Hackney Academy does comedy

Hackney Academy in association with BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra present:

Comedy Q&A

Hackney Picture House, 12th June 2012


In the interests of attracting and passing on tips to youngsters aged 16-19+ wishing to enter any number of artistic careers such as music, film, comedy, design, radio and TV production BBC Radio 1 and BBC1 Xtra have set up the Hackney Academy.  Held at the Hackney Picture House, 1st-22nd june 2012, the event features a series of Q&A sessions with industry figures, workshops and film screenings.

I attended the comedy Q&A at lunchtime 12th  June 2012, which featured an excellent line up of Comedians and comedy writers, comprising of Jamie Howard, Jason Lewis, Chris Sussman and Jocelyn Jee Esien, who each shared the stories of how they got into comedy and passed on tips for succeeding in this field.

Jamie Howard

Jamie started out selling ice creams and programmes at Stephen K Amos shows. Stephen spotted him, said he was funny and encouraged him to take up comedy. Jamie decided to give it a go, appearing at open mic gigs and doing talent contests such as the famous Comedy Store ‘King Gong’ competition. Unfortunately he got booed off stage the first time, but was un-deterred by this experience and found he had bitten the comedy bug. He proceeded to perform at Kojo’s renowned ‘Comedy Funhouse’, just off London’s Oxford Street.

Jamie’s advice was to “write. write write. Write for the mass audience. Don’t just focus on niche groups. Do open mic gigs.”

Jamie Howard is currently starring in ‘Fast Girls’, with Noel Clarke, released 15th June 2012.   With the London 2012 Olympics about to commence in July 2012, it is very good timing for this British movie about a group of British sprinters training for the Olympics is highly topical

Jason Lewis

An hilarious spoof video of Jason’s was shown, with him taking the mick out of the likes of Tinchy Stryder and N-Dubs. He has worked with many illustrious names already in his career, including  such stellar luminaries as Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse.

He studied at the Anna Scher Acting Academy and also started out doing open mic slots at Kojo’s ‘Comedy Funhouse’. Jason was 31 on the day of this event. Fittingly the audience and panel gave him a  nice rendition of Happy Birthday!

Jason’s advice was simply to “Do you,” as Hip-Hop Mogul Russell Simmons would say i.e. be yourself.

Chris Sussman

Chris is a comedy writer and producer with 10 years experience. He has worked on many hit shows including ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Survivor’. He also wrote ‘Man Stroke Woman’.

He talked about the different options open to get into comedy aside from performing stand up comedy, such as writing gags for other comedians, sit coms and comedy panel shows. His advice was to be passionate about what you do and just go for it.

Jocelyn Jee Esien

Jocelyn Jee started of as a straight Actress. Like Jason Lewis, she also studied Drama at the  Anna Scher Academy. She appeared in many hit series including ‘3 non blondes’, ‘The Fast Show’ and her own ‘Jocelyn Jee Esien’ show.

Her route into comedy was via being approached by a Producer at the Theatre Royal, Stratford, whilst rehearsing for a show there. Jocelyn seemed surprised responding, “I’m an Actress. I don’t do comedy.” The Producer who’d observed her in rehearsals replied, “You should do on stage what you do when you’re meant to be acting!”

From there she got into performing stand up comedy at the Theatre Royal and other venues across London. She loved it and the rest, as they say, is history.

Jocelyn, below,  presented an award to Slim, Best Male Comedian, at the Tiemo Black Comedy Awards held in April 2012.

When asked by myself during the Q&A why she thought there were so few young female Comedienne’s coming through her response was thorough,  incisive and very interesting. Her advice to women was, as Nike would say, “just do it.”  She felt in a way there were more advantages being a woman; namely that you can get more bookings as there are so few female Comediennes.

She also loves the opportunity to prove doubters wrong who don’t believe that women can be funny. Part of the problem was lack of confidence. Men tend to have a lot more confidence in getting up on stage and telling jokes. Jocelyn felt there was a greater range of material open to men, even on a popular staple such as ‘relationships’. Men go far deeper, get away with being far more crude and vulgar than a woman can. She considered there to be a different audience expectation for female comedienne’s which can make it harder, even down to such things as their appearance and what they wear on stage.

Oftentimes and surprisingly Jocelyn felt the most hostility came from women in audiences who’d sit with an arms crossed, “make me laugh” stance when she walked on stage.

Jocelyn, Centre stage at the Black Comedy Awards 2012

All in all it was an excellent afternoon. Insightful, funny and good humoured with plenty of useful tips for young people wishing to get into comedy.

I would also add that for young women, not to mention, young men, in fact people of all ages wishing to breakthrough, there is obviously a key role for promoters in giving stage time to newcomers. It can be the easier route to just book tried and tested stand up comedians but sometimes you need to give new Comedians an opportunity.

If you or anyone you know are looking for a break please feel free to get in touch with Tiemo via bookings@tiemo.co.uk and Tiemo will see if it’s feasible to give you a spot on one of their shows and/or provide opportunities to perform at other shows.

Tiemo Entertainments organised and hosted the Tiemo Black Comedy Awards 2012.  The Hackney Academy continues every day until 22nd June 2012.  The next comedy session is on 19th June 2012, 1-3pm. Details of daily events can be located here.

©  Tiemo Talk of The Town

16th June 2012

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