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On Wednesday 7th December LUCI (Lancaster University Comedy Institute) will present for their first show this year: Little Shop of Sketches. I spoke to director Chloe Humphreys to find out more.
Hi Chloe, can you tell us about the show?
It’s about a girl called Robin who stumbles upon Brahm’s spooky shop while looking for a present for her nan. All the items he sells are possessed by people who used to own them. The narrative is very loose but each sketch is centred around a different item.
There’s weird sketches, there’s traditional sketches. There’s something for everyone. When you’ve got so many different people writing for one show it goes in all different ways. One sketch for instance is called ‘Cool Cop’ which is about the police trying to get down with the kids. There’s a lot of music cues as well that fit in. ‘Everyone Was Kong-Fu Fighting’, ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’, it’s all upbeat.
Little Shop of Horrors isn’t very festive theme is it?
There are a couple of Christmas gags and even a sketch! I think this is for anyone who is bored with premature Christmas celebration. Remember, we’ve been working on this all term. That’s a tremendously long time to be jolly.
As I asked this question “Fairytale of New York” sounded through the speakers behind us. Overwhelmed with winter cheer, Chloe emptily stared into the distance for a moment.
The show isn’t particularly Halloweeny either. It’s a bit surreal I guess but we’re doing our own thing here.
What was the production process like?
It involved a mental breakdown every week on my part! We do a sketch shop every single term and it somehow came down to me to continue the tradition—I have no idea how but I managed to anyway. We’ve been casting since the start of term but the last 7 weeks have been dedicated to writing.
The writing process is different for everyone but I have a list of things on my phone—ideas that I find funny. I then try and make them more and more ridiculous and somehow fit them together. After you keep thinking through these things you lose track of whether they’re are actually funny or not, you have to constantly talk them through with other people.
Which is why you run writing workshops every week?
Absolutely! Comedy is so much easier to write when you’re bouncing material off other people. I paid three pounds to join and said “if you don’t make me funny by the end of the year I want my money back”. I don’t know if it worked. They just put me on the exec so I thought it would be rude to ask for a refund.
Tell us a joke
This interview? I kid, I kid. The show costs £3 and I wouldn’t want to give any material away for free.
What made you join LUCI?
I went through the societies list before joining, I saw comedy and thought eh why not do this? I think that’s the attitude you need, and it’s the attitude from most of our members– it’s such a good environment to start out and develop your skills.
I guess I became interested through studying Linguistics. I was in a lecture on grammar earlier today for example and we learnt that the phrase “there was baby falling” is grammatically correct. I thought to myself “there must be a way to get a laugh out of this”. It’s one of those subjects where people say “so what language are you studying?” and I just say “all of them!”
Current members have done Edinburgh Fringe festival, ex members. People have gone professional—there’s a group called Beach Hunks that was started here and we’ve only been in existence for about 6 years.
We’re always, always, always taking people on. The only qualification is that you have to be open minded. We do genuinely care about your comedy, if you don’t want to perform we can help you as a writer or you can just sit back and laugh at us attempt to put things together.
Any tips for aspiring comics?
You have to constantly keep going over your material, keep asking “where can I take this next?”. The more you start performing, the more you realise how strange humour and comedy can be. It’s can be an aura, sometimes you don’t have to say anything funny to make people laugh if people know you’re funny. I wouldn’t say you either have it or you don’t; it’s a skill and it’s about observing how daft this whole life business is. Humour itself is strange, just thinking about it and trying to create, it’s completely normal to have an existential crisis. Hopefully that won’t come out in the show.
What’s your role in the society?
I’m the general secretary, I was eager to direct a show last year but didn’t want to do it in first year. The president and a good chunk of the exec are in the cast as well as other members of the society. Everyone is excellent at what they do, maybe except the director.
I’ve been in the society just over a year. We practice something every day of the week—we cover improv, standup and sketch. I’ve done a bit of all three. I’ve learned a lot but I’ve also changed a lot. Being able to laugh at yourself brings out a lot of confidence, it definitely helps your writing skills. It’s a lot of going back, reflecting, judging a room and seeing how your make something funnier next time. That’s a bit harder on radio because we don’t get feedback like that.
The comedy society has two radio shows on Saturday and Sunday at 1pm. The Improv Hour and Talk of the Devil, which is a sort of panel show. Then there’s my show, Jury Duty which is on Wednesdays at eight. Don’t even ask what it’s about. Every week I pick out a selection of theme songs and my guests have to assess whether they’re guilty on not guilty. If you can’t listen live, the episodes from this term should be available as a podcast next weekend from the Facebook page.
LUCI Presents: Little Shop of Sketches is on Wednesday, Week 9, 6.30pm at County Bar. Tickets are £3 on the door / £2 if a LUCI member.