By James Briggs
Humour can play a huge role in successful advertising, but how does a professional funny man go about his craft? We find out what makes Maff Brown tick-le.
Hiya Maff. You were once a pro footballer, how did you get onto the comedy circuit?
I was managing a team in Singapore’s S-League. Like all football managers I eventually got the sack. They paid off my contract, which give me a lump sum of cash. When I got back to the UK the jobs in football were bloody rubbish. So, I took a gamble and started trying to be a comedian and doing ‘open spots’. It’s basically like being an apprentice. You do lots of gigs for free until you get good at it. Within 2 years, I was getting paid work and it became a job.
Do you have a writing process?
It depends what I’m writing. If I’m writing one-liners I tend to just sit there with a blank page in front of me, whilst listening to the radio. I’m looking for certain words that can spark off a line. It could be a word or a saying - just something to jump off from. If I’m writing for Mock the Week, then usually you are given the topics they want jokes on. For the scenes where they all run for the mic to get a joke out, we know about those before the show starts so we have time to put jokes together. What I try to do is, “think beyond the ordinary”. Most people could come up with one or two jokes, be we have to come up with 15 for each subject and make them unique so no-one else will think of them. For every one that works, there are probably 10 that don’t.
Where and when can inspiration strike?
Anytime, anywhere. Some of the best jokes I have written will just fall into my head regardless of what I’m doing. One of the jokes I’m proudest of, which Vic Reeves told on Shooting Stars, came to me whilst I was hungover on a train. I ordered a fry up and it sparked the joke, “when Stephen Fry gets an erection, does he call it a fry up”.
Can you write better after booze?
You like to think you can, but usually what’s funny when you are pissed, normally isn’t funny the next day. You are more relaxed so you do write things that may be a bit more controversial. There’s writing those jokes and saying them out loud to an audience. They are different things. Despite what people think, comedy is a serious business. You have to put a lot of hours in to get a brilliant joke. I can write for nine hours a day and get one joke out of it - and that’s a good day. Otherwise, everyone would be doing it.
What is the perfect joke to you?
Quick, precise, easy to understand, outstandingly obvious - but not, gets a clap, and more importantly, it makes every comedian in the world think, “I wish I ‘d written that”
Is there a grim reality to comedy; the travelling, the small audiences, the dying on stage?
You tend to only die at the start. It still happens every now and again, and I mean now and again - once in three years maybe. The travelling is a bit of a grind at times, but then a two hour drive there, 20 mins of work, then two hours drive back is still only 4 hours and 20 mins of work a day. Having said that, I’ve travelled all over the world and been paid to do so. I’ve done gigs in Singapore, Italy, France, Germany, Australia, America, Switzerland, Doho, Bahrain, Oman, The Falklands, and even Afghanistan! As for the size of the audience, providing they are into it, it doesn’t matter how big or small it is. I’ve done a gig to 3000 and I’ve done a gig to 5. Both were enjoyable in different ways, but one wasn’t better than they other.
What are you working on at the moment?
One-liners for another Edinburgh festival show and a football manager character that I’m going to try a few times to see if there’s legs in it. I’m also planning to write a film this year, but don’t want to start that without funding as its very time consuming for a punt.
Three things you need to be a comedian?
Balls. Determination. And be funny.
What’s your favourite heckler put down?
NO one likes a heckler. I don’t do heckle put-downs. I just point out that they’re idiots for trying to take on a professional comedian. It doesn’t happen in any other industry and its bloody rude. If they think they are funny then they should get up and do it themselves. We ban it in my club in Kingston. If you heckle, you get thrown out. Imagine if you told the bus driver he was shit, it’d be a hate crime!
You can die happy when…
I’ve filled the Hammersmith Apollo for my own gig.