Fanny RK, Stand-up Comedian
Fanny RK is a brand strategist at Conflict and stand up comedian. Read more below to get a behind the scenes look at joke-writing and a fresh take on what it means to be passionate about something beyond your 9-5.
How would you describe what you do?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the skills that are actually involved in what I do, and when it comes down to it, whether as a comedian, as a brand strategist, or as a friend, my role tends to involve offering perspectives informed by human truths - connections between things that are true for people that they might not have thought of before.
What do you think makes you successful in these roles?
In both roles, my goal is always to be a total genius and dumb at the same time.
Stand up is so great for that because no matter how smart you think your joke is, if you can’t say it in a way that’s instantly relatable, you’ve failed.
Tell me a bit about how you got started in the stand-up world.
My good friend Zoe Brownstone is a comic who started before me and I would go to her shows. I thought it was cool, so I decided to do a course called Comedy Girl. Dawn Whitwell started the program at Comedy Bar and it’s a really chill course for anyone who wants to learn about joke structure and writing with no bullshit.
You quickly realize that everyone thinks they’re funnier than they are. Not everyone can recreate something funny on stage.
So, what is a joke? What did you learn?
Lol good question. I think jokes are just ideas (that make people laugh).
The crazy thing is that so much goes into making something funny. There are rules and patterns that you can learn and take advantage of to get to better jokes, just like there are to get to better ideas. You go in there with a hypothesis, thinking ‘I think it will be funny if I say ____’, but you don’t actually really know. The methodology lies in iteration. You tell a joke 50 times and keep optimizing.
The other thing is, you can’t fake your way into making people laugh. Whatever the audience thinks and feels will be obvious. Like you can riff and be silly but your material has to deliver. You have to be in the moment, be present, and work with the crowd when you get up there on stage.
The way that you’re talking about jokes, it sounds like it’s almost formulaic.
Writing jokes is definitely iterative. And you definitely have to be process-oriented to love writing jokes. You can’t be precious about your writing and think “this one idea you had once is perfect as is, and if the audience doesn't laugh it’s something wrong with them.”
When you’re up there, you’re basically codifying and playing off of human reactions and brain processes. For my style of jokes at least, I try to pay attention to social dynamics and feelings that other people don’t perceive. You have to sort of love being an outsider to have the patience to do that, which is a catch 22 because as comics we want to be accepted by everyone extra badly.
So with that much iteration, how do you keep it fresh? Tell me about what it looks like preparing a routine.
Seek new angles on your ideas. When you find one that works it’s a big thrill and kind of keeps you going. When it fails, abuse drugs and alcohol!
Behind the scenes, comedy is all-consuming. I perform several nights a week, and when I’m not performing, I’m working on stuff, listening to past shows I've recorded. I’ll even be brushing my teeth and writing on sticky notes - my apartment looks like a (really innocent) conspiracy theorist lives there because there are notes on the wall that just say like, “toes that look like fingers”, “why is David Blayne hot?”, “granddaddy issues.”
Would you ever want to go full time? Or is comedy more of a hobby?
This is a brutal question. I honestly don’t know. I don’t think of comedy as a hobby. But I also avoid becoming too careerist about it because I think doing something for its own sake is where real creativity comes from. I guess it’s a passion. And passions are just good for human existence.
One thing I’ve come to terms with is the fact that I don’t need to rationalize how my role as a brand strategist and my role as a stand up comedian will come together. Yes, the skill sets might reinforce each other, but the career paths, they may never merge. And that’s okay.
What keeps you sticking around for more?
I think the purity of it is what makes me stick with it. You have an idea, craft it, give it to the audience, and see. Comedy is addictively redemptive because each performance has simultaneously high and low stakes this way. There’s no team, no approvers, no client, no objective other than to elicit a reaction.
It’s also very humbling. Standup requires you to finely tune your bullshit detector on yourself. I think this is why some people joke that performing standup is like going to therapy. It’s not, and those people are sick. But it is similar in the sense that listening to yourself talk about your feelings in front of someone trains you to notice when you’re being full of shit.
What's next for you? Any goals you’ve set up for your stand up?
There’s been so much change for me lately. It’s my Saturn return right now, I just started at a new agency, moved into a new place. I just really want to settle into everything that’s been on the go and be the best and most grounded I can be.
Part of that means writing new material that brings to life the neurotic, yet wise, genius/dumb persona I’ve been trying to bring to the forefront. It’s hard to be fully uninhibited on stage, or in the workplace, and let your true self show up, but we simply mustn't tiptoe around our truths. Life’s too short.
Catch Fanny on stage every Sunday night at The Corner Comedy Club East in Leslieville for the show she co-hosts, Sunday Best. Tickets here.