Improvisation comes from the Oxford Imps, sketch shows come from the Revue, but where is Oxford’s stand-up comedy scene? To fill this gap, two student comics Harry Househam and Alex Faroe have started touring college comedy nights, which bring stand-up comedy to different college bars throughout the term. We spoke to them about setting up their nights and getting involved in stand-up nights.
The two friends met on the Oxford comedy scene, but their nights offer an impressive range of comedians. At a gig in St Hugh’s last week, Househam and Faroe had organised acts ranging from undergrads, to people living in the Oxford area, to Oxford alumni who had returned especially for the show. So far their nights have proved incredibly popular and they draw in crowds of at least 40 people each time. There is a high demand for comedy in Oxford: this way, they bring their comedy nights to different groups and generate audiences more easily.
Not wanting to make money from the gigs, the pair decided to raise money for the charity Mind by charging a small entry fee. “When thinking of a charity, ‘Mind’ was a clear choice because mental health is a massive issue in both the Oxford community and in the comedy world,” Househam tells me. Comedians contact them because they want to help raise money for Mind too which helps to keep their sets varied.
Gigging in Oxford has its own idiosyncrasies the pair joke. “People rarely heckle because everyone is so polite,” notes Househam, “if they do heckle it’s about something really pedantic and academic.” In the past, audiences have heckled them about the true origins of the symbol zero, if the tan line goes through the zero axis, and the Trojan war. It seems Oxford has some pedantic crowds around.
For anyone wanting to break into the stand-up scene Faroe recommends going to as many nights as possible to see what other people are doing. Outside of the student bubble there are so many things to go see in Oxford ,such as Jericho comedy at the Jericho Tavern, and Humour Tumour on Cowley Road. They say that until you’ve been in an audience above a little pub, you probably aren’t ready to go into it yourself. They also recommend talking to people who do it too to get some advice.
Househam and Faroe have big ideas about what they want to do with the comedy scene in Oxford, and have started a Twitter account to collate all information about all comedy going-ons in the city. Comedyinoxford is a Facebook and Twitter account which lets people know where to go to seek out those stand-up gigs.
The College Comedy Nights have been hugely successful so far this term. Now building up to a bigger gig in the future, this group is one we’ll be hearing more from. If their backstage banter is anything to go on, this is something to look out for.
College Comedy Nights are going to Oriel next on March 11th.