09 April 2013
Ed Mayhew, Comedian
Ed Mayhew is a comedian, poet and musician who is a vital part of sketch troupe, Making Faces and an even more vital part of his solo stand-up show Subtlety. He is a staff worker for Morphē Arts, a network of recently graduated Christian artists for whom he runs a writers’ group and meets one-to-one with fine artists, film-makers and writers.
Making Faces run a comedy night called FACELIFT at Bar Kick in Shoreditch on the third Monday of every month. FACELIFT has been Time Out recommended as one of the best character and sketch comedy nights in London. We agree.
What’s life like on the comedy circuit?
It’s surprisingly normal actually. A really good way to get to know people. Acts often talk about the camaraderie of performing together. The chances of meeting someone who does an interesting job are much higher in a room full of stand-up comedians.
How can you tell if you are actually funny or you just make your family laugh?
Market research. The only way to do comedy is to try stuff out. If people laugh, that bit’s funny. If not, (it happens), you think, ‘Why didn’t people laugh?’ and try version 3.1 next time.
Have you ever had any nightmare gigs?
My first paid gig was at an Italian restaurant for the Christmas meal of a group of lawyers. Unfortunately, they hadn’t booked the whole restaurant and about 20 students were being noisy on the next table. I also wasn’t very funny. And did I mention it was a group of lawyers?
What’s the biggest challenge of being a comedian and a Christian?
It’s actually great being a Christian and doing comedy – who else has a sense of superiority that’s justifiably based on being right? To be a Christian means an identity outside of whether people laugh with me or not, which is helpful if a show goes badly. It means following a servant-saviour who brings me back down to earth when things go to my head. It means going on stage to love an audience not to belittle them. It means that I have something worthwhile to say.
How do you stay strong in the face of so much potential rejection and humiliation?
See above and Colossians 3.
How do you avoid the pitfalls many comedians fall into, of ripping someone else apart for a few cheap laughs?
I’m not good at ripping people apart and if I did, it wouldn’t be funny. There’s a difference between satirising someone’s self-consciousness in a way that makes them find themselves funny and shredding someone’s self-esteem. You know when you’ve crossed the line. Making Faces always pray as a group before we go on stage that we’d love the audience – sometimes that means pulling each other up on something after (or even during) a set.
Do you think Jesus had a humorous streak?
He had a great sense of irony and bathos. When Jesus was resurrected, (having previously died) he made a fire and cooked some fish for his friends. And as the sun came up, no one said 'who are you?' All the disciples are thinking, ‘Is the Lord of the universe post-resurrection cooking me fish for breakfast?!’ and Jesus neither confirms nor denies their question – instead, he allows the thought to spin around their minds.
What do you think the role of humour is in contemporary society?
To make people laugh, predominantly, I’d say. Any entertainment can divert – ie relax/switch people off for a bit, or build people up. I’m a big fan of satire – which is comedy that shows how everyone else is not as good as they think they are, including you.
Sometimes laughter is a great way to correct our thinking about ourselves.
I like Elijah at Carmel (1 Kings 18) mocking the priests of Baal that perhaps the reason their god wasn’t answering them was because he was "musing or relieving himself".
But I think there’s something in just making someone smile that doesn’t need a role. I’m thinking particularly about the culture of a small village I visited in Africa, where for certain people, delight was totally unforced.
Apart from making people laugh, you have many skills and talents; what else are you currently working on?
I mentioned Morphē Arts earlier, the network for Christian recent-graduates. With the writers’ group we’re looking at putting together a publication of work – still in its early stages. With the performers’ group we’re working on a piece in response to some prose by Kafka. I’m currently writing a seminar for churches called Get Art suitable for anyone who has ever said “I don’t get art.” I wrote a ghost story for my mate’s aunt the other week and I’ve got an idea for a follow-up that I’d like to get out of my head too.
Do you have a dream?
The large dream is to do good work and to influence culture to see just how good Jesus is. I’d like to be able to work creatively, writing and performing, and be able to support a family that way.
Go on then, tell us a joke.
I’m too nervous.
(Come and see a show).