People With A Passion: Lawrence Leung Talks Comedy And Career
Having worked as a comedian from an early age, Lawrence Leung has spent a lot of time finding elements of his past and present to mould into routines and material. Since the release of his first film, Sucker, in 2015 (based on his comedy show of the same name), Lawrence is looking to the future, and talking career and creative process with The Cusp.
Breaking into stand up: it’s all about the first laugh
Performing stand up comedy for the first time is a daunting task – it’s often the make or break indicator of whether someone will pursue it as a career or drop mic and go back to their degree. The first time Lawrence got up on stage it nearly went terribly wrong.
“I fell on my face! Biggest laugh of the night.”
Standing in the wings going over his material, he heard the announcer say that next up would be “Lance Long.” There was a round of applause followed by an awkward tension as everyone waited for this non-existent comedian with an Anglo-Saxon name to appear. Then the shoe dropped. “By then the ‘welcome applause’ from the audience had died down to a silence,” Lawrence explains. “I ran up to the stage and tripped as I was taking the mic. I fell on my face! Biggest laugh of the night.”
Gaining enough confidence to keep your feet firmly planted on stage “is all about the first laugh,” he says. “If I didn’t get that first confidence-lifting laugh, I probably would have crumbled and never continued.”
You never know where your work will lead you
Since the first face plant, Lawrence has gone on to perform shows at festivals around the world, has written two television series and has, in a professional capacity, beamed footage from his colonoscopy into space (“since aliens seem so obsessed with probing” he offers by way of explanation). It’s a winding path that would have been impossible to predict from the wings of that first performance.
When asked about how he had imagined his work panning out at the start of his career, he says, “15 years ago I had no idea where I’d see myself 15 years later. Around then I did start performing live stand up comedy and writing for the stage. The very first show I wrote for myself was Sucker – and it’s now a feature film.” If you’re producing work you’re proud of, you never know where it could lead you.
Create the stuff you’d like to see
So what is Lawrence’s creative process? He subscribes to the idea that if you really enjoy something or it resonates with you personally, then others will probably feel the same way. “I always make things that I would like to see as an audience member. What I’m interested in now – similar to most people I’d imagine – is sitting watching Netflix or the latest awesome shows on HBO.” Lawrence continues, “Now seems to be another golden age of television. I wonder if in 15 years’ time we’ll still have incredible TV stories and arcs that make us worry about spoilers, because we care about the show so much?”
You’ve probably already found your passion without realising
Despite explaining that he never had one career path in mind and wanted to be all kinds of things when he grew up, there is a definite theme of writing and creating in all Lawrence’s choices. “I had aspirations of being the youngest author on the planet,” he says. But this dream died a hard death when he saw an interview with a kid a year younger than him who had written a children’s book.
“I was making self-indulgent comedian-run podcasts way ahead of my time.”
“I also had a tape recorder and I used to interview my brother, Mum and Dad and any one of my friends who came over. I pretended to be a radio host and interviewed them about their lives—even if it was ‘so what did you have for breakfast’ and that kind of stuff. Gripping.” He pauses, then jokes, “It turns out I was making self-indulgent comedian-run podcasts way ahead of my time, so that was cool.”
Go with the flow and make good work
Looking forward, Lawrence is uncertain of where he plans to go next in terms of his projects. But that’s OK. “I just go with the flow,” he says. “I just like making good work, and I change themes to keep things fresh for myself – usually about things I’m interested in or preoccupied with at the time.” Stressing about the future is a waste of time because it never turns out how you’d expect.
He laughs, “Maybe in 15 years time I’ll be telling my stories while strapped in to a virtual reality suit, going in to cyberspace. Or maybe by then ‘Lance Long’ will finally show up to his gig.”
Tickets for Lawrence’s Comedy Festival show ‘Very Strange Things‘ are on sale now.
Elizabeth is the editor of Voiceworks, and has been published in Junkee, Film Ink, Metro, The Punch, and Lip Magazine. She tweets terrible puns @ElizabethFlux.