Dec Munro, who is behind a number of live comedy shows and venues, tells us more about what he does in his job.
Tell us what you do in your job.
I'm primarily a comedy director, teacher, dramaturg and work on some one-off projects.
I've recently directed Lara Ricote's first show Grl, Latnx, Def (which won the Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe last year), worked with Stuart Goldsmith on Spoilers (a work in progress show which won Best Show at the Leicester Comedy Festival) and have directed shows by Mawaan Rizwan, Sofie Hagen, Ellie Taylor, Michael Akadiri, Angela Barnes, Alasdair Beckett-King and others.
For the last 8 months I've been working with 8 new playwrights on the Sky Comedy Rep [development programme] and I've learned a lot and loved it.
How did you first get involved in the comedy industry?
I directed Sofie Hagen's first show Bubblewrap. I'd run and MC'd a monthly gig called Test Tube Comedy at the Canal Café Theatre in London with lots of brilliant acts and met them through that. Sofie said "I can't imagine taking a show to Edinburgh without you" which was a lovely way to get me involved. I thought they had seen I'd be a good director but they asked me to flyer for them. I asked if I could direct and they said "if you'd really like to but can you flyer as well please"?
That show went to the Fringe and won the Best Newcomer prize and other comedians asked me to help them. I think I also did a pretty good job flyering.
What key skills do you need to be able to do your job well?
Knowledge of comedy, empathy, ability to be a little tough, confidence in your own view on what is or might be funny with an ability to listen and be guided by the person you're working with, understanding of structure in shows.
I feel like comedy directing or advising on shows is a lot about being a point of accountability and taking real pleasure in helping someone find the best/most effective/most enjoyable way for them to talk about what they want to talk about.
What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
I've had a few career achievements I'm really proud of. I'm one of the team who founded The Bill Murray comedy club in London and I'm proud of what it's become with a brilliant team.
I've learnt to teach comedy (I teach at Angel Comedy) over the last few years and I absolutely love doing it. I've seen graduates from the courses I teach do really well (last year graduates won So You Think You're Funny?, The NATYs and were finalists in most major comedy competitions) and have taught some well-known people - Ritu Arya (actor), Luciana Berger (ex-politician), Jonathan Blake (BBC reporter), Ann Kaplan Mulholland (Real Housewife and entrepreneur) amongst many, which has been interesting.
I've absolutely loved being the Creative Lead/dramaturg on the Sky Comedy Rep in 2022/2023. Since October last year I've worked with 8 hugely talented new playwrights creating short plays (which will be on at the Birmingham Rep at the end of May).
And what has been the biggest challenge/disappointment?
I directed Mawaan Rizwan's wonderful show Juice in 2018. We sat down together in February/March 2018 and discussed it and, over a hot drink in Kings Cross, found the story of him being "annoyed" at the success of various family members (his mum became famous in India and was discovered through Mawaan's YouTube videos, his brother Nabhaan had his first role starring opposite Paddy Considine in the BBC show Informer).
It was a great show and I'm proud to have helped with it. It was optioned and is becoming a BBC Three TV show. Mawaan's ace and he and I had an agreement that I would be credited as the original live director which would have made my mum proud, but this was stopped by the production company. It sounds silly maybe but it made me pretty sad and pointed out to me how important it is, I think, to have people credited on work.
Talk us through a typical day.
Last Wednesday I helped a charity (Greenpeace) think about how comedy can help them in their messaging in the afternoon, and in the morning I worked with a new comedian for 3 hours giving them an outside eye on their Edinburgh show and worked on the Bill Murray/Angel Comedy weekly mailout during my lunch.
Tell us a trick/secret/resource that you use to make your job quicker/easier.
Quickly ask people if they are comfortable being given honest feedback and, if they aren't, how they want feedback. In my experience people then give you licence to be honest which makes everything easier and quicker and more effective.
How are you paid?
I'm paid per job generally.
If you could change one thing about the comedy industry, what would it be?
From personal experience: recognition and credit to people who've worked on shows (as director/dramaturg/anything else).
What tips would you give for anyone looking to work in your area of the industry?
Be proactive, work with good people, take a long view, realise that it's better in the long run to give very honest feedback and people can take it (this took me too long to figure out). Don't do it unless you love live comedy with your whole soul.