13 things I’ve learned doing comedy for kids
Comedy for kids used to be making fart noises with your hands. Recently, however, live comedy aimed at children has enjoyed something of a boom, with established grown-up clubs like The Stand and Soho Theatre running regular shows for nippers.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s prestigious Panel Prize was even scooped by a kids’ show in 2014, with Phil Ellis’ Funz and Gamez taking the cake for its boisterous hour of borderline-inappropriate family fayre.
Heading the kids’ comedy renaissance in the North East is Geordie stand-up Lee Kyle, who first performed his Gunge! A Show With Gunge In It! last year, and has been covering his fellow comics in goop for the amusement of children ever since.
So, because the internet likes lists, here are 13 things Lee’s learned while doing kids comedy.
1. Kids hate being patronised
Not once have I seen a comedian who starts a set for kids by saying “Hello boys and girls!” go down well.
2. Kids are not that nice
I’ve seen people have things thrown at them, I’ve seen people booed off, I’ve seen people be told that “That is the worst thing I have ever seen.” But…
3. They aren’t being malicious
If an adult acted in those ways, they’d be awful people. With kids, they are just giving an honest response. Plus, almost always, they are not actually writing you off as a person, they may think your last bit was woeful but they will still give your next joke a chance.
4. They are not as naive as you think
I’ve seen loads of acts do well on kids shows with stuff that you wouldn’t think is suitable. I don’t mean filth but, Si Buglass for example, always goes down well and, as one of his opening bits always asks a kid if they have any tattooes before showing them his tattoo of Freddy Kruegar.
5. They like you to be horrible a bit
Like, don’t hit them or anything, but I have, more than once on kids shows, said to a ten year old child, “Whatever mate, you haven’t even got a lass.” They are bright enough to know you are playing.
6. There has to be adults there
I did one kids gig where it was just children, it was unworkable, they just threw things and stole. Never again. I’m not a babysitter!
7. The parents love it
It’s almost always better than the parents think it’ll be. Kids’ stand-up is not story time at the library, it’s boistrous and a bit rude and has lots of asides for the parents. The parents also, even if some pretend otherwise, love to join in. And, even when they are acting stupid, you can also see that the kids are proud of them for it.
8. I’m not going to say that nobody EVER cries…
I did a gig in a train museum last year, it was very pleasant. There were to be four comedy tours of the museum, two for kids, two for adults. Andy Fury was the tour guide, John Cooper did a set in an old carriage, Pat Monahan was on the steps of another train, I though it would be funny to be in the old toilet. I would, when the group came in, burst out of a cubicle shouting “Hey! I’m not finished yet!”
It was quite funny the first time. I hadn’t realised that the second group only had one kid in it. He was a very shy boy who started crying immediately after I did that. He was relieved when he told him he could leave. His dad brought him to a show this year and we made friends…
9. Comedians are terrified of them but almost always want to do it again
There is almost always a sense of panic when someone hasn’t done kids comedy for the first time. Comics have no idea what to do, they sometimes spendages pouring over jokes. The truth is though, kids aren’t that into jokes, they just want to be engaged with. If you are funny, and, as a comedian, you are, they’ll love it and so will you.
10. It may be the purest form of comedy there is
There is no concept of “Oh, okay, thet wasn’t funny but I could see what they are trying to do.” They either laugh or they tell you that it was rubbish.
11. I’m not that bad at it
Adult stand up is what I love doing and what I mainly do but I can’t pretend this hasn’t been a very welcome sideline.
12. Sometimes, at a sort of street festival thing, you have to go on after a troupe of blacked up morris dancers who just danced to a Rolf Harris song
And only you seemed to find it weird…
13. My favourite kids show to do is the gunge one
Not even kidding, it’s a ludicrous amount of fun. I’m the host, we have two teams who play loads of stupid games, then the losing captain gets a bucket of gunge poured on them. It’s a right laugh, even if you aren’t a child.
Gunge! – A Show With Gunge In It! opens the Barnard Castle Comedy Festival at The Witham arts centre on Saturday 18 July at 12pm.