Thursday, October 16, 2008

What the Hell's Your Persona?

Preparing new material to perform in front of one's peers week on week in the comedy class is bloody hard. Especially when there are other things going on like moving home, starting teaching new classes, and dealing with a big "mancold". (I have a friend in Oxford to thank for that.)

Somewhere along the line almost without thinking or even being aware of it, my persona has crept forth into an alien world and presented itself to me. As I've hinted before, it's not quite what I expected. I now understand the true meaning of the film Alien; I think I've got one inside me.

This week we were concentrating on persona. According to Chris there are essentially three types: high; audience's mate; and low. They aren't necessarily correlated to status or intelligence, but rather to one's relationship with the world--how one lives in the world. This is a far more subtle approach to studying social types than is conventionally found. Most indicators of status refer to external indicators such as education levels, income, and even class.

So, for example, someone like Jack Dee is a high status persona. He's in control, he's withering, and he looks down on the audience. Whereas Bill Bailey is jolly and buddies with the audience. And finally, Will Smith (the posh one), despite being posh is actually quite low status as the world does its worst to him.

As we went through our sets, we were focussing on what is his or her persona. And it's not always as easy as you might think. Some people's persona's were ambiguous and crossed over at times.

We have two definite lows in our group while the remainder are evenly divided between high and audience's mate. We have the intellectuals, the whingers, the City boys, cheeky chappies, the social commentators, and even a confused ethnic.

Chris, our teacher, has a method of selecting us to perform which is we put our names in his hat and he picks the first to go up to the microphone. The performer then selects the next and on. You have no idea of when your turn will come.

This being week 5 of our course we are getting a bit more experienced in what works and what flops. The acts are getting stronger, funnier, and leaner. But last week, for example, was a big flop for me. And after I got over the depression, I realized how it could be improved. So this time I was last on.

My set was angry, bemused, and gross. That's the only way I can describe it. And I'm not going into detail on this one. Those who were there will know why. When it came to analyzing the persona, everyone agreed that it was "low". I'm still pondering this as I thought it might be high, but I am now understanding what it at play here. And indeed, I agree my comic persona is low. What is not involved here is any kind of stigma but rather a type that works in performance. It isn't necessarily part of one's real everyday life.

We are now honing our material written over the last weeks as we zoom towards our debuts. There's still new material to write. And our anxiety levels are soaring as we realize that moment is no longer a distant galaxy in the future which will take a few light years to reach. I wish...
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