Hannah Yarwood has just graduated from Kent with a BA in Drama and Theatre, which included a term abroad at the University of Maryland in the United States.
She recently performed at Latitude Festival after reaching the final of the Chortle Student Comedy Awards.
Here, she describes the exciting journey she’s been on since her last minute application in January!
Tell us about your experience with the Student Comedy Awards.
I originally applied for the Chortle Student Comedy Awards back in 2022 but wasn’t successful. I then reapplied with a day to go in January 2023 and made it through to the London heat.
All I could do for each heat was my absolute best, so if I wasn’t successful I knew I would still feel immensely proud of myself. Getting through both the quarter and semi-finals left me with feelings of imposter syndrome, but I’m incredibly lucky to have an amazing support system around me who reminded me I’m exactly where I should be.
The final was such a beautiful experience, being with the other comedians it didn’t feel like we were competing at all. We’d sit and laugh in the green room together, discussing parts of each other’s sets that we loved or thought was particularly clever. We were all just so happy to get as far as we did, it didn’t matter who won.
How did it feel to perform at Latitude Festival?
It was incredibly surreal; the whole day was a blur!
When I first arrived there were around 80 people in the Comedy Arena but by the time I got out to perform there was hundreds. The audience were incredibly supportive and, I think it’s fair to say, taken back by the pure talent we all brought to the stage.
I didn’t think doing comedy in my first year of University would take me to Latitude, but I’m so glad it did. I really tried to take it all in whilst I was on stage, but with so much adrenaline running through me I couldn’t even tell you the set I did. Afterwards, I made sure to hang around the green room for little bit to make the most of the day and meet some of the incredible comedians that were also performing – including Laura Smyth, Kerry Godliman and Ed Byrne.
Were there any aspects of your studies at Kent that have influenced your success?
I started doing stand up in the Popular Performance module with Dr Oliver Double. I wrote my first set in September, even though I didn’t have to perform it until October, because I really wanted to make a good impression. Working with Olly meant I got to perfect a persona and refine what it is I wanted to say with my act – I was guided and supported so much. I then went on to MC my Popular Performance exam (where I was heckled by my dad!) which confirmed that stand up was something I wanted to continue with.
In my final year I took Stand Up with Dr Sophie Quirk who pushed every person in that class to reach their full potential. Sophie really took my individual strengths into consideration and helped me to mould the perfect set – which I have now performed too many times to remember!
If it wasn’t for the magical staff in the Drama department I wouldn’t have the confidence, ability or willingness to do stand up.
What advice would you give to other Kent students looking for a career in comedy?
Speak to Olly and Sophie! They know what they’re talking about and are angels who only want to see you succeed!
Joining the Stand Up Society will give you many opportunities to perform and try out material. Set up by my fellow student, Daniel Lambert, the group puts on a monthly comedy club and has a great relationship with the university.
My other tips would be to:
- Record your sets and listen back to the laughs. This is really helpful, if, like me, you black our when you perform. You’ll be able to hear what works, what might need rewording and what needs to be scrapped.
- Network with other comedians. Message them, ask questions about the industry, talk about upcoming gigs – you’ll be surprised how easy it is to make those working relationships.
- Celebrate your successes. I often need be told when I should be proud because I’m my own worst critic. Even after getting to the Chortle final I was upset that my set didn’t go exactly how I wanted. Turn off that critic in your head and enjoy a pint. With that being said, make sure to learn from mistakes.
- Remember that every comedian has bombed on stage – it’s a part of the job! Being prepared will help. Have a bank of replies if you get heckled, script an alternative set in case the one you’re doing isn’t working, and learn to recognise when an audience can’t be won over. These gigs are hard but they make you a better comedian after them.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to be working at The London Dungeons. I’ll be having a giggle whilst educating people on the history of London. Come down and see me if you dare…!
I’ll be gigging too, and there’s no doubt that my new job will give me many stories. I’m still in contact with my Creative Project company ‘2 Hans and A Dan’ and we’re talking about where we can take our comedy show next.
If you want to see what I’m up to find me at @hannahdoescomedy on Instagram.
Main photo by Brooke Bettey