Andrew Dipper

Interview: Bec Hill

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Bec Hill | Giggle Beats

Bec Hill

Bec Hill began comedy at the age of 18 in Adelaide, Australia. Five years on and two critically acclaimed Fringe shows later, the comic now resides in London, half way across the world from where she started doing stand-up. But, as she’ll have told you if you went to see her new Fringe show ‘Bec Hill Didn’t Want To Play Your Stupid Game Anyway’, she hasn’t grown up one little bit. Andrew Dipper caught up with Bec Hill to talk about life as a comic, her time in Edinburgh this past August, and why she loves pop-ups and props.

AD: You’ve been doing comedy since you were 18 – what made you want to do stand-up?
It was actually my High School drama teacher. I loved acting because I’m such an attention-seeker, but I was never cast as the leading-lady; only the comic relief. I used to get jealous of the girls who got to play the love-interests and whatnot, but then I eventually realised what a massive compliment it was to be cast as the clown. I even got a male role over a guy going for the same part once. In my final year, my teacher asked me if I’d ever considered stand-up, so in my first year out of high school I entered the national stand-up competition (Raw Comedy) and the rest is history…

AD: Obviously you live in London now – do you get to visit home much?
No, sadly not. It’s coming up to 2 years since I last saw my family. London is like that Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. You’re like “Oooo candy…” (read: money) and then you get into the cart (London) and you realise there is no candy (money) and you’re trapped by an ugly, old paedo (society). I don’t know why I said “ugly, old paedo”. Like as if the “ugly, old” part is what makes him bad. Like, maybe paedos wouldn’t be so bad if they were all really good looking. Back to the London thing though, for those into obscure gaming references, think of London as “The Cake is a Lie”.

AD: Do the ideas for your material come naturally or do you need to sit down and work at it?
I wish they all came naturally, but unfortunately most of them need a lot of thought and effort. Luckily, my partner, Gavin, is a writer (and incredibly patient), so a lot of the time, writing material consists of me saying, “I have a rough idea for a punchline for this joke and I want it to include braille, but not be offensive to blind people…” and then we talk about it until we agree on something funny. The ones which come naturally are little bonuses. I love it when I say something and someone says, “Quick! Write that down!” No effort whatsoever. It’s kind of like when you go to wash the dishes and realise that you must have done them earlier. It’s that little, “high five to me!” moment.

AD: How difficult is it for a comic to go professional and really ‘make it’ in the comedy industry?
Very. Most professional comedians I know have been performing for a minimum of 10 years. It depends how you perceive “making it”. There are a lot of professional comedians out there who you would have never heard of, because they make all their money doing corporate gigs, or Jongleurs. I respect those comedians immensely, but my comedy could never lend itself to that, so I’ll have to find another avenue to be able to call myself “professional”. People also don’t realise how little money is in stand-up comedy. Most of us gig for free. We pay ridiculous amounts of money and use all of our holiday allowance to perform at festivals. But we do it because we love it and hope it will pay-off in the long run. People think  Tim Minchin was an overnight sensation, but in reality he had been performing in little cabaret clubs for years before anyone discovered him. More people than ever are trying their hand at stand-up now, making it a very competitive industry. You have to be flexible, willing to work for free and on top of that – funny. I’ve even heard that there’s a room in London where you have to pay for stage time. I understand how hard it is for beginners, but if you’re having to pay to perform a 5 minute set, then perhaps comedy is not the right route for you…

AD: Is it frustrating when people generalise that female comics aren’t as funny as male acts?
BH: I find it more interesting than frustrating. The first time I did a solo show in Edinburgh, one of my door staff overheard some guys leaving the venue afterwards say, “Wow, she’s really funny for a girl.” I found that one of the most amusing compliments I’ve ever had, because it means that they must’ve been expecting me to be crap based on my gender. Most people I’ve met don’t have that perception, but that said, most of the rooms I perform at have regular audiences, who see a lot of comedy. It’s usually people who have only ever seen comedy on TV who think women aren’t funny. And who can blame them? The quality of female acts on TV can sometimes be depressing. People say there should be more women on shows like Mock the Week and to an extent, I think that’s true. But before we start putting on more women to fill the quota, how about we choose some genuinely funny women first? They are out there. People who actively go out to see comedy will agree. It’s just that whoever is in charge of billing these shows obviously is more worried about finding a token female rather than finding someone who will compliment the show.

