Having done a bit of stand-up comedy myself many years ago, Carl Donnelly’s feature on the BBC’s Click page about how technology is impacting the lives of comedians resonated with me.
Donnelly outlines some of the ways in which comedians interact with technology in their gigs including one who gives the audience voting pads which allows them to change the direction of the show as it’s progressing. This could only have been done by a show of hands or by the volume of the audience’s cheer when I was performing. How things have changed.
Better use was the comedian who lives with cerebral palsy and who used his tablet to create a voice for his act and played his show through it. This was an excellent and empowering use of technology and, although he could possibly have performed without it, this is another example of industrial advances that change someone’s life for the better.
One of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe was Steve McNeil and Sam Pamphilon’s McNeil and Pamphilon Go 8-Bit, which was basically two teams of comedians playing old-style video games like Pac Man on stage with the losers having to perform forfeits like knocking back some cheap Polish vodka and tucking into a bowl of jalapenos. While the premise sounds really simple, the execution was perfect for a late-night Edinburgh show with audience participation a core element with the surprising appeal of shouting “Kill! Kill!” at the top of our voices while two comedians try and win at Mario Kart or Bomberman.
Obviously, the use of a projector screen makes this type of show possible and, if the technology fails, the show is a non-starter. I’ve witnessed a number of theatre shows – from Jim Davidson’s panto to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – fall apart because the technology wasn’t playing ball that night.
Something that helps to create a hit Edinburgh show is the ability to makes seemingly complex thoughts and issues simple and accessible. For every hit show there are dozens of expensive failures and the ones that thrive and capture the public’s imagination are those that go the extra mile of depth of content – challenging the intellect and manipulating the emotions while remaining easy on the laughs. As Charles Arthur, technical editor of the Guardian, alludes, the same could be said of the annual release of a smartphone. Apart from the laughs.
Except that, in his introduction to the release of the iPhone 5c, senior vice president of design at Apple, Jony Ive, is unintentionally hilarious when he talks about it being, “beautifully, unapologetically plastic… whose surface is seamless and continuous”. Big laugh there, Jony, it’s a banker. But I liked the pathos in the opening sentence, “