Toucan play at that game: getting into comedy in Cambridge
The boys from Toucan talk getting into comedy, the Fringe and their show
This week the Tab caught up with Guy Emanuel, Sam Grabiner, Jordan Mitchell and Theo Wethered, the Footlights’ guys from Toucan – a sketch show showing at the Corpus Playroom from Tuesday 20th October to Saturday 24th at 9.30pm.
We asked them about how to get into comedy, the Edinburgh Fringe and, of course, their show.
Firstly, tell us about the show.
“The publicity material isn’t very clear. When you apply to do a sketch show it’s hard to really know what it’s going to be, so we just use wikipedia…but now we know.
“It’s set in a tropical rainforest. It’s not got any narrative progression as such, but it’s not quite a sketch show either. The sketches are somewhat embedded into the theme.
“It requires the audience to think of a different world – to imagine it together. We’re playing a little out of our comfort zone this time by not playing ourselves.
It’s going to be really fun, and really inclusive!”
How did you guys get into comedy?
“Smokers! They’re a great way to get involved in comedy in Cambridge, and a great way to try out new material. There’s loads on offer in Cambridge.
“The Virgin smoker is really worth doing too. It’s for anyone who’s never done a smoker before- this year it’s on the 27th.”
How do you go about ‘writing comedy’?
“We always set a premise for the sketch, such as a giraffe in a tea shop (spoilers for the next show!) and just work on together, in a workshop style.
Over time we shave off the bits that are too silly and try and keep it slick and professional.”
Do you ever laugh at your own stuff on stage?
“We try not to corpse. We’ve seen it done in comedy shows before where they always corpse at the same point. It’s done deliberately, and we’re not so keen.
“It can really alienate people if comedians are just laughing at their own in-jokes and you want them to feel included. But it’s about judgement.
“You can sense if an audience is going to let you corpse or not. Sometimes it helps the audience relax too – it make them realise that they can laugh at it too. It’s a way to keep them involved in the friendly dynamic that we have on stage.”
Can you remember a time where you’ve corpsed on stage?
“(laughing) It wasn’t really that funny, it was actually quite serious, but Theo fell over, while he ran on stage holding a pitchfork. He nearly impaled himself.
“We corpsed a bit in Edinburgh. It wasn’t deliberate but when you do a show so many time, when something does go wrong it can be quite funny!”
What would you recommend to people who have only ever done stand up?
“The first time doing something different is hard. But if you try some stand up material as a character, rather than as yourself, it will make the transition easier.
“Doing both concurrently can be fun. You can fit any of your ideas that you write into either category. It gives you two outlets for any of your new material.
“It’s certainly easier to go from sketch show to stand up. The other way can make it feel like acting, but it’s really not. It also will give you some confidence, because you’ll trust your own comic timing.”
Tell us about Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
“We took Pelican to Ed Fringe and it’s certainly a test. It’s not just a student audience any more – it’s a real variety. We even had a middle aged couple who had seen some of our Cambridge stuff before.
“There’s a bit of pressure. The audience may have just come out of a professional comedy show. In Cambridge, you feel like the audience are more sympathetic. We all understand that only a few hours ago we were probably in a gruelling supervision.
“It’s a long time to be doing a show. It’s an 18 day run, so if you give a bad show, it can be brutal. Shows are usually a lot more ambitious when they’re in Cambridge.
“It’s certainly fun though! It’s like being children on a trip…but with no adults.”
Would you recommend freshers to try and go to Edinburgh?
“Definitely! So much from Cambridge goes up to the Fringe so it’s really easy to get involved.
“There’s a lot of funding available too. If we’d have gone up on our own we would have had to put A LOT of money behind it.
“It’s so much fun. For us, it’s doing something new, and not just doing a job. There’s also a huge support network because of the numerous Cambridge pieces up there.
“It’s like having an extra Theatre-term to the Cambridge year.”
Which comedians do you look up to?
Theo: “Sam and I really like Trygve Wakenshaw”
Guy: “Matt Berry”
Theo: “I have quite an eclectic mix”
Guy: “Robert Oldham from the footlights has been inspiration to all of us.”
Tell us about the funniest moment in rehearsals.
Jordan: “I signed up to the Assassins’ Guild during Freshers and if you’re inactive for a long period of time, they send someone out to kill you.
“Me and Theo were rehearsing some sketches in my room, which required us to strip down to our underwear in Michaelmas and a member of the AG kicked down the door and shot me.
“This guy had built his own gun out of revolving spoons. He was pretty high up in the Guild too.”
Any final words on the show?
“It’s going to be really funny, really inclusive, and good fun.
“We’re taking what we’ve learnt from Edinburgh and developed a new, slick show, that asks the audience to imagine the world we’ve created.”
Tickets can be bought here.