The mission: Quentin Fottrell dusts down a few jokes and tries his luck - and his audience's patience - as a stand-up comic

I begin my evening class in stand-up comedy as a clueless, nervous wreck. I expect my tutor, who is a stand-up comedian in real life, to brandish a leather strap and challenge me with the words, "So, you think you're funny, d'ya?" Instead he says, "No joke is too crap." My ears perk up. This is good advice. I will take this idea and run with it.

Tough Love is my secret name for the tutor. He says, "If you're afraid of making a fool out of yourself, don't do stand-up comedy." Tough Love asks me to prepare a story to entertain the rest of the class. I make a few cracks about my weekend. The only laughter heard is mine. Well, if I didn't think I was rib-cracking hilarious, would I be doing this? Members of my "audience", however, feign a smile through gritted teeth.

By the second week, Tough Love wants to see some routines. My adrenaline pumps. My legs wobble. I avoid discussing kebabs and cult television, which is a comedy minefield. I talk about losing my virginity in Catholic Ireland - "It got so rough, I tore his cassock" - and my current lack of success in relationships - "I'm not telling you the last time I went to the movies on a date. Suffice to say the movie I saw is now a classic, despite the fact that it's been colourised."

Tough Love takes notes. He teaches the class to analyse and dissect jokes. We must take the truth - stretch it, mold it and beat it into submission. The magic surrounding comedy slowly disappears. Thankfully, the dream of making oodles of money like Eddie Izzard or Jerry Seinfeld remains.

Halfway through the course, Tough Love takes a week off and is replaced by a female comedian. She - I have come to know her as Mother Courage - takes a more nurturing approach.

I take advantage of Tough Love's absence to recycle some older material for Mother Courage. My routine begins with the difficulties of father- son bonding: "Suspecting my interest in girls was non-existent my father asked me if I'd lost my virginity. `Course I have,' I told him. `Loads of times.' Lying was a big mistake. When I was 15, he bought me a Meccano set and I built a shopping mall. When I was 18 and could legally drink, he came home with a bottle of liquor and I baked a bourbon souffle" And so I go on.

Finally, I hear titters. I embrace them. I will take them to my grave. They were worth waiting for. As I leave the class, Mother Courage stops me: "I forgot to mention earlier that I really liked your whole camp persona. It really works." I smile gratefully and thank her, not having the slightest idea what she's talking about.

As my confidence increases, the amount of time I put into my routine decreases. Eventually, I arrive at the class with a stack of scrawled notes. How bad could it be? I am greeted by a camera crew from Dutch television who are making a documentary on stand-up comedy. Do I pass up the chance to be a TV star in Holland or - notes in hand - bumble through my routine? I choose the latter. As I nervously read out my jokes, I accidentally mix up the pages. My humiliation makes great TV. In journalist lingo, I am what's known as a nugget.

After the course ends some of my classmates sign up for open mic spots in London pubs. Preferring anonymity, I take advantage of a pre-planned visit to New York, where I try my luck at a friend's bar. I throw the throng a real old chestnut to get the ball rolling: "I just flew in from London and my arms are killing me!" I look out on an arms- folded, stoney-faced sea of silence. I feel that stinging sensation again. I tap the microphone, "Is this thing on?" The city that never sleeps just took 40 winks.

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

    £120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

    Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

    £70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

    £24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

    Day In a Page

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness