Danny McGinlay

By Lisa Clark

Last year Danny McGinlay wrote a correspondence article for Chortle Au called How to MC. It garnered a lot of positive feedback from the comedy industry and we’ve decided to re publish it here. Danny is currently out and about gigging interstate and has found the time to answer some questions about his career, his Festival show and the MCing article. He has recently performed as part of the inaugural Ballarat Beer Festival and is also an Ambassador for the Festival

What was the Ballarat Beer Festival like?

The Beer Fest was great fun. Four thousand people in the sunshine enjoying craft beer, no arrests. A brilliant vibe and will be even bigger and better next year.

You started at 16, how did this comedy thing come about?
The school I went to [Thornbury High] had a pretty good arts program, especially music. [Jordie Lane is a fellow alumni] I’ve never been particularly musical, but I loved performing and public speaking. The teachers would book me to host the musical nights and I would tell jokes and I guess it kinda grew from there. I played the Espy Hotel four days after my sixteenth birthday and it was a great rush. Although due to being underage I could really do comedy properly until I was 18. Since then I threw myself into it and here I am… still going with no desire to stop!

Who do you look up to or who inspired you in comedy?
My father comes from the same part of Glasgow as Billy Connolly, so growing up I listened and watched a lot of Billy, and every Saturday morning we would listen to The Goon Show on Radio National. I admit now I didn’t understand most of it but when you’re a child you just like laughing along with your parents.
I got right into comedy when I was about nine years old. I remember I taped a special off the tv called “Hey Hey it’s the comedians!” which was all the stand ups who had been on Hey Hey, I must have watched that about 100 times and can still recite a lot of the routines. This was the same time that The Late Show was on ABC, Fast Forward was really strong and I remember I used to fall asleep listening to 12th Man tapes.
These days I still love Billy Connolly, his comedy is just so flexible, whether he’s bantering with the crowd or telling a well prepared routine he looks so effortless. I would love to be like that on stage. Tom Gleeson looks effortless, I just finished a run with Tommy Dean and he is definitely effortless. Adam Hills is probably the most effortless comic in Australia at the moment. I MC’d for Adam a few weeks back and before I brought him on I had what I thought was some really good audience banter, then Hillsy came on and showed why he is the Dumbledore of audience banter. It was really inspiring.

You travel a lot, do you always enjoy the travelling?
You have to travel if you want to make a living from stand up comedy. I do like it, but boredom is a constant struggle. I play a lot of Word with Friends.

Did you live overseas for a while?
I did the customary two years in London that all comedians should do. I could have stayed but ultimately, although the comedy scene is better over in the UK, every other aspect of life is better in Australia.

What’s the reasoning behind your blog about Soccer?
Just like the cooking, it’s a way of turning a procrastination tool into something handy. I love the round ball game and spend a lot of time reading football forums and watching highlights so I thought I would at least turn it into a writing exercise.

You’ve done a lot of things including performing in films and on TV. Would you like to do more acting?
Absolutely! Acting is a great thrill and so different to stand up. You don’t get the immediate acknowledgement, you get to do it in a team and you usually get paid well!

If you had a dream job preferably related to your comedy work, but not necessarily, what would it be?
There’s many dream jobs – Cooking show host, Football Show host, Action Movie star, President of the Republic of Australia. I covet all of these jobs for the main reason that they would increase my profile and I would get more people to my stand up shows. Stand Up is my dream job and the more people I could play to the better!

Last year you wrote an impressive article for Chortle au about MCing a comedy night that we are reprinting in Squirrel Comedy. Did you enjoy the feedback from this article?
Yeah I’ve had some lovely things said to me from younger comics and even some established comics in the UK. The best thing is hearing that people are doing a better job at MCing. It’s a highly undervalued craft and there should be more discussion of how to do it well.

Do you have any general advice to younger comedians?
Read Zen and the Art of Stand Up Comedy by Jay Sankey. It’s brilliant.

I loved Food Dude, How did you end up cooking things live on Stage.
When I procrastinate, I cook. So I would always be trying to come up with comedic ideas whilst I was cooking, so I guess almost inevitably I came up with funny things to cook. People seemed to like the idea so I’ve kept doing it, fingers crossed something happens with it soon!

Do you have an interesting story that came out of the show?
I had a lot of Masterchef and My Kitchen Rules contestants come along, I don’t really watch those shows so I didn’t recognise them but my front of house staff got a thrill. The most exciting thing was, I was told a rumour that Heston Blumenthal saw snippets on youtube and loved it. I hope that’s true!

Your Festival show this year is called Danny McGinlay Learns Ukranian
The subtitle is
How far would you go for a Chick in Kiev
Deary me that has to be up there for one of the most astonishing puns in the Comedy Festival Guide this year!
Did the show come out of the pun or a real story? And did you really learn Ukrainian?
This show is based on a true story, last year I got engaged to my long term girlfriend and decided to learn her native tongue so I could make a speech at our wedding. The pun was conceived in a car in Hobart with comedian Gavin Baskerville. Gav has named a couple of my shows and has a great mind for titles and puns. His fee is a slab of Boags.

You are also doing Squeaky Clean Comedy during the festival this year. Are you planning to pop up anywhere else in the Festival?
I am indeed, Squeaky Clean Comedy is a nice night for people who want it kept nice. If nice isn’t your thing I am also involved in The Dirty Bits which is the direct opposite. It’s a nice compliment that people think I’m versatile enough to do both. There’s a few late night shows around town, Ben McKenzie’s Dungeon Crawl, Letters & Numbers and hopefully the Hi-Fi Bar as well.

Give our punters 5 reasons to see your show over others at the Festival this year.
1. There’s less chance of food poisoning than last year’s show.
2. From the advance bookings, we can tell that some nights there will be a lot of Ukrainians in the audience, and all Ukrainians are ridiculously good looking.
3. My show is on before Dave O’Neil’s so afterward you could meet a real 774 announcer.
4. The show cures the flu.*
5. All other shows are actually fronts for Joseph Kony.

*please allow 6-8 weeks for results.

Danny McGinlay’s Festival show is Danny McGinlay learns Ukranian Details here

Danny’s website

Danny’s football blog

HOW TO MC By Danny McGinlay

Being the compere on a comedy night fills many seasoned performers with trepidation. And rightly so – it’s a thankless, sometimes shitty, job. You are the canary in the mine, the very frontline in the battle between audience and comedian. You have to be likeable, create rapport with the crowd, and then, just as you have them where you want them, you have to humbly leave the stage for another act to benefit from your hard work.

You have to keep the night flowing, occasionally mop up blood and at the end of the night try to avoid the dreaded comment: ‘You’re really funny; you should be a real comedian.’

A bad MC will ruin even the strongest of comedy nights. Even if the audience absolutely love every other act on the bill, they will lose momentum whenever the host returns, meaning that the acts have to spend the crucial first few minutes of their spot recreating the energy that the bad MC has sucked out of the room.

With consultation from some of the great MCs currently working the Australian circuit, I have created a user friendly guide for new comics who are thrust into the scary world of MCing, starting from the basics:

Welcome the crowd, thank them for coming

These people have paid money to see some live comedy, so these people are golden. There are countless other things they could have done with their time and money, but they have taken a punt on seeing some comedy, probably featuring comics they have never heard of. Show them that you appreciate this.

Let them know how the night runs

A lot of people have never been to a comedy club before and don’t know the etiquette of how the show works. Inform them – explain how many comics are on, if any big names are performing tonight, how many breaks there will be, and when it would appropriate to go to the bar or toilet.

