Structure is everything

So I went to a stand up night last night. 18 acts of 5 minutes each. In a room over a pub just above Oxford Street. It was a "bringer" which means everyone had to bring someone. It's sort of like a class. A few things to think about, the main one: why do people want to do stand up? But also I thought about what worked and didn't work and one thing that struck me was that the biggest problem is trying to be funny. On the other hand what I craved was structure. I wanted cues for the beginning middle and end. Watching people trying to be funny sometimes seems like a desperate business. Being made to laugh feels like faking an orgasm or something. On the other hand if you give the audience struc


Things that go wrong: Checking behind - if you can't see a fish in front of you then you are the leader fish. If you check behind for a moment to see if everyone is behind you then in that moment you will lose the audience. The challenge if to take the leadership quickly without looking for approval or checking - "are you sure you want me to be the leader?" Wiggling the fish - lots of people wiggle their fish, sort of doing mime fish. The sign of a fish. There are two problems with this. Firstly that isn't really what fish do - it is more what their fins do. Secondly, if you were following the rules as laid out above, every wiggle one way should change the leader. So you should now be a foll


Ok what are the clues? What are the rules? How do you do it? This is about follow the leader. The leader is the fish at the front of the group. If you don't see a fish in front of you then it's you. Follow the fish that your fish can see - in other words the fish immediately in front of you. Each fish follows the nearest fish to it. The power of the leader is to make another leader. Tun your fish sharply to the right, or to the left, or go over the top, or under. As you do so, if all the fish follow the movement, another fish will almost instantly be in front of you. That fish is now the leader. The thing that is interesting is how quickly the group can change the leader. There is a refracto


Ok now it's getting interesting - at least to me! One of the groups stand aside and watch the other group. How do they look? Do they look like a shoal of fish or do they look like a group of contemporary dancers? Or a weird cult of some kind? What makes them look like fish? What makes them not look like fish? Can you direct them to be better? (more like fish I mean) Is it frustrating? Is it slow? What makes you enjoy watching them and what is boring? Swap places around so that the watching group is now doing the fish, and the fish group is watching. Make it better. Make a note of what you like and don't like. Swap again and make it better again. Why am I asking you questions rather than tell


When your fish meets another fish they swim together in a pair for a while. If a third joins them, one breaks off and joins another fish and swims with them. Then they swim in threes. Then fours, And so on until there are two groups of fish forming two separate shoals, swimming around the room. The challenge is not to slow down as the groups get bigger, not to become a sort of weird huddle of people waving their hands together, but really to look like a shoal of fish, and perhaps more importantly to fee like like a shoal of fish. Part of a shoal of fish.

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