by Lisa Clark
Since June 2012 Russell Wigginton & Doug Gordon have been hosting a podcast about starting out in comedy in Melbourne that asks guest comedians about their experiences. Meanwhile Doug and Russell are learning from their own experiences of starting out in standup and share those on their podcast with us.
For the first time Open Mic Life will be having live recordings at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. So I thought I’d ask them about their podcast and what we are likely to expect.
How long have you both been doing Stand up?
RUSSELL: I’ve been doing it for about 2.5 years and I am hoping that Doug is going to start anytime now!
DOUG: About 2 and a half years actually
What made you want to do it?
DOUG: I was always funny in school, loved comedy needed a different creative outlet other than making music and short films. I knew nothing about doing stand up except that it cost nothing, you didn’t have to rely on anyone else and you got all the credit. So I gave it a crack and everything just fell into place and I haven’t stopped. Stand up made me feel normal about being weird.
RUSSELL: What made me want to do it? – The untold wealth and pussy!
Who in comedy inspired you?
RUSSELL: Everyone who ever made me laugh! I was watching Monty Python at Primary school and things just snowballed from there.
DOUG: Tony Martin, Mick Molloy, Greg Fleet, Shaun Micallef, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Hicks, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr
What inspired you to start your podcast?
RUSSELL: Doug’s just told me one day about his idea and I pointed out to him that he needed some talent to help him do it. Unfortunately no one else was available so I stepped in.
DOUG: I wanted to do a radio show as another medium to get my funny ideas out there and I’d started listening to podcasts like: Get This, The Little Dum Dum Club, WTF and realized they leave the radio for dead. No music or ads, just comedy – performed to a direct audience/fan base instead of people who randomly listen. I also wanted to have different comedians that I’d become friends with to be guests on the show and thus the concept was born.
Is maintaining a podcast and a stand up career hard work?
RUSSELL: The use of the word career in this question kind of negates any serious answer. If this is a career then times are very tough indeed, in fact I may have to sell a kidney.
DOUG: I don’t know, as I don’t have a career yet. The podcast is enough to keep me on my toes but not enough to be overwhelming.
Where do you usually record it?
DOUG: In a wrestling ring on a space ship aka my flat in East Malvern
RUSSELL: We usually say ‘a wrestling ring on a space ship’ but the reality is in stark contrast to that. We don’t want to put off future guests but as stated we actually record in Doug’s flat which is a kin to an abandoned crack den. Tripadvisor.com should really do an expose of that place and get it condemned. I wouldn’t keep chickens there.
Do you think having choosing a niche area about stand up (i.e. beginning a stand up career) helps give your podcast a hook and makes it special? Are you going to stick to that niche (starting out in Melbourne) or branch out?
DOUG: It definitely gives it a hook and makes it special. There’s like 1,000,000 comedy podcasts out there both in Australia and around the world and while some of them discuss stand up, it’s always from a pro’s perspective rather than someone who’s just starting out. This is something open mic comics want to listen to or anyone thinking about getting into comedy. I feel it still fits the format though of appearing as a normal comedy podcast with 2-3 funny people riffing off each other, the topics of conversation are more focused though. We’re trying to stop the Melbourne references to expand our audience but all in good time.
RUSSELL: Yes – as the Bee Gees sung in the early 80s – “Niche is the word” or something to that effect. We feel we’re producing a unique podcast. Just as a note about the use of the word special in that question. Doug has always been special, in fact he went to a school for a while before he got expelled that had the word special in its name!
When do you think you’ll stop being beginners and do you think the podcast will stop being about beginning and just be about general stand up?
DOUG: I’ll stop being a beginner when I start getting paid to do comedy full time and that won’t happen for years. At that point we’d probably bring the podcast to a natural end as it’d be weird to rename it “Mic Life” and have it about pro stand up. There’s already too many of those podcasts out there anyway.
Having spoken to so many comedians about their experiences, what is the most interesting/surprising thing you’ve learned?
DOUG: How many people genuinely love talking about comedy and how passionate they are about it! It still blows my mind that others feel that way and I don’t have something wrong with me.
RUSSELL: That there are still some people who think the RAW comedy competition is worthwhile and based on talent. Also The Nelson Twins are actually female and their beards are fake, just like their breasts.
Who would be your dream guest?
DOUG: Bill Burr for his voice and Jimmy Carr for his knowledge on comedy. Both have totally different approaches to stand up so either way it’s be interesting
RUSSELL: Lance Armstrong – he’s got loads of great made up stories and clearly has a very creative side, which he doesn’t mind exploring in interviews.
