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Reform Magazine | December 5, 2020

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Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘What if this is the time it doesn’t work’

Do stay for tea and coffee: ‘What if this is the time it doesn’t work’

Paul Kerensa sings the praises of the wired microphone

I try not to be too opinionated. I’m a tolerant, peacekeeping person. But now and then, that tolerance is tested. Especially as a performer. I normally keep my controversial opinion hidden, but the time’s come to get this off my chest…

I don’t like wireless microphones. Ah it feels good to broadcast that – if anyone heard.

This may seem specific to public speaking, but it affects the other side: public listening. If they can’t hear you, you’re a bad Mr Bean tribute act.

As a comedian touring churches and other venues, I fear the discussion about the supposedly reliable wireless mic. Not for me, the ways of the future. Give me a cable any day.

Admittedly, nine times out of ten it works fine. But what if this is the time it doesn’t? The technician/church warden might reassure me they’ve had this mic for centuries, the batteries have just been changed and it means I can roam freely (I don’t want to roam freely.) But knowing me, I’ll find the bit of stage where the signal cuts out, or we’ll pick up transmissions from a passing minicab. What if I start broadcasting the words of Talk Radio’s James Whale? We can’t take that chance.

I don’t want to sound like a prima donna. Oh, there’s another one: Madonna. I’m often offered a headset microphone, as used by pop’s grand dame in the 1980s, and the minister last Sunday. Preachers seemingly prefer headset mics, to leave no barrier between them and the congregation. Us comedians like that barrier, favouring a handheld microphone, a mic stand, lights and any other stagecraft that remind people it’s a show. And cables. Yes please to cables.

It’s partly about reliability – a cabled microphone never runs out of juice – but it’s also about sound quality. In comedyland, the industry favourite is (let’s get geeky) an SM58. They’re sturdy old war horses. For spoken word, from lighter comedy to weightier words of wisdom, I favour whatever gives the clearest sound, with no distracting hisses or buzzes.

Maybe I’m stuck in the dark ages, shunning technology, thinking Bluetooth is a pirate and preferring my comms equipment to be two baked bean cans with a bit of string. Although I can see churches embracing new technology, and I suppose they ought to.

Recently at a comedy show, I asked to connect my laptop to the projector, via VGA or HDMI. The technician grinned and offered a third: Apple TV. No cables required! Just connect to the wifi network and my visuals would magically beam to the screens. It half worked, only sending visuals to the small onstage monitor aimed at the person speaking. The technician was very keen to use the kit, even if the main screens wouldn’t work. Jokingly, I suggested the audience gather onstage to watch the floor monitor – then withdrew that suggestion when it was taken seriously.

To the side of the stage, I spotted a dangling VGA cable – unused, unloved, but readily available. Could I use that? Oh no, the technician was adamant. In the end, I quietly plugged it in anyway, and miraculously, let there be visuals – the old fashioned, cabled way.

There is a brilliant wireless form of communication, of which the Church was an early adopter: prayer. I love using that form of wireless. I’d just rather not need it when the tech cuts out. Humour me. Give me that safety rope, something to cling to, and let’s keep the wireless communication for God.

Paul Kerensa is a comic writer, performer and broadcaster

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This article was published in the February 2020 edition of Reform

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