Sam Freeman

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Tag: Markus Birdman

Interview: Markus Birdman

Standup comedian Markus Birdman is performing his latest show Love, Life and Death at The Stand at Edinburgh Festival before going on to tour in 2012/13.

Was the concept of being a stand up as a career something that was a gradual realisation or did you have a moment of clarity and inspiration?

A gradual thing I think. I had been to art college and been in bands and struggling to find my feet in a creative career. A friend suggested stand up and i had a go and it seemed to gain more momentum than other creative ventures. I’m still getting away with it. I just want to live a creative life and avoid a proper job

How did this show come together? Do you write desk-bound or work up ideas improvised at gigs alongside your stronger material that can support it? 

Yes a mixture of desk bound toil and then working on that on stage in more organic way. Then those ideas go back to the desk and are worked again. So it’s a cycle for me.

The show, as a result of the material, has a strong narrative arc and seemed to resonant strongly with the audience, did you have any fears about using such personal material particularly about such an emotive subject? 

Well i think 95% of the time audiences really appreciate the openess and generosity of it and i am delighted that it resonates them. However if the audience doesn’t respond well you feel more disolutioned than you would if you just talking about your balls or Coldplay.

Who are the comedians you admire, (or have admired) and why? 

I like people like Peter Sellers and Ronnie Barker. Honestly i get more inspiration from musicians. Having said that i was really inspired by Simon Munnery’s show this year.

What are your ambitions within and beyond standup?

Pretty much to avoid ever having to get a proper job. Everything else is gravy.

Lots of comedian’s talk about a regional variation in audiences, to what extent do you agree with that and how do you manage these variations?

I don’t really agree with that. I think the most important variant is the room layout and how the audience have been treated by the people running it. If you treat people badly they usually behave in kind. And viceversa.

What was your most successful and most horrendous gigs? 

There have been many highs and many lows. And that will continue. I tend to judge in a batting average kind of way

Do you feel (as some do) that Edinburgh works as an annual comedy shop window, and how does it effect your work as a performer? 

Honestly, i have no idea how edinburgh works or what it’s supposed to be. I think you have to work out what you want from it. For me it makes me write more. There’s nothing like a deadline.

What are your feeling on the stadium performances in 2,000+ seat venues? 

I’ve only been to 2 and they were both very disappointing. Comedy is better in a more intimate envronment i think. But that would be true of any event. The more popular something is usually the less creatively interesting it is.

Festival’s everywhere!

I have been considering recently what I’d do if I won the lottery, something that I imagine lots of people muse about from time to time.

I quickly passed through the obvious ones (house, car, driving lessons – not in that order), before moving into the deliberately charitable ones (i’d help someone so I seem like a nice individual and the money’s not changed me… come on, we all think it…) before finally settling on the lifestyle choices section. To work or not to work.

To be honest i’m not sure I could deal with not working (although i would improve vastly at FIFA (read more…)) but I also had the idea that I could become a comedy festival junkie for a year on maybe a year out… Like students do without the hassle of going to Australia where I will get sunstroked in 5 seconds.

Yes, going from previews to Edinburgh to Liverpool to Brighton, one gig a day. It’d be amazingly good fun, new places, gig every night and nice meals, I could take my friends, get a VW camper van…

However, back to reality, and a couple of comedy festival’s have caught my attention post-Edinburgh.  The first (for my southern readers) Dave’s Brighton Comedy Festival, and the second (for my northern readers) Liverpool Comedy Festival. Both events look absolutely terrific so I thought I’d pick out a few people to recommend from each!

Dave’s Brighton Comedy Festival

(top 5 to see!)

  1. Ross Noble – The man is a genius, possible the quickest improviser I’ve ever seen, every gig feels like you’ve taken part in a unique event, massively confusing at points but a superstar of comedy.
  2. Russell Kane – A few people I know dislike Kane from his TV appearances, but please, make no mistake, he deserved his Perrier award (or whatever it’s called now), he’s sharp, funny, and is another comedian you warm to instantly!
  3. Dara O’Briain – So let’s get this straight, in the space of 5 years he has gone from an unknown into a national treasure. Let’s be honest without Dara, Mock The Week would be rubbish, a great improviser too who manages to combine wit and warmth. I imagine he could insult you badly and you’d thank him for it afterwards..
  4. Tony Law – He’s crazy, I saw him for the first time in Edinburgh this year, my last show of the fringe, and, it was like a long happy sing-along hallucination, but enjoyable without dizziness or a rampant desire for a Big Mac afterwards.
  5. Terry Alderton – When I ran a comedy night in York we booked Terry not knowing what to expect. His split personality comedy divides opinion a bit, however, it’s thrilling to watch, and Alderton is slick, knows his act inside out and is sure to get you excited!

Liverpool Comedy Festival 

(top 5 to see!)
  1. Alun Cochrane – I have no idea why Alun Cochrane isn’t playing to stadiums.  He should be, or at least in a big theatre. He’s brilliant, funny, sincere and one of the best comedians around. At some point he will become a superstar, I’d see him before that point and say you saw him first…
  2. Markus Birdman – I saw Marcus in Edinburgh in a room with 20 people. The man is a genius, not many people can make a show about death genuinely inspirational while avoiding vomitting moments… He does it…
  3. Seymour Mace – I’ve not seen this new show, but his last show was a dark brooding laugh-fest that ended in a bizarre way and felt very confessional, it was a little disturbing, a little mad and I really enjoyed it… I was hopefully meant to..
  4. Josie Long – I’ve a confession to make. I’ve never seen Josie Long live. Everyone I know raves about her. And everyone can’t be wrong.
  5. Simon Munnery – Probably the best joke writer in the country, and a bit of a comedy legend. Enough said really…

Edinburgh 2012 Reviews

I’ve just returned from four glorious days in sunny Edinburgh (it seems wrong to say…), basking in comedic and theatrical genius with the odd road bump along the way. Last year I reviewed in depth everything I saw. However this year it wasn’t possible for 3 reasons.

