Face painters and balloon modellers, beware! The world of children's entertainment just became a more challenging business thanks to Ian Billings' stand-up comedy act. JERRY LYONS speaks to him about what it's like to try to keep an audience of hyperactive young people chuckling
THERE are not many people in the country doing stand-up for children."
So says Ian Billings, comic, poet and author, who is taking his child-orientated comedy show all over the UK.
The validity of Ian's comment certainly stands up to scrutiny as, following a Google search, I found very little in the way of children's stand-up comedians.
The thought of trying to keep a theatre full of kids amused does not just scare me, it fills me with nausea-inducing panic.
Ian, who worked as a teacher before beginning a career in writing child-focused entertainment, took his original idea to the stage in Edinburgh two years ago. The initial response was so positive that he decided to take the show, Talking Pants, to more venues.
"I felt the idea was a good one. It's about time stand-up comedy was open to kids and those kids could be presented with work that is both intelligent and thought-provoking.
"I'm bursting the balloons of the balloon-modellers and I'm smearing the face of the face painters. This is children's entertainment that weaves as much thought and intellect into its work as some of the best children's literature. And I make some really funny noises too.
"I have been involved with kids' entertainment for years and have never really been interested in writing material for adults. I find this work more challenging."
His latest stage offering, Out of His Mind, contains material aimed at an audience aged between seven and 11.
"When it all goes right, it can be absolutely wonderful. The sound of loads of kids having a great laugh is a fabulous thing and when the kids are happy the parents are delighted.
"Some of the topics I cover are character-led and other times the show descends into enjoyable silliness. If a gag or character fails to raise a laugh three times then I go back to the drawing board."
Ian's subject matter also includes a list of questions, that might just as easily be posed by members of his audience, including What is a snot monster? Do dinner ladies come from outer space? What is a Ninja teacher?
"I make loads of silly sounds accompanied by wacky voices but hopefully kids go away thinking about certain parts of the show."
* The show is on Tuesday, October 28, starting at 1.30pm and lasts approximately 55 minutes.
Tickets cost £8 from the Beck Theatre box office on 020 8561 8371.