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Reform Magazine | July 13, 2024

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Joy to the world - Reform Magazine

Joy to the world

Paul Kerensa is a stand-up comedian, author, scriptwriter and podcaster. His current podcast is The British Broadcasting Century about the BBC; another is Christmas: What The Falalalala on Audible.

When did you first realise you were funny?
I’ve been thinking of this recently. I’d forgotten the first comedy writing I did was for my church. We had people there who gave me a chance, and I’m belatedly grateful. They got me to do those church drama sketches – interpret parables, whatever it might be. For three or four years as teenagers, we were writing alternative Christmas services. Have I Got Pews for You, we did one year; and we had the nativity characters on a Jerry Springer-style spoof.

I remember distinctly, even younger than that, making one of our neighbours laugh, and I could tell it was not like, ‘There’s that eight-year-old, we’ll laugh along at his little joke’. It was a proper, ‘That’s really quite funny.’ I can’t remember what the joke was, but I remember what a good feeling it was to make someone laugh. And I think you keep wanting to recreate moments that bring that laugh again.

But that doesn’t necessarily make you a standup comedian, so how did that happen?
I failed at other jobs. I did a theology degree, not a vocational one, because I was interested in going deeper with faith, philosophy and the history of theology. But while at university I discovered theatre, acted in something every term, and by the end I was spending longer in the theatre than I was in the lecture hall, unfortunately. Then I did drama school to try and be an actor, but realised over the course of a year there that I couldn’t really act.

I left a little bit despondent. They said, as we left, ‘Anything you can do, sing, dance, speak French, driving licence, put it all on your CV. And I couldn’t do any of those things. But I did see an advert for standup comedy evening classes, and I liked watching standup. I liked writing comedy sketches. I liked acting in comedy sketches. And I’d never thought of putting it all together to do standup, but I loved it straight away. I thought, Oh, that’s it. That’s better than acting: there’s no script to learn, there’s no one to share the stage with. It’s higher risk: if it goes brilliantly, it’s just you, but if it goes terribly, it’s all on you. I liked that and I still do, I suppose…

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This article was published in the December 2023/January 2024 edition of Reform

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