Life Of A Stand-Up Comedian
Rudi Lickwood (Comedian) gives expert video advice on: How dows being a stand-up affect family life?; How much travel is involved in being a stand-up?; How do you know what's funny? and more...
How often do you do gigs?
As often as I want to, to be honest with you. I mean there was a time when I used to have to wait for the weekend to come along and sort of like try and get a gig then. But the length of time that I've been in the game now, getting gigs 7 days a week is not a difficult thing for me to do. But it's not something that I want. I don't work to live or live to work. I live to enjoy what I do and therefore, I'm fortunate enough in that I can be selective how often I work.
How much travel is involved in being a stand-up?
I'm going to get tired, man. When you ask me about travel, I'm going to get tired, man. Because that's all you do. I mean, sometimes I will travel for two and a half hours in the car, and get up on stage for twenty to thirty minutes, and then get back in the car and do a two and a half hour journey back. So, that's why when the question was asked, "How much do you get paid?" and I said, "Well, I get paid a lot." And I do. I get paid a lot to travel; I don't get paid a lot to work. I mean, that is the final product of my traveling -- to get up and finally say, "Oh, this is what I've come to tell you guys." And then I've told you, it's like, "Okay, bye," as I go and drive all the way back again. So, I honestly believe that comedians get paid to travel as opposed to perform.
Do you need to be fit to be a stand-up?
You don't have to be fit to be a stand-up comic. Johnny Vegas proved that! For me, us comedians have a lifestyle whereby if we choose to be fit, we can - we've got time to go to the gym if need be. Or if that's not what you want, then you don't have to for stand-up. Comedy comes in all shapes and sizes - ask Jo Brand.
Do you write your own material?
I write most of my material not all of it hits the page unfortunately because a lot of it can be said without me writing it so anything I talk about that I've come up with that but I would say that there are you do learn from other comedians you can learn that oh I never thought about that and then you start thinking about it and you put your own spin on it and you take it in your own direction and so I would say that yes I write my own material but yes I do get ideas of other people as well and yes I do incorporate them into my material but what I don't do is I don't take somebody else's material and claim that to be mine but I do see the possibilities or the angles of possibly something else bringing up something that somebody else has said.
How often do you change your routine?
I think you change, I think your routine changes dependent on, on what's happening to you in a, in a given time. Because if you're, if you're writing your own material, you know, it's like your comedy attenaes around waiting for something to happen that you can either write about, you know, and then that you can then share on stage, you know? So I think with most comics it gradually changes. It's not a big change, it's not a massive like, every week I do a new twenty minutes, I do another twenty minutes, I do another twenty minutes because what, what promote is required, now, if somebody books you for a comedy gig and they're paying you, then they're not paying you to improvise, okay? You can improvise but the bottom line is they're paying for you to make the audiences laugh so is that they, more will come back to that particular comedy venue. So if you're changing your material every week, you are never going to be sure that those twenty minutes are going to guarantee the audience the sort of enjoyment that the promote would like to see them having. So that's why you can't really knock comics who are using material that works. Because they've taken a very long time to find out that, the, the material that really works. So it's, it's, it's a slow process, is the best way I can kind of put that.
Do you have to practice your routine?
I think practice is one of the most important things because as much as you might get up and look at yourself in the mirror, doesn't necessary mean that you are seeing yourself. So, if I'm getting up and I'm performing, I've got to have a very good idea that what I am saying cannot be misinterpreted in any particular way. So, in order for me to do that, I have got to practice. I have got to practice. Sometimes one word can make the all the difference between people getting it and not getting it and the only way that you can be assured of that is by practicing. People usually think that Robin Williams used to just get up there and just rift and it was brilliant. This stuff is just coming out. What people didn't realize is that Robin Williams used to go to the theaters and the venues before and he would block where he's going to be, what he's going to do, when he's going to say, who he's going to say it to as if the audience was actually there. That is practice. That is rehearsal. What that doesn't mean is that is exactly how it is going to be on the night. Like I say, the audiences' response dictates very much how you are going to go but you have to have some sort of framework in there to work with.
How do you know what's funny?
You don't really know. (laughter) You don't really know. What you know is what's funny to you. That is what distinguishes the stand-up comedian from the funny bloke in the park. The funny bloke in the park just shares immediately what he thinks is funny and he just pushes it on you. Whereas, the stand-up comic has to identify what really is funny and that would be appealing to a bunch of strangers. Now, the only way you can begin to stay true to yourself is by getting up on stage and telling people what you think's funny, what you find funny and you stick to that. The audience will laugh or they won't laugh. If the audience laughs, that means they are telling you that is funny. If they are telling you that is funny, then you keep that and that's what you work with. Then, you move on. Then you find something new to talk about. You also share with this new audience the stuff that worked already. Therefore, now you're telling them something new. It didn't work. They're not laughing. Alright, I'll try again. It did not work. They are not laughing. Alright, try again. Oh, I'm getting a little something. That tells me that this just needs a little bit of work on, but I've got this material that works anyway. So I'm building now and I'm going to start to refine this bit that wasn't working quite as well. So I move on. I'll try again. I'll deliver it the way that it was before they still didn't laugh. Now I'm getting a bigger response. Now I'm going to start to give some conviction. I'm going to start to believe in this material that needed a little big of shaping and that's how you develop.
How would you describe your humour?
I'm a social commentator and I like satire. I'm from a social political commentary. That's what I am. That's how I see myself. I'm not Lee Evans. I'm not a clown. I'm far from a clown. It doesn't mean I can't be clownish, but that's not what interests me when it comes to comedy. I'm not a gagsmith, because I can't write Christmas cards so I don't just do gags. I commentate; I socially commentate on things that are happening, and I try to find either some truth, or I try to find the ridiculous in what is being told to me as the truth.
Are many of your friends comedians?
My friends? A lot of my associates are comedians. A lot of my business buddies are comedians. But my friends: No.
Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from mostly the social commentators of the day, the Mark Thomases, the Jeremy Hardy's, the Bill Hickses, the Dick Gregory's, the Mort Chiles. My inspiration is from anybody who's really looking at society and the world as a whole and trying to, I'd like to think, make the world a better place. Or trying to get people to think outside the box. You know, that life is not necessarily about working 9 till 5. Or it's not necessarily just about agreeing that we were right to go into Iraq, for example. Or, you know, understanding, at the same time that when, you know, we were going into Bosnia it was with a view to help. And my inspiration also comes from anybody who's trying to make a difference with their comedy. I don't like to make people laugh just out of distraction.
Do your friends think you're funny?
My friends never thought I was funny, and neither did I. I was not that guy who used to get picked on at school, I was not the guy who used to have to take jokes to fend off bullies so became a stand-up comedian. But I was a guy who was able to articulate and communicate my thoughts in a way that people would listen.