Award winner and student Erika took this year’s North West heat of the Chortle Comedy Awards by storm. From Humber College in Toronto to finishing her final year at the University of Salford, Erika sat down with the Salford communications team to chat about all things international, all things comedy and all things university.
What do you study and what year are you in?
I am in my third-year of studying Comedy Writing and Performance. I have been studying at Salford since September 2018.
What drew you to comedy?
I am an only child and I need attention at all times.
Nah, it’s a pretty common story among comics but I was bullied a lot in elementary school and being funny and quick gave me the upper hand. That was my initial draw to it.
Many people have argued that you can't teach someone to be funny, so why study comedy?
I would agree. You can’t teach someone to be funny. That has to come from the person themselves. However, you can give people the tools, guidance and the platform to be funnier. Courses such as this one and the ones I have done in the past help you grow a lot.
How have your studies at the University of Salford complemented your studies at Humber College?
Both have helped me come closer to finding my comedic voice. I’m a more well-rounded performer having done both of them.
Humour often relies on context. How was studying internationally influenced your approach to your writing and performance?
I’ve had to burn so much material from moving here. I had a joke that relied on living in a melting pot so it would work in the States and in Canada but wouldn’t make any sense in the UK. It’s forced me to write a bit more broadly which I don’t think is a bad thing. I used to rely a lot on pop culture in my writing and it’s a bit harder to do pop culture stuff here cause we ingest different media. I now try to write jokes that would work in both countries to avoid burning more material.
If Canadians want to understand British Comedy, who are the top three comedians they need to follow?
I’ll tell you my top three British comics; Sean Mcloughlin, Alfie Brown and Jamali Maddix. When I went to the Fringe last year there is so much to see I didn’t know where to start. So I asked a buddy of mine, Tania Morin (a producer from Toronto) to tell me what shows I should go see. She mentioned those names among others and I watched all of their hours. I was blown away by each of them. The three of them are all so sharp and super funny. Watching them inspires me to be a better comic. I’ve seen a lot of other British comics since last August but they are still my top three.
Likewise, what Canadian comedians best exemplify what Canadians find funny?
I can’t speak for the entire country but Phil Hanley, Aisha Brown, Tyler Morrison, Keith Pedro, Gavin Matts, Brandon Ash-Mohammed, Hisham Kelati, D.j. Mausner, Jay Freeborn, Rebecca Reeds, Julie Kim are all amazing, super funny Canadian comics. Each of them has a very unique point of view and style. If you are a fan of comedy look them up.
Why do you think taking part in extracurricular activities, like competitions, are worthwhile during your degree?
If you expect something to happen to your comedy career just by doing things at university and nothing outside of it then that’s silly. No one’s going to hand you anything, you have to go out there and take it. Do as much as you can outside of the course. It’s impossible to be bad at comedy if you are doing it consistently. It’s a muscle you need to work on or it weakens. Hit as many mics as you can. The university is there to give you help. You grow as a performer/writer, they give you the tools to be better but you need to create your own opportunities. Put yourself out there as much as you can. The more comedy you do the better you become at it.
How will you be preparing for the Edinburgh Festival in August?
Just doing work out sets all over the town. Wherever and whenever I can.
Why did you choose to study abroad and how has it benefited you?
If I were to go to a Canadian university after having graduated from Humber, they would take some of my credits but I would more or less still have to do a full four years of uni to get a bachelor’s. It’s one year vs four years, it’s no contest. Even with the international fees and the conversion rate I’m still saving time and money with choosing to study abroad. It’s also a chance to see another part of the world. It’s benefited me a lot, I’m definitely more independent now. No safety net here of having my parents just a subway ride away.
This interview was originally published on the University of Salford blog and conducted by Emma. Click here to read the interview in its original context.