RISING STAR: Lauren Kerr

She finds most Northern Irish comedians 'stomach churning', but the Bright Club Belfast MC admits she still has a lot to learn

Who/what/where/why/when is Lauren Kerr?

I'm a 20-year old comedian from Belfast. I graduated in broadcast journalism last year. I’ve been doing stand up for two years now.

How did you get involved in comedy?

I was always a big comedy fan, and it was something I knew I would like to try out. I met Shane Todd about three years ago – we were in the same class at college – and he had already been doing stand-up for about a year at that point. I started going to watch local gigs with him. I really liked a lot of the acts who were just starting out then.

In May 2010, Shane was running a charity gig in the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast and asked if I fancied doing five minutes. I only really agreed as I wanted to try it once – I didn’t do it because it was something I thought I could do seriously. I just wanted do my five minutes to tick it off my list of things I had forced myself to do that caused me lots of anxiety.

After the gig, I got talking to Voicebox organiser Marcus Keeley and did that about a week later. I started gigging regularly after that.

Sum up Bright Club, and what is your role in Bright Club Belfast?

Bright Club is a concept that began at University College, London and brings the worlds of comedy and academia together. The nights are themed, with comedians and academics giving short, funny talks on an area of that theme. Bright Club Belfast was conceived by Graeme Watson and Niamh Scullion. I’m a regular performer and MC, and I help out with anything I can, but it’s Graeme and Niamh who do all the organising.

Have Northern Ireland audiences responded to the format?

Bright Club Belfast has proven to be really successful, so much so that it recently moved from the Blick Shared Studios artist space to the larger setting of the Menagerie Bar. It’s built up quite a loyal following, and you can see a lot of familiar faces in the audience each month. I think what I enjoy most about it is how the speakers can take what could be quite a narrow theme and interpret it so differently.

You were voted Best New Act at the 2010 Belfast Fringe Festival. How has this helped your progress as a comedian?

The biggest benefit from winning was that it gave me a bit more confidence and encouraged me to carry on gigging. When I won it, I had been doing stand-up for about six or seven months and still wasn’t totally sold on the idea of gigging regularly, as I was a bit all over the place with my material and style. So I think it showed me that if I worked harder maybe it was something I could do.

What are your plans for the future, performing-wise?

I think at this point my main aim is to just keep gigging and writing as much as possible and hopefully keep improving. I have longer term aspirations, like going over to the Edinburgh Festival, but after only two years of comedy I still have a lot of room for improvement and a lot to learn before I even consider that.

What have been your highest and lowest moments since taking up comedy?

I think after only two years my achievements are modest ones, but things like performing at the Empire Laughs Back and the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival have definitely been highlights.

Another highlight has been discovering a group of people who want to build up a good comedy scene... Wow, that sounds cheesyl! I actually find most, if not all, Northern Irish comedians stomach-churning. Although some of my favourite comedians are on the local scene. They’re the ones who make me laugh, no matter how many times I’ve seen them perform.

The low point, although I actually find it really funny, was going up to perform at a festival in Derry~Londonderry with a load of other comedians, only to find that the 'comedy shed' really was a shed. It housed doves and genuinely looked like someone had been murdered in it. Performing to other comedians who have already heard your material at least 50 times that year is always fun too…

Who is your favourite comedian and why?

I can’t pick out one comedian as being my favourite, mainly because I’m much too fickle to have a favourite anything, but some of my favourite comedians are people like David O’Doherty, Josie Long, Eleanor Tiernan, Tony Law, Maeve Higgins and Simon Munnery.

I just love silly comedy that doesn’t have any jokes in the traditional sense and seems quite haphazard on the surface. I think it’s much more enjoyable to watch someone who seems like they’ve just turned up to have a laugh with their mates, rather than an über-polished comedian who is just reciting their jokes without much interaction with the audience.

If you could support any comedian (living or dead) who would you pick?

The thought of supporting anyone I love fills me with too much anxiety and trepidation to even allow myself to consider it hypothetically. I’ve been lucky to have supported some really cool people already in my short time in comedy [notably Lucy Porter and Roisin Conaty]. It’s nice to be able to get up and be a big, shouty idiot on the same bill as people whose work I’m a fan of.

Bright Club Belfast takes place monthly at the Menagerie. For more details, visit Bright Club Belfast on Facebook.