Have you ever dreamed of being alone on stage, sweating bullets, standing in a blinding spotlight waiting for strangers to judge you? Firstly, you must be crazy, and secondly, you must want to be a stand-up comedian.
But for those who dream of a career making people laugh, we did a spot of investigationing (that’s a Ryan Shelton reference for you newbs. He’s a successful comedian fyi) and hit up Donte D1 from Comedy in the Raw Stand Up School for some tips. Donte’s bringing his Sydney-based comedy school to Melbourne in September, and he also runs Comedy Court, in which the audience votes for acts via electric voting pads. He chuckles intermittently as he recalls an epic ventriloquism bomb like it was yesterday.
“This guy got up on stage, who was about 89 years old, with a dummy that was about 189 years old. The doll and him had the same voice – no one was sure who was talking. It was the worst ventriloquist act ever, but the audience laughed so hard that the guy thought he’d won the competition.”
Suffice to say, he didn’t – and he clearly wasn’t a regular at one of Donte’s classes, either. So, apart from an act that people laugh with, rather than at, what does Donte look for in a potential comedian? “Their onstage persona,” he replies. “Naturals on stage might not have their material written perfectly, but when they are on stage they look relaxed.” Easy for Donte to say – he’s been strutting the stage since he was barely 15, now clocking up 30 years in clubs across Australia and the US. So by now he must have eliminated all howlers from his set. “If you’re clever you can probably get away with a bit more. There are some obvious things that are off-limits – you can’t do anything that’s homophobic or racist.”
OK, so we’ve got our topics down and have ditched the dummy; now for a stage name. Donte suggests something with pizzazz – like his epic moniker, for example. “My middle name is Deone, so I just dropped the ‘e’ and substituted the number 1 for ‘-one’... You should choose a name that’s catchy and easy to pronounce. People tend to remember catchy names.”
Donte D1, Louis CK, TJ Miller... we’re thinking an acronym is definitely on the cards. TOMCOM?
Australian School of Stand Up Comedy, Hotel Sophia, 277 King St, Melbourne. Five-night course $374.99, Sep 7-11; five-hour Intro to Comedy class Sun Sep 8, $249.99.