Learning not to die on your arse | Jeremy O’Donnell

British stand-up comedian Jeremy O’Donnell speaks to Teodor Reljic about struggling through that crucial first year in a comedy career and the continuing struggle against funny online videos of kittens ahead of his performance at the 15th edition of the Eden Comedy Club on October 28

Jeremy O'Donnell
Jeremy O'Donnell

Who were your stand-up comedy idols as you were first getting into the scene, and did they have a direct influence on your act?

As a teenager, I rented Richard Pryor’s ‘Live on the Sunset Strip’ video (yes, video, remember them?) so many times the rental shop eventually gave me a copy. It has stood the test of time and remains one of best stand up performances of all time. I didn’t get into stand up until much later, when Eddie Izzard was in his pomp. Neither has a direct influence on my act, aside from making me realise that I had an urge to get on stage and make strangers laugh.

How did your act evolve over time, and how did you adapt to audiences as you went along?

The first year of doing stand up is learning how not to die on your arse. The second year you get funny and all the remaining years are spent getting better and moaning about not getting your sitcom commissioned. 

Audiences differ from town to town, country to country; they can even change during an interval. There’s a secret website, known only to comedians, which holds audience details for each town and country. I’ve just looked up Malta it says “Don’t mention rubbish collection and never let your pet rabbit out of your sight.”

Do you think stand-up comedians need to have a certain type of ‘character’, or is there a niche for everyone if they work hard enough?

There is a niche for everyone. Which is fine, unless someone’s already filled your niche. No one likes to have their niche filled.

How do you think stand-up comedy is adapting to the all-online era?

Many years ago, before my time, a comedian could use the same twenty-minute set for the whole of their career. But now, your material, one way or another, ends up online. Either with your consent or without. So, you need to constantly keep writing. Another massive change is that it is now possible to gather a massive support base with out being on TV. Also, we comedians are now battling for laughs with thousands of videos of kittens falling off things. Tough times.

What advice would you give to budding stand-up comedians?

Have a back up plan for when it all goes wrong. Because the chances of it going right are, slim. Also, watch and learn but never watch and copy.

Are you looking forward to performing in Malta?

I’ve never been to Malta, aside in transit to Gozo, so I’m massively looking forward to the trip and gig. Countries that drive on the left side of the road are the best!

Finally... what’s funny?

Everything! Especially kittens falling off things, apparently.

The 15th edition of the Eden Comedy Club will be taking place at Eden Cinemas, St Julian’s on October 28. Jeremy O’Donnell will be joined on the night by fellow UK comedian Alan Francis, with Geoff Whiting serving as compere. Doors open at 19:30. For tickets and more information log on to  edencinemas.com.mt or call on 2371 0400.