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How fan fiction made improv cool
Hobbit sex fantasies are all very well, but what if Dostoevsky met a dinosaur? Nell Frizzell finds out what fan fiction has done for standup – while Josie Long and Nick Gibb release their inner nerd
The Guardian, Tuesday 29 July 2014
What do you get if you cross four nerds from New Zealand, a handful of internationally famous comedians and a packet of biscuits? One of the oddest and most unpredictable shows you’re likely to see this summer.
When FanFiction Comedy hits Edinburgh later this week, audiences will be treated to one-off performances of five-minute stories, written that very day and inspired by anything from comics and novels to films, TV shows and computer games. A typical show might have Dostoevsky dodging dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, or whisk the Golden Girls from their home in Miami to Star Wars’ galaxy far, far away.
"I did a solo show in 2010 at the New Zealand comedy festival in which I played an obsessive Michael Jackson fan who hasn’t come to terms with his death," says Heidi O’Loughlin, FanFiction Comedy’s creator, producer and performer. "I did a lot of research into intense fandom, including fan fictions. That’s where it all started."
The following year, she called together a group of like-minded comedians, including current stalwarts Joseph Moore, Steven Boyce and Edith Poor, to put on a night of short fan-fiction comedies, to be performed just once in front of a live audience. “Mine was a story about being married to Severus Snape from Harry Potter,” says O’Loughlin. “Joseph Moore wrote a love story between two of the contestants of Junior Masterchef Australia.”
The show’s guest hosts have since included big international acts like Josie Long, Sara Pascoe, David O’Doherty and Sam Simmons. “Sam did something about the Ultra Bullet, which is a blender from an infomercial in Australia,” O’Loughlin recalls. “David did Grand Designs – he lay on the stage with his keyboard and played the Grand Designs theme tune, then told a story about how he built a house in a whale, to try and impress Kevin McCloud. We don’t know what’s going to happen any more than the audience does.”
It feels more like a party than a comedy show – with props, guests, biscuits for the audience and even homemade gifts for the guests, who this year will again include Long and O’Doherty. “We made Sara Pascoe a cake with her face on, before we realised she was vegan,” says O’Loughlin. “Last year in Edinburgh, we baked all our cakes in the microwave. I never tried them – why would I? – but I assume they were a hit.”
While any subject is fair game, there are some repeat fixtures, most notably Harry Potter. “Harry Potter is the Beatlemania of my generation,” says O’Loughlin. “I just want JK Rowling and Alan Rickman to come to one of our Edinburgh gigs. I’d give them an Anzac biscuit [a bit like flapjack, and something of an institution in Australia and New Zealand] and say thanks.”
Sex is another recurring theme: the Australian comedian Wil Anderson once found himself reading a “really erotic” story about himself and his compatriot Adam Hills. “So there is an unspoken rule of one sexy story per show,” says O’Loughlin. That means that the other five or six have to do something quirky, clever and unexpected. “I have a story that’s a first-person origin story of the Nokia game Snake, which I now use in my regular standup,” says O’Loughlin. “His mum is the phone and his dad is the anaconda from the film Anaconda. The dad leaves the phone for Jennifer Lopez, who he meets on the set of the movie. Our hero meets another young snake, who he really falls for and starts following around. But when he finally catches up to kiss her, he dies; he was actually following his tail around the whole time.”
Game of Thrones, however, is more of a challenge. “We all love Game of Thrones – we even play the boardgame – but it’s really hard to write about,” says O’Loughlin. “So in Edinburgh last year, Trygve Wakenshaw and I taped knives and forks to a chair and called it the Iron Throne. We put out a few more chairs and then got the audience to play musical chairs to the Game of Thrones theme music.”
She’ll be hoping to keep the audience on their toes again this year. To paraphrase Game of Thrones, Edinburgh needs stories as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.
• Fanfiction Comedy will be at Assembly George Square theatre from 31 July to 24 August.