1# I was there with my girlfriend who wakes up early (unlike my mate Chris who I went with last year who sleeps like a corpse til 11am) so my writing time wasn’t there.

#2 I didn’t take my laptop and have stubby fingers so didn’t attempt writing on Louise’s iphone, also the hostel no longer had a free-to-use PC in the lounge.

#3 It was a holiday so I thought i’d just enjoy it.

Anyway, here’s what I saw (in 3 and a bit days) and what I thought!

 Andrew Bird’s Global Village Fete
: A bit of an average show to be honest, thematically inconsistent, using the framing device of trying to organise a tour of his previous show felt staged and unconvincing, he’s really funny and you warm to him instantly, but this show didn’t really feel as well thought out, structured or planned as last years brilliant show.

4 StarsAl Pitcher – Tiny: An improvised show based around a series of funny pictures that Al’s taken round the city. Sounds like a recipe for disaster but actually showed how stunningly good a comedian he is with a little material. Reminded me a bit of Ross Noble, a great fun performer to see.

4 Stars Hal Cruttenden: Another great show, a political edge examining the contrasting sides of Hal’s personality, actor or hardman, which ended brilliantly. A really strong piece, that felt well structured and well rounded from a performer it’s really easy to like.

4 Stars Guilt & Shame: I wasn’t sure I’d like this to be honest, it sounded a bit like a classic, “we did some drugs now look at us”, and to an extent it is. However, while it’s not the deepest, most effecting show I saw, I really enjoyed it, it was silly, clever, filthily dirty and with some absolutely terrific acting and the best use of music I’ve seen.

4 Stars Jollyboat: Genius. From the free fringe, this is how musical comedy should be done, the songs are witty and clever, long enough to get the message across and extract the juicy potential of the joke yet short enough to feel they’re not milking it. A bit of work on persona and developing interlinking sections and maybe audience interaction and this would get the extra star to make it five.

4 Stars Max & Ivan are… Con Artists: Character based comedy based on the recent glut of heist movies. Two brilliant performers who stormed and sweated through an hour of the most entertaining heist movie references developing strong and nuanced characters. The story was loose and ridiculous and it felt like the ending was perhaps a little rushed, maybe to fit in the time slot, but a good play for anyone!

 Axis Of Awesome: 2011 they were brilliant, 2012 made me really angry. I paid to see this, poor interaction, pop culture references 10 years out of date, lazy execution and tedious songs… WHY WHY WHY. Sorry chaps, didn’t enjoy this one, it felt a bit like meeting a girl who’s really hot, and in the past she didn’t know she was hot and that was adorable, but now everyone’s told her they want to do bad things with her and she’s changed. Axis, you’ve changed. I love your work and I really want you to blow my mind.

4 Stars Mark Watson: The Information: A solid hour from Mark Watson, he’s very easy to like and this show about the information we freely distribute around the internet was both fascinating and a little scary. It also reminded me never to mess with Mark Watson as behind that chilled out friendly exterior is a bit of a demon. A very very funny demon.

 The Boy With Tape On His Face: Amazing, funny, silly, daft, silent. Sometimes you see someone doing something really original and different and it makes you curse and wish you’d come up with a concept so good. This is one of those.

 Daniel Kitson: Where Once Was Wonder… I’m a big Daniel Kitson fan, he’s brilliant, the master of a turn of phrase and one of my comedy heroes. This of course sets me up for a fall, but he delivered again, and we laughed so much our faces hurt and I left feeling inspired and rejuvenated.

4 Stars Daniel Bye: The Price Of Everything: A really clever show about value, how we attribute it and how we want to live our lives. It’s clever and uses techniques and elements commonly seen in standup, it maybe feels like it needs a bit of polish, but it’s inspiring, well written and makes you dream of a better world.

4 Stars Daniel Kitson: As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th 2012, This Show Has No Title: Genius. Or massively arrogant and we’ve all been conned. I suspect a bit of both, and fair play, it worked for me, a great show, insightful, clever and structurally perfect. I can’t tell you what happens in case someone searches online as I don’t want to spoil it, I imagine some people will hate it (as they are well within their rights to), but I thought it was great. It should also be noted that Daniel (or Mr Kitson) walked into the theatre just in front of us and I froze and couldn’t ask for a photo – I have now done this with 2 of my heroes (Richard Schiff – who I met at York Theatre Royal), and I can’t decide if this makes me a better person or a cowardly twat.

 Piff The Magic Dragon: Didn’t really like it to be honest, it’s a magic/comedy show, and it’s shy about containing the magic part. A clever idea, maybe inspired by Tommy Cooper thematically, but he made comedy from his failures and then just as you doubted him, added in a showstopping successful trick. This needed some overwhelming tricks to counteract the undewhelming deliberate failures.

4 Stars The Magnets: Louise talked about them constantly for an hour afterwards (I didn’t see them) and said they were really good! So yes, go see it!

 Markus Birdman: A brilliantly under rated comedian, funny, clever, with a great narrative to his show, brilliant comic timing and an impressive ability at artwork. One of our favourite shows, and, I really, really hope he gets a break and is seen by a wider audience!

4 Stars Tony Law: Utter Noonsence: And something mad to finish with, Tony Law is surreal, he doesn’t do conventional, he breaks convention with a stick then kicks it to death. He’s also tremendously funny, and honest, it’s rare a comedian admits he doesn’t know how to end a show, but to embrace and use that? That’s genius.

(Apologies for the writing of these mini-reviews, I’ve just got back from a 5hr train journey and I’m really tired… Best, Sam)


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