We spoke to funny man Phil Spencer about performing, and ensuring a performance resonates, ahead of his one-day course at the Centre, The Horse’s Mouth: Performing Stories.
What does a story need in order to connect with an audience?
A microphone, emotional authenticity and tiny, seemingly insignificant, details. Ultimately a really engaging story thrives on an energy that flows back and forth between the teller and the listener – you need to leave enough room in your tale for an audience to fill in the gaps, join the dots and if you’re lucky, you’ll hear them make that knowing grunting noise under their breath at some point. That’s what you want.
Humour’s a big part of live storytelling. Can anyone learn to be funny? (And how?!)
Comedy is beautifully difficult. As soon as you stand on stage and you think that you are funny, in that second, you are immediately and categorically not very funny. And sure, there are structural tricks and a few well worn ‘secret’ comedy formulas to getting a light giggle, but if you really want to make people laugh with your work, then you have to dig deep, try everything, find your inner idiot, sharpen your wit, show gallons of humility and make peace with genuine humiliation every now and then. Also making Adelaide the butt of your joke will get you a freebie in any room in Sydney.
The day of a performance, what tips would you give a nervous writer who’s performing her work for the first time?
Prepare, prepare and be prepared to change everything the second you step on stage. Give yourself 10 minutes of focused time to get into the headspace right before performing, lock yourself in the toilet cubicle if you have to, breathe, repeat (out loud) the first line of your story several times (I often do this on the bus to the gig – and yes, the people on the 431 do think I am odd), eat a banana (optional) and never (ever) have more than one glass of wine before you perform (just trust me).