Tag Archives: stand-up comedy

HistComPod – Episode 4 ‘Robin Ince’s Postcards’

In the fourth episode of A History Of Comedy In Several Objects, now out on the iTunes store, we get to grips with comedians’ set lists, whilst exploring how scripts and prompts are used in stand-up. We see some archived materials from influential comedians, including Josie Long’s spider diagrams, Linda Smith’s notes, Andy de la Tour’s scripts and, the main feature of this episode, Robin Ince’s postcard set-lists written for one of his ‘Robin Ince is as Dumb as You‘ 2005 shows. We also feature exclusive audio clips from Andy de la Tour and Linda Smith performing life stand-up comedy.

Don’t forget to get involved! You can contact us via standup@kent.ac.uk or tweet us at @histcompod. You can search the online catalogue for more information about the holdings of  the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive at http://archive.kent.ac.uk.

Images of some objects featured on the podcast can be found on our flickr site in the ‘History of Comedy in Several Objects‘ album.

Robin Ince set list (Robin Ince is as Dumb as You)

Linda Smith Lecture 2016: Andy Hamilton

Matt Hoss, a University of Kent MA Stand-Up Comedy student, reviews the second Linda Smith Lecture, this year given by Andy Hamilton.

Returning for its second year, The Linda Smith Lecture came back in full glory on the 3rd May 2016 at Canterbury’s Gulbenkian Theatre. Any act would have a hard time following Mark Thomas from last year’s event, but Andy Hamilton was able to deliver.

The show had highly comical moments created by Hamilton, as he picked upon his vast wealth anecdotes which he leisurely perused at his disposal. For example he talked about throwing up regularly at Green Park, swearing as a six-year old around a campfire and calling a producer’s bluff about his “Grannie in Dundee”, as he discusses his comedy career.

Hamilton’s performance also had rather touching moments encapsulated within his lecture. In particular his moments reflecting Linda Smith were particularly poignant and well-suited for the environment and tone of the evening.

Hamilton really raised some interesting points within the world of television, offence and comedy. He talked about how television producers shy away from genre splicing, but Hamilton states that this is an alien concept as life does not separate comedy from the tragedy.

Andy Hamilton, presenting the 2016 Linda Smith Lecture, 3 May 2016, Gulbenkian Theatre, University of Kent

Andy Hamilton, presenting the 2016 Linda Smith Lecture, 3 May 2016, Gulbenkian Theatre, University of Kent

The crown jewel within Hamilton’s lecture is his main argument about how he believes that comedy is important, but it is more important to not be offended. Hamilton claims “Comedy licenses us to be subversive and transgressive about the things we fear the most. But we will no longer be able to do that if we keep on increasing the subjects that are out-of-bounds”. He backed up these moments of honesty and truthfulness with more hilarious stories, creating an explicably engaging speech.

Overall Hamilton’s lecture was thoughtful and highly comical and left the audience with glee. Certainly next year’s speaker will have an even higher expectation to perform to after Hamilton’s remarkable performance.

 

Spotlight on: The Josie Long Collection

On the 25th January 2016 we were lucky enough to have to opportunity to visit comedian Josie Long at her Arts Emergency Office in Hackney*. Josie had gathered together a collection of gems from throughout her career, ranging from some her first tours to her drawings & zines, to material from her monthly ‘The Lost Treasures of the Black Heart’ comedy club.

One of the earliest items from the collection is a notebook created by Josie when she was performing live in 1998 which contains listings, photographs and annotations.

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Page from Josie’s 1998 notebook. BSUCA/JL/1/1/1

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Page from Josie’s 1998 notebook. BSUCA/JL/1/1/1

A significant part of Josie’s collection is a vast amount of material from her various tours, from Kindness & Exuberance in 2006/2007 to her Cara Josephine show performed from 2014-2016. Within these series’ are items related to tour preparations such as beautiful mind-maps of ideas for shows, to the sketch pads and props used in the shows themselves!

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Mind-map used by Josie Long to brainstorm ideas for her ‘The Future is Another Place’ show 2011-2012 BSUCA/JL/1/8/1

 

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Cardboard cut-outs used for ‘An Audience with Dan Nightingale and Josie Long’ shows, 2005. BSUCA/JL/1/3/2

Another amazing part of Josie’s collection is the audience contributions made at her live shows. It has been wonderful to see how  involved and enthusiastic comedy audiences can be. For example in her Kindness and Exuberance tour, audience members were encouraged to write down their ‘favourite small thing’. After the tour Josie created a zine from these contributions.

