My technology: Wired for laughs

Comedian Phil Cool talks about his love for his Sennheiser radio microphone which has revolutionised the way he presents his stage act
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The Independent Culture
The main advantage of a radio microphone is that you can move around the stage, lie on the floor and do anything you want, physically.

I used it for the first time in a television series back in the mid-Eighties and it was a great change from the ordinary microphone with a cable, which you either have to hold or stick in a stand - meaning that you either lose movement of one arm or can't move from one spot.

It's a tiny thing. It just pops through my shirt buttons, clips on top of my chest and has a little bracket where the wire sits. The wire goes under the shirt and to the transmitter, which fits in your back trouser pocket. It's not intrusive; the audience don't notice it.

It is particularly right for me because it picks up really well the acoustic guitar that I use in my act. Before, I would have to put a separate mike and stand in front of the guitar, which was a real pain. The radio mike's revolutionised my act: you can go into the audience; you can gesture and mime.

Some comedians don't like using them. Perhaps it is because they have been using the hand mike for so long that telling them to use the radio mike is like asking them to throw out their comfort blanket. Or there is an element of feeling as though you are shouting straight at the audience, without the mike on a stand to moderate the effect somewhat. And if you take this idea further, then having a mike stand is a piece of oneupmanship on the audience. You have the mike. You can't get right on top of the small, discreet radio mike and be so loud that you drown the audience. The traditional mike is also something to hide behind.

When someone suggested that I try using a radio mike, I spent my rehearsal time, when there was no audience, just getting comfortable with it. It made the material so much more animated. Suddenly it felt a lot more free. Of course, it did feel odd, but I persevered for those very worthwhile reasons.

It is no better than the traditional microphone in one - quite vital - respect: you must have a good quality PA system and a sound engineer who has a good knowledge of the system. If you put a radio mike through a bad PA system, it won't work as well as the hand mike through the same system. I was in America not so long ago, and the PA system at the venue wasn't good at all, and I finally had to abandon my radio mike and resort to using a hand mike. I sounded absolutely dreadful, forgetting lines, and quickly came to the point where I couldn't do my usual act because of the mike being fixed in one spot.

I think that comic performance is physical. But there are verbal comics, such as Jasper Carrott, who have made a mint from selling records - whereas if I made a record, it would just have a lot of laughter. But in my mind what I think, and how I portray this in a physical way, is just one movement from the head to the body. It's only as I grow older that I'll slow down.

After all, Lee Evans is probably the most animated comic in the country, but he is only 34, and I doubt he'll still be going at that rate when he gets to 50.

With respect to modern technology, I think I consciously resist it. I don't own a computer, and write all my material the old-fashioned way - on a scrap of paper. I am not keen because I think that computers are probably addictive, and if I get hooked I won't be able to put the damn thing down. So I am keeping off that particular substance for as long as I can.

Phil Cool is on a nationwide tour until the end of July. For more information, call 01285 654 563

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