A new aria of expertise

Opera star launches stand-up contest

Opera singer Jane Gilchrist has tried her hand at stand-up – as part of a drive to attract comedy hopefuls to a new BBC talent hunt.

The soprano, a former supermarket checkout operator who sang with the English National Opera after winning the Channel 4 reality show Operatunity, was given just five days to prepare for her appearance at Jongleurs in Bristol.

Comics Eddie Large and Mark Olver coached her through what she described as some of the ‘most stressful days of her life’ in preparation for her routine.

She said: ‘I've sung live on TV, appeared at the London Coliseum and completed a national concert tour but nothing - absolutely nothing - was more terrifying than standing up in front of an audience and trying to make them laugh.’

‘The only thing that got me through it was the knowledge that it was all for Comic Relief... oh, and a little help from my new friend Mark Olver.’

Her progress will be shown on the Inside Out programme on BBC West tonight – launching the region’s Comic Relief coverage.

As part of the charity drive, the corporation is looking for the best new stand-ups from the area, the best of whom will get the chance to perform in front of hundreds of people inside the comedy tent at this summer’s Glastonbury Festival.

This is the first live stand-up hunt the corporation has been involved with since axing the BBC New Comedy Award in 2005 in favour of schemes for new sketch and writing talent.

Entrants need to send a video of their routine, lasting no more than two minutes, to standup@bbc.co.uk or posted to Stand Up for the Big One, c/o Jenny Walmsley, BBC Bristol, Broadcasting House, Whiteladies Road, Bristol, BS8 2LR by February 16. Alternatively, a camera team will be filming in the major shopping centres in the west between Feb 5 and 9.

The best clips will go online, and the top eight acts will perform in a showcase at Jongleurs in March.

As for the soprano’s performance, her website boats: ‘To everyone’s delight Jane holds her own brilliantly, she connects with the audience in the first few seconds of being on the stage. From then on, her nerves and worries vapourise and she is having a ball. She has the whole place in stitches and finishes her spot to rapturous applause.’

Watch some clips of the build-up here – and the full programme will be online here once it has been broadcast at 7.30pm tonight. Digital satellite viewers outside the West Country can also see it on channel 986.

Published: 26 Jan 2007

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