Jamie Oliphant: Stand Up Guy
Jamie Oliphant is a young comedian from Chiswick, West London, whose short film emerged as a winner at the Flipside Youth Film Festival. The Flipside Youth Film Festival was launched in October 2009, in response to the lack of cultural and artistic activities that were available to the young people of South London, with Oliphant’s comedy short, Don’t Do The Right Thing, took the first prize in the 19 to 25-year-old category.
The film, a relateable tale about a group of lads on a night out, was also featured in other film festivals, such as the Leamington Underground Cinema Festival and the Portobello Film Festival. During the day, Jamie works a nine-to-five job at a bicycle manufacturer, but he hopes one day to perform comedy professionally. I got the chance to chat to Jamie about his career and his hopes for the future.
What inspired you to write Don’t Do The Right Thing?
It was actually based on a true story when I was out with some friends in Shepherd’s Bush. There was a big argument between a couple that my mates thought could escalate, so we thought we were being the knights in shining armour and strolled over to help her out. That’s when it all went wrong.
Who else was involved in the creation of the video?
My friend Adam Singodia, filmed and edited it. He’s really responsible for the technical quality of the film and did a really great job; we went through a shot list before hand and exchanged ideas with the producer Hal Arnold (who assembled the crew together and sorted the logistics). I provided the script, co-direction and connected some of the dots to get the ball rolling.
Was much, if any, of Don’t Do The Right Thing improvised, or did you prefer to have the actors strictly follow the script?
I’d worked with the actors before on an outdoor interactive show, so I thought it’d be great to have them improvising for this. We had one rehearsal with a script, and then they came up with some really sharp stuff in an improv so that was included in the final shooting script.
The girlfriend/boyfriend dialogue was nearly all improvised on the day except for a line or two. I really enjoy using improvisation, I’d been watching a lot of Curb Your Enthusiasm at the time of filming, and I think its the best way to get really authentic dialogue.
What made you want to get into comedy?
I was actually watching Russell Brand’s special ‘Scandalous’ and he looked like he was having a blast on stage and I remember thinking “I want to try this”. I did a course at the Comedy School in Camden, which provided a showcase at the end. I got a really positive reception from the people there but it took me a few months before I started committing to at least 2 gigs a week.
Since then I’ve been trying to watch as much pro comedy in the clubs as possible – when you see someone do a killer headline spot its really inspiring and really makes you want to up your game, to try and get near that level.
Who else, other than Larry David and Russell Brand, has influenced you in terms of your style of comedy?
People like Dane Baptiste and Prince Abdi have such quality in their writing and delivery and that’s something I aspire towards.
Recently Tony Law and Luisa Omielan put on hour long shows which really changed my way of looking at standup, realising it’s not just one person and a microphone. It’s an hour of top quality entertainment where you’re taking the audience on a journey, and it’s up to you where they end up.
What do you prefer, creating comedy shorts, or performing stand up?
Comedy shorts are great because you have quite a bit of control over it so you can really shape what the viewer’s going to think, stand up does have more risk involved in terms of an immediate audience reaction. Having said that, the buzz of doing a great gig is pretty huge, so I’d say stand up.
Where do you hope to be in five years time, and how do you hope to achieve that goal?
I’d like to be working in the entertainment industry professionally and making my living from it, be it as a performer or a writer. I think that comedy is a long apprenticeship- if you look at the biggest touring comics in the UK: Michael MacIntyre, Peter Kay, Sarah Millican, they’re all over 30 and have put the hours in to be masters of the craft.
In 5 years I’d like to have gigged around the world in Australia, Canada and the US. I love the stand up scene over there – Kevin Hart, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld are all incredible and people I’d love to emulate.
Are you working on any projects right now?
I’m trying to get a portfolio of stuff together that’s strong enough to approach production companies with next year.
At the moment I’m working on 2 new shorts with Adam Singodia, who’s just set up a production company.
My goal was to have 3 made by the end of 2013 and hopefully we’re still on course for that. I’ve just got a GoPro Hero 2 Camera which I’m geekily excited about, so I’m hoping to get some footage and put some more stuff up on the youtube channel.