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The Comedy of Errors

Gabriel Ebulue Performs Hip-Punk for Nottingham Comedy Festival

7 November 16 words: Juliet Fisher

"Now I am writing jokes that mean something to me and say something important... rather than a series of elaborate dick jokes"

How would you describe Hip-Punk, and what should Nottingham expect?
At its core, Hip-Punk is about music, my obsession with it as well as how that has affected my life. It's about how your taste in music can shape you and create your personality without you even knowing it. It's also about the overly-judgemental world we live in and how it sucks, but when it comes to music it's a little necessary to be judgemental and you shouldn't feel bad about it. Like that moment you are at a dinner party with your wife's friends, get on really well, like them a lot, but then browse their record collection and see nothing but Phil Collins and suddenly change your opinion about them. Nottingham should expect a funny, engaging and opinionated show that'll have them spending the rest of the night debating The Beatles vs. The Stones.

You’re a massive Sleaford Mods fan – are you tempted to invite them down to the show?
No, Sleaford Mods are a great band who are amazing to their fans, and if I invited them there's a chance they'd come down, but it would be too embarrassing. One of the best aspects of doing stand-up comedy is performing in front of strangers because if it goes badly – and no matter how long you have been doing it, there's always a chance that it will go badly – you are safe in the knowledge that you will never see them again. If I invited one of my favourite bands to see me and had a bad gig, I'd be reminded of how awful the gig was every time I'd play their music. It would be hell.

You’ve been doing stand-up for about seven years – how has your new material progressed from sets you have performed in the past?
As corny as it sounds, in the last year or so I have found my voice. I know exactly what I want to say on stage, how I want to say it and how I want it to be perceived. Whereas a couple of years ago, I was just writing jokes that I knew would get me work at clubs. However, now I am writing jokes that mean something to me and say something important... rather than a series of elaborate dick jokes.

You draw a lot from your younger years for your different shows, what in particular encourages you to dig into that time in your life?
Honestly? I have no choice; I'm only 25, so my younger years were yesterday, which means I don't have much else to talk about on stage. But I think what encourages me to dig into that time in my life continually is the fact that so much happened to me in a short period growing up, so I have a wealth of material to draw from during my shows.

How do you judge what the audience will find engaging?
There is no way to really judge that until you do it – that's part of the thrill of stand-up comedy. I have written jokes that I thought would result in standing ovations and declarations of love, performed the bit and only received a chuckle. I have also written what I thought was a throwaway line that gets a round of applause and people coming up to me after shows saying how much they like that line. So there's no real way to tell – it's just trial and error.

A lot of your material discusses race. How do you draw the line between funny and offensive?
I feel that there are two lines to draw. If I am talking as a young black man about my own personal experiences with race and racism, then I can say what I want as long as it's funny. If you're offended by that, then you are part of the problem. However, if I am talking about another race group that I'm not a part of there is a line you can cross. But outside of simply shouting out racial slurs, that line, as a comedian, is very far in the distance. I never want to offend people and never set out to, but for every joke about how shit the food in Greggs is, ten Greggs enthusiasts are writing angry blogs about it. So if I worried too much about offending people, I wouldn't be able to write any material.

Not suggesting that you’ve ever had a tumbleweed moment on stage – but what’s the best way to deal with a joke that falls flat?
It's kind of you to suggest that, but I have had tumbleweed moments on stage. A lot of them. It's part of the profession, and there're two ways you can deal with it depending on the audience. You can either mention how bad or ill-judged the joke was or ignore it and move on to something more suitable – both work well. The only thing you really need to avoid in those moments is commenting on how well the joke usually goes or having a go at the audience for not into being into it, both of which I have also done, a lot.

What’s next for you?
I am currently in the process of recording a podcast series called The Three-Track Podcast where I ask a guest to name three of their favourite songs, and we discuss them as well as their taste and history with music in intricate nerdy detail. It's basically Desert Island Discs but without the small talk. It will be up and live by 2017. Other than that, I am constantly gigging so keep an eye on my Twitter for dates and gigs around the UK.

And, on a non-comedy note, can you give us your top 5 albums of 2016 so far?
With pleasure. There have been a lot of great albums this year but off the top of my head:

  1. Angel Olsen – My Woman
  2. Thee Oh Sees – A Weird Exits
  3. Death Grips – Bottomless Pit
  4. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
  5. Kate Tempest – Let Them Eat Chaos

And since it's an EP it didn't make the list, but an honourable mention to Sleaford Mods with their brilliant new release, T.C.R.

Hip-Punk, Sobar, Friday 11 November, 7pm, £5.
Nottingham Comedy Festival runs from Friday 4 - Saturday 12 November 2016.

Garbriel Ebulue website

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