City Lit Blog

City Lit tutor Chris Head talks about his life in comedy

Story added 11th Jul 2017

City Lit tutor Chris Head

Regularly told by colleagues that you have funny bones? Caught your friends stealing your jokes or witty anecdotes for themselves? Then it might just be the right time to consider a career in comedy. 

If making people laugh is your forte, City Lit have a number of great comedy courses available for budding writers and performers,  whether you dream of hogging the limelight in front of packed out venues in Edinburgh or the quieter life writing the next Only Fools and Horses.

We recently chatted to City Lit comedy tutor Chris Head to find out about his career in comedy, and what students can expect on a comedy course at City Lit.

  

Q: How did you first get a taste for comedy?

A: When I was in infant school, on a Monday we had to write about what we did at the weekend, I would always write a (largely) fabricated comical account. Often the teacher would get me to read them out. Those were my first experiences writing and performing something that made people laugh! From there, all through school, whenever we had to do a presentation I’d do a funny one (much to the annoyance of my teachers.)

Towards the end of my schooling it was the time of alternative comedy and The Young Ones. With its punk-like DIY ethos, I suddenly realised comedy was something you could actually do yourself. This led to me writing and performing comedy when I left school and into college and university. Writing, directing (and sometimes performing in) Edinburgh Fringe comedy shows followed, which led to me getting various bits of work on TV & radio.

All the while I was working part time to support my comedy, and then about 15 years ago, I inherited some money, gave up the day job and attempted to make a living coaching and directing comedy. And by the time the money ran out a year later, that’s what I was doing.

 

Q: What projects/jobs have you worked on that you regularly mention in class?

A: My most recent projects include:

Directing Katia Kvinge’s stand-up and character show Squirrel at Gilded Balloon. Katia divides her time between London and LA and has had stuff on BBC3, MTV and Comedy Central.

Eleanor Conway’s confessional stand-up show Walk of Shame which was on the Free Fringe in 2016 (which I co-directed). It has since had a national tour and is returning to Edinburgh at the Stand in 2017.

Directing Alys Metcalf and Roxy Dunn’s comic two-hander play In Tents and Purposes, which was an official sell-out at Assembly in 2017 and has since been on at Soho Theatre and did a national tour.

Other notable work I’ve been involved with include directing Cariad Lloyd, Phil Whelans and Kym Noble in Last of the Red Wine (ICA London), BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz in Double Art History (Edinburgh Underbelly), science comedy phenomenon Festival of the Spoken Nerd (Edinburgh and touring) and Dutch comedy duo and YouTube phenomenon The Groen Brothers (Leicester Square Theatre). With Barry Ferns I also wrote and directed the short comic film Testing Mrs Patterson (LA Comedy Shorts).

 

Q: And any exciting new projects you can tell us about?

A: I am putting the finishing touches to my first book, A Director’s Guide to the Art of Stand-up to be published by Bloomsbury Methuen in summer 2018.

 

Q: Have you got any good anecdotes you can tell us from one of your classes?

A: A couple of years ago we were looking at the 1960s satirical show Beyond the Fringe in class – which starred Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.

An enterprising class member said she’d spotted Jonathan Miller in reception! It turned out his wife was a music student at the college and he would come to pick her up.

The next thing I knew, she’d struck up a conversation with him, telling him what we were studying and he was volunteering to come in and talk to the group. My class on Beyond the Fringe ended up being led by a member of the group themselves! I was delighted to be upstaged, and of course the good doctor became heavily involved with the City Lit drama department, but this was his Lit début.

 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you could offer to any student starting on your course?

A: Get stuff in front of live audiences. You learn so much from the reaction that a living, breathing audience gives you. This can be indeed be in a class or a writers group to start with; your fellow students being your audience. From there you can look at the stand-up circuit, or the smaller sketch circuit. Then there’s festivals, which range from the London based like the Camden Fringe, to the daddy of them all, The Edinburgh Fringe. Even if you’re just a writer, you can find performers to collaborate with. For example, Pete Sinclair writes stand-up with Jack Dee, and of course Dee performs it. And Jeremy Dyson was a non-performing writer member of the League of Gentlemen. And you could write comic plays for others to perform.

 

Q: And finally, what courses are you currently teaching at City Lit?

A: I am teaching courses on Tuesday nights in the TV & radio studio on comedy writing and performing. An introduction to writing and performing comedy sketches for TV, radio and the live stage runs twice a year.

Then there is a developmental course where you get to create, write, perform, record and edit a radio sketch show. Plus one where you focus on creating, writing and filming monologues and sketches for the screen.

It all builds up to an advanced course where you create and develop a TV or radio sitcom that you can enter for competitions or pitch to the industry.

Comedy courses in London at City Lit

Browse all upcoming comedy courses at City Lit.