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COMEDY HERO: GARY DELANEY

InterviewPosted by Bobby Carroll Tue, April 23, 2013 12:33:45

Mr Delaney is King of Nasty One Liners. And he also has been known to write a few sweet and innocent ones equally as funny too. He's had a hit Edinburgh show, written gags for Russel Howard's Good News and had two of his gags make Dave's Top Ten Jokes of the Fringe, the only act to do so. He is a proper gigging comic and we quite often find ourselves sharing a bill so instead of me awkwardly fawning over him on here I've interviewed via the old email. THIS INTERVIEW IS REPUBLISHED FROM AN OLD BLOG FROM JAN 2011

How would you describe your comedy?

Just jokes that make me laugh and the shortest amount of faff necessary to get to the funny bits. I write jokes that fit into one of three categories clever,/la-di-da, dark or silly. I keep the ones that get the biggest laughs. These are usually the dark ones.

Why did you start performing stand-up? Where did you bite the bullet and how did it go?

I always wanted to. I was one of those guys on the fringes of the scene trying to get his nerve up. I used to write jokes for an old friend 'Money Saving' Martin Lewis when he dabbled in stand up. I wrote him a joke about nurses. I thought it was brilliant. He tried it a couple of times then said it didn't work. I said he wasn't doing it right, and you can fill in the blanks from there really. The joke was:

“When a man dies the man's body leaks fluid from the penis and the anus (apparently true), therefore when a man dies in hospital it's part of a nurses job to tie a know in his penis and put a cork up his anus.

The way I see it there's two very clear lessons you can learn from this.

i) Never go out with a nurse or

ii) Go out with a nurse.”

... (actually Martin may have had a point).

Did you watch live comedy regularly before? Did you do a comedy course? Were you a heckler?

Yes. No. No.

Yes, I love comedy and have always watched (and, better, listened to) loads. I find it odd that some comics haven't ever done this before performing but some of them have gone to be brilliantly successful and unique so maybe they have a point.

How hard were the first few years? What kept you going? What were your weaknesses? How did you improve them?

Very. I died a lot. I was kind of deluded and better in my head than I was on stage. That really helped. I was uberdeadpan, which is all very well when going well but the lack of flexibility and energy can lead to you dying a lot. After I started playing Jongleurs I pretty soon fucked off the deadpan.

If I was to start now I don't think I would have the resolve to make it. It is years of very hard work for very little money to get good.

How have you evolved over the years? What were the major realisations/turning points you made on stage that improved your stand-up?

After about 5 years I started doing the really wrong jokes that I'd always written but never had the nerve to perform. This combined with losing deadpan made things go much better.
I will never be a great performer, but I can bluff it and be OK, but I've become a really good gag writer and that gets me through most things. I'd rather be able to write a good gag than act everyday things out in a likeable manner to a full stadium.

Who are your heroes? Who still influences what you do?
Max Miller, Henny Youngman, Woody Allen, Ken Dodd, Emo Philips, Mitch Hedberg, Anthony Jeselnik, Steven Wright, Tim Vine, Milton Jones, Stewart Francis

Do any other things (music/film/writers etc...) have an effect on your comedy?
Nah, but good use of language in songs (especially Country and Western, Johnny Cash type stuff) often seems to veer towards one liner territory. Macca, Squeeze and Mike Skinner all do a bit too.

What's your writing process? How do you process new material?

Hear a phrase (has to be hear). Note it down in my phone as something I could break and dick about with. Then every few weeks try and work all these miscellaneous bits and work them into jokes. Try them somewhere nice. Keep the best 1 in 10 or so. Bin the rest (after a couple of chances and rewrites). I grade new stuff A to D.

A - Gets really big laugh or applause. It's straight in the set.
B- Gets a good laugh. May make it into the set but will probably be found wanting when it's measured against the rest. Slip into set at nice clubs

C - Little laugh. Rewrite and try again.

D - Shite, straight in the bin, of if it's had a couple of rewrites and it's still a C, then also in the bin.


Are there any jokes that took ages to get right?

Yes. I have several jokes in my set that took months, or sometimes years, to get the right wording. Eg. Israeli Occupier and Filling the escort with diesel.

If I am convinced something is funny I keep coming back to it every few months. 50% of the time I get it right eventually.

Are you happier of something that works instantly or something you had to really tinker with but eventually bore fruit?

Hmmm. As a 'craftsman' I should say the latter but really I prefer the thunderbolts. They are free from the Gods.

How has the gigging landscape changed? For the better or worse? Are their any rooms or clubs that you really miss?

Open mike clubs are even shitter than when I started, and that shitness has spread from London to the rest of the country. Audiences are less patient (but that suits me). Generally I am pleased to see more pro clubs.

Any unfulfilled ambitions? Are you ever tempted to jettison all your material and "house-style" and start a fresh?

Yes. I didn't set out to be a one liner comic. It was just what i was good at. I may experiment with trying some cleaner (or at least non-dark stuff) and see if I can do a whole set or show of that.I write stories, but they never work. I know they are good, as I usually end up giving them to other comics, but audiences just won't have it from me. Don't know why.

What newer acts have caught your eyes? Any great bits of advice for readers?

I like acts that work really hard. My main advice is always work hard. Write every day. Gig every night. You will get better. Most comics are lazy. Every day you are working harder than them you are pulling ahead of them.

Don't make excuses as to why you're not getting the success you want, just work harder.

I started with many people more talented than me. Most are gone now. The ten or so open mikers who I started out with who worked the hardest are the ones who made a living out of it, not the most naturally talented ten.

Is it ever the audiences fault?

Yes, sometimes. One liners just don't work to audiences that are tiny or low in energy due to the feedback loops being more intense than with other types of comedy (or with gubbins like storytelling or music).

How important is the Edinburgh Festival to you?

Quite. It shouldn't be but industry people will never make the effort to see you so you have to waive your comic booty in their faces. I got lots of work and kudos from my fest show, but it cost a fortune. Even selling out I lost £8.5K

How do you feel about youtube or seeing your material away from the stage?

I don't like it. I gave Chortle permission to use three minutes of stuff on youtube, that's the only time I've ever given permission, and that was as I had a show to sell.
My jokes end up everywhere, it's annoying as it crushes their value, and your very best jokes get crushed fastest and become weak but there's nothing you can do about it really.
Audiences don't ever think 'Fuck that guy is so good at writing jokes I've seen his stuff on text and emails and the web' they just think 'What a lazy unfunny cunt, just taking jokes from texts and the internet'.

Any deaths / horror stories? Or great backstage stories?

Don't do puns in Germany. I assure you it won't work.

I did a benefit for a hospice. It was rubbish. A few staff in and not many others. Very quiet. I was closing. I really wanted to say 'What's up with you people? Don't you get enough off watching people die at work?', but I bottled it.


Any dates or productions you want to pimp out shamelessly?

Vote for my Twitterfeed in the Chortle Awards please!

Thanks Gary. I'll leave them with a link to the Twitterfeed ,

http://twitter.com/garydelaney