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Make me a stand-up comedian: Week 2

Is it bad to be ‘overthinking girl’? That’s what I’m wondering this week.

Neither of these women are me.
Neither of these women are me.
Image: Associated Press

I LEARNED TWO important things about stand-up comedy last week:

1: What you think is the funniest part of the story isn’t always the funniest part of the story

2: You have licence to exaggerate your character on stage in the name of comedy – but you might not like what you discover about yourself.

Back in the classroom

gaeity This ISN'T my class, but this is what warm-ups look like when you do the stand-up course. Source: Gaiety School of Acting

For our second week under the eye of comedian Sharon Mannion at the Gaiety Acting School’s stand-up comedy course (missed the first part? Catch up here), some of us were feeling very nervous, but others were well prepared for the challenge.

I had taken our homework – to write down three funny things that occurred during the week – literally, and had three short instances of semi-funny things to talk about.

But when it came time for us to showcase our homework, everyone else who took the spotlight before me showed that they’d been clever, and had taken one event and made a mini-routine out of it. And they were great.

So when it came time for me to talk about my ideas, I took two of them and ended up developing them on the spot. And what I discovered is that what you assume is the ‘funniest’ bit of the story is usually not where the comedy lies.

Take my first example, which was about going to the local post-office to pick up a package.

The box rattled as the postman handed it over, so he cheekily said to me: “There’s your party pills”.

“Eh, thanks – they’re actually multivitamins,” was my deadpan reply.

In the class, I went more in-depth into the story: how I’d once had a massive argument with this particular postman when I first moved to the area and turned up to collect a package without ID; how since then, he’d been (confusingly) super nice to me; how I don’t order much online and felt a thrill at being mistaken for a part-time drug buyer, when the truth is far more boring.

Overthinking Girl

shutterstock_254969248 Can I get this tattooed somewhere? Source: Shutterstock/marekuliasz

Sharon took the focus off the quips and encouraged me to look at developing the interaction between me and the postman.

She suggested taking the focus off his joke, and putting it onto how I overthink my ‘relationship’ with him and my trips to pick up the post. The scenario soon got new legs, thanks to the input of my fellow classmates.

It showed me that comedy is about finding the funny in the normal, but adding a pinch of fantasy or exaggeration to spice things up a bit.

I could see that too in how my classmates were able to emphasise certain parts of their stories to make them even funnier.

You’re not quite yourself on stage – you’re an exaggerated version of yourself (or you could be an entirely different character if you wish).

This brought me face-to-face with a part of my personality that I didn’t think I’d end up exploring on stage.

“You could be the ‘overthinking girl’ character,” suggested Mannion.

The problem? I am overthinking girl, and I know it. And, at 32, I’m trying to become ‘not-so-overthinking woman’.

So do I exploit this part of my personality for humour, or do I leave her where I think she should stay – shackled to a mental shelf somewhere?

If it gets laughs, will it be worth exploring ‘overthinking girl’ in my routine at the end of the course? Or do I mind dragging this part of me out for strangers to see?

That’s something I’m still grappling with – and overthinking about.

I’ll be writing once a week for the next eight weeks about how I’m getting on.

Have you any tips? Got a favourite comedian whose work you’d like to share? Just want to take the p*** out of me? That’s what the comments section is for…

Read: Here’s what happens when you do a stand-up comedy course: Week 1>

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