Cuff founding member and improviser extraordinaire Adam Lindsay chats to Rebekka Turner, an up-and-coming comedian who is one of five offbeat performers in the show Unusual Subtext.
Adam interviews Rebekka:
1. What can audiences expect from your show?
They can expect something a little different, even a little bit edgier, than a regular comedy show. A variety hour for the eccentric. It is a combination of a magician, a musician, a conspiracy theorist, a surreal stand-up and a well-educated psychopath character act. A late evening show to challenge and bemuse.
2. How would you describe your brand of comedy?
Surreal stand-up with exciting characterisation! Explores everyday topics with an air of the odd, with charming awkwardness and an intellectual wit. Be prepared to go on an oddball journey!
3. What inspired you to start performing?
I have always enjoyed performing but I think that previously when I started at Uni I was still not 100% confident. My earlier stints of performance were primarily character based, which I really enjoy as you get away with saying slightly darker jokes and it enables better audience interaction. I think that it comes down to wanting to entertain with the desire to be liked.
4. What’s the toughest gig you’ve ever done?
Generally they’re the gigs where you know in the first minute that the audience don’t like your set and you have to battle through it. In terms of a traditional heckle, I have an example of it. At a gig there was a group of college kids at the back of the room and as I got on stage they shouted “I hope you’re as funny as you look”, to which I quickly retorted “I hope you’re as shit as you look”. Result: a round of applause. Most gigs haven’t been super tough yet – but I more than likely I haven’t reached the level where I go and conquer harder gigs.
5. If you could guarantee a world without suffering by also agreeing to a world without laughter, would you choose to?
In this instance I’d say that there was no guarantee, as laughter plays an important part of suffering – be it big or small. That’s the place where satire, parody and mocking come from. To have one or the other doesn’t really work. So no – if there is no laughter but there is no suffering, well, it would be rather boring with everything perfectly prim!
6. Would you rather smell like a goat for the rest of your life, or be followed round by a goat until you shake off this mortal coil?
I’d say smell like a goat for the rest of my life because at least with that there would be ways to mask the odour, such as perfume, and possibly some medications could help reduce the stench,
Catch Unusual Subtext at The Camden Comedy Club on 3rd, 4th and 5th August at 9:30pm. Tickets £5 from camdenfringe.com, or in person from the venue 30 minutes before the show.
Some of the performers:
Rebekka Turner @Realleela145 | Robbie Fox @RobbieNeuroFox | Adam Bownass @AdamBMagic
Rebekka interviews Adam:
1. What are the origins of Off the Cuff?
We started up 11 years ago… A group of us were up at Edinburgh Fringe putting on a show with Sussex University Drama Society, and we went to see a group called the Improverts a number of times. Fuelled by the foolhardy arrogance of youth, we thought “we could do that” so just started to informally rehearse improv games when we got back to Brighton. We then roped in some other friends to get involved, and before we knew it we were putting on shows in little rooms above pubs in town. We were incredibly haphazard, chaotic, unpolished and often totally drunk and unacceptably outrageous in those early days… I have absolutely no idea how we navigated our way through that phase and kept it going for so long!
2. How does Cuff develop a show? Do you have any tips for Fringe newbies?
We generally start thinking about what we want to do for our Fringe shows around November – we’ll often have a big chat and throw some ideas around for a concept we can develop, settle on an idea, then let our artistic director go away and think about how that idea could start to come into fruition. We then start workshopping it during January, often having separate all-day rehearsals in addition to our usual weekly get-togethers as we still need to prepare for our regular monthly shows but also need to put a lot of time and effort into developing the Fringe show. We throw lots of ideas around, try different things, and become very critical and analytical to refine it as much as possible and get it absolutely right, which often involves doing things over and over again… Very frustrating at the time, but it’s definitely worth it in the end. We actually had a filmmaker following us during our development process for Crime and Funishment in the run-up to Brighton Fringe this year, so you’ll soon be able to see for yourself exactly what we do to get our shows ready!
As for tips for Fringe newbies: Put the hours in well in advance to make sure your show is as good as it can be, make sure you concentrate on getting the small details right as they really matter, make sure you get an outside eye you trust to watch and comment on your work sometimes as it’s easy to become too involved and self-critical which can be counter productive, and don’t leave promotion to the last minute – there’s nothing worse than performing to empty rooms!
3. For people not in the know, in what ways are long form and short form improv different?
Short form is the type of thing I think most people are most familiar with – it’s the type of improv done on ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’. It usually consists of short games or sketches, all of which stand alone. Long form improv ties together everything into a bigger show concept, which is what we’re doing with Crime and Funishment. It’s basically one big long improvised comedy play – or TV detective drama, in this case!
4. What inspired you guys to to pick the theme of Crime and Funishment?
Crime and Funishment is actually an expanded version of a section of our 2015 Fringe show (Off the Cuff TV, which was based upon the idea of an improvised hour of content from our own TV channel – we had news bulletins, voiceovers, a comedy sketch show, and a much shorter version of Funishment). We all really enjoyed doing that bit of the show, and felt that it had a lot more potential to be expanded into a full hour and stand on it’s own, and it turns out it definitely did! It’s the most challenging format we’ve done and feels like a real achievement.
5. Experience is very important in comedy. How do you think improv can help budding comedians?
I think being able to improvise and think on your feet is essential for any comedian – it helps you be able to deal with hecklers effectively, keep things going seemlessly if you forget what comes next in your show, and can help to develop material into something fresher and funnier rather than just rehashing the same gags over and over until you become bored of them. I also think that improvisation is becoming increasingly important in developing work – comedy is increasingly moving away from standard gag based shows, with more and more comedians attempting to do something a bit more original, adventurous or surreal. Improv is a great way of exploring jokes and ideas further in rehearsals and taking them to places that they wouldn’t go if you were just sat at a computer writing jokes.
6. What has been Cuff’s crowning achievement so far?
Personally, I think our 10th anniversary show was the thing I’ve been most proud of. We programmed a full day of events at a venue in Brighton, with performances by former members such as Dougie Walker, Peter Strong and Chris Harrisson and some of our favourite other acts like Stand-up Philosophy, before doing a 3 hour set that incorporated all the major shows we’ve done over the last decade with loads of former members of the group making an appearance. Having 20+ people on stage and getting to see old friends performing with newer members for the first ever time and having such fun was an absolute delight. It was a logistical nightmare and took a lot of work and stress to get right, but it all came together to make a really special day.
Catch Off the Cuff: Crime and Funishment at Camden Comedy Club from 19 th – 22 nd August at 8pm.
Tickets £8.50 / £7.50 concs. Buy ’em here! http://www.camdenfringe.com/show.php?acts_id=543