Interview: Abi Clarke, Bristol Comedian and Queen of TikTok

Comedian Abi Clarke performing at Chops Comedy, Bristol, in front of LP records
Here’s Abi in real life (remember that?) at Chops Comedy in Bedminster. Photo credit: Tony Chiotti.

With gigs on hold for a while, many comedians are turning to the internet to showcase their talents.

Is this a temporary measure or a taste of things to come? Martin Pilgrim had a chat with Bristol’s own TikTok sensation Abi Clarke (where she has an impressive 35,000 followers and 610,000 likes) about internet fame and the future of live comedy. 

Martin: Hi Abi, thanks for taking time out from staying indoors indefinitely to talk to us. For those who don’t know, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your comedy?

I’m a 23-year-old stand up comedian based in Bristol who’s been gigging since January 2019. I mostly do observational comedy with a touch of silliness.

I started comedy after doing a solo show module at university in 2016 in which I first tried telling jokes about my love life under the guise of ‘theatre’. It took three years after that for me to admit to anyone that I thought I was funny, but I finally signed up to a six-week course and have never looked back!

Ah the old “this is theatre” trick. Classic move. You’ve been having a lot of success online recently, especially on TikTok. Can you tell us a bit about how the platform works and why it’s proving popular with comedians?

To be honest, I still wouldn’t count myself as an expert. There’s still a lot to learn! It’s quite similar to what Vine used to be, but videos can be up to a minute long, and there’s a real focus on music and sounds. You can lip sync, dance or upload original content and sketches.

It’s really good training for cutting all the fat from sketches and only keeping the best and most necessary jokes. It’s really important to have a strong opening so that people don’t just scroll past. It’s also great for short jokes that may not be enough for a whole sketch but are still fun observations. Short and sweet is what works!

So it’s a tight one instead of a tight five [for our lovely audience members, a tight five is a five-minute slot given to comedians]. Do you think that TikTok and other online platforms are suited to a specific type of comedian, or should everyone be getting involved?

Everyone can definitely get involved. You see such a range of content for so many different kinds of audiences on there. I’d say the most successful content is the more relatable or observational stuff that people will share with each other or tag friends and family in. Also, don’t be afraid to partake in the trends and maybe add your own twists to them.

Your group chat sketch has been massively popular (845,500 views). Why do you think it struck a chord with so many people? Did you know you were onto something big when you wrote it?

I think it was the shareability of the sketch. Because I was making an observation about group chats, I then got everyone tagging all the people from their group chat and sharing the video with each other.

I definitely knew I was onto something with it, which is why I spent so long on it. I ended up having to reshoot it and went through about four computers trying to edit it, but I wanted it to be as good as it could be because I knew it had the potential to do very well with girls my age.

The idea for the sketch came from a drawing I did about a year ago on my Instagram which had already had a very good response, so I knew that people related to the idea and found it funny. The video was just pushing it even further with extra jokes.

We always approve of extra jokes. Is there any crossover between what you do onstage and what you do online? Do some things only work live and others only work on the internet? 

There is definitely a crossover as I am myself in both scenarios and they both use observations of a girl in her 20s. I’d say the only difference is that I can be more specific or niche to a certain audience online than I can be on stage.

For stand-up you have such a range of ages in the audience that you can never predict, so you have to write jokes that nearly anyone could find funny or relate to, whereas online I can write sketches far more targeted to people my age.

Being able to preselect your audience sounds like an absolute dream! Do you see the internet as a way to build a live audience or do you see it as a separate goal in itself? Do you think live comedy will ever be replaced?

I definitely started trying to up my online profile to build an audience for my live work, as I wanted to reach people who would particularly like or relate to my stand-up, but it is more and more becoming a beast of its own. Hopefully after all this is over they can serve each other simultaneously! 

Let’s hope so! It looks like live comedy will be on hold for a while. Do you have any tips for staying creative whilst stuck at home?

It’s just about getting into the right mindset and giving it a go. I think we’re all held back by the fear of failing or not wanting to try because ‘it’ll probably be a waste of a time’ or ‘it’ll probably fail’.

I definitely also had the fear of people judging me or not having the equipment or capability to do it, but I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along and realised more and more that you don’t need all the bells and whistles for a video to succeed. I just use my phone more and more!

I was also forced to play all the parts in my videos because I didn’t have anyone else to be in them and now that’s become my thing and probably part of the charm of them! But I think what’s most important is that we don’t feel any pressure to be doing anything just because we ‘should’ or because other people are. Just do what keeps you happy and sane and remember that everyone looks better on Instagram!

Well it worked for Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor 2, and it seems to be working for you! Thanks for the chat, and we hope to see you again in the physical world soon. 

You can see Abi’s TikTok videos at @abiclarkecomedy and follow her on Twitter at @Abigai1Clarke and Instagram at @abiclarkecomedy.

‘Everything you need for a comedy revolution’ 5 Questions with: Stu Goldsmith

Stu Goldsmith needs no introduction in Bristol, but we’re going to anyway.

He’s probably best-known for the wonderful “Comedian’s Comedian Podcast“, which now has over 200 episodes and 8 million downloads. He’s interviewed giant names, such as Jimmy Carr, Patton Oswald and Russell Howard, as well hundreds of other acts on the circuit. Stu delves into the real world of how comedians create their material and cope with a creative life.

In the time his podcast has taken off, his comedy career has kept pace. His Edinburgh shows have racked up acclaim, with shows Extra Life, An Hour and Compared to What in 2015, 2016 and 2017. This year he’s on tour all around the country with his latest show, Like I Mean It. We were thrilled to get to turn the mic on Stu for a quick interview.

Continue reading “‘Everything you need for a comedy revolution’ 5 Questions with: Stu Goldsmith”