Friday night brought together books, beers, bookworms, and bards (well, stand-up comedians). The second installment of Stand-Up Literature was kicked off by Conor McReynolds, an amusing host who warmed up the audience by interviewing us about what we were reading. He was quick to react: when he inquired about one lady’s favourite book she pondered and said, 'difficult decision' - he quipped, 'who is that by?' At times he was self-deprecating, telling us about finding one of his former co-worker's new books in Blackwell’s that evening, and recalling how they both used to commute; she ended up writing most of the book on hers, while he was far less productive, napping or eating on the Oxford Tube.
Chloe Jacobs’ set focused on fan fiction. She made fun of herself in a way that had a show-and-tell vibe: Jacobs announced she was sporting a cardigan with a hole in it, and revealed that she wrote Twilight erotic fan fiction as an eleven-year-old. We were treated to a recitation of this, from an account she cannot remember the password to, so she can never delete the evidence!
Dan Squire had an interactive set, where he straddled the line between comic and snarky game show host. In 'Do You Know Books?' we were given brief summaries of ‘famous’ romance novels before he revealed the title, such as the book where the protagonist inherits a necklace: Chain Heir. Squire also put together a BuzzFeed quiz, 'What Type of Book Are You?', and had several people play along, each getting further than the last. Duane 'Dog' Chapman’s autobiography featured in a meta-joke where Squire made fun of comedians who make fun of celebrity autobiographies.
After the intermission, McReynolds entertained us by delving into Irish history and religion. In a joke that could not have been planned, he asked the audience to name what in Ireland is called 'The Great Book': one girl queried 'Ulysses?', though he was actually referring to The Bible. Moving on to poetry, McReynolds explained to us why Seamus Heaney would have made a terrible potato farmer, and shared with us some 'hai-poos': haikus to read on the toilet.
Louise Bastock was effortlessly cool as she presented a humorous ‘TED talk,’ which included storytelling about her time in publishing, and amusing typos in Lonely Planet guides. She declared herself the female Shakespeare, as she has been coining words for the twenty-first century, and told us how she is 'legiterally' the definition of normal: “until her accident Louise had been a perfectly normal little girl” is the example sentence in the Oxford English Dictionary.
Alex Farrow rounded out the evening and was wonderful as always. He started off discussing language, and comparing American and British English - we expected the eggplant versus aubergine comparison but he deadpanned 'chicken' as the British equivalent. I was impressed with Farrow’s ability to connect his early joke about Welsh schoolboys playing a prank with sheep, to a later one about Aristotle’s missing book on comedy. Similar to the 'is this a dirty rap lyric or line by feminist poet Gertrude Stein?' game he made for Jericho Comedy two years ago, Farrow challenged two audience members to guess whether various sentences were from the Song of Solomon or just a romantic erotic line he wrote himself. Having seen Farrow host and perform multiple times, it is evident that he skillfully adapts his cerebral sense of humor for any subject and is at ease in front of the packed venue, flowing seamlessly from one topic to the next.
It was overall enjoyable to be surrounded by bookshelves and fellow readers, watching comedians poke fun at language, dialogue, novels, and authors in a way that made us laugh and also made us think. I hope to see a third volume of Stand-Up Literature in the coming months.