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Last Updated: Monday, 11 April 2005, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
How to survive in stand-up comedy
By Andrew Lawrence
BBC Talent Stand-Up Comedian 2004

Andrew Lawrence
Lawrence beat 800 entries in the BBC Talent Stand-Up contest
Stand-up comic Andrew Lawrence has taken his gruff voice, dark thoughts and soaring songs to audiences around the UK for the past two years.

With victory in last year's BBC Talent Stand-Up Comedian contest leaving him busier than ever, he has some advice on how to survive as a stand-up.

I first got into comedy when I performed stand-up during a regular comedy night at St Andrew's University in Scotland.

After about five shows I came second in the national So You Think You're Funny contest in 2003.

That earned me management representation and started my professional career in comedy. Apart from briefly working in a library, I've managed to avoid any other job.


Could you encourage an audience like this to laugh?
As a stand-up you are expected to get a laugh every 20 or 30 seconds.

So there is pressure, but it's something you get used to.

One of the most important things in stand-up is to have fun - if you are crippled with nerves it can really harm your routine.

Most of the time I have absolutely no nerves once I get onstage. I've had some positive feedback and that has given me confidence.


Andrew Lawrence
Lawrence performs an intense and musical stand-up routine
It's easy for people based in London to put themselves onto the "open mic" comedy circuit before they have developed their own style.

But it can be hard to break through commercially because people in the industry have seen them at a very 'raw' stage.

I would advise new performers to stay away from the circuit until you have at least five minutes of strong material.

As your act develops and your routine expands, comedians need to generate fresh material.

Some comics find a routine that works and stick to it - but I get bored, so that's not for me.


I prefer to isolate the heckler and make the rest of the audience side with me against them
Andrew Lawrence
As a stand-up you encounter very drunk people, some of whom will be encouraged to heckle.

Often the rest of the audience gets frustrated with hecklers because they have come to hear the comedian, not the heckler.

Some comics prepare put-down lines. I prefer to isolate the heckler so the rest of the audience side with me, against them.

The most offensive thing for a stand-up comic is when a member of the audience gets onto the stage uninvited, breaking down any separation between the performer and the audience.

I've had to remove people from the stage, but I've never encountered any violence.


boys reading newspaper
Would you let bad reviews ruin your career in stand-up comedy?
Don't dwell on reviews.

At the moment I read everything written about me, but I'll have to discipline myself not to.

Comedy is subjective. Everyone is going to have a different opinion, so if you get a bad review it's almost meaningless.

If you are getting a positive reaction on stage every night, you don't need a review to tell you that you're doing your job well.


Avoid anything sold in motorway service stations passing itself off as food
Andrew Lawrence
As a stand-up comic, you will spend most of your time travelling.

It can be exhausting - if you have spent six hours getting to a gig in Newcastle, you can arrive feeling like you've done a day's work already.

But you need to make sure you get there early enough to prepare yourself for the gig ahead. And avoid anything sold in motorway service stations passing itself off as food.

I have never regretted going into stand-up - it's given me a lot of enjoyable experiences and I have met some lovely people.

Every comedian comes up against difficult audiences and has nights where they don't enjoy what they are doing, but it's generally a lot of fun.



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