Comedians Lauren Pattison and Phil Wang on getting started in comedy

Comedians Lauren Pattison and Phil Wang on getting started in comedy

Lauren Pattison (credit: Andy Hollingworth) and Phil Wang

Lauren Pattison and Phil Wang discuss student comedy gigs, nerves and tips for budding comics

If you're drawn to the world of stand-up, improv or sketch comedy, uni can be a good place to get up on stage and put yourself out there for the first time. We caught up with Phil Wang and Edinburgh Comedy Awards Best Newcomer nominee Lauren Pattison to find out more about their student comedy days as well as to get top tips and advice for any budding comics.

What made you want to get up on stage during your student days?

Lauren Pattison: I did my first gig towards the end of my last year at sixth form; it was the heats for a comedy competition and I entered for stage time and ended up making the semi-finals. I was gobsmacked. So after the summer when I started uni, I was really keen to keep going. I'd only done a couple of gigs but I knew I'd found something I liked. Just the feeling of making people laugh is so wonderful; it genuinely makes me so happy. I did one or two gigs for Red Raw at The Stand in Newcastle and then in the new year they gave me my first shot at a weekend. It was the first time I'd been paid for a gig and I remember thinking 'hang on … this could be a job? I could get paid for this?' And slowly but surely I worked hard to try and turn my hobby into a career.

Phil Wang: I actually did my first gig at school during A Levels. I wanted people to understand how clever I was. That was the driving factor. I was also quite awkward and unpopular at that school so I thought stand-up would force me out of my shell. People were impressed but still didn't want to hang out with me.

In what way did your student pals encourage (or discourage) you to get up there?

LP: I was on a drama course: if ever there's a bunch of people to encourage you to get up on stage it's drama students! I remember when word got round that I did comedy, they found out I was doing Red Raw and, no word of a lie, about 30 of them turned up. What's the word for a collective group of drama students? A rabble of drama students? They were constantly supportive, my best friend Sarah in particular. She came to watch me do open-mic nights, came to my first weekend paid spot at The Stand, and this year she watched me do my first full-length spot on the main stage at Latitude.

PW: They encouraged me to do stand-up by consistently talking over me. In stand-up that's not allowed and I have a microphone: an arrangement I found profoundly preferable.

What do you remember about your first student gig?

LP: I remember being really scared before I went on and running through my set a million times, not knowing whether it was going to be too long or too short, but thinking afterwards that it had actually gone well.

PW: The drama teacher had set up a little show in the drama room called 'Club HaHa', and advertised five-minute open spots to the students. I accepted the challenge and did a successful set of mainly stolen material. I did a joke about a Chinese brothel that I now can't remember.

How did you conquer any nerves that were there initially?

LP: I used to like playing games on my phone so I had something to focus on other than the increasing sense of worry at having to go on stage and attempt to make people laugh. I remember I used to feel sick a lot but once they call your name and you get up and get your first laugh it just morphed into adrenaline or something!

PW: Ego, and the fact that socially I had nothing to lose.

What advice would you offer to someone at college or uni who is thinking about getting up on stage to tell jokes?

LP: Don't just limit yourself to the student circuit. Lots of unis have comedy societies so you've got a chance to write and perform with like-minded people, which is great. I totally recommend getting involved, but it can be really easy to just get comfortable doing the student circuit and not venturing out into the big bad comedy world, and this is where the progression is.

PW: Write your own jokes. Relax. Don't get drunk. Don't address a friend while you're on stage unless there's something funny to say about them.

What's the one thing you took away from your student days that helps you in comedy now?

LP: The ability to drink a terrifying amount of gin means I can keep up with the boy comics when we go out drinking. Most of the time.

PW: Never pander.

Finally, do you have a joke you could tell us about students or student life?

LP: Going to uni was the first time I lived out of home, and I remember realising that for a fiver I could buy three treble vodkas, or one big block of Cathedral City cheese. I had to decide whether I wanted the one that would give me nightmares or the one that would make me wake up next to one.

PW: Why did the student cross the road? To get to university.

Phil Wang takes his show Kinabalu on a nationwide tour from Fri 29 Sep–Sun 26 Nov.

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