Article by Wayne
I like to laugh! It’s as simple as that. I have to. I mean, just looking at my face is enough to make anyone laugh, right?! Anyway, if I’m having a shitty day I’ll whack on some comedy, lock myself in and watch stuff to make me laugh (Sciency bit – Laughing produces endorphins, the brain’s natural opiate, decreasing pain and giving us a sense of euphoria. Laughter also appears to have beneficial effects on our immune system. So, it definitely works). I listen almost daily to comedy podcasts and comedians that truly inspire me and after speaking to a few comedians who explained their processes, I was left thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could do it.
Back in November last year, Thai Flavours ran a comedy night with comedians from the Shanghai Comedy Club, an Irish touring comedian and our very own Tim King. It was a great night and Tim totally killed it on stage and as I sat there watching these guys I was thinking I wouldn’t mind giving it a go. Having been to Comedy Clubs in the UK the thought of getting up on stage was terrifying but the one thing I did notice was the lack of heckling. In the UK, if a comedian sucks the crowd will often let him know! The friendliness of the crowd gave me the confidence to think we could do it. So after the show I chatted with a couple of the comedians and then together with Tim & Thabo, we decided that it would be worth trying something like this in Xi’an, and so the Xi’an Comedy Club was born.
Once we had decided that this was something we wanted to try, we set about organising the first night and thus began the search for those crazy fools willing to perform (as well as thinking about our own sets!!) Actually, finding people confident enough to get up on that tiny stage and “make people laugh” wasn’t that big a deal…we had plenty of interest, but what we needed was ‘funny’. Tim, Thabo and I each had our tasks to sort out. Tim managed to broker a deal with Irwan at Thai Flavors to host our first event, Thabo sorted the camera recording and I created the poster and pushed to find performers. Each of us then took a hand in auditioning those that wanted to give it a go.
Be under no illusion, standing up on stage to try and make people laugh is a daunting task. It’s bloody difficult and you feel completely exposed as you stand on stage. But, having been a teacher for a number of years, this experience came in very useful for me and others with that background. The biggest challenge was writing a set. Where the hell do you start? Fortunately for me, I was born a bit of a freak and thus had ready-made material! So, remembering what some of the experienced comedians said about their own development processes, I set about writing my set. Now, those of you that know me would have probably heard most of my material before, but usually in just one-off quips and remarks whilst getting pissed in a bar or at barbecue.
I began by writing a few of these one-liners on post it notes and stuck them up on my bedroom door. From there I categorized them to give some kind of order and then tried to build a story around them. And it was shit! I messed around with the concept and recorded myself doing my routine. I then played the video to my girlfriend when she got home and she sat there stony faced, not a glimmer of a smile. She looked at me, expectantly standing there with an inane grin spread across my face, and she said the immortal words: “It’s shit!” Crestfallen, I sloped off in a huff. But she was right. So, we sat down and worked through it together and with her guidance I had something that resembled my first five-minute comedy set.
As the night approached I began to practice my routine and was getting excited but nervous. We had no idea how many would come and because of this we’d expected 20 to 30 people. We were absolutely blown away at the numbers that came out to watch our first show! And knowing that you’re about to get up on stage in front of 60+ people is arse-clenchingly scary! The three of us looked at each other in complete astonishment as one person after another walked up the stairs to find somewhere to sit, which was by that time standing room only. Needless to say, the night was a huge success.
We’re now 2 shows in, following another fantastic night, but this time at the Near Wall Bar with a few new acts (and a couple dozen more spectators!). The 3 of us are very grateful to Irwan at Thai Flavours and to the guys at Near Wall Bar for giving us the place to put on a show and also to the performers willing to stand there. But our biggest thanks goes mostly to you guys who came out to support the shows in large numbers. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to perform to you all. And with that in mind, we are looking for more acts! So, if you have an idea or you can come up with a five-minute set, or sketch, or funny song, or magic, or whatever, then give me, Tim or Thabo a shout and we’ll try to give you a spot. We will also help you to develop your set if you need us. Just a closing tip for you: be sure you perform it to someone before you go into the lion’s den, because people laugh at the strangest of places—or not, in my case!
Wayne is the founder of the Xi’an Comedy Club. He can be reached on WeChat, ID: wayner012.