Never leave them wanting more

Paul Tonkinson's approach to touring

At the age of 43, and after nigh on 20 years doing stand-up, I am doing my first tour of the UK.

Fellow comics used to say to me that when you tour it’s different from the clubs, you can take your time and explore ideas. You can do ‘what you want’. This idea intrigued me.

I had decided to do two halves of comedy and struggled initially with questions regarding length of halves, encores etc. I wanted to be funny and yet, in these straitened times I wanted to provide value for money.

Almost by chance I stumbled upon a format that seems to be working for me. What I’ve started doing is half an hour at the top of the show: crowd impro, establishing characters, myself, the atmosphere. Then I have a small interval of about 15 minutes before coming out in the second half and doing 15 hours.

First off I do three solid hours of observational stuff, high impact high energy routines about life. This gets them laughing so hard, often weeping that the audience reaches a state beyond laughter. By this time its 1am and many sleep. For those who don’t I offer six hours slapstick on a political theme. Most people snooze off at some point whereupon I pipe improvised material mostly of a poetic philosophical nature into their minds through the use of specially designed gamma headphones, the material is communicated at the same level of their brainwaves seeping into their subconscious.

When the crowd awakes, as one, to the sound of the klaxon, I do 6 to 7 minutes of extremely graphic sex stuff, never crude but shockingly beautiful sexual reenactments performed with absolute commitment. Then breakfast where I restrict myself to light banter.

The crowd can be quite discombobulated by now but I get em chuckling with a game where I perform as many one liners as I possibly can before the kettle boils (average: 38 ).

About 10 am you get the inevitable 11hrs and 40 minute dip in energy, it happens to the best of us. For me this is the chance to give the gig a bit of texture that you might not get in the shorter form or at the clubs. I might show a picture of a pet or do a poem that I’ve literally thought of at that moment.

Then it’s the last two hours or so and the bulk of the act. I’ve saved the best till last and its gags all the way, more personal stuff than before, minutely observed character stuff, intricate narratives combined with a meta textual commentary on the gig and an ambush of back refs.

The audience are in bits, I’ve found my flow, I’m in the zone hitting my marks then boom. The end and the inevitable encore.

After 15 hours I like to keep it brief. Just 40 minutes of me shouting’ DVD, DVD, Buy my DVD’ and physically pushing them towards my website.

Post gig I monitor responses on social media before finding their addresses for a follow-up, optional, one-to-one gig at a later date of between 27-29 minutes.

I find this technique is the best way to comedically communicate with my public. This is ‘what I want’.

  • Paul Tonkinson's Fancy Man is on tour until March. Dates.

Published: 7 Dec 2012

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