Comedy embraces its freaks... unlike acting | Rachel Jackson on the differences between the two worlds

Comedy embraces its freaks... unlike acting

Rachel Jackson on the differences between the two worlds

I never in a million years thought I'd try stand-up comedy, let alone ever be referred to as a stand-up comedian. And not because I had any sort of opinion on it either way - just because I was so focussed on being an actress it never crossed my mind.

I won a competition in London a few years ago called Monologue Slam: actors competing against each other doing their best monologues from either plays or films and the judges pick their favourite. 

I did Sarah Michelle Gellar's 'Silly Rabbit' speech from the film Cruel Intentions. Which is basically her totally crucifying her stepbrother played by Ryan Phillippe. It’s quite a dark part of the film and I did it in a Scottish accent and people were howling. I came off stage totally confused thinking the audience didn't get it at all and wondering why they were in fits of laughter and then even more surprised to find out I'd won. 

My agent at the time came up to me afterwards saying I had to get into comedy and didn't realise how funny I was. I was still a bit stunned as to why no one seemed to think my dramatic acting was any good. I think I just hadn't realised at the intensity at which I talk is funny. That thing of being so serious its funny.

 I tried stand-up a few times after that and it was fine but my passion was still totally revolved around acting and I got into drama school so was away doing that for three years. I was getting frustrated at drama school though and was always being told my dating stories were funny so I decided to write what I thought was a play called Memoirs of a Bunny Boiler. 

It wasn't until I performed a work in progress of it that people told me it was less play and more like stand-up. For the past year and a bit I've gigged from everywhere from Berlin to LA to Glasgow and London and can truly say I'm addicted now. 

It’s so much more scary than acting because when you go on stage, even if its a persona or a heightened version of yourself it’s still different to acting. It’s like your either playing yourself or a version of yourself. Unless you’re a character comedian of course – but I mean generally.

 It’s so weird to me still that getting laughs soothes you immediately whereas in a play as an actor, silence can often be a really good thing. Like the audience are really listening. Where as lots of silence in comedy clubs generally means you've fucked it.

Comedians are complex creatures and so are actors but they are very different too. The thing I struggle with most now is people demanding I choose between being an actor or a comedian like I'm being too greedy at a buffet. Or that they should have some sort of say on what I do with my life.

 A lot of my favourite people are comedians and actors. Ricky Gervais. Melissa McCarthy, Steve Coogan, Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey and Michael Keaton. I recently went to The Comedy Store in LA and saw Michael Keaton's name in lights in the Original Room. I can't tell you how comforting that was to see one of my favourite actors had been a stand-up too. 

It's the worst thing in the world when the audience don't laugh but the best thing in the world when they do. I feel more powerful as a comedian than as an actress. 

With acting I'm constantly emailing casting directors who seem to have no interest in meeting me but with comedy I can get on a stage every night and have a laugh about the things in my life and in the world that annoy me, sicken me etc. 

There is a power to writing your own stuff and getting it out there instantly. And oddly it’s making me more appealing to the acting world. By being so busy gigging and writing I'm not going into auditions with that Gollum energy anymore. 

There was a posh boy at my drama school who thought I was mentally unwell. He'd be like 'Rachel your 'persona' on twitter is very controversial and lots of people in the industry won't want to work with you.'  Well I can tell you they have and I've worked more than him. 

People don't always want a cardboard cut-out who never wants to rock the boat. They want the crazy, the opinionated, the funny people. The 'you' basically.

He was pretty much saying actors aren't allowed to be funny or a bit different or have a unique voice, which I think is stupid of him. That's what I love about the comedy world. They accept the freaks with open arms. 

I'm not trying to damn the acting world because it will always be my first passion but I've achieved more in a year in comedy than ten years as an actor so far. Something has to be said for that. 

I love how they cross over too. Steve Coogan being nominated for an Oscar for the Philomena screenplay! What a don, not being dictated to, like 'stay in your own lane pal' All my heroes march to the beat of their own drum. I don't even have a drum and certainly can't dance but I'm marching baby. Marching all the way.

<B>• Rachel Jackson’s Bunny Boiler:  Pleasance Courtyard, 22:30</b>

Published: 2 Aug 2017

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