Culling the comedy competition | Steve N Allen

British stand-up comedian Steve N Allen speaks to us about the rites of passage of a stand-up comedian, and his innovative way of curbing competition, ahead of a gig in Malta

Steve N Allen: “The internet is changing the way people get to comedy”
Steve N Allen: “The internet is changing the way people get to comedy”

What’s funny?

I have the feeling I should say, “Me and my act,” to get people in to see the show. In a wider sense I think anything is funny if it makes you laugh. I like that loose definition because it includes more than just the jokes and observations, it includes things that make you laugh for no reason. I once saw an old man on a bus cough so much he trumped. I don't know if it was the fact that the pitch of both matched but I was laughing for a week.

How did you first break into the stand-up comedy scene? Were there any painful rites of passage you had to go through?

I started in comedy as a writer for radio DJs. It was good fun but one morning I heard a DJ read out the stage directions for a punchline. I made a promise to myself I would stop relying on others to tell my jokes and take to the stand-up stage.

Just a short six years later I had built up the courage to do something about it. It was only a five-minute set, but I was so nervous I don’t think I breathed out properly for the whole thing. I don’t know why – the audience were polite and didn’t put me off by laughing.

I think I’ve been through all the rites of passage; the bad gig, the heckle, having food thrown. (That’s really making you want to come and see the show now, isn’t it?) And that was all in one gig.

The worst part is when people hear you do stand-up they feel free to tell you all sorts of rubbish jokes. That’s like me hearing you work in an office and than making you watch me fill in a spreadsheet badly.

What is the UK comedy scene like in general, and how would you say you fit into it?

The comedy scene is thriving and so it should; we are offering something everyone enjoys. We all love a good laugh, don't we? If you answered no to that question you have a long career as a bus driver ahead of you.

It’s an interesting time to be working because the internet is changing the way people get to comedy. You can make a podcast in a few hours from the comfort of your own bedroom whereas a few decades ago you’d have to get famous, record a comedy album and release it on vinyl.

I’m an avid podcaster and YouTuber, especially of topical material. I like writing about the news because some of the things that happen in the world are so ridiculous, if I didn’t have the newspaper headline to show, people would think I was making it all up.

Would you say that stand-up comedy has become more competitive over the past couple of years? Why?

Comedy causes its own problems. The more successful comedians become the more people want to be a comedian. Over the last few years the number of people gigging has increased and it’s a competitive world out there. I’ve started work on my new plan to get the massage out “don't become a stand-up comedian”.

I’ve started doing tours of job fairs and school assemblies to get the word out to the people. I have bills to pay so I have to keep getting work. My options were to be funnier or to try to cut stand-up figures. I’ve gone for the latter.

Are you looking forward to performing in Malta?

I can’t wait to perform in Malta. I’ve visited before on holiday but I’m looking forward to spending time relaxing, enjoying the scenery and leisure time but knowing I’ll be getting paid to be there.

Steve N Allen will be performing at the 12th edition of the Eden Comedy Club in St Julian’s on May 8 at 20:30. He will be joined by Gary Colman and Geoff Whiting. Bookings: