In the news - Kevin Precious
Kevin Precious is the latest teacher to hit the comedy circuit. He launched his stand-up career while working four days a week as head of religious studies at Ilfield Community College, Crawley. After a year it dropped to three days, then two, and now he is cracking jokes full-time.
Do you think you were always funny? "I am a product of my own culture. I'm from Hull, so I have always had that northern humour. Back in the 1990s, I organised a pop quiz where I discovered that people found my mix of ad-libs and off-the-cuff comments funny. I later joined a band. I was a musicianlayabout - a word you can never use as a teacher. I then went back to university to become a teacher - it was a shock to the system."
Is the heckling getting easier to take? "Comedy is easier than teaching. You are in front of a willing and paying audience. With kids in RE you have to use a variety of techniques to inspire them - that and really good classroom management. Some kids found out I did comedy and they would try and get me to do jokes. They will do anything to get you off the subject."
Were you the class clown at school? "A lot of my friends were funny and, looking back, I think I just saw the humour as a shared communal thing. It wasn't until I started getting up in front of people that I realised it is a completely different thing. In fact, I have mates who are very funny, funnier than many comedians, but would never have the confidence to perform."
What are your best gags? "It's all teaching-based material. I have some routines about exaggerated images of teachers in Hollywood and Waterloo Road. You get the Hollywood-style maverick teachers. In films like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Dead Poets Society and Dangerous Minds, the basic subtext seems to be: 'If you mess with the curriculum, one of your students will die.' Boy, that's a lot of risk-assessment paperwork."
Ever fallen flat on your face? "Everybody does. Sometimes you find you have no mojo; it's a learning curve, like being a teacher. If it's a nice club in a nice area, people carry themselves differently. It's like teaching at a posh fee-paying school. And if you are in a northern town on a Friday or Saturday night you can be more robust in your demeanour. If you are in a state school in a deprived area, you have got more work to do."
What next? "I'm touring before Christmas in some good venues. With a good stand-up you get the same entertainment you would get with a musician, but we're not known for being on the cover of Heat magazine - there is more quality to comedy than that."