After the performance I spoke to Funny Rabbit organiser and Emcee Oliver Double about the event, which was started in February of this year by Double and co-founders, producer and theatre technician and founding member of the University of Kent Stand-Up Society Tom Blake and stand-up Matt Hoss, two graduates of the University. Matt Hoss is now a touring comedian and has worked with the likes of Stu Goldsmith of the Comedian’s Comedian Podcast, and through his contacts in the industry is able to book acts for Funny Rabbit that would normally be beyond the price range of a campus venue like The Gulbenkian, so said Double: “we get better than we should with the budget”. The line-up for the Autumn season includes television stand-ups Nathan Caton, Eleanor Tiernan and Laura Lexx, a former Kent graduate whose show Knee Jerk won the Comedian’s Choice Award at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Five Star reviews from the Edinburgh Festival Magazine. Funny Rabbit has “an ethos of diversity in [their] bookings”, and as a result of Jayde Adams unfortunate cancellation, the 20th September show was the only one of their events not to have a female comic on the bill. This diversity extends not only to moral standpoints but to more malleable respects such as types of comic, in this respect the 20th September performance was very typical, with musical comics, one liner acts, surrealists and observational acts sharing the same bill.
The guest spots on Funny Rabbit are always on offer to University of Kent students and to Alums. For the 20th September performance, Christie Hinchcliffe was a former student, now working as part of the touring comedy and acting troupe Left Foot, Right Foot, and Alf White is the current vice president of the Stand-Up Society here at Kent. Double says: “other members of the stand-up society have been on the bill […] we also offer guest spots to Drama students on relevant modules.”
Double himself has been doing stand-up since the 1980s. He started a university comedy collective with which he toured the UK, worked with The Last Laugh Sheffield between 1992 and 1997 and holds a PhD in Stand-Up Comedy. His own style of topical humour readily plays into a place of widely held outrage at modern politics, but as he says “being idealistic isn’t funny, but being ridiculously idealistic is” so he delivers his political screeds in a comically exaggerated form of hyperbole, parodying his own sense of outrage even as he vents it on behalf of his audience. His political targets are all more thin-skinned than they would have you believe, taking offense at the least provocation, so he sees how over the top he can get.
His material is all as ad hoc and topical as he can make it, his brief segment on this publication was written based on the week’s headlines, but one regular staple of the Funny Rabbit performances is the element, not just of audience participation, but competition, each month Double sets his sight on a new target of political ridicule, (it has been Boris Johnson twice) and gets his audience to contribute to a derisory letter to be sent to them after the show. He said the practice started when he started receiving catalogues from a prominent pro-Leave campaigning company, and someone suggested forwarding them to the company’s head office without postage and with a note attached for the chairperson, and he has incorporated it as a closer ever since.