Brighton-bound Gary Delaney on how he masters all those one-liners

Gary Delaney
Gary Delaney

How on earth does Gary Delaney remember all the one-liners he will be delivering in Gagster’s Paradise at Brighton’s Komedia on Wednesday, April 10?

In fact, Gary, star of Live At The Apollo and Mock The Week, insists that memory is the easy bit.

The tour started last September and dates are being added all the time, taking him through to Christmas, after which he will doubtless take time off to write new jokes before setting off on tour again.

“There is no politics. The audience is not going to get lectured. It is just a lot of stupid jokes for people that like stupid jokes.”

And when he says a lot, Gary means a lot. He’s the master of the one-liner after all – and in that respect, he remains a Ken Dodd fan: “When I first put together a longer show, I went to see him a couple of times.”

To that experience, Gary adds some time-proven memory techniques, particularly the memory palace, an imaginary location in your mind where you can store mnemonic images. The most common type of memory palace involves making a journey through a place you know well, like a building or town. Gary goes for getting up and leaving the house – mapping jokes onto images along the way.

As he says, we are still fairly primitive in our minds – and can remember much better moving from places to place than we can remember words and their combinations. The idea is therefore to map the words onto the places.

“You make a really vivid image for each joke, and the more vivid, the more exaggerated the image, the easier it is to remember. For a touring show, I will need something like 200 jokes… and I can commit them to memory in a day, a day and a half.”

You then add into the equation your years of experience: “One of the things that it took me a while to learn about stand-up is that if you forget to do a joke, nobody else will know as long as you just keep on going. There is a temptation to say ‘Oh, I forgot what I was going to say there!’”

What about the danger of repeating the same joke?

Gary points out there is less danger if you are on tour, doing one show a night, but it was certainly a risk when he was doing three shows on a Saturday night on the club circuit.

Even then, it was just a question of knowing how to handle it.

“There are a few things you can do. The more worried you are about repeating a joke, the more you need to stick to a fixed order rather than winging it. The second is that if you are unsure about a joke coming up (whether you have already told it or not), then just skip it. But if you mess up and you repeat a joke, then you just have to acknowledge it and try to make a joke of it. At least the audience will all know. But then a bit later, you tell it deliberately for the third time!”

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