Double, O. (2018). The origin of the term stand-up comedy update. Comedy Studies [Online] 9. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/2040610X.2018.1428427.
This article discusses a possible first usage of the term ‘stand-up comedian’, used in a column in the Yorkshire Evening Post from November 1917 to describe a performer called Finlay Dunn. This is significantly earlier than the previously identified first usage in a Variety review from 1948. This article discusses Dunn’s career in order to conjecture that that the term may have been in use significantly earlier even than 1917.
Double, O. (2017). ‘[T]his is eating your greens, this is doing your homework’: writing and rehearsing a full-length stand-up show. Comedy Studies [Online]:137-153. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2040610X.2017.1344477.
Until recently, the processes which comedians use to create their performances have been seldom examined. This article draws on materials from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (BSUCA) and a recent practice-as-research project in which I documented the creative processes behind my full-length stand-up show Break a Leg, performed at the Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury in 2015. In the months leading up to the show, I regularly recorded my reflections on the creative processes in which I was engaged, publishing these in the podcast Breaking a Leg, which is available on iTunes. Using these reflections in conjunction with script notes, set lists and unpublished recordings from the BSUCA, this article articulates what Robin Nelson calls ‘know-what’ – the performer's tacit, experiential knowledge made explicit through critical reflection – to shed light on the processes of writing, structuring and rehearsing stand-up comedy. Matthew Reason has argued that the main motivation for documenting live performance is ‘not the creation of new art but ensuring the documentation of existing art’. Building on recent work by Christopher Molineux, here I argue that this is not the case with stand-up comedy, where the purpose of documentation is very much the creation of new art.
Double, O. (2017). Tragedy Plus Time: Transforming Life Experience into Stand-Up Comedy. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 33:143-155. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0266464X17000057.
In this article, Oliver Double examines the process of turning traumatic personal experience into viable stand-up comedy material by offering a detailed account of the creative process behind his 2015 show Break a Leg. Drawing on Bergson, Brecht, and Noël Carroll, he explores the origins of comic ideas in personal observation, and argues for a two-stage process of joke creation. This is fleshed out in a detailed examination of a particular routine, in which he uses Koestler's concept of bisociation to show how an initial observation was shaped into a series of punchlines. He also discusses authenticating strategies which comedians employ to demonstrate that they are recalling their actual experiences, and ways in which the dialogic qualities of stand-up affect empathy and intimacy. Oliver Double is a former professional comedian who is now a Reader in Drama at the University of Kent. He is the author of Stand-Up! On Being a Comedian (1997), Britain Had Talent: a History of Variety Theatre (2012), and Getting the Joke: the Inner Workings of Stand-Up Comedy (2nd edition, 2014). A film of Break a Leg is available on YouTube, and the related podcast Breaking a Leg is accessible via iTunes.
Ainsworth, A., Double, O. and Peacock, L. (2017). Editorial. Theatre, Dance and Performance Training [Online] 8:125-128. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19443927.2017.1326736.
An editorial for a special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training, entitled 'Training the Popular Performer'
Double, O. (2017). The origin of the term ‘stand-up comedy’. Comedy Studies [Online] 8:1 -4. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2040610X.2017.1279912.
The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest usage of the term
‘stand-up comic’ as 1966, but in fact it has been in use for much
longer. This short article searches newspapers and trade
publications like Variety and The Stage to try and find the earliest
uses of the related terms ‘stand-up comedy’, ‘stand-up comedian’
and ‘stand-up comic’ in a search for their origin.
Double, O. (2015). What do you do?: Stand-up comedy versus the proper job. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization [Online] 15:651-669. Available at: http://www.ephemerajournal.org/contribution/%E2%80%98what-do-you-do%E2%80%99-stand-comedy-versus-proper-job.
Stand-up comedy is often seen as such an unusual choice of profession that it barely even qualifies as being a ‘proper job’. Because comedians are seen as existing outside the world of conventional employment, they have a unique position from which to view the everyday reality of work as most people experience it. This paper looks at a range of gags and routines from the early 1970s onwards that either reflect on the unusual nature of the job of being a comedian or cast an amused light on more conventional forms of employment. Theories about stand-up comedy and humour in the workplace will be used to explore the relationship between comedy as work and comedy about work.
Double, O. (2012). Max Miller plays with Freud’s obstacle: Innuendo and performance technique in variety comedy. Comedy Studies [Online] 3:93-104. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/cost.3.1.93_1.
This article examines the performance dynamics of the variety comedian Max Miller's use of innuendo. I argue that whilst Miller's use of sexual humour fits Freud's basic model of obscene tendentious jokes, his techniques go beyond the forms of wordplay, which Freud discussed and are firmly situated in the performance itself. I draw on the various live recordings of Miller's act, as well as contemporary criticism, the 'Little Kinsey' report into attitudes to sexuality, and theories of stand-up comedy and popular performance to analyse how stage persona and audience-performer rapport were central to conveying hidden sexual meanings.
Double, O. (2010). Not the Definitive Version: an Interview with Ross Noble. Comedy Studies [Online] 1:5-19. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/cost.1.1.5/1.
