This week we interviewed stand-up comedian Joel Herman. See his BTA Artist Profile HERE.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Joel Herman, I’m a Helsinki-based young comedian. I’ve done about 300 gigs and did my first one in October 2013.
How did you end up being a stand-up comedian?
I’ve played music since the age of three and been performing almost as long so the stage has always been a constant factor in my life. There was a period of time where all the band projects I was in either collapsed or no longer interested me, and simultaneously I’d become really fascinated with stand up comedy. So it was a combination of having withdrawal symptoms from the lack of stage time and being interested in comedy that made it happen.
How do you come up with your jokes/stand-up routine?
I talk about politics and things affecting our society a bit, but most of it has to do with personal experiences. Sometimes it’s actually like a day at the office where it’s just sitting down and trying to come up with anything funny, and other times it’s completely unintentional and then I start forming it into a bit or a routine. Also, I’m bisexual and I’ve got autism/Asperger’s which are both endless supplies for new material. But even then it’s a fine line to walk because I don’t want to be “the autistic comedian” but rather just “a comedian who just happens to be autistic”.
Any tips for aspiring stand-up comedians?
Since this is me giving tips having done only two and a half years myself, I urge everybody to take this with a grain of salt. Firstly, don’t give up if it’s not working right away. I’ve heard in retrospect from other comedians that my first shows were some of the worst they’ve ever seen, but with hard work it started getting a lot better. So getting lots of stage time helps. Having your own voice and raw talent can take you quite far, but there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned elbow grease. Throw yourself into uncomfortable situations every now and then – both on and off stage – because that’s a great source of inspiration. And most importantly, have fun. The audience will always sense if you’re not having fun while you’re up there.
Which comedians do you look up to?
Too many to really go through even most of them. Russell Howard and Frankie Boyle made want to start doing comedy and recently I’ve been listening to Doug Stanhope’s stuff a lot.
What is the best thing about stand-up comedy?
That wave of laughter that knocks your head back. Whenever it happens, it reminds me why I do this. Also sometimes people come up to me and say that I made them think about a specific issue or topic from a new perspective and that’s really rewarding. And on a different note, having done a healthy number of shows in very different, sometimes odd or just insane places gives me an abundance of stories and funny memories. They say that tragedy plus time equals comedy, and that’s certainly true. I already have a ton of stuff to “look back on and laugh”.
Biggest difference in doing shows in Finnish vs English?
From a personal standpoint, doing something like this in a second language forces me to be a bit more scripted because I have to translate everything in my head before I say it, and that doesn’t allow for thinking quick on my feet as much as doing this in Finnish does. In Finnish, I tend to be a bit more free-form and sometimes go a bit off-script, but in English my skills aren’t up to par, at least not yet. Wordplay jokes also go out of the window fairly often when translated, from Finnish to English and also vice versa every now and then.
Most memorable show you had?
I did a 20-minute set at the Seinäjoki City Theater (Seinäjoen kaupunginteatteri) this February, Fredrik Lilius and Jani Salo were on the bill too. Lots of people showed up , everything clicked and it was a pure adrenaline ride for the whole time.
If you could choose, which artist would you like to see live? Dead or alive.
Rage Against the Machine. Preferably I would take my time machine and go back to like ’92-’93 and see them live then.
Tell us about your regular hang out? Have you ever had a comedy show there?
My favorite writing spot is Kaisla in the center of Helsinki. Nice draft beers, bar food and what have you. It’s not really built for a comedy show which I think is a good thing. Wouldn’t want to embarrass myself in case it’d go badly and then not being able to go back there. Hopefully they’ll give me free beer if they stumble upon this interview.
Which artist would you like to see being interview by BTA? Which one question would you ask them?
Looking at who have signed up to the site, I’d like to hear what Henric Chezek and Bahar Tokat have to say.
Thank you for the interview, Joel. We will be sure to interview both, Henric and Bahar.
See you guys next week for a new interview.