NMP Live meets one of the UK's top stand-up comedians and comedy writer, Lucy Porter. In our exclusive interview Lucy talks about her first paid gig, her style of comedy and why you should book her for your corporate event. Watch the full interview or read the transcript below.
In conversation with Lucy Porter
Have you always been interested in comedy?
I have always loved comedy. I was heavily influenced by Dave Allen because my mum and dad used to love the brilliant Dave Allen when I was little - and we used to watch him. They used to make me do impersonations of him sitting holding a glass of whiskey and a fag in the other hand. This was the 70s! That sort of thing was fine.
So, I always loved comedy and then I went to university and did an English degree, and I was in Manchester in the 90s when there was a big comedy scene, so I decided to give it a go, and never looked back.
Were you always destined for a career in comedy?
What I really wanted to be was an investigative journalist, so I joined Granada Television because they made the programme ‘World in Action’, which was this hard hitting, very intense journalistic experience, and I wanted to work on that. But I ended up working for Richard and Judy, and so life went on a different path and I went to the lighter side of life, which I am quite happy about really.
How did you get into stand-up comedy?
I think there is only one way in to stand-up, which is getting up and standing on a stage and being terrified. People say ‘oh, you can do comedy courses’ or ‘is there a degree that prepares you particularly for doing comedy?’ and there really isn’t. It’s 99% confidence, 1% sort of talent and craft really, and that 1% is vitally important but it is a big confidence trick really.
So I got into it by doing an open spot at a pub called ‘The Burton Arms’, which they have now knocked down, not just because it spawned my comedy career I hope! So at The Burton Arms in Manchester I just got up and forced myself to do comedy, and I think that’s the only way to do it.
When did you realise you had a talent for making people laugh?
I suppose I wasn’t the class clown but I did always used to write funny things at school. I used to write essays and the teacher would get me to read them out, and I remember that intoxicating feeling of making the whole class laugh, so I always thought I could be a comedy writer.
It was only when I started doing stand-up that I realised that all the things I thought would make me not funny, like being a bit scatty, and forgetful, and not quite certain of what I was doing, a bit neurotic and panicky, those were the things that audiences like to see. So actually, your comedy persona tends to be the worst version of yourself. It’s the self you are on a really bad day when the kids have been playing up, and your really tired, and you’ve got to go and have an interview with someone really important – that kind of clutsy idiot is what you want to harness on stage.
Can you remember your first paid gig?
I actually got paid for the first time by a club called ‘Alexander’s Jazz Café’. I to this day think, ‘oh God, the poor punters who came down expecting Jazz and got me instead!’
They used to run a night called ‘The Comedy Police’, which was two guys compered it dressed as policeman, and then you would go onstage and do your little open spot, and then the audience at any point were at liberty to make the ‘woo-woo-woo’ siren noise, and if they did that then the comedy police would come on with plastic truncheons and beat you until you left the stage, and if you didn’t get beaten off then you got paid for the gig.
And I did it, I managed to stay on the whole time, the audience didn’t siren me off so I got paid, and it was a wonderful feeling!
You also write for other comedians, do you prefer writing or performing?
I love writing, I love performing – happy to do either, delighted to both really.
Actually, for me, writing your own stuff and performing it is always a thrill because you get that immediacy of you write something in the afternoon or you are just on your way to the gig and you see something and you go ‘I wonder if that would be funny?’ and it is only hours later that you get to try it out and see. Whereas if you write something for telly or radio, which I often do now, you have to wait 6 months and then, you know, you get the reaction eventually but there’s not the immediacy of stand-up.
Have you ever been asked to write on behalf of others for corporate events?
I have written for corporate clients on many occasions, and I love getting a glimpse in to a world that isn’t mine at all, and so you will be sitting with someone and you’ll kind of go ‘so tell me, what is funny about the sewage industry, ok!’ That’s a bit of a bad example because obviously there is a rich seam of comedy there.
People always come to you and say ‘oh, our industry is really boring! You’re not going to find anything funny about this, oh we are really dull!’ and then you sit with them for 10 or 15 minutes and you’re both in absolute hysterics because people are funny, life is funny, and in every industry there is always something you can find. Often people have become so used to it, they are so inured to it themselves, that is takes someone new to come in and make them realise that actually, accountancy is a bloomin good laugh!
Why book a stand-up comedian over other types of entertainment?
I think the main benefit you get from having a stand-up comedian at your event rather than a funny speaker is that we are used to club settings. We are used to making contingency plans when things aren’t quite going as expected. So, no one ever thinks their corporate event is going to be rowdy or difficult, but if it is then a stand-up comedian is the person you want on your side there.
Also, I suppose stand-up comics can be profound and can have insights. In a way I think we’re like social anthropologists. We are natural observers of human nature and we spend a lot of our time in different tribes of people, watching them and seeing how they react. So, I think stand-ups have a lot to tell people about human nature.
What’s the biggest challenge for you with corporate bookings?
I suppose the biggest challenge for me in corporate bookings is, well, I suppose I am quite giddy and I am quite enthusiastic, and sometimes people go ‘are you faking how excited you are about our awards ceremony, because you know this is quite a dry financial services sector thing?’ and I’m like ‘I’m just having a good time!’ So, over enthusiasm I suppose.
What is the most unusual corporate event you have performed at?
I suppose the strangest corporate in a way, was a really lovely one. It was Lush Cosmetics, and they sponsor the most incredible awards for scientists who are working towards eliminating animal research.
They did this gig, and it was in the Royal Institute of British Architects, and they had the whole place done out as a laboratory, and we were all like the lab rats in this laboratory. And the dinner was extraordinary as it was like a petri-dish full of something, and the dessert was syringes of chocolate, so you would syringed chocolate directly in to your mouth, and they had ice cream bubbling like Jekyll and Hyde potions.
So that was absolutely extraordinary. I have never seen a space be transformed like that.
How would you describe your style of comedy?
I like to think that I fall about half way between silly and high-brow. Middle-brow I suppose? I am sort of radio 2, rather than radios 3 or 4, but I’m not radio 1. I would describe my comedy really as quite personable, quite chatty. It’s an awful phrase, but ‘feel good’ is, everyone always says it about me and I have learned, finally, to accept that yeah, what I really want is to make people have a good time.
If you're interested in booking Lucy Porter you can enquire online, email us or pick up the phone and speak to one of our friendly booking agents. For further information about Lucy, private performance details, testimonials and video clips, view her profile.