In this interview, the celebrated improvisational stand-up comedian Ross Noble discusses his early influences, starting his career in the anarchic Newcastle comedy scene of the early 1990s, the gruelling experience of building his career in London, the process of becoming successful, the creative possibilities of the DVD format, and his current working processes
Double, O. (2009). Teddy Brown and the Art of Performing for the British Variety Stage. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 25:379-390. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0266464X09000669.
British variety theatre has been largely ignored by theatre historians, in spite of its huge popularity in the early twentieth century. Here, Oliver Double examines variety through its exemplification in the work of one performer, Teddy Brown, a virtuoso xylophone player whose career coincided with the heyday of the variety stage between and just after the two world wars. The key historical and stylistic aspects of the form typified by Brown's success included the development of a stage persona, novelty, skill, participation, a distinctive musical style, and the ability to exploit the complex relationship between variety and the other types of popular entertainment of the time, notably cinema, revue, and radio.
Double, O. and Wilson, M. (2008). ’"I am a Poor, Skinny Man": Persona and physicality in the work of Karl Valentin’. Studies in Theatre and Performance [Online] 28:213-221. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/stap.28.3.213/1.
The celebrated Munich cabaret artist Karl Valentin first came to prominence with his performance of his sketch Das Aquarium in 1908. This was also the moment at which he first established a comedy based on extreme logic, wordplay and misunderstanding, which in turn created a world in which his innocent "matter-of-fact-ness" exposed the absurdities of social situations. This article explores Valentin's use of his extraordinary skinniness to create both an effective comic persona and a comic physicality in his work. The authors argue that it was in Valentin's slightly earlier sketch, Ich Bin ein armer magerer Mann, that the comedian found his physical "comic voice", and they go on to provide an analysis of the improtance of physicality in Valentin's work, particularly in relation to this sketch. A bew translation of the sketch is also provided.
Double, O. (2007). Punk rock as popular theatre. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 23:35-48. Available at: http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FNTQ%2FNTQ23_01%2FS0266464X06000613a.pdf&code=685b746786337e7a968140bc4db80943.
Punk rock performance consciously draws on popular theatre forms like music hall and
stand-up comedy, as exemplified by the occasion when Max Wall appeared with Ian Dury
at the Hammersmith Odeon. Oliver Double traces the historical and stylistic connections
between punk, music hall and stand-up, and argues that punk shows can be considered a
form of popular theatre in their own right. He examines a wide range of punk bands and
performers- including Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop, Devo, Spizz, The Ramones, The Clash, and
Dead Kennedys- and considers how they use costume, staging, persona,
characterisation, and audience-performer relationships, arguing that these are as
important and carefully considered as the music they play. Art movements like Dada and
Futurism were important influences on the early punk scene, and Double shows how, as
with early 20th Century cabaret, punk performance manages to include avant garde
elements within popular theatre forms. Oliver Double started his career performing a
comedy act alongside anarchist punk bands in Exeter, going on to spend ten years on the
alternative comedy circuit. Currently, he lectures in Drama at the University of Kent, and
he is the author of Stand-Up! On Being a Comedian (Methuen, 1997) and Getting the
Joke: The Inner Workings of Stand-Up Comedy (Methuen, 2005).
Double, O. (2007). Karl Valentin’s “Father and Son Discuss the War". Studies in Theatre and Performance 27:5-11.
Double, O. and Wilson, M. (2004). Karl Valentin’s illogical subversion: stand-up comedy and the alienation effect. New Theatre Quarterly XX:203-215.
Double, O. (2000). Characterization in stand-up comedy: From Ted Ray to Billy Connolly, via Bertolt Brecht. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] 16:315-323. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0266464X00014068.
Stand-up comedy is often distinguished from straight acting by its apparent lack of characterization-the comedian appearing onstage apparently as him or herself. But within gags and routines, comics often briefly take on the voice and posture of the characters they describe. Here Oliver Double contrasts the approach of two comedians of different generations-Ted Ray and Billy Connolly-to this technique of 'momentary characterization.' He notes the links between Connolly's conversational approach and Brecht's notions of acting, and goes on to examine the broader questions of comic personae, representation of the self, and the changing performance conventions within British stand-up comedy.
Double, O. (2000). Teaching Stand-Up Comedy. A Mission: Impossible?. Studies in Theatre and Performance 20:14-23.
Double, O. (1994). Laughing all the way to the bank? Alternative comedy in the provinces. New Theatre Quarterly [Online] X:255-262. Available at: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=2340432&fileId=S0266464X00000555.
Metropolitan snobbery and the logistics of scale both militate against the success of comedians working in the regions. Yet, as Oliver Double here argues, the scene has been a lively one, often daring in its style and range alike – at least until the absorption of its big names into the London circuits by the agencies which increasingly control most of the bookings and much of the talent. Oliver Double, himself a working comic, describes the distinctive characteristics of regional alternative comedy, and the now very real dangers of stagnation, illustrating his argument from interviews with leading comics on the regional circuits – Nick Toczek, Stu Who?, Roger Monkhouse, Malcolm Bailey, Anvil Springsteen, Adam Caveleri, Kevin Seisay, Henry Normal, and John Simmit. Offering some hopes for the future, he points out the relatively low audience figures required to ensure a vigorous growth – if only emerging talent can be nurtured rather than condemned to still birth.