Kwame Asante talks about the BBC Radio New Comedy Award
Kwame Asante is a stand-up who has been sucessfully juggling medical degree with a blossoming comedy career.
After he made it through to the BBC Radio New Comedy Award semi-finals back in 2012, we thought it was high time we had a catch up...
When you started out in stand-up, was it purely a hobby?
I think when I started it was definitely a hobby phase. I did my first couple of gigs at school talent shows. They went disproportionately well, I think because most school talent shows are all about singing and dancing acts - people appreciated the variety of me performing comedy.
My first experience of performing on the London open mic circuit went as you’d expect it go… I was like “oh…”
Is comedy more of a career for you now?
For me personally, as well as my family, my education is really important – I’m on a very intensive course at university, but my agent really understands and is good at getting me a healthy amount of gigs to keep me sharp.
What do your family make of your stand-up?
When I first started doing stand-up, my material was a bit all over the place so my family weren’t really ‘pro it’. I think it’s like that with a lot of new comics; brash and trying to cause a reaction – some of the jokes I started on the circuit with would be quite embarrassing to do now.
I think I’m just about getting to how I want come across onstage talking about the things I want to talk about. The epitome of that is when I won the [Chortle] Student Comedy Award in Edinburgh last year. My family saw the winning set when it went up online and my dad emailed it to his friends. That definitely wouldn’t have happened before!
Do you have any advice for signing with an agent?
You need to have a clear view of where the comedy stands in your life and where you want to be - some people are desperate to get on TV and others want to do live tours. Just be honest with yourself about what you want to do find management that suits that.
If you’re good and you work hard enough, you should be able to find the kind of work you want regardless of who your agent is.
How does the BBC Radio New Comedy Award compare to other competitions?
At the BBC New Comedy Award you felt that there was a lot more of a media presence; the website is regularly updated and people film at the heats. It’s also got the BBC behind it - once you say ‘BBC’, the public realise it’s a big deal. If you have the BBC next to your name people think, ‘oh this guy is going places’!
I had loads of fun at the heat and the semi was in a great venue; the Leicester Square Theatre. I got to spend a lot of time backstage with the other acts. I’d gigged with most of them before so it was good to catch up. It felt really professional and slick and basically like a big occasion you wanted to rise to.
What would you say to people entering this year?
I think just go over your stuff and be honest with your abilities; stick to what you’re good comfortable with. If you’re comfortable with what you’re doing onstage it makes for a better performance. If you’re gambling with new material and thinking ‘I’m going to see how this goes’ then you’re going to perform it cautiously and the audience will sense your nervous energy.
So why should people enter?
If you don’t feel you’re ready then you can delay it a bit, but I don’t see any reason not to enter. If you’re feeling confident and you’ve had a decent run of gigs and good feedback then you should enter and see how far you go.
You’ll meet loads of new people and get your face out there, so even if you don’t win, at least you’ve got the exposure you wouldn’t otherwise be able to get.
Kwame Asante will be performing at The Tron at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival between the 7th and 14th August