This week I sat down with North East comedian and funny man Jon Farthing about the process of all things comedy. Jon has been on the comedy circuit for many years, whether it’s doing stand up or performing improv in his group Spontaneous Wrex, comedy runs through his veins. I caught up with him to see what work goes into the world of comedy..
So Jon, how did you first get into comedy?
I’ve always enjoyed watching comedy and used to come up with ideas about what I would do if I ever tried it myself. I then ended up doing some improve workshops with Matt Selman, which gave me the courage to go up and try it myself,
Who are your inspirations in the comedy world?
In terms of stand up – the usual suspects – Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson. I like Richard Herring, both for his material and the way he produces material in lots of mediums and shows its possible to produce and finance things yourself.
Did you start doing stand up first or improv?
About the same time – I did my first rat race in late 2010 and then a terrible 3 minute stand up set a couple of months later. I can’t recall much about it other than my left leg shaking continuously throughout.
“We call it ‘smailing’ – failing but still keeping a smile on your face.”
Where was your first gig?
Jibba Jabba, run by the brilliant Jenni Pascoe. It’s a spoken word night that encompasses all types of performance – from poetry to stand up. They have an open mic section in the middle where anyone can get up and perform some new material. Sad to say that May is the final one (and quick plug – Wrecks are one of the guest performers!)
What’s the writing process like for stand up? How do you form a joke?
A lot of stuff just comes from chatting with friends in the pub – we come up with a ridiculous number of silly ideas just sat around talking – although some of them seem funnier after a few beers than the next morning! If something is more punny / word based I will sit and play around with an idea on a laptop for a bit before tweeting / posting it. My poor girlfriend gets lots of terrible jokes tested on her constantly.
What is your favourite style of comedy and why?
I like all sorts – not a massive fan of observational comedy, unless it’s done really well. I love improv to watch as well as perform in as you can see something brilliant that will never be repeated. I also have a fondness for an incredibly convoluted pun.
What’s the most difficult thing about performing any sort of comedy live?
I used to get nervous before a show, but not so much these days. Possibly the worst thing however is when a set isn’t going well, and you know you have to plow through it. We call it ‘smailing’ – failing but still keeping a smile on your face.
What’s your favourite gig you have performed and why?
The first Spontaneous Wrecks gig – we’d built up to it for so long and it was great to see the group click together. I also did a stand up gig where I realised just before the start I was doing twice as long.
And the worst?
Gigs in front of two people, or where the audience is made up of other performers are quite difficult. Also occasionally doing improv slots at stand up comedy nights – the audience isn’t always in the right headspace which can make it difficult – particularly if you only have 10 minutes to win them around.
“A lot of stuff just comes from chatting with friends in the pub”
You are a member of Spontaneous Wrecks, what’s the best bit about performing as a group and not alone?
The support – knowing that other people are there to carry you if anything goes wrong. And also the fact the whole thing isn’t resting on your shoulders
What’s the worst?
Having to share the groupies. (sadly not true – why couldn’t we have formed a rock band instead?!?)
Have you done other sort of live performances if so, what?
I’ve written a short play that was performed as part of a night at Alphabetti Theatre last year which was an interesting experience – as someone used to performing my own material it was interesting to see it handed off to a director and actors. The result wasn’t quite what I imagined when I was writing it, but was better for it!
What are the future plans for you and your comedy?
I would like to do some more play-writing, and am working on a couple of ideas at the minute. I’ve had a fairly long break from stand up whilst working on improv, some I’m looking forward to getting back to trying out some new material over the summer
If anyone wanted to get into stand up or improv what would you say to them? Go for it – it’s not for everyone but if you never try it how well you know? If you are unsure try some improv workshops –they are great fun, and there’s and no pressure to perform straight away. And come and see Spontaneous Wrecks on the first Wednesday of the month at the Bridge hotel….
Come and See Jon and the rest of the Spontaneous Wrecks crew at their gig this wednesday the 6th April at The Bridge Hotel – Click here for more details