Bec Hill is an Australian comedian, writer and presenter living and working in London. Her 2009 debut solo Edinburgh Show, If You Can Read This my Cape Fell Off, and her 2010 show, Bec Hill Didn't Want To Play Your Stupid Game Anyway, earned her a string of glowing reviews from Chortle, Three Weeks and The Scotsman. She talks to MOO about self promotion, social networking and standing out from the comedy crowd.
Hi Bec. So, what type of comedy do you do?
My style is a bit of a quirky mixture of stand-up, anecdotes and paper-puppetry – which is the name I give my flip-chart sketches. It's not for everyone, but I think it's important in comedy to stay true to yourself and what you find funny. Otherwise it just becomes another job.>
How hard is it to get work as a freelance performer?
Making a living as a performer is really hard! Good self-promotion is absolutely key. My mentor, comedian Justin Hamilton managed his career on his own for years – despite loads of offers from top agencies. It just worked out better financially for him to promote himself.
Why did you choose MOO for your business cards?
A fellow performer at a gig in Edinburgh handed me this eye-catching, slim, good-quality card. When I commented on how much I liked it, he said, "Oh, which one did you get?", He opened up his keyring, where he had all his cards stored and showed me the rest of the "portfolio" - I was sold there and then. I love how I can decide which card I might want to give someone depending on who they are. If I'm giving one to another comedian, I'll usually give them one with a fun picture on it. Whereas, if I'm giving one to a promoter, I might use one with a photo of me onstage, or a screen grab of my YouTube viral, or if it's a journalist, I’ll give them one with a photo which might work well in print, so they think 'I could run that image with an interview". It makes it easier to sell myself for particular situations. Plus, it's always fun to meet another MOO user – you end up rifling through each other’s cards, like grown-up Top Trumps.
Do the cards get put through their paces at comedy festivals?
To put it bluntly, if I didn't have my MOO MiniCards during the festivals, I'd be screwed. The Fringes and Comedy Festivals get inundated with promoters, agencies and talent scouts, so it's important to come across as professional and prepared. There are a lot of press and networking events and people usually don't have much time to talk for long, so it’s always best to make the best impression you can and then if you get along, give them your card – MOO Cards are great ice-breakers. Swapping cards is a really lovely part of networking and makes connections much stronger than they would be if you didn't have anything to leave each other with.
What advice can you give anyone who wants to make a living as a performer?
1. Practice, practice, practice!
At the risk of sounding like my Year 8 clarinet teacher – you must practice! I've seen too many beginners clamber up onstage unprepared, or with that attitude of, "Well, I’ll just get up and be funny", and they die horrific and nauseating deaths. So make sure you have material before you get onstage.
2. Be pro-active
- Go to gigs and introduce yourself to the person who runs the night. Business Cards show you take yourself seriously and are less likely to let them down if they book you.
- Give your card to fellow comics - someone called me because he had last minute cancellation and he found my card in his wallet. I managed to book 4 more gigs from that night through giving my card to the other acts.
- Tape as many gigs as possible, so you can put together a show reel. This way, promoters can watch it and decide if you would suit their gig.
3. Be patient
I told this to a girl who had just started comedy and was thinking about giving up her job to pursue it full-time. I explained that most comedians perform for years before they start making any money. Eddie Izzard had been performing for at least ten years before he had his “overnight success”, and the same for Miranda Hart. If you're not prepared to put in the hard work, you will never make it.
Sounds like good advice! Finally, can you tell us your best and worst moments in comedy so far?
I was doing a show about superheroes in Edinburgh and every night I would find a sidekick in the audience based on who had done the most heroic thing. It was a quiet night and the "most heroic thing" anyone had done was bake four cakes in one day. Then my projector broke down, which meant I couldn't play the concluding video. I asked my "sidekick" if she happened to bring a cake along, and she pulled out two tupperware containers full of cupcakes, which she passed out to everyone - that was lovely. On the other hand, I once did a 20 minute set to an audience that sat in total silence the whole time. I felt like Marty McFly in Back to the Future when he gets carried away on guitar and everyone just stares blankly at him. I should have said, "I guess you guys aren't ready for this yet... but your kids are gonna love it!"
Want to see more of lovely Bec Hill? Check out her website for live dates and other fun stuff, or catch her at the Adelaide Fringe Festival from March 1 - 12 and the Melbourne Comedy Festival from March 30 - April 10.