'With teaching and stand-up you have to think on your feet'

4th May 2007 at 01:00
It was the comedian Henny Youngman who said: "Humour is the shortest distance between two people." And it was Arthur Smith who proved him right.

Before the comedian and writer's career really took off, Arthur taught English as a foreign language in Paris and London.

"I guess I was an anarchic teacher and the lessons were a bit unruly," he remembers. "I used to wind my pupils up but they enjoyed it. We had a bit of a laugh together and that is how they learnt. They certainly picked up the word for 'hangover' quickly enough, and the word for 'jelly' for some strange reason."

Arthur believes there are strong similarities between stand-up comedy and teaching, both in terms of the fear factor and the possibility of being publicly humiliated.

"With both comedy and teaching you have to be adaptable, flexible and able to think on your feet.

"You can outstrip hecklers or kids with a laugh, and suddenly they're not a problem but quite an enjoyable part of the act.

Teaching is a brilliant career for any would-be stand-ups."


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