Interview with Martin Willis, Founder of Objectively Funny

Martin Willis talks about his entry into comedy, his work at Objectively Funny, their partnership with Campaign Against Living Miserably, and provides great advice to anyone looking to mirror his career path.

Interview with Martin Willis, Founder of Objectively Funny

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hey reader! I’m Martin. I perform comedy and run Objectively Funny with my pals Maddy Bye, Michael Julings and Ellie Brayne-Wyatt.

Tell us about Objectively Funny? Why did you decide to set it up? 

OF is an organisation I started two years ago to run shows in London. Before I knew it we were running a post-Edinburgh festival at the Albany with 42 hour-long shows in 11 days. I’m now the comedy programmer of that venue. Now we’ve got our third London festival coming up next month, are into our first year producing a shedload of Fringe shows and are running a mental health campaign. Eek.

Give us the typical outline of a day?

There are no typical days really. Good lord I’d love a reliable routine. But as an example, yesterday I had the tech run of our excellent show An Audience with Yasmine Day, went to check out the space where we’ll be running mental health workshops and had a mammoth meeting with my fellow OF producers about our 7 shows. And then some comedian friends came round and we got stoned. I’m tired.

What’s great about your job?

I adore performing, primarily, but working with artists to help them make the ideas in their head work on a stage is pretty damn cool. I love the twin streams of fine-detail pretension and total stupidity that run through the comedic creative process, whether I’m making it myself or facilitating someone else.

What are the bits you don’t like or find challenging?

It’s very administrative, and I can’t say I’m a natural when it comes to that. Things slip through the net sometimes. Having said that, I have grown to love a colour-coded spreadsheet.

What was your career path into this job?  Have you also worked outside the arts?

After university (English and American Literature at Goldsmiths College) I spent a couple of years teaching English in Madrid, where I dabbled in improv and did my first stand-up sets. I came back to London to work as a mentor and mental health lead for a youth-based social integration charity. It was so hard and I loved it. I saved up some quids and quit the job to go into comedy full-time despite being wildly inexperienced. I was in a double act called Loose Brie with my boy Phil Lindsey, who moved into my living room so we could afford it. We gigged loads and got better, bit by bit. I ran my first gig then, a fundraiser for Mencap that sold out despite being hosted by two people who had no idea what they were doing (us).

And what are the highlights of your career to date?

This year, so far. The last two months have been a bit mad really – we just got funding from BBC Children in Need for Hilarity Academy, a company that teaches comedy to kids run by Alice Devlin (of Bric a Brac Theatre) and myself; OF have partnered with CALM and Dave TV for our mental health work here, and our shows in London have gone from strength to strength. It’s a bit of a whirlwind.

Objectively Funny are working with CALM during Edinburgh Fringe this year. Tell us about the partnership and what you hope to achieve?

CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) are a fantastic organisation that supports mental health across the country. They’re helping us distribute the Little Book on Mental Health that we made, and we’ll be raising money for them at our fundraisers.

What, if anything, differentiates Edinburgh Fringe from other festivals?

The sheer size of it. It’s ludicrous when in full flow. One can barely walk the streets without bumping into another comic. It’s a bit much sometimes.

You’ve been granted the ability to send a message to 16-year-old you. What do you say?

“Stop arguing with teachers or you’ll get asked to leave school at 17 and have to retake an A-level. Also, it’s chill that you’re bisexual. Embrace it now and save yourself a lot of hassle in your 20s.’

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Live with people who share your sleep cycle. Split a show or share a work environment with people you don’t mind seeing you cry. Eat lots of fibre. Taking a night off socialising is cool. Watch loads of shows, work out why you like them or why you don’t. See stuff outside of your industry too – plays, art, music, Match of the Day. Sleep is sexy, get loads of it.

And do you have any advice for young people interested in entering comedy?

For comics: when you’re starting out, don’t be afraid to sound a bit like comedians that you love. Never copy material, but it’s fine to start working out what your voice is by emulating your heroes. In the early 60s The Beatles were a covers band. It’s chill.

In the industry, and for everyone really: be kind. It’ll come back to you.

Where can people find out more about you, and your work?

The internet.

Find out about Objectively Funny's Edinburgh Fringe fundraiser night by visiting the listing here

Header Image Credit: Provided


Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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