Steve Bugeja.

Steve Bugeja interview

Photographer Thomas Compton sat down to snap and chat with Steve Bugeja.

Steve, what's your favourite joke?

It's a joke by Gary Delaney: "I filled up the escort with diesel. She died." I remember the first time I heard that joke it blew my mind. I thought it was the funniest thing I ever heard. But then I feel bad because it's not really appropriate.

Penn & Teller did a documentary on the darkest joke; The Aristocrats, so there's worse. On that line; what's your biggest audience pet peeve?

Now they can't really help this, but when you see someone in the audience who's really not enjoying it: they're not hating it, but they're not laughing loads. I always spot them and really want to make them laugh. And then you see them after the show and they come up to you afterwards, and say they really enjoyed the show. Then I'm thinking 'why didn't you laugh then?'

Or people on their phones. Especially students - they spend a lot of time on their phones. I can't compete with the internet! There's so much better stuff on there. I think we've got to train the audience, the university ones are always badly behaved.

Do you like the idea of becoming so popular you have to hide from paparazzi?

No, it sounds horrible. That's the worst thing about fame, isn't it? I'm close friends with a comedian who's recently become significantly more famous than he was a few months ago. He doesn't get paparazzi but he gets loads of people wanting to do selfies with him, all the time. He gets stopped every thirty seconds. It's infuriating to be with him, so I can't imagine how bad it is for him.

But do you ever feel a bit of jealousy towards that?

Genuinely not. The first time it happened I thought it was quite cool. But when you've done ten when you're trying to walk for a meal, it gets quite annoying. People are actually quite rude about it. They don't mind interrupting you when you're having a meal with friends. Even if it's just a few of them it takes ages, I feel sorry for them.

Fair enough. What's the most awkward moment you've ever had with another comedian?

Alright, okay. Basically, there was this comedian whose daughter I had gone out with at university. This was before I was a comedian. I knew her dad was a comedian and that's how I got to talking with her. I was like "that's the coolest thing in the world, your dad's a comedian." We dated a while but it didn't last very long. Then about four years later I met him in at The Comedy Store, and he brought it up. He said: "My daughter says that she knows you." I was just sat in the dressing room thinking I can't tell this man I've seen his daughter naked. I can't mention that.

Was it a rough break up?

No, not particularly. It was just their precious little daughter, and the other comedian on the bill that night did know. And he was just laughing the whole time, when I was trying to be as vague as possible.

It's all comedy.

Yeah, I just can't tell you the name of that person.

So about your set, do you think it's important for audience members to come out of a show with a changed perspective?

I think it's important, but it's not necessary. Someone once told me, and it's a bit pretentious but I think it's true; that audience members will forget how much you make them laugh but they will never forget how you make them feel. Obviously, you need laughter. But I always try and aim for an emotion pull at the end of the show, or in the middle. I think it adds an extra element, there are loads of really funny shows. But there's a balance.

I don't think you need to have a message. This year, there's a bit of a message but not a preachy message. In the past I've had a kind of moral at the end of it. Because I tend to do story shows, they have a moral at the end. So that's the only reason mine tends to have them, but most shows don't.

Leading on from that, when you're choosing your material do you prioritise story or comedy?

So, I guess it's a mixture of the two. For this show, it's about working in Summer Camp in America, when I was eighteen years old. I chose it because I thought there would be a lot of comedy in it.

I was eighteen years old, out of my depth, kids do all sorts of things, lots of thing stuff could go on in that world. But a bigger reason for choosing it was because I thought it had a more engaging story. It had a good beginning, middle and end because the Summer Camp was in a set time frame.

I think you can make most stories funny, but it's hard to make them engaging. My last show was about me getting a girlfriend so it had an obvious arc. Long story short: I pick it for the interest rather than the funny. But its got to be funny. There's always a danger when you're doing stand-up and it just becomes storytelling. But then some of my favourite shows are the storytelling ones. Sarah Kendall has done three of my favourite ones of all time.

When you were approaching this show, where did your use of sound clips come in?

So we have these announcements, as if you were at a camp. They were a way of pacing the story to skip quickly between the sections, they gave me a breathing room; almost to reset the audience. You hear the announcement then it's the next chapter. It drives the story, each one is a turning point in the story.

I think there are six. It's funny, my tech has the script of the show and sometimes I mess up and say the wrong line first, and end up missing some material. That's happened a few times because I've never used cues before really.

Would you use it in your next show?

Maybe. It fits with the Summer Camp theme. But I've liked it as a narrative tool.

How did you approach the element of having autism? It's quite a sensitive topic and it came up quite a lot in the show.

Well, it's a true story; I did go on a Summer Camp and it was a camp for people with learning difficulties. It was really difficult to write stuff and make sure it wasn't taking the mick out of autistic people. Because that's obviously not the aim of the show. The aim of the show is actually about putting out how great they are, about how the differences aren't that much.

It's definitely a very sensitive topic, and I think you dealt with it quite well. You were telling people what the disorders were about without boring them.

Man, that was the real difficulty. Most people have heard of autism but they don't really understand what it is. So there's a bit in the show, quite near the top, where I outline that I know what I'm talking about. We had some problems in previews where the audience didn't feel I had the responsibility to talk about autism. But actually I know loads about it. I have to show the audience I have the right to show the audience about it.

So I bring in some technical terms, to show them I know what I'm talking about. I'm not taking it lightly. As soon as you mention autism, you can almost feel it in the room, the change in the atmosphere. I think by the end, they're not worried. It was the hardest thing about the show.

Steve Bugeja: Summer Camp is on until 27th August at 5pm, at Just The Tonic At The Tron.