paul-duncan-mcgarrity

Hidden talent: Paul Duncan McGarrity on archaeology

Paul Duncan McGarrity

Paul Duncan McGarrity

For three years now I have been shlepping about the country visiting a salubrious selection of basements and attics in order to perform comedy. I love it, every aspect of the lifestyle appeals to me. I enjoy travelling in cars full of acts, the fear before the gig, the elation when a joke hits. Even bad gigs aren’t so bad anymore, as long as you think of them as learning experiences and try not to cry for too long.

Unfortunately I am not yet in a position to turn my passion for comedy into something which pays the bills. However I have another passion – history

Luckily enough, it’s an interest that  has proved more lucrative, and for the past five years I have worked in and around London as a professional archaeologist.

Archaeology is some what of a peculiar profession. Whenever I tell people what I do they give me one of two looks. Either an excited child like glee (these people are thinking of Indiana Jones) or a sort of mocking sneer (these people are thinking about Time Team and are unfortunately much closer to the reality of the job – more knitwear, fewer Nazis).

However, no matter what their initial reaction people will always end up asking the same three questions: What’s the best thing you’ve ever found? (which really means have you found any gold). Have you ever dug up a body? (preferably one thats been buried with a lot of gold). Have you ever found any gold? (look I’m sick of dancing around this, tell me where the bloody treasure is!).

I see these questions as the equivalent of someone asking a stand up comedian to tell them a joke, and I would argue that it is not the only cross over between the two. Both are fairly itinerant jobs, both start out with fairly low pay (in fact I reckon I’m one of the few people who see my first few years as a stand up as a potential pay rise) and both attract people with a passion for the work. In fact archaeology has been a great training ground for life as an aspiring comedian. Also, being an archaeologist gives me great perspective, nothing makes you aware of your own mortality quite like packing skulls into cardboard boxes.

The road to becoming a full time stand up can be a long one, but I intend to give it my all because at the end of the day we are all going to die, so why not give it a whirl?

Hidden talents: Adam Larter on keeping tropical fish

Adam Larter comedy

Adam Larter

All rock and roll stars like drugs. All football players like women. All Harry Potter fans like Harry Potter and all stand-up comedians like to keep and breed tropical freshwater fish.

This correlation between tropical freshwater fish and stand-up comedy has been around since the 1980s, when the modern form of stand-up comedy became popular.

It started in the alternative comedy scene of central London where promoters at the newly established Comedy Store paid their up-and-coming acts with Neon Tetra under the promise that ‘if they were planted in water they’d turn into money’.

Well they didn’t but they established a tradition now stronger than misogyny in sports.

A bra containing some fish

A bra containing some fish

Step forward in time though, a young (handsome) stand up called Adam Larter is asked to write a blog on his hobby by comedy-wholesalers Laugh Out London. His hobby? Why the keeping and breeding of tropical fish of course.

The problem? It’s everyone’s hobby. BUT I GOT INTO THE BLOODY FISH BEFORE I BECAME I STAND-UP COMIC.

Why is it that everyone assumes I like tropical freshwater fish just because I am a stand up? There is more to tropical freshwater fish than stand up comedy! Sometimes I like to look and my Guppys and think ‘they’re not very funny, they’re actually just swimming about’.

I just wish that my two hobbies could live independently. I’m sick of going to gigs and people bugging me with ‘how are you coping with algae growth in this current hot weather’ or ‘what type of breeding net did you buy for you Tiger Barb’ or ‘do you need to trim back your roots after you remove the wool when planting.’

I’d love it if just once someone said to me ‘done any good gigs lately?’ or ‘are you going up to Edinburgh this year’. I wonder if people can look me in the F*****G EYE ANYMORE WITHOUT SEEING A MAN WHO ONCE OVER-FED THE WHOLE TANK AND CAN’T KEEP CONTROL OF A F*****G SNAIL PROBLEM.

AND WHILE WE ARE AT IT (and we are certainly at it) CAN YOU FUCKING COMEDY AGENTS STOP THROWING MONEY AT ME???!?!? ALL I GET ALL DAY LONG IS AVALON THIS, OFF THE KERB THAT. NO BBC I DO NOT WANT TO WRITE YOU A SITCOM, NO GLASTONBURY FESTIVAL I WILL NOT HEADLINE FOR YOU. NO GARY BARLOW I WON’T INTRODUCE STEVIE F*****G WONDER!!! I’M MORE THAN JUST A F*****G FISHTANK!!!!!!

Hidden talents: Stuart Laws on being a goalkeeper

In the first of a new series of blog posts looking at the hidden talents of comedians, Stuart Laws discusses his adeptness with balls as a goalkeeper for his local football team.

If you’re a comedian with a hidden talent, get in touch on laughoutlondon@hotmail.co.uk to get involved.


Stuart Laws

Stuart Laws

Stand-up comedy is the least forgiving way of presenting creativity to people. You always know when you’re not appreciated and you cannot escape for the duration of your creative presentation. Bands can drown out indifference, actors assume admiration and poets… Well no-one knows why poets do what they do.

In the world of football the least forgiving position to play is as goalkeeper. You’re a specialist, who stands alone for the majority of the game and with whom the ball must stop. You always know when you’re not appreciated and you cannot escape the pressure for the duration of a competitive football match.

I’m a regular performer of stand-up comedy and goalkeeping. I really enjoy both, despite the spotlight that both roles put me under. I started playing in goal at the age of nine; partly because I really enjoy throwing myself about, partly because I was shy and playing in goal meant I could keep myself to myself and partly because I really like handling balls.

My shyness was what held me back from ever trying to be funny outside of my close friends and what held me back from being better at goalkeeping. Turns out that to be a good goalkeeper you have to be adept at marshalling those people in front of you, acting with supreme confidence in what you are doing.

I suffered a leg break aged 12 and this held me back as a goalkeeper for many years, my instincts to throw myself in the way of the ball was halted by the worry I may injure myself again. Like my instinct to try and be funny around friends was halted in public by the worry that people would think I was weird.

In my early twenties a local team needed someone to step in, last minute, as a goalkeeper. Around the same time a local open mic night needed some performers for their launch night and a friend, aware of my private attempts to be funny coerced me into attempting to make strangers laugh. I’m now 28 and have been regularly performing in goal and on stage for the past six years, my strength in both arenas is an ability to read a room/read the game and my surprising physicality. My weakness is dealing with crosses and writing punchlines.

A common remark for stand-up comedians to hear is that they must be so brave to get up on stage but after suffering a leg break, fractured ribs, two knee ligament injuries, surgery for a broken finger and getting repeatedly stamped on and screamed at by men who don’t play football because they are happy with themselves I can certainly assure you that stand-up requires only foolish self-confidence.

Putting in a bad performance in either arena will feel humiliating, lonely and like you can’t face anyone who just saw your wretched performance. It’s putting in the man of the match performance that makes stand-up comedy and goalkeeping so unique. You can’t hide, you can’t pretend other people are responsible, so when you succeed it is so incredibly thrilling and confidence boosting that it’s a struggle to think of anything that can surpass the immediacy and strength of rush they provide. I feel like someone should write a poem about it.

See Stuart in action: