‘I did a whole gig in braille once, but the audience wasn't feeling it’
The 2014 UK Pun Champion Darren Walsh gives us a warm taste of his particular brand of ‘dad jokes’.
When did you realise that the punning style of comedy was the route you would take? Did storytelling not appeal?
Storytelling is too novel for me. Whenever I start telling a story people lose interest, so I just stick to short jokes. I told a story about a clumsy dinosaur once, it was a powerful tail. I’d bookmark it using a fish: at least that’s my plaice in the history books.
Can you tell us your all-time favourite pun?
I don’t know who wrote this (I’m normally quite stringent on crediting joke writers) but it was on The Adam & Joe Show a while back and they would read out listeners’ jokes that had been sent in. It went like this:
Q: Why did the Puma get on so well with other Pumas?
A: Because he had a good sense of Puma.
(I think I’m the only person who finds that funny).
Do you have a specific method of working ie. do you sit down at the start of the day and announce: ‘I’m going to write four puns today’? Or do you trust that they’ll pop into your head when you’re shopping / jogging / showering et al?
They literally pop into my head. Mostly when I’m not supposed to be writing them. I overhear conversations on the train or when I’m cycling. I do all my writing on my phone so I have to jot it down straight away or I’ll forget. I use an iPhone. That’s the secret of my 6s.
What’s the weirdest scenario you’ve been in when you’ve come up with a great joke / pun?
I was walking past a bus stop that said 'Out of Use' on it. There was a man sitting there so I asked him ‘what are you waiting for?’ He said ‘a giant shrimp is coming to pick me up in exactly 60 seconds and if I miss that, another giant shrimp is going to pick me up exactly 60 seconds later.’ I just nodded and walked off thinking, ‘there’s one prawn every minute’.
If you go two days without coming up with a workable pun, do you start to get the shakes?
No, but if I’ve gone two days without doing a pun on Arabian leaders, I get the Sheikhs.
Do you think that punning is a bloke’s game? There seems to be a distinct shortage of female comics doing a full hour of punning stand-up at the Fringe. Is punning really such a wildly macho pursuit?
I’ve been asked this before, actually. I honestly don’t know, but they do sometimes call them ‘dad jokes’ so maybe there’s something in that? I know that in Saudi Arabia, women aren’t allowed to do puns. It’s Iman’s game. That’s two puns I’ve done on the Middle East now: Iraqed my brains twice.
Do you make the kind of comedy that you like to see? Or would a night at a gig full of puns be some weird form of torture?
Not really, I’d love to be able to do stories and longer jokes but that’s just not me. I don’t think you can choose what type of comedian to be, it just happens. I guess an hour of puns is quite hard going, so I try and break it up with videos and drawings as much as possible. I’ve had some torturous gigs though. Once, I thought it would be funny to do a whole gig in braille, but the audience wasn't feeling it. I was booked to perform on a donkey and cart, but the gig got pulled (I would’ve died on my ass). I did a gig at an astronomers conference, but apparently they only like observational humour. Did a gig for the Conservative Party. That was a Toff crowd I can tell you. But then last week I did a gig at a Greek wedding. Smashed it. So hopefully things will get feta from now on.
Darren Walsh: Punderbolt, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 8–31 Aug (not 17), 8.30pm, £7–£9 (£6–£8). Previews 5–7 Aug, £6.