Q&A: Al Greaves

Al Greaves, pictured in one of his two sheds, discusses the life of a stand-up comedian and his Burning Duck Comedy Club

Image: Al Greaves

How did you originally get into comedy?

I’ve always enjoyed stand up comedy, I also once did a course in ‘Presentation Skills’ through my employer and thought it might be funny to do presentations but without having anything important to present. Or demonstrating any skills.

Who would you say your main comedic influences were?

Police Squad, Alf, Vic and Bob, The Day Today, Brass Eye, Alan Partridge, The Mighty Boosh, Stewart Lee, Paul Foot and Josie Long.

What has been your personal career highlight to date?

As a performer, winning the Stockton Arc Gong show in front of an audience of 300 was nice, also performing in various shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. As a promoter, selling out the 200 seat Crescent Community Venue with Josie Long’s ‘Lefty Scum’ show.

What would be your advice for any aspiring comedians out there?

Bill Hicks (allegedly) said “Write what entertains you. If you can’t be funny be interesting – have something to say and then do it in a funny way”. I’d advise student comedians to take advantage of writing and performance opportunities offered by the Comedy Society to develop their voice and persona, but also try to get gigs in different venues to get accustomed to performing to a range of different audiences. It’s also important to regularly watch professional comedians, such as the voice of ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ and Edinburgh Best Newcomer nominee Brennan Reece who is coming to YUSU Courtyard Bar on Sunday 27 May.

How did you find the transition from performing to running a comedy club?

Because I come from a performing background I try as much as possible to create the sort of environment other acts will enjoy. I recently told fellow act Peter Brush how I wanted to continue performing stand up so nobody could accuse me of being ‘a failed comedian’. He pointed out that only meant that I would continue to be a failing comedian.

How did the Burning Duck Comedy Club get its name?

I once heard the joke “Why do elephants have flat feet? For stamping out burning ducks!” which I thought was funny. A year later I heard the joke ‘Why do ducks have flat feet? For stamping out fires” which made a bit more sense of the second bit.

Are there any up-and-coming comedians you’d recommend people check out?

Anybody booked at the Burning Duck Comedy Club! Including the voice of ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ and Edinburgh Best Newcomer nominee Brennan Reece at YUSU Courtyard Bar on 27 May. And also most people booked into Bob Slayer’s ‘Heroes’ venues at the Edinburgh Fringe. I also have a shortlist of at least 100+ acts I want to book, but if I had to pick seven (in addition to Brennan Reece) they might currently be Adam Larter, Phil Jarvis, Harriet Dyer, Seymour Mace, Phil Ellis, Michael Brunstrom and Jayne Edwards.

What’s coming up in the next few months for the Burning Duck Comedy Club?

Did I mention that the voice of ‘Survival Of The Fittest’ and Edinburgh Best Newcomer nominee Brennan Reece is coming to YUSU Courtyard Bar on 27th May? We will also be soon presenting our annual Student Comedian Of The Year competition on campus, now in its fourth year! We are also continuing to present touring shows from the best up and coming comedians at The Basement and The Crescent and finalising our line up for a small festival at the end of June. We will be presenting more shows with the Great Yorkshire Fringe every day in The Basement at 8.30 (£5 to guarantee a ticket in advance or pay what you want afterwards) and from next September will be running regular mixed bill line ups as well, so hopefully be able to offer more regular meaningful stage time to student comedians. Check out our upcoming shows at https://burningduckcomedy.com

BRENNAN REECE: EVERLONG, Plus support from York Comedy Soc, The Courtyard, University of York, Sunday 27 MAY at 7:30pm. £5 advance, £4 NUS. Tickets available at https://burningduckcomedy.com/