AD: Who is the best comedian you’ve worked with? Do you have a favourite act at the moment?
BH: I was on the same bill as Ross Noble once, which was exhilarating. He was one of the first comedians I ever saw live. My Mum took me to see him in Adelaide (Australia) when I was 14. He was in an 80-seater room in this little theatre bar and he just blew my mind. To be standing backstage, chatting with him as if we were on the same level (we’re definitely not) was such an honour. If I could go back in time, I would wait outside that little theatre and say to 14-year-old me, “Hey, in the future, you’re going to gig with that guy.” Just to see my face. Then I’d probably sneeze and then return to the present to find that we’re all ant-people or something. One of my favourite acts at the moment is Tony Law. He’s just so different to anyone else I’ve seen. I’ve been in tears watching him before. If you ever see he’s on somewhere, treat yourself by going. Even if his style isn’t necessarily what you’re into, you’ll experience something. Sometimes it’s more important to see someone different and memorable, rather than an average, no-risk, comedian. Even if you’re more likely to laugh at the latter.

AD: Your most recent Edinburgh show Bec Hill Didn’t Want To Play Your Stupid Game Anyway was quite a success at The Fringe – what was your highlight? Do you intend on returning to Edinburgh next year?
Why thank you! It certainly went better than I expected. My highlight was my first 5 star review. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’d been asked to do a paid spot in this tiny little town outside of Edinburgh, so I went along thinking, “This’ll be fun.” But it was just the worst gig I had ever done. It was in a Freemason’s hall with fluorescent lighting and the entire town had shown up expecting something like Michael McIntyre. Instead they got this little indie girl with a flip-chart and puns about Pavlov and stimulus response. They didn’t heckle or anything, but I performed to pure silence. When I left the stage, one of the venue volunteers put their hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re very brave.” It was the first time I cried after a gig. All I could think was, “Wow, if this is what paid gigs are like, then I mustn’t be made for comedy.” Then I showed up to my venue in Edinburgh the next day to do my show and someone said, “Well done on the 5 stars!” And this massive wave of relief washed over me. But if I hadn’t have done that gig, I probably would have had the biggest head of the Festival. So it was almost like God was saying, “Yeah, you’re not all that yet, you know.”

I’m planning on bringing a show next year based on a sitcom that my partner and I have written. It’s early stages yet, but it will be very different to my last 2 shows.

AD: Your Edinburgh show centred largely on your dedication to immature behaviour – what’s the most childish thing you’ve ever done?
BH: A friend of mine was once teasing me, so I pretended to playfully push her face away…except I used too much force and essentially punched her in the face. She got a bloody nose and had to run to the toilets. Instead of being an adult and apologising, I held up my hands in response to my friends’ judgemental stares and said, “What! It wasn’t even that hard!” It was definitely a Larry David moment for me.

AD: I was looking at your website and your YouTube videos – you seem to have a love for pop-ups and props. What’s the story behind that, and do you make them all yourself?
BH: I used to always draw little stick figure cartoons in my spare time. Not long after I started stand-up, I was trying to come up with some new material, so I thought I could put one of my cartoons on to a flip-chart and just say their lines. It was essentially a sketch about a superhero with a lazy eye. The whole premise was that he caught a super villain who kept bringing up the lazy eye and they’d have this awkward conversation and that was it. But it was really lacking and didn’t really have a punchline, so I created a little tab in the flip-chart so that after their awkward conversation, Lazy Eye Man’s eye would move from one side of his face to the other. It proved to be one of the best punchlines I’ve ever “written” and I realised that no other comedians were using anything like this, so I just started incorporating the pop-up stuff into more of my sets. I have an idea for a short film (about 5 minutes long) which uses the effect more than I’ve ever attempted, so keep an eye out on my YouTube page!

AD: Finally, where can we see Bec Hill next?
I’ve a few gigs coming up soon, but I’m always adding to my calendar, so check out my website or my facebook page for more info.