I have a lisp and have long thought that it was unfair it had an “s” in it. This is a comedy cliche.
I once said “master of the Hottesmore Cunt” on Rutland Radio when I meant to say “the master of the Cottesmore Hunt”. Nicky Campbell has done this with a different hunt. It is also a comedy cliche.
The pun “womb with a view” has probably been made several times before. I use this pun I thought of to get into a piece of stand up about not wanting to have children.
I sometimes use what I know to be comedy cliche, when it’s true or useful. I’m, as a stand up poet, often in front of audiences not attuned to comedy cliche. Just wanting to laugh. Also, as a sometimes serious poet, leavening a set with funny lines I have to hand is a useful way of framing or entering poems. Poems often being a bit less obviously audience friendly than stand up comedy.
On my Edinburgh flyers I describe myself as a “Comic poet” and “Stand up comedian”. Not only have I done sets purely as both, but using it here is really shorthand for “My show is friendly, just because it says poet, don’t be scared. There might be similes but it’ll all be okay and I won’t be putting my head in an oven like Sylvia Plath”. The show I’m doing here falls more into the live literature bracket. There are some serious poetic bits. I need comedy to lighten them. I’m still working out how to add in some of the quirkier comedy bits that are my stock in trade when I do funny poem sets.
My excellent PR Claire Walker represents comedy acts. I very much wanted her to represent me, because I know there’s a wider audience for the funny topical poems I do on Radio 4, and because poets who can turn a genuinely funny line or sustain being friendly and humorous for an entire set are rare. I wanted to get more gigs and opportunities in the, for want of a better comparison, younger-Pam Ayres vein.
At the same time I write lots of sorts of poems. I have stories to tell. I want to experiment with ways of bringing well crafted wordage to people who generally might not like poetry.
My show Kate Fox News tries to do both things. There is now an opportunity during the Edinburgh Fringe as I’m finding and beginning to have faith in the fact that audiences can warm to the combination. I don’t need the odd cosy cliche, easy laugh comedy line to do it, but heck, sometimes it helps. I’m experimenting with how different registers of language can be used to tell a story, how comedy can gateway poetry of more than one kind. It’s up to me to see that- and to keep the faith that it’s worth doing…