Published: 10:00, 12 October 2017
| Updated: 10:13, 12 October 2017
Comedian Harry Hill looked on as school children took a break from lessons to deliver their best gags.
Wilmington Academy was treated to a visit from the You’ve Been Framed and TV Burp star on Monday afternoon as part of a tour of schools and book festivals to promote his new children’s novel Matt Millz.
Harry told jokes and gave tips to youngsters who could be the comedians of tomorrow.
Some of the boys and girls plucked up the courage to put the advice into practice and test some of their material, taking to the microphone in the school hall with mixed results.
Not that a joke falling flat at the age of 11 or 12 should be enough to put them off a dream career.
“Humour is a big part of being a kid and one of the things kids have that adults don’t really have is that they don’t have any kind of sense of having to laugh or laughing out of politeness,” said Harry.
“They have this great unguarded quality to them. Some of them are really good at telling jokes and some are less good and I think the ones who watch the better ones will learn from that.
“Undoubtedly the most important thing is to have fun with it and enjoy it, above all other considerations. The other thing is to try and write your own jokes that you find funny and hope that the audience will too.
“But the main thing in fact is just to keep going. If you’re dogged about it and really stick at it then there’s a chance you might succeed because it’s not always the funniest comedians that get on, it’s the ones who are the most pushy.”
Encouraging the academy pupils to perform for their classmates certainly tied in with the theme of his book, which follows a 12-year-old boy’s bid to become a stand-up comedian, first via a school competition and then a TV talent show.
The character is called after the real name of the comedian, who grew up in Staplehurst – Matthew – and his best friend’s surname, Mills.
He said of the story: “It’s partly about Matt Millz himself and it’s partly a kind of handbook on how to improve your act or become a comic.
“Matt Millz has this notebook with him and we reproduce pages from his notebook where he puts all the stuff that he’s learned about setting up a gig, how to plan your set list and the rest of it.
“It actually came about because I got a lot of letters from boys wanting to know how you become a comic and I would always write back to them, but I thought if I could put it in a book that might save me a job.”
As well as encouraging youngsters to pursue comedy and making sure it is an entertaining story in its own right, Harry is also keen to do all he can to get children reading.
Based on the level of enthusiasm in Wilmington, Matt Millz should be just the ticket.
“When I grew up I read a lot of books because, let’s face it, there wasn’t much else to do in rural Kent at the time,” said Harry.
“But part of writing this book is about encouraging kids to read and it is a book about a boy who wants to be a comic, so in the back of my mind I’m thinking that it might encourage boys to read too because they are less likely to than girls.”
Matt Millz is released next Thursday, October 19, priced £10.99 in hardback and £6.99 in paperback.