296. Learning Comedy is like Learning a Language

This episode features a conversation with my friend Paul Taylor, who you already know from previous episodes of LEP. Paul is back from the Edinburgh fringe, where he was performing for the whole of August in a comedy show, and a couple of days ago he came over to the flat for a cup of tea and a bit of a chat. We started talking about the Edinburgh fringe and how it went for him. It was his first time and I think he found it very challenging because the audiences were hard to please, apparently they had some tough shows where nobody laughed, and he realised that the standard of stand-up comedy in the UK is much higher than he expected, but it was a learning experience. Then we ended up talking about the similarity between learning how to do stand-up comedy and learning a language. During the conversation I quickly decided to record our thoughts so that I could make it into an episode of my podcast. We wrote down a few brief ideas and then went upstairs to start recording. You can now listen to that conversation here in full. Also, listen to the end to hear some funny out-takes from this episode.

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The conversation is a little bit rambling, but that is a good thing
It’s a slightly disorganised chat because we didn’t plan fully in advance, but that for me is a strength because it means that you can listen to some authentic English conversation, meaning that it is natural – not scripted. This is English conversation as it happens in the real world. We’re not acting out a dialogue, and this is exactly the sort of conversation that you should try to follow, because ultimately it’s better for your English. It might be harder to hear and understand everything we say, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s good to get used to following a conversation in which you don’t understand or hear every single word.

Conclusions about Language Learning
During our slightly rambling conversation, we do come to some very good conclusions about language learning, which are written below. So, pay attention to the conversation because I think it does contain some good advice. As ever, please add your thoughts to our conversation by leaving a comment below. What do you think about our conclusions for learning a language? Can you add and ideas of your own?

Also, listen carefully in this episode because I will share some of my experiences of learning French, which is something people have been asking me about recently. You’ll see I’m a bit shy about this subject, but I’ll let you listen to the episode to find out why.

Can You Copy The Way I Speak? – Send Me Your Recordings!
In this episode Paul and I ask you to send me recordings of you copying the way I speak. So, please send me about 1 minute of audio of you doing an impression of me.
You can download my jingle here: Download LEP Jingle

Send your 1 minute (or less) impression of Luke from Luke’s English Podcast here: podcastcomp@gmail.com
I can’t wait to hear you copy my voice and my typical introductions.

Also, if you listen all the way until the end of the episode, you’ll hear some fun extra content that I added. So, our conversation lasts about 1 hour, and then you’ll hear some fun extra stuff afterwards.

If you would like to write a transcript for this episode, using a google document, just click this link. Google document for “Learning Comedy is like Learning a Language”. That’s it for my introduction, now here is our conversation.

*Episode begins – Notes below*

Conclusions about Learning Languages & Learning Comedy

  • It’s not what you know, it’s what you can do. You can know lots of vocabulary, you can know methods of learning – but you actually have to do it.
  • Surround yourself with people who are better than you.
  • Throw yourself in at the deep end.
  • Accept that you might have to be a slightly different person.
    E.g. as a comedy performer you might need to exaggerate aspects of your person, or play a role.
    When speaking English, it’s normal that you might feel like a different person with a different personality. Own the person you are in another language.
  • Learn from failure and don’t be afraid to fail.
    Failure is not the problem. How you react to failure is more important. Don’t let failures bring you down. Learn from them. Embrace failure and don’t let the fear of failure hold you back.
  • Don’t take it too personally!
    Be ready to take criticism, and try to look for critical feedback. It will help you to be better.
  • Cheat and cut corners!
    In comedy it helps to arrange the situation to your advantage. For example, prepare some responses for audience interaction – these can make the audience think you’re better than you are.
    Similarly in English, focus on having good pronunciation and people will think your English is great, even if your vocabulary or grammar are not perfect. If your voice sounds pretty good on the surface, this will impress people more than perfect accuracy or range of vocabulary.
  • Be confident, or at least be determined to fake it.
  • But remember to be yourself.

Paul & Luke

  • Orion team (Antonio)

    Episode 296 is Done. So it is up to other LEPsters to improve it.


    Thanks for your great help people.

  • ptholome

    Hi, Luke. I am transcribing this episode and my chunk is about recording the start of your episode as Paul proposed you to ask us to do. I did it then and here you go the new recording for this year.

  • Karolina

    Hi Luke! I have recently discovered your podcast and I felt in love!
    It is amazing! Thank you so much for your effort and time! This is it what I was looking for!
    Actually I’ve heard that listening how native people speak in their language it can be much more useful for language learners, because listening conversations stimulates this part of brain which is responsible for memorazing and learning languages.

  • Bella

    Paul’s Russian accent is really cool, my classmates spoke like that in our English lessons at school.

  • I love this kind of episodes where you just chat with someone in the podcast just rambling. I tried to listen to Sebastian Marx donc voila quoi podcast but my french isn´t that good to follow everything he says have you ever listen to it? I asume you knew it cause maybe you have share escenario with him.

    what about Paul´s English/Spanish/French podcast? sounds great i would listent o it always, your accent is awesome i could say you can imitate so good spanish that if i met you in the street i could never say you are english.

    I think mocking with the accent is a good way to enhance the pronunciation, i know many people who have lived years in USA or Europe and still has mexican accent, i don´t blame them but it´s better to try to copy the accent.

    I do that when i´m at french class and since i started doing that my french pronunciation has improved, but I still suck at french lol.

    Cheers to Paul and of course you Luke! Au revoir á la prochaine

  • Anonymous

    Hi Luke and Paul, fantastic episode. I’d like to tell Paul that your Spanish is really good, anyone would say that you are a native Spanish speaker and also your Spanish accent speaking English is very funny. No surprise the audience in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival were a little bit cold and didn’t applause very much because, wasn’t it a Fridge Festival? ( what a bad joke). Thank you Luke and Paul. Bye bye bye …..

  • Valentine Belets

    Hi Luke!

    It’s the first time I dare to write a comment on your website, so here it is!
    Thanks for all your pieces of useful information shared with the world! I have the greatest regard to you and your approach to your life and work, hobbies and stuff. With a reasonable traces of perfectionism, you show everybody how to bring your whole bunch of ideas to life. It inspires me a lot!

    Couple of years ago my teacher of english, which has been in UK several times, shared with me and other students in class three main features about english culture:
    -time is money.
    -as a consequence, it’s better to speak to the point.
    -at the same time “vague english” is an all-time favorite method of expressing ideas by native speakers.
    I saw it as a rather contradictory description.

    Being your permanent listener for almost two years already I finally puzzle this out. Your introductions give a clear understanding what the vague english is. Your thoroughly chosen tasks with “to the point” content in each and every podcast. And, finally, time is money appears not that often by kindly reminders of donations and modest advertisements of your audiobook sponsor.

    Wish you the greatest bravery to face your challenges of any kind!

    Looking forward to hearing from you. Literally.

    With greatest regards from Russia,
    Valentine B.

  • Mariam

    Hi Luke,
    This is a geat episode as usual, but I just wish it was less planned because the most enjoyabale episodes are the ones in which you’re just rambling without trying to make any point.I like how Paul is hijacking the podcast around the end of the episode :) Tell him he is the king of accents.
    Cheers :)

  • I’m thinking now, maybe in the future, Luke, you should ask LEPsters to record themselves copying whatever accent they want (American, Canadian, Scottish….). I think it’s a quite good idea.