Popcorn Comedy has been running regular nights around the country for a while now. With its mixture of short comedy films and live guests, it’s become a massive success with regular monthly nights in London as well as special events all over the country.
We had a chat with acclaimed comic, TNT Show host and occasional CBBC presenter, Holly Walsh, one of the founders of Popcorn Comedy, about the night and their plans for The Fringe.
Hello, Holly! How are you?
Good, thank you!
So, could you tell me more about Popcorn Comedy?
I set it up with a guy called Jon Petrie who works for a production company. We both really wanted to find a place where people can make funny stuff. There are so many really funny people who don’t do stand up but make brilliant films on the Internet.
So, we wanted to make a night where we could showcase the best funny films on the Internet, where people making funny films could come to see how their films work in front of a live audience.
If you’ve got something on the Internet, you don’t know what the audience reaction is, you don’t know what people laugh at, what gets the big belly laughs, things like that.
We really wanted to have a night where filmmakers could show their films, come along and see how people react to them.
Yeah, having been to a Popcorn Comedy night before, it felt like I was watching YouTube videos with friends.
Yeah, everyone does that. They sit there and they go, “Oh, have you seen this one?” We didn’t want to show films that are like a kitten falling off the back of a chair. Just people who have made comedy. We tried to make the live nights really exciting, so it doesn’t just feel like another night at the cinema. We want the audience to have a really active part in their enjoyment of it. That’s why we have a live act as well. To break it up a bit.
We also say at the beginning, “Treat every film like it’s someone on stage.” I think it’s important that people read it that way, otherwise they may as well just check YouTube.
We’re really across the board. I think if somebody said to us, “Can you do a perfectly clean show?”, we’d have more than enough films that are clean, edifying comedy. We’ve also got more than enough to do X-rated stuff. It’s such a mixture.
We did Latitude recently and that was really good fun. It was certificate 15, so you couldn’t do anything too rude. There’s so much brilliant stuff out there that’s not about shocking people.
Having done your own videos and TV work as well, can doing your own work be more ‘freeing’?
Yeah, I think that the Iinternet is perfect for that. Gone are the days when you send in a pitch to a TV company and then hope they go, “We like this.”
One of the best ways to showcase your ideas is just to do a really shonky version of it. Nobody’s gonna look at that and say, “Oh the grading is appalling!” They’re gonna notice something really good about that and then TV can pick it up.
I also don’t think that you should see the Internet as a stepping stone for TV. A lot of stuff that’s made for the Internet only really works on the Internet, but that doesn’t devalue it or make it lesser. The Internet is going to become its own forum and the hierarchy breaks down a bit.
No one’s going to tell you not to do something. If you make it and put it up, you might get 50,000 people telling you they hate it. But, if you can deal with that, then that’s a good start.
A large part of what Popcorn Comedy is all about is people sending you their own clips. Is there any advice you’d give to people thinking about doing so?
We don’t show anything over three minutes. I would actually say two minutes is a good enough length of time, really. The shorter, the better. Only because a lot of people make long films and you can stop and start that on your own, but this is a live night. The audience’s concentration is probably a lot shorter, they’re drunk and they’re not wasting time at work. So, I’d say make around two and a half minutes.
Also, make the thing you want to make. Don’t try and second guess people, because you’ll never know what they’ll laugh at. Make what you find funny and trust your instincts.
Are there any challenges bringing Popcorn Comedy up to Edinburgh?
We’re doing every Thursday, Friday and Saturday. We’ve got four different shows, one each week with brilliant live acts! Sarah Millican, Josie Long, Josh Howie, Simon Munnery, Frisky and Mannish. It’s quite a late night show at 11:30pm. I think that could be in our favour
So, who should come to Popcorn Comedy?
Anyone and everyone! Some of it will be a bit rude, some of it will be delightful. But I think there’ll be something in for everyone!
If nothing else, you’ll see live acts doing something a bit different. It won’t be them doing their usual stand-up. They’re going to be doing something interactive or showing films.
We did a night at the Tabernacle in London and had brilliant people doing odd stuff. Josie went through her favourite food blog, some guy for a year kept a blog of all his breakfasts. Graham Linehan did a lecture about the Internet. David Cross showed a pilot he did, so acts tend to use it to do something a little unusual. It’s stand-ups you know doing something different, as well as all the films you may or may not have seen.