What brought you to Vietnam?
I moved to Vietnam in 2011 because, well, staying in the UK seemed very bleak.
How did you get into stand-up comedy?
I used to work as a tour guide in Edinburgh — working for tips. The best way to get good tips was to make people laugh. So, I honed a three-hour stand-up set about Scottish history. Then I moved into management and really missed the interaction so decided to give stand-up a go. I sucked in the UK, but have had plenty of opportunity for practice in Vietnam.
When and why did you co-found the Hanoi Comedy Collective?
We used to have a bunch of Hong Kong comedians coming through to perform and I saw the opportunity for local acts to support these shows. We wanted the local support to be a key part of these shows, so we banded together. Local support is still an important part of the Stand-Up Hanoi shows.
Why was it so important for the amateur comedy scene in Hanoi? What about now?
A comedian can’t go it alone. Performing comedy in a music or spoken word space can be quite challenging so you need to come together a create a comedy space. Now the scene is great. We have several comedians doing their own things and several bars want a piece of the comedy action.
When did you get involved in Stand-Up Hanoi?
Dan Dockery was leaving to South America in January 2017 for three months and needed someone running the shows while he was away. It’s been a great year of shows and really nice to have made a tangible contribution to the scene.
As Stand-Up Hanoi’s resident MC, what have been your best moments?
Opening for Gina Yashere and Phil Nichol was pretty special. I love the Standing Bar stage; you get such a good view of the packed room and it’s very easy to feel connected.
What have been your worst moments?
Not opening for Tom Rhodes. I put myself down for 10 minutes and for whatever reason material didn’t come to me in the days leading up to the show. I ended up on the night just getting up, thanking everyone for coming and welcoming Tom to the stage.
How do you see the comedy scene developing in Vietnam this year?
I think we’ll get more big names coming through. Stand-Up Hanoi together with our co-organisers Saigon International Comedy down south are getting some attention among global comedians who like the idea of an Asian tour. And with such a solid base of local acts it’s easy to put on a killer show. I hope that we can get more Vietnamese acts up on stage and have a fully Vietnamese bill.
What advice would you give to anyone who’s interested in getting up on stage and performing?
Do it. 1) You’re probably an English teacher so you are comfortable with public speaking and that is half the battle. If you can hold someone’s attention and be interesting it’s hard to completely bomb. 2) Find yourself funny. If you’re happy with your material and the audience don’t like it, it’s their problem — not yours. 3) Don’t be scared of the audience.
You’re about to leave Vietnam. Will you continue doing stand-up? What plans do you have?
Absolutely. But I’m scared because comedy is about a shared frame of reference and that is very easy to tap into in Hanoi — we’re all the same. In a new place I will be an outsider. I’m also scared because I think expectations will be higher. I’m desperately trying to think of ways to explain Vietnam things to a western audience.
For more info on Stand-Up Hanoi, click on standuphanoi.com.
PHOTO BY MARCUS LACEY