and although I didn’t know it then, I was about to meet a group of strangers that would become my confidants and I theirs.

I had been persuaded to enter the world of stand-up comedy and had enrolled on an eight-week course run by the very funny guys at Hoopla.

A basement studio at the Pauline Quirke Academy was to become my Wednesday night retreat from parenting, work and life. This was to become the space where 15 strangers and I would share our vulnerabilities and weaknesses, wrapped up in lots of laughter finishing off with a two-minute stand-up routine each week followed by a much-needed round or two at the local pub, none of us remained strangers for very long!

Over the last six weeks, I have been privileged to meet some amazing and diverse personalities, who have shared fascinating insights into their lives, I have been astounded by their confessions, felt repulsion and fascination in equal measures and laughed throughout. During each class, time was spent analysing the elements that make comedy and building on them. Never really thinking of comedy and photography as being much alike, I came to realise that there are many similarities between the two and many of the same skills are needed to perform or achieve.

Art, regardless of the chosen medium is simply storytelling. The confidence to find your voice and your choice of how to use it is the key to a great performance. As a photographer, my camera is often my voice, focusing and highlighting issues and subjects that somehow are easier to articulate visually.

As we mature and get on with the seriousness of getting through each day, we sometimes forget our own need for playfulness, believing that play is only the right of our children leaving little room in our own lives for that sense of fun and adventure, but creativity can only be spawned from play as play allows room for failure, vulnerability, truth and a sense of the ridiculous which allows space for creativity. So, no matter our age, humour and play are an essential part of our growth and development invigorating us to recommit to the job in hand with diligence, focus and continually re-framing our expectations.

Throughout the course, I have realised the similarities between how a comic routine is constructed and how I edit my pictures. In both mediums, a story is told and then all the surplus information is stripped away leaving only the essential details and punch lines behind. Similarly, my editing time is spent stripping away the unnecessary noise cluttering the background and striving to be left with the true narrative.

As a photographer, often looking at life through a lens, these moments allow me to just be an observer to any situation, watching, capturing those moments that may go unnoticed or forgotten, but whilst often the role of a photographer is that of a spectator, it is also often the opportunity to look at life through another perspective. It is this opportunity to experience another’s perspective that gives room for your visual or comic voice to be heard. To be the author of your own story and to add as many punch lines or embellishments as you can get away with.

I have two weeks left to come up with some before my debut on a small London stage for my first ever 5 minutes of stand-up routine, wish me luck!