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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stand up and be counted: virgin comics take the mic

Stand up and be counted: virgin comics take the mic

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Scotty Davis said that comedians Bill Hicks, George Carlin and Frankie Boyle are among his inspirations. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

It's hard to take public speaking in good humour, particularly when your job demands it. But tonight eight untested stand-ups will perform at Pontoon after a crash-course in comedy with Irish comic Aidan Killian.

“You don’t very often get to see people who will stand on stage for the first time and share their unique stories, their creativity, while they’re facing their fears of doing public speaking and, on top of that, making people laugh,” said Killian, who normally teaches stand-up at the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin.

“What could be scarier than going in front of a stage in front of a live audience and saying: ‘I’m going to make you laugh, I’m a funny person’? It’s like the bungee jump of self-improvement.”

The comedy show, which stars at 8:30pm, is the culmination of a three-day training program held by Killian in conjunction with Comedy Club Cambodia. All proceeds from tickets will be donated to Operation Smiles Cambodia, a non-profit organisation that provides reconstructive facial surgery to children and young adults.

Hence the show’s name: Laughs for a Night, Smiles for a Lifetime.

Killian’s lessons have focused on both joke structure and stage presence, integral components of a hilarious set, he said on Sunday, during a break from teaching at Freebird Bar and Grill.

“In general, [the audience] wants to see you do well. If you’re nervous and scared, they’re nervous and scared for you, and they can’t even hear your jokes anymore. But if you have great stage presence and no jokes, that’s not ideal either.”

His pupils include Sam Thomas, a 22-year old teacher from Boston, who said, despite initial doubt, Killian’s lessons helped him better understand the craftsmanship behind a good performance.

“I was a little sceptical of the idea of teaching stand-up, but it’s not really what he’s trying to do. We’re really workshopping it,” said Thomas, adding that the group explored the audience mindset and methods of storytelling.

Despite being new to stand-up, Scotty Davis, a 33-year-old teacher from Liverpool, said it felt similar to public speaking at work, “except with the added pressure of making people laugh”.
Killian himself first tried comedy as a way of coping with anxiety related to public speaking while working for an investment bank in Tokyo.

“I was quite young at that age to be in that position, so I used to get nervous having to speak in front of the CEO and everything. So I tried stand-up comedy and never had that fear again. Once you’ve done stand-up comedy, it’s much easier to do a presentation and not make people laugh.”

When asked whether he was nervous for his presentation, Davis said he will take his fear in stride.

“I always try to look as nervousness as a form of excitement. The only reason you’re nervous is because you care and want to do well.”

The charitable cause behind the show guarantees a good outcome, regardless of the performance from the stars, Thomas said.  

“Worst case scenario, nobody laughs and a lot of kids get cleft palate surgery.”

Laughs for a Night, Smiles for a Lifetime will be held at 8:30pm on Monday at Pontoon Club and Lounge, #80 Street 172. Admission is $5.

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