Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
0

Showbiz News

Darren Jeffries and Matt Littler's Stand-Up Comedy Diaries: Part 1

By
At last year's Dave Leicester Comedy Festival, Digital Spy sent one of its own reporters off to test their stand-up skills and run the gauntlet with a full five-minute set.

This year, we're going one better. Darren Jeffries and Matt Littler, perhaps best known as Max and OB from Hollyoaks, have signed up to take part in the comedy festival for Digital Spy and are prepared to put their dignity on the line for laughs.

Darren and Matt will be sharing their Diaries with us as they prepare to take to the stage.

Matt Littler, Darren Jeffries

© PA Images / Yui Mok/PA Archive



Digital Spy Diary - Darren Jeffries:
Me and my big fat unfunny mouth. I'm standing outside some language school in central London waiting for Mr Marc Blake, who is our tutor for today's comedy lesson, and also Matt Littler, my husband in televisual crime, to learn how to write a stand-up routine for a gig at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival.

It's snowing and it's windy. In my mind's eye, this is a great excuse to turn around and go home. I could sit on my warm backside watching a few episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix! That show's a comedy lesson in itself - I could make notes! Marc would love that!

Unfortunately Marc then suddenly appears. Matt isn't far behind him, and he looks scared. Matt often looks scared, but this is very different. His face says: "Run."

Marc is in fact very cheery and very lovely, but immediately starts cracking gags. This is all very nice but doesn't really help matters. We haven't even entered the building and he's thrown down the comedy gauntlet. Maybe this is what stand-ups do when they very first meet, I think to myself. Just immediately start chucking arbitrary jokes at one another? So I throw a fumbled joke back at Marc like it's a hot grenade.

It's a well-worn snow joke. But Marc actually chuckles. I quietly thank snow for giving me material from the offset, and as we walk to our classroom, I glance back at Matt. He looks scared. At that point I really want to ask Matt what he was thinking when we agreed to try stand-up comedy, but it's too late now to blame Matt. We're in too deep.

Two hours later, and apart from a slight sickie feeling I still can't shift, I feel rather positive! Turns out, Marc is a really great tutor. After giving us a brief history of timeless double acts, from Laurel and Hardy to Morecambe and Wise, we got stuck into the stand-up. And after a democratic vote on who should be the straight man and who should bring the funny, Matt and me feel ready to rock. Turns out our acting background is a major help in creating an actual stand-up act, and knowing each other so well after all these years is a big old boon. I couldn't even imagine doing a show on my own now. Bravo to the stand-ups!

We're given homework by Marc, which involves coming back with our very own routine in a week's time. Fine. And we then apparently get to meet our celebrity tutor! A celebrity tutor who has performed stand-up too many times to mention. A celebrity tutor who will no doubt find our routine tired, tested, and about as funny as a snowy day in London. I glance at Matt. He looks scared.

Matt Littler & Darren Jeffries aka Max & OB


Digital Spy Diary - Matt Littler
I've done a lot of things in life that some people may find daunting, scary even. I've jumped off cliffs (into water), ridden bikes down mountains and piloted fighter planes along with numerous other 'stupid' things. I've made it through 30 years relatively unscathed, mentally and physically.

But I get the feeling that this is about to change. You see, me and my best bud Daz have signed up to perform at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival in a few weeks. Now you may think: "You're an actor, that should be easy!" Wrong. Actors have lines written for them, by people who are properly funny/intelligent/good at it. I've dabbled in writing, couple of short films, bits in magazines, but never have I had to BE funny, to write something that other people will laugh at.

In fact the moment I sat down and tried to write something funny in preparation for this, I think I became the least funny person imaginable. S**t.

So it's with that in mind that I find myself sat in a spare room at a central London language school, having my first comedy lesson with one of those properly funny/intelligent/good at it people. Daz and I are improvising, our tutor Marc Blake is watching us, I'm rambling about South American tree bark, or cats with AIDS or something and trying desperately to be funny, to get a laugh out of Marc, an indication that I'm on the right lines. It doesn't happen; he's seen all this before.

We've been swapping around with one of us playing it as the straight man, and the other the antagonist, so to speak, for the last half an hour or so. I can see the cogs in Marc's mind turning.

He tells us to stop, he's seen enough. I'm unsure if this is a good sign. He sits back in his chair, and tells us there are rules to comedy – (like fight club?) - that we must adhere to. All news to me. I assumed that comedy was largely free-form, that those guys on the telly just had really funny brains. I hate the idea that Jack Dee decided to be a miserable bastard because of the 'Comedy Rules'.

Marc has been watching us, working out which type of double act we are, which way round we should play it, essentially who's the fall guy and who's the straight man. There has to be structure you see, there has to be a defined dynamic. Suddenly I feel panicked - Daz and I have been working together for years and have never really gone down a specific road with our dynamic, we've sort of had an ad-hoc attitude to roles; if a gag suited me being an idiot then so be it, and again if another suited Daz being stupid that was fine. Have we been doing it wrong?

I feel like I'm at an audition - Marc looks up from some scribbled notes, he tells us that Daz is our straight man - he has a straight face full of expression and during the course of our ever-swapping improvisation it just worked better that way - and I am, in turn, the fall guy, the stooge. I'm Laurel to Daz's Hardy. Fine, I think?

According to Marc, we now have a start, a basis to work from. All that's left is for us to write five minutes of material. There is silence in the room; all I've got is South American tree bark and Cat AIDS. I look at Daz; we need one of those properly funny people. Quick.

It's a week later now; our next session with Marc is tomorrow. Daz and I have done our best at scripting something funny, physical and fresh. Daz is a better writer than me so most of this task has fallen to him; I do the ideas, he writes the words.

It's a dynamic that works well for us. I've actually laughed out loud reading what we've got down. So I'm quietly confident going into tomorrow's session. Maybe, just maybe, there's a chance we won't get booed off stage. Maybe.

Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival takes place from February 8 to 24.

You May Like

Comments

Loading...