Modern mashups from the twisted minds of Nick Gibb and Josie Long
Game of Cards, AKA House of Thrones, by Nick Gibb
The camera swoops expensively and majestically down though the expensive, majestic streets of King’s Landing. In accordance with protocol, everyone in shot is being actively ye olde – carrying a pig, coopering or what-have-you. We continue into the grand hall, where a banquet is at its raucous height. At the head of the feast sits a bored child-king who looks like he could absorb every slap in Westeros and still need more.
Amid the crowd, the camera settles on Frank Underwood, who turns and addresses the camera directly with a southern accent thicker than a Lannister’s wallet. “King Joffrey – do I believe in him? That’s irrelevant. He is ruler of the seven kingdoms – for the next couple of seasons at least – and I will believe what he wants me to. Do the people like him? I will say only this: if this show had a live studio audience, you wouldn’t catch a word he said for booing.
"Look! Eddard Stark. Lord Paramount of the North, and a good man. I wouldn’t get too attached to him if I were you, though, I’ve seen Sean Bean in enough other roles to know which way the wind is blowing. Ol’ RR writes like he’s in pay negotiations with his characters and doesn’t want any of them getting too sure of their place at the table. Oh, and there’s his lovely wife. Case in point, but I digress.
"It’s like my pappy used to say: you can cut the head off a rooster but it won’t stop the fox laying eggs in the barn. I personally have no idea what that means, but I’m sure there’s a wisdom to it.
"Westeros is divided into a number of noble houses: the Baratheons, the Lannisters, the Starks, the Targaryens … the … red something. You know what? I can’t remember the rest and I don’t care to google it; I haven’t read the books and I don’t want spoilers.
"As for me, I’m just a lowly horse majority whip; it is my duty to whip a majority of the horses. Still, do I plan on taking the iron throne myself, in time? Well you may very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment."
Titanic Poseidon Girls Adventure, by Josie Long
This is a story about how I met the cast of Girls and had the best holiday ever.
On 10 June 2013 I went to New York for business. I went for a coffee, and inside were the entire characters of Girls.
"Can I sit here?" I asked. "Of course," said Jessa – because she would, right?
"Ahm brilliant! I like coffee and snack food and sweet, sweet boning," I said.
"Me too," said Hannah. And then took her top off.
"Oh God, you remind me of Hannah so much, except not as thoughtless, self-involved or unproductive," said Marnie. And though I appreciated it, I sort of ignored her cause she’s such a square.
"Guys, we should go on a cruise!" Shoshannah said, and it was adorable.
Cut to the four cool friends – me, Hannah, Jessa and Shosh – boarding a boat. Just like in Sex and the City 2, only not the worst thing in the history of the world.
The name of the ship was The Titanic Poseidon Adventure. “I have a great feeling about this!” I said. “I’m certain we’ll come to no tragic harm.”
As we walked into the ship, we were greeted by the captain Toby Jones, the world’s most adorable and humane actor. “Hello ladies! I’m so glad you’re here. The cruise-ship company was really close to going bust, but this one cruise will save our business so I can afford my wife’s urgent heart transplant.”
That night we all came down to dinner; Jessa was wearing a dress that hid the fact that she was pregnant in real life and Shosh had a danish pastry strapped to her head.
Suddenly a young waiter dashed into the dining room. He was the little boy from The Wire who doesn’t have any family and ends up a junkie and it’s so sad. “Captain! Captain! We’ve hit an iceberg!”
"Oh God! What are we going to do?!" I screamed as the ship lurched down towards the icy sea. "Take my gun," said Toby Jones, "I need to make sure that the Irish people in the cheap cabins don’t survive, and that the string quartet are OK to do an extra 20 minutes – and die."
Reblogged from wherethewilthingsare :
Fan Fiction Comedy was back during the MICF and had their best season of shows yet, with some absolutely amazing guests. Due to a hectic schedule I was only able to do the show one night. I was going to do a story called When Bruce Met Clark, a When Harry Met Sally parody starring Batman and…
Reblogged from phlaimeaux :
As the youngest of 3, my parents had learned a few things by the time I came along. The seven year gap to my brother had given them time to ruminate on the meaninglessness of stock Little Lord Davidy pleas such as I’m not tired, I’m not hungry, I am hungry, I’m only hungry for certain things or,…
David’s fanfic from our show the other night…