The Fast Show and Cold Feet star John Thomson passed on advice and tips from a 20-year comedy and acting career to Salford performance students yesterday (Wednesday 20 March) at a special masterclass held at MediaCityUK.
During the lively question and answer session with Comedy Practices BA and other performance students at the BBC’s Quay House, John talked about his experiences, from starting out in stand-up through his work with Steve Coogan writing and appearing in Knowing Me, Knowing You... with Alan Partridge, to his acting career, which has included roles on Coronation Street and Waterloo Road.
He emphasised to students the importance of hard work in establishing yourself as a comedian and of the ‘rite of passage’ of pub and club open mic nights which can help aspiring comics hone their acts and learn to deal with tough crowds and disappointments.
Having recently returned to the stand-up circuit himself, John told students that the most important qualities for a comedian starting out, apart from being funny, are warmth and likeability on stage. He treated the audience to a brief first public performance of a new comedy character which he will be incorporating into his act soon, while admitting that acting is still his favourite occupation.
Commenting on the comedy industry today, John said: “I don’t think it’s that different from when I started out. I still think there’s no substitute for getting out on the live circuit and performing, and it’s also really important to watch and learn from other comedians.”
He also believes the University’s campus at MediaCityUK offers students huge opportunities, saying: “It has been the case in the past that the TV comedy and entertainment world was very London-centric, but MediaCityUK is in the process of changing this and Salford students are in the right place to take advantage.”
The University’s Comedy Practices course leader, Lisa Moore, commented: “It's important that students have realistic expectations about the comedy business and John was very honest when it came to discussing potential pitfalls. At the same time though, he was warm, encouraging and thoroughly hilarious.”
Salford lecturers have lined up a number of other famous local comedy performers and writers to give talks to students in 2013.