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Audience contributions from Josie Long’s Kindness and Exuberance tour in which she asked the audience to write down their favourite small thing BSUCA/JL/1/4/8

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Favourite Small Things Zine created by Josie Long compiling audience contributions, who were asked at her Kindness and Exuberance tour to write down their favourite small things. BSUCA/JL/1/4/5

As part of  Josie ‘All of the Planets Wonders’ tour, she encouraged audience members to send her objects so that she could create a museum of All the Planets Wonders objects which attracted a variety object including books, badges and even food.

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Objects collected from the audiences of the ‘All of the Planets Wonders’ tour. This picture shows a Teddy bear someone found when they moved into a new house, a badge from Edinburgh Zoo and an orange thrown by Josie to and audience member at a previous show. BSUCA/JL/1/6/7

It is brilliant to also have a range of materials from Josie’s life outside of her solo performances. Her collection stretches to material from her ‘The Lost Treasures of the Black Heart’ comedy club which includes club notes & records books and  also audience artwork created during the shows.

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Felt artworks created by the audience at a Lost Treasures of the Black Heart club show BSUCA/JL/2/6

Finally, a mention has to be made to Josie’s great comic creations. From August 2011 Josie has been drawing for the Guardian, creating a comic called ‘Josie Long’s Another Planet’, a collection of which is now in the archive. Also from 2005 Josie has created her own ‘Drawing Moustaches in Magazines Monthly‘ Magazine, issues 1-7 of which are now held by BSUCA.

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Josie Long’s Another Planet: What if we did pull out of Europe? [published 2nd February 2013] BSUCA/JL/2/4/9

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First Issue of ‘Drawing Moustaches in Magazines Monthly’ Magazine, April 20th- June 19th 2005 BSUCA/JL/2/3

The Josie Long collection has now been catalogued and will soon be discoverable via the University of Kent Library catalogue and accessible to view on request at the Special Collections Reading Room.

*Arts Emergency is an organisation created by Josie Long and Neil Griffiths, working with young people in higher education from diverse backgrounds, helping them to effectively access higher education in the Arts or Humanities. They create events to share this information and also to raise money for the work that they do.

Archiving stand-up comedy on the Web

One of the things I was keen to do when I was appointed as Archivist for the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive in January 2015 was to ensure that websites and social media relating to stand-up comedy were being captured and archived. So much of how comedians promote and publicise themselves today, and interact with their audience, is done through social media and websites, and I’ve already noticed that websites referenced in material in the BSUCA collections have already disappeared. I approached the UK Web Archive team at the British Library to see whether I could actively contribute to their mission, and I was delighted that they were happy for me to curate a new Special Collection, to be called the ‘British Stand-Up Comedy Archive’ collection.

Although the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive is based at the University of Kent I’m really pleased that we are working with other organisations and individuals to ensure that material relating to stand-up comedy is (beginning) to be archived for current and future researchers (and others) interested in stand-up comedy. Stand-up comedy has a huge presence on the Web, more so than I can nominate, so I have take two approaches so far.

Approach 1: filling the gaps

One focus has been on nominating websites for inclusion which relate to collections that we already have within the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive. For example, I have been nominating the websites and social media accounts of those whose work we have been physically and digitally archiving at the University, such as Attila the Stockbroker’s website and twitter account.  I have also been nominating sites which complement the collections we have. For example, within The Mark Thomas Collection we have copies of articles he has written, but only those which he collected himself. In fact there are many more which he has written which are only available online. The idea behind this approach is that we can ‘fill the gaps’ for researchers interested in those whose archives we have, by ensuring that other material relevant to that comedian/performer is being archived. These websites are provided in sub-categories with the name of the collection they relate to (i.e. Linda Smith Collection, Mark Thomas Collection).

Josie Long's website (http://www.josielong.com/)

Josie Long’s website (http://www.josielong.com/). Josie Long deposited physical material with the BSUCA in January 2016, and her website has also now been archived within the UK Web Archive at the British Library.

 

Approach 2: providing an overview of stand-up comedy in the UK today

As we are trying to collect material related to stand-up comedy in the UK I think that it is really important to try to capture as much information as possible about current comedians and the current comedy scene, nationally and locally. So my second focus has been on nominating websites which provide an overview of stand-up comedy in the UK today. Rather than initially focussing on nominating the websites of individual comedians (which would be an enormous task!) I have instead been nominating websites which are dedicated to comedy in the UK, both at a national level, such as Chortle and Beyond the Joke, and those at a regional level such as Giggle Beats (for comedy in the north of England) and London is Funny. I’ve also nominated the comedy sections in national news outlets like the Guardian and The Huffington Post (UK), as well as in regional news outlets such as The Skinny (Scotland and the north west of England), The Manchester Evening News, and The York Press. These websites include news, interviews with comedians and others involved in comedy, as well as reviews and listings of upcoming shows. The idea was that capturing these sorts of websites would help to demonstrate which comedians were performing, where they were performing, and perhaps some of the themes discussed by comedians in their shows. These websites have been categorised into the sub-category ‘Stand-up news, listings and reviews’.

Giggle Beats (www.gigglegeats.co.uk), a website founded in June 2010 to promote comedy in the north of England.

Giggle Beats (www.gigglegeats.co.uk), a website founded in June 2010 to promote comedy in the north of England.

I’ve also been focusing on the websites of comedy venues in order to document the variety of comedy clubs there are, to provide an overview of the comedians who are performing, as well as to document other issues like the cost of attending a comedy club night.  Many of the clubs whose websites have been nominated are quite longstanding venues, such as Downstairs at the Kings Head (founded in 1981), the Banana Cabaret Club in Balham (established 1983), and The Stand Comedy Club (established in Edinburgh in 1995). And of course I’ve also been focusing on comedy festivals around the UK. Much material relating to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe had already been included in the UK Web Archive but websites for Free Fringe events (which many see as important for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe*), such as the Free Festival and PBH’s Free Fringe, have now been nominated. I’ve also been nominating websites for comedy festivals around the UK, ranging from large established festivals such has the (Dave) Leicester Comedy Festival and the Machynlleth Comedy Festival, to smaller festivals such as the Croydon Comedy Festival and Argcomfest (Actually Rather Good Comedy Festival). The sub-category of ‘Venues and festivals’ is by far the largest sub-category so far!

Website for Downstairs at the Kings Head (http://www.downstairsatthekingshead.com/), a comedy club in Crouch End, London founded in 1981.

Website for Downstairs at the Kings Head (http://www.downstairsatthekingshead.com/), a comedy club in Crouch End, London, founded in 1981.

Other features of current stand-up comedy that have been captured include organisations such as the Comedy Support Act (a charity funded by benefit shows which aims to provide emergency funds and assistance to professional comedians who find themselves in financial hardship through serious illness or accident) and organisations and events which celebrate and promote women in comedy such as What The Frock!, Funny Women, Laughing Cows Comedy, and the Women in Comedy Festival.

 

Next steps:

There are so many more websites that I haven’t yet been able to nominate, particularly those of individual comedians or performers. However, the UK Web Archive is open to all (as long as the website is part of the UK web domain), so if there are websites relating to UK stand-up comedy that you want to be archived in the UK Web Archive please nominate them here http://www.webarchive.org.uk/ukwa/info/nominate.

* Luke Toulson, ‘Why free is the future of the fringe…and 7 more ways to improve the festival’, http://www.chortle.co.uk/correspondents/2013/08/04/18425/why_free_is_the_future_of_the_fringe; and Nick Awde, ‘Free shows are ringing the Edinburgh Fringe changes’, https://www.thestage.co.uk/opinion/2015/setting-theatre-free-edinburgh/

 

Steve Bell and Arnold Brown in conversation

As part of the ‘Comedy on stage & page: satirical cartoons & stand-up’ conference on Thursday 14th and Friday 15th January, we are pleased that one of the main events (open to all, not just those registered for the conference) will be cartoonist Steve Bell and comedian Arnold Brown, in conversation. Steve Bell and Arnold Brown will be talking with Olly Double (Senior Lecturer in Drama and Theatre) and Nick Hiley (Head of the British Cartoon Archive) about their work, and the place of satire in cartooning and stand-up comedy.

This event will be held in the Templeman Library Lecture Theatre (Ground Floor, Templeman West) and is free and open to all. For more information about the conference, and how to register, visit our conference page on this blog.

 

Poster advertising Steve Bell &Arnold Brown in conversation

Poster advertising Steve Bell &Arnold Brown in conversation

Interesting facts about the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive

1. The British Stand-Up Comedy Archive contains 22 collections; we have been collecting material since 2013.

BSUCA collections on our Calm cataloguing system

BSUCA collections on our Calm cataloguing system

2. We have material dating from 1970 to the present day, documenting the rise of alternative comedy and stand-up comedy. We are keen to collect material from relevant areas of performance including alternative cabaret, performance poetry and working men’s club comedy.

3. We have collected a range of material in a variety of formats (including photographs, scripts, diaries, audiovisual recording, posters, contracts) and for a variety of purposes (promotion, academic research, for broadcast).

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4. Throughout 2015 we have been developing new workflows to ensure that the recordings in the archive held on legacy audiovisual formats (such as cassette tapes, MiniDisc and DAT) are digitised and accessible for researchers today and in the future.

5. The digitisation of both printed and audiovisual material means that we can provide samples of representative content from the archive on platforms such as Flickr and Soundcloud as well as on our blog.

6. We have worked to ensure a range of content from the comedy world has been collected and we have been keen to engage with comedy promoters and venues. Monika Bobinska donated a large collection of material from the Meccano Club (1985-1995) and Peter Grahame has given material from Downstairs at the Kings Head (established in 1981). We also have material from more recent clubs and promoters, including The Folkestone Comedy Club and What The Frock! Comedy.

Meccano Club Bookings Book.

Meccano Club Bookings Book. February-March 1995. Featuring acts including Tracy Brothers, Al Murray, Nick Wilty and Dylan Moran. (c) Monika Bobinska

7. One strength of the BSUCA collections is the number of unique, unedited interviews with comedians, recorded for purposes including academic research and publication (Oliver Double Collection), and radio broadcast (John Pidgeon Collection, Andrew Sherlock Radio Collection).

Interviews with comedians on DATs (Digital Audio Tapes) from the John Pidgeon Collection

Interviews with comedians on DATs (Digital Audio Tapes) from the John Pidgeon Collection

8. We’ve had some incredible events this year, with performers such as Mark Thomas, Attila the Stockbroker, Richard Herring, Stewart Lee, and Phill Jupitus (at the University of Kent), and Jo Brand, Susan Calman, and Stephen K. Amos (at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe). These events were all recorded and can be accessed in our reading room at the Templeman Library, University of Kent.

Phill Jupitus talking about a Red Wedge Comedy leaflet which cartooned for (as Porky the Poet). Photo Matt Wilson

Phill Jupitus talking about a Red Wedge Comedy leaflet which cartooned for (as Porky the Poet) during an in-conversation event with Oliver Double in September 2015. Photo Matt Wilson

 

9. We are holding a joint conference with the British Cartoon Archive ‘Comedy On Stage and Page: satirical cartoons and stand-up‘ (14-15th January 2016), which will explore issues including the relationship between the audience and the comedian, writing shows, the comedy industry, censorship, and women in comedy, and also highlight the Stand-Up Comedy Archive collections.

10. Alongside the conference we will be hosting a joint exhibition with the British Cartoon Archive, providing access to material from the archive and explaining more about its establishment, development and collections in the new Templeman Library gallery area.

British Stand-Up Comedy Archive at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015

We’re really pleased to announce that the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive will be at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015.  Organised by Lakin McCarthy, Oliver Double will be hosting a number of in-conversation events (‘Talking Comedy’) with some fantastic comedians: Mark Thomas, Stephen K. Amos, Susan Calman, Jo Brand, Alexei Sayle and Nina Conti. The events are taking place at the Assembly Rooms, and tickets are bookable now from the Assembly Rooms website! Recordings of these interviews will be made for deposit in the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

British Stand-Up Comedy and Lakin McCarthy 'Talking Comedy' events, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015

British Stand-Up Comedy and Lakin McCarthy ‘Talking Comedy’ events, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015