My Comedy Career: Gavin Dunn

Gavin Dunn

Gavin Dunn is currently starring in one of the funniest stage shows the UK has ever produced. But how did he get started, and what tips does he have for others looking to follow in the same path?

Tell us what you do in your job.

I am an actor currently playing the role Trevor [the Cornley Drama Society's lighting and sound operator] in The Play That Goes Wrong on the West End. The piece was curated by Mischief and is the longest running comedy in the West End so it's really exciting to be a part of such a monumental show.

How did you first get involved in the comedy industry?

After studying at The BRIT School I discovered a passion for both acting and writing scripts. I joined the National Youth Theatre and, from there, I started writing a sketch show with hopes of getting on TV. I had no idea what I was doing, I just focused on having fun and telling stories which both made people laugh and evoked thought through interesting themes and concepts.

I was lucky enough to pitch some of my ideas to Comedy Central who eventually commissioned some of my sketches under a web series called Unfiltered, which I wrote alongside fellow NYT alumni Aaron Robertson. Since then I've fallen in love with the challenges of comedy and continue to try and tackle it the best way I can!

What key skills do you need to be able to do your job well?

Firstly you have to be able to listen. In comedy, working as a team and keeping the rhythm of a joke takes concentration and awareness. In the nature of the play I'm currently in, when things go 'wrong' you have to be alive in the scene to make the adjustments needed to carry on.

The Play That Goes Wrong

It also requires a meticulous mindset when it comes to the minute details as these little choices can make a good show, great. Having moments only a few audience members may catch creates a unique experience for them which only comes if you dissect the work, do the due diligence for your character and leave it all out there for them to discover.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Personally, I think my biggest career achievement is what I'm doing right now. Making it to the West End seemed so out of reach not being classically trained. I felt detached from the theatre world but to be here now after doubting I'd be given the opportunity to perform is my greatest achievement. It taught me true patience and that no one is going to give you a chance, you have to be productive and create opportunity.

And what has been the biggest challenge/disappointment?

My biggest challenge has been committing myself to writing stories which have a personal connection to me. When you act, you are portraying an aspect of human nature which we can all relate to which is often outside of yourself; but writing about things close to your personal life is a scary thing to process. I think overcoming that is by simply doing, taking inspiration from my acting process and truly living in the moment and writing what I'm passionate about regardless of how it is received.

Talk us through a typical day.

I like to keep routine in my schedule so I am always ready to perform in the evening. Show schedules feels like the reverse of a 9-5 structure so before work is when I rest the most.

Most importantly, before anything I make the bed and list out what I'm doing before the show so I have a clear idea of how the day will go. It's difficult to manage a social life when the hours you are available doesn't match up with some of your friends and family, but catching up in anyway I can is what I prioritise, in order to keep relationships strong. It can get hard but I can't complain when I get to be in the sun all day (when it decides to come out!)

Trevor in The Play That Goes Wrong. Gavin Dunn

Tell us a trick/secret/resource that you use to make your job quicker/easier.

A trick for me is blending the use of the imagination and tangible memories when working on a job. I think the creativeness of the mind and the truth of a moment in your history should work in conjunction to bring the best version of a character. I do this by going around the stage or set and touching everything. I know it sounds weird but having a physical understanding of what an item is or what it feels like allows my brain to go further with what it can conjure up about that particular thing. It feels more real to me which makes me act more truthfully.

If you could change one thing about the comedy industry, what would it be?

I don't think I'm in a position to suggest change. I'm still learning about the industry itself and still discovering what works for me. I would say I don't want it to change in regards to the amount of risks people take. You can only develop in comedy by failing in front of an audience; in order to do that you have to take risks and push boundaries. As long as the industry allows the freedom to do so without being heavily critiqued then I think it is ok where it is. But, of course, there is always room for improvement.

What tips would you give for anyone looking to work in your area of the industry?

I think you need to be able to throw yourself in the deep end and get comfortable being uncomfortable because that's where the learning happens. Also, be kind to yourself! Laugh at the lessons you learn rather than judging the decisions you make that don't work out. I know personally I put so much pressure on myself to be great and as successful as possible, but at the end of the day you're trying to put smiles on peoples' faces and if you take yourself too seriously you'll never achieve that.

The Play That Goes Wrong continues at the Duchess Theatre.

Published: Wednesday 21st June 2023
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