Interview: Bec Hill – Caught on Tape
‘We all took great pleasure in watching Norman Lovett squirm’
This article is from 2015.
Pun Run head honcho Bec Hill tells us which drink she reaches for if she goes two days without creating a usable pun.
When did you realise that the punning style of comedy was a route you would take?
I only ever used to pun from my Twitter account. Any attempts to add them to my set resulted in groans. But slowly, I’ve been able to introduce it to my sets and full-length shows. I still do storytelling, though. And observational stuff. And obviously the paper-puppetry. I think I’m trying to cover ALL aspects of comedy so there’s something for everyone.
Can you tell us your all-time favourite pun?
My favourite pun comes from a Dave Allen sketch. A couple are sitting in a living room and their gas heater slowly rolls away from the wall and through the door. The woman watches it leave and casually says, ‘the fire’s just gone out’.
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?
It usually starts with me hearing a phrase, like ‘pop them over there, thanks’. And then adding a set-up to turn it into a pun eg. ‘where should I deflate these balloons?’
What’s the weirdest scenario you’ve been in when you’ve come up with a great joke / pun?
I witnessed a very strange crime once. They actually made a videogame about it. I was just minding my own business and this semi-aquatic mammal ran out and kidnapped a little old lady and ran off. It was so horrible, but the police caught and arrested him. So I yelled ‘you’re charged with Gran Theft, Otter!’ But the police said it was a very serious matter and not to joke about it.
If you go two days without coming up with a workable pun, do you start to get the shakes?
Yes, but when I’m on a health kick I get the smoothies instead (cue sad trumpet sound).
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?
Absolutely not. First, we need to ignore the fact that you don’t know how many women are telling puns this year without seeing all their shows. You might be pleasantly surprised. To address the ‘bloke’s game’ question, we know that due to wildly inaccurate preconceptions (and other variables we won’t get into), at the moment there are less female comedians than there are male comedians. So naturally, if only 5% of ALL comedians tell puns, then of course there will be even less women telling puns in relation to men. Fortunately, as the gender imbalance in comedy starts to slowly address itself, the ratio of female pun comics to male pun comics will also start to even out. Hopefully, one day, people will see how utterly ridiculous it is to even suggest that punning is attached to gender somehow.
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?
Well, we certainly attract a specific crowd to our Pun Run nights, the pun-based comedy night I founded in 2011. I originally put it on in order to purge a bunch of the puns I’d written on Twitter, but the response from comedians and the audience was so overwhelming, it ended up turning into a regularly sold-out night. But I think it would be torture for anyone who hated puns. Norman Lovett was a guest at our first night and he admitted his loathing for wordplay. I think we all took great pleasure in watching him squirm through every act.
Bec Hill: Caught on Tape, Gilded Balloon, 622 6552, 8–31 Aug (not 19), 5.30pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7.50–£8.50). Previews 5–7 Aug, £5; Pun Run, Gilded Balloon, 622 6552, 17 Aug, 8.15pm, £7.