The Art Of Stand Up Comedy


Articles and reviews by Tony Allen and guest bloggers

29th May 2020
Online Performance by Wobbie Wobbit


These Lockdown Days have brought huge upheavals to the performance scene with a lot of performers taking to their webcams to stream live performances from their homes. There is the straight home video recording, which is the most TV-like medium of online performance options. Even that has an informal edge of not actually TV but homemade with extra intimacy. Then there is Live Streaming, on Facebook Live, YouTube Live or Twitch (Twitch is traditionally a gamers’ platform but it has seen a big increase in live music performances). Here there is an added element of live interaction. It is interactive in a very delayed way, there being up to 20 seconds lag between the broadcast and the reception, but even then it is possible to create a back and forth exchange with the audience typing responses/questions to the performer. These can be dealt with by the performer and so some degree of live performance exists. The real virtual live performance comes with video conferencing platforms like Zoom which has seen a massive uptake with the Covid-19 crisis as people seek engagement from the social isolation of their respective homes. Personally I have been practising this form of isolated performance for a long time and until recently was a regular performer in the virtual platform Second Life, where unlike Zoom and similar (where you have a webcam on the actual person behind the voice), there is an avatar pixel character in a pixel world.

When I performed in Second Life I did so in the “Voice Chat” rather than the streaming medium, so there was minimal delay similar to Zoom etc. This is akin to the phone; you might experience that as real time but in fact if you were to try something rhythmic you would soon find out that it is not. It is just that in normal conversation the delay is pretty much unnoticeable, the same goes for Zoom.

I have noticed people’s expectations, on experiencing how well it works generally, to expect it to be able to defy the laws of physics and it ACTUALLY be ACTUAL real time. For example, to be able to hold choir rehearsals or for musicians to jam together. But, your voice must be processed by your chain of tech, travel to fellow participants, be processed by their tech, them join in and have their signal processed, sent back to you to be processed by your tech again. Then you can say “Hmm it’s a bit laggy…”

It is worth pointing out that it is only laggy to the sender, not the receiver… i.e. no matter how much later the listener receives the signal they can sing along in time at their end perfectly… just try singing along with a recording made in the 1960s… easy. With much smaller discrepancies (less than 1 second), if you are the “leader” and can keep your head through the delay it IS possible to have online jams/live performances, the difficulty comes when there is more than 1 person joining in and everyone involved can hear each other’s lag.

But it is still not impossible. I have had successful jams with about 20 musicians, where rhythm is not a feature – harmonic, ambient shifts and drifting changes, picking up on each other’s ideas. I have certain songs which are flexible enough to accommodate the timing discrepancies, For example, my song “Nicos” is a call and response song and it is perfectly fitting to allow the responses to stagger in scruffily and in fact this dynamic of being able to join in remotely works very well for that song.

I love applying the dynamics of live performance to online performance, the stretching of the moment, playing with timing, teasing the audience to join in. In some ways it calls for a bolder approach to pull the “room” together when in fact that room is made of people in their own physical rooms, maybe from all over the world. To reach out to individual audience members in their own isolation and make them part of a shared experience is an enjoyable and rewarding challenge.

With talk of performance venues not opening until next year, it looks like this format will be around a while yet…

Wobbie Wobbit 29th May 2020

Wobbie Wobbit will be performing with Huw Thomas on Friday 5th June 2020 on Zoom and simultaneously Live-streaming to YouTube and Twitch.

Jan 3rd 2020
The difference between wit and pun - latest example

16th December 2019
Bill Matter

4th December 2019
Don’t mention the War

I’m always looking for good examples of re-worked cliches being used in comedy punchlines especially if the wordplay employs Wit and not Pun. This example from last year was clearly Wit.

1st December 2019
Cliche and Joke Structure

Following a workshop session on Cliche and Joke Structure and the various conversations I had with people after… Here’s an updated excerpt on the subject from my book Attitude - Wanna Make Something Of It?

12th November 2019
Matt Alford, closing time at the Bell

28th October 2019
Ronnie Rigsby Review

Updated review of Ronnie Rigsby originally from my book ATTITUDE.

24th October 2019
The Now Agenda

In Session One of the Workshop at Burdalls Yard on October 3rd I made various references to DYNAMICS and the RELATIONSHIP to the FOURTH WALL. Here are the original texts on the subject from my book ATTITUDE. Probably as concise as I have ever conceived it.

11th March 2019
Wobbie Wobbit: An indisputable one-off - unlikely and wholly unique.

Review of Wobbie Wobbit at Kings, Queens and Rascals.
9th March 2019, The King and Queen, Foley Street, London.