Tell us about your live podcasts coming up at MICF 13?
RUSSELL: If you listen to the podcast on itunes then you’ll know what we’re all about. The live shows will very much be an extension of what we have been doing week on week, with the added bonus that the audience will be able to enjoy the show as it is recorded and we’ll even throw the floor open to let them put questions to the guests we have on the each episode.
Have you done a live podcast before?
DOUG: We’re new to the live thing, but we’ve got plenty of hours at the coal face doing the regular show.
Are you nervous about doing it in front of a live audience?
RUSSELL: Doug still gets nervous if he has to pee at a urinal when someone is standing behind him so I am guessing he’ll be shitting himself at this prospect. Don’t worry I’ll carry him as is the case on all our pre-recorded stuff.
DOUG: Definitely not, I’m pumped for it!
Did you get advice from other podcasters about putting it together? [45 mins seems a very short time for a recording btw]
DOUG: Not really, though I’ve seen a few live podcasts now so I have an idea of how we’re going to adapt our show to a live format. 45 min is great for episode length, especially with next to no editing and non-stop laughs.
RUSSELL: We usually knock over our recordings in 45 mins and then spend a week editing out all the shit jokes and anything that is totally false or libellous.
I notice that neither of you are doing your own stand up shows at the festival, have you done them previously?
RUSSELL: No – My wife and I are expecting our first born child on the first day of the live show so to have booked a whole run through the festival would have been plain stupid. Doug only has 15 minutes of material over 7 minutes of which is shit so he‘s not doing a show!
DOUG: Nah, I’m self-aware enough to know my place and that doing a solo show not even 3 years in with only 15 min of material isn’t the best approach. You only get one debut show and I want to be experienced and good enough to make that show a brilliant one.
[I know you’ll put a lot of work into the live podcasts but] does it feel a bit easier than getting a show of Festival standard stand up together? and/or Do you think it’s a good way into the festival for you guys – to be doing what you’ve been doing comfortably for several months now?
RUSSELL: You should sack your source – We’ve put minimal work into the live shows!
DOUG: It’s easier yes, but we didn’t really opt for the live podcast as some cop out for not doing solo shows. Ideally if we’re still doing the podcast in the year we debut solo shows, then we’d still be doing live podcasts as well. I think taking the podcast live in front of an audience adds a new edge and energy to the podcast and keeping it fresh.
Do you see a time when your stand up might take over your life and you’ll give up the podcasting or is it something you’d like to keep doing?
DOUG: Definitely not. Stand up already dominates my life but Open Mic Life is a part of that. In fact, I’ll be delving further into podcasting after the festival as I’m planning to also launch a 2nd comedy podcast to be released every week simultaneous with Open Mic Life.
RUSSELL: For me a fictional Dr. Who villain is more likely to take over my life just now. Oh, and quite possibly my first born child.
Do you think the podcast thing is a fad that will pass or is it going to replace radio?
DOUG: I think radio is dying a slow death. I can’t remember the last time I heard a good show on the radio and even when you do it’s cheesy, watered down and filled with bad music or ads. Podcasts allow the listener to find shows on topics that they’re interested in and most of the time it’s free and no ads. On demand media is the way things are going and I think we’ll be better off for it.
RUSSELL: I don’t put podcasts in quite the same bracket as ‘Planking’ or the ‘Harlem Shake’ so hopefully they’ll have a bit more of a shelf life than this year’s X Factor contestants. As we all know video killed the radio star and Oscar Pistorius killed his girl friend. (That’ll teach her to get him socks for Valentine’s Day). I’d quite like to do some radio stuff so I hope it doesn’t get replaced anytime soon.
Do you think performers will be able to make a living from podcasting?
DOUG: Yes, if the podcast is good enough and has a strong enough following.
RUSSELL: We feel that our podcast is gold and are pretty disappointed that Apple hasn’t stumped up a 6 figure deal for us to date. I mean, it’s not like they’re short of money. Again it depends what standard of living you’d find acceptable. If trawling through the bins in Albert Park looking for your next feed and sleeping on Flinders Street station steps is all good then we’ll live like kings off the royalties from our festival show.
Open Mic Live will be recording live in front of audiences during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Bookings are on the website http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2013/season/shows/live-podcast-with-doug-gordon-russell-wigginton-open-mic-life
The Open Mic Live Podcast can be downloaded from iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/open-mic-life/id535031899