Comic trio give their tips for the top

At the launch of Jongleurs and J2O's Last Laugh talent hunt, Jasper Carrott, Rhona Cameron and Dave Spikey talk about how they got started in comedy, their influences, and their tips for anyone else wanting to follow in their footsteps:

Jasper Carrott
My earliest influence was when I was about 12 years old and The Smothers Brothers came over from America to do a series of shows for the BBC. I thought they were really funny, but no one else in Britain did. After two shows, they were sacked.

I started in the folk clubs of Solihull, and within 45 minutes I had two 45-minute slots, which led to universities and after-dinner speeches. My good fortune was that there was a grand network of folk clubs where you could start of being rubbish. Also, there you could talk to the people, rather than at them as you did in variety clubs. I wanted to be Tom Lehrer, but with a guitar. Shelley Berman, Bill Cosby, Blaster Bates, Bob Newhart - they weren't really heore, but certainly influences.

I had this ability to relate to an audience. But I remember doing this piece about Butlins, and I can't tell you the courage it took to do it because it wasn't a gag, just a story about what happened to me. But it actually worked.

And with one-liners. if you went to a club and someone like Mike Harding had been there the week before and done your gag, you were stuffed. But this was personal to me.

If I had to give one piece of advice, it's just: "Be yourself"

Rhona Cameron
Before I did comedy, I wasn't doing anything. Just drinking heavily and signing on - which is what everybody in Scotland did in the Eighties.

I was guided into it buy a girl I was going out with at the time. I'd always wanted to do some kind of performing, but I wasn't the traditional beautiful actress type. I had seen Jimeoin in Australia and thought: "That looks really easy."

I went to the Comedy Cafe in London for their Wednesday night try-out spot. If you won, you got £25 an a spot with the professionals. I didn't tell anyone, went along on my own - and won. And I started getting regular bookings from that.

Jerry Seinfeld said that the key to going into comedy is that you don't get along with others, and it's true that a lot of it is to do with being on the outside.

I identified only with TV and films and realise you didn't have to be a conventional type of person. I loved the Carry Ons because everyone was so odd - a thin, camp man, or a short fat one. I realised people were attractive because they were funny, it didn't matter how they looked.

I saw Eddie Large while on holiday once and I was in love with him for 24 hours. I went back to the caravan, kissing my arm and going "Eddie, Eddie..."I wish I hadn't told you that now. At 16, I went to the Edinburgh Festival and saw Victoria Wood. That was a very big thing: here was a woman, quite androgynous both in the way she looked and emotionally, and I related to that. People starting out shouldn't think about anything else ahead. TV, whatever, that's a whole different thing. Just perform what you genuinely believe is funny.

A lot of it is confidence trickery. You pretend that you're confident. You can't learn to be funny - you have to have an innate sense of working a room.

I don't think material is important. I've seen some great joke-writers with brilliant stuff, but had no personality or onstage presence. And material can always be learned.

Dave Spikey
I fell into it, really. I had a hobby of writing comedy I liked, and we'd put it on as amateurs, with me directing. But after a while of you telling people how to say the lines you've written, someone will say: "Oh, do it you're fucking self then."

I was a haematologist in a hospital, and I used to do the folk clubs at night. Then I started doing the working men's clubs. I did about ten, but I didn't like them, and they didn't like me. I would go to these seaside talent searches, and stuff like that, but always in places like Scarborough and Torquay where no one would know be if I died on my arse.

I was going to give up, then the Buzz club opened in Manchester and I was there every week doing the observational stuff. It's like a drug - that's a bit of a cliché - but you always get off on it. Getting on stage as yourself is the hardest thing, and people often hide behind some quirk. I always used to wear glasses.

Billy Connolly is a hero just because he's a guy who goes on stage and just talks. If, like him, you pinpoint something that makes you laugh, chances are that it will work for other people. Bobby Ball was a very funny man, too, with all the catchphrases and the pathos. People often start because they're funny down the pub, and people at work might think they're funny. But you have to ask: Are you really funny? When you're in front of an audience, they don't know you - it's different from your friends and family. Rule number one: make 'em like you

Published: 9 Jul 2006

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.