UK comedian awaits return to live comedy, stand-up

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Photo Courtesy of Edward Moore

Comedian Alfie Brown performs a standup routine in 2019. Brown recently released a comedy special called “Imagination” and hopes to return to live in-person comedy soon.

By Nate Sun, staff writer

U.K. comedian Alfie Brown has a way of taking any astute observation in life and turning it into an evocative joke, and this proclivity for wittiness was showcased in his recently released comedy special, “Imagination.” As luck would have it, this live show was recorded one day before theaters shut down in the U.K. due to COVID-19 lockdown procedures.

Instead of describing this as dodging a bullet, Brown said, “It was dodging a train. You could see it coming a mile off.”

In preparing for his comedy routine, Brown obliges the need for finding a rhythm. However, he also sees the value in improvising, a utility that is not as potent nowadays with no live audiences.

“Improvisation lends itself to live performances a lot more than it lends itself to a recording,” Brown said. “A comedian’s improvised exchange with an audience member is a lot better with a person.”

Rather than overly rehearsing, what helps Brown get into rhythm is feeling the energy of the room. This is apparent from the onset of “Imagination.”

During the almost hour-long runtime of “Imagination,” Brown starts the set by playing around with the audience and ends with jokes about ironic ways people behave in our society, and throughout the show, he brings up topics regarding family, sexuality and self-identity.

However, bringing up such two-fisted themes in comedy is not always placid. The phrase “you can’t make jokes about anything anymore” has become so ubiquitous that Ricky Gervais even made a viral tweet ridiculing the saying. In a similar sentiment, Brown finds that his more emotive jokes land because of the comfort he creates with his audience.

“When you do a joke about something, the subject matter of which is contentious, people go ‘Uh-oh’,” Brown said. “As soon as people don’t feel comfortable, people can’t laugh … it’s all about the comfort of the audience.”

As he sees it, if the ambition of a joke is to simply shock, then it is boring. Even more than creating a feeling of comfort between him and the audience, Brown also strives to evoke a sense of humanity in his comedy.

“What any person who writes a novel or any piece of art wants to elucidate is the human experience,” he said.

Brown’s love for comedy began when he was a child, but his personal start with the medium began when he was a teen.

“I was at school, and then I just quit when I was about 16 or 17,” Brown said.

He said he then went on “to do an open mic and then never stopped.”

Brown also points out two attributes that were important for him getting his start in comedy: confidence and risk-taking. As he puts it, audiences reward bad habits. In this way, a comedian who falls into a substandard routine can find themselves being encouraged by the audience into sticking to the bad practice. For a comedian to develop, they need to take risks and try new things.

Another tenet that Brown esteems is to be self-assured when performing.

“As soon as you go out on stage and you’re afraid of the audience, they have something on you,” Brown said. “You always have to know the most about yourself.”

By this, Brown believes a comedian should be assured in their own convictions that what they are saying is right and that they are composed with themselves.

Regarding the long break from live-performing due to lockdown, Brown has still had no time off.

“I’ve got three children,” he said. “I haven’t spent a moment not occupied. School’s been shut for a long part of lockdown.”

Lockdown and parenting have become so ingrained in his life that comedy has taken a step back.

“I’ve felt so incredibly beaten by having to stay indoors. I don’t know how I’ll feel when the world opens back up,” Brown said. “I don’t know how I’ll feel when the world opens back up,”

But at the end of the day, he will refind his rhythm because “I love stand up, I miss it, and I want to go back to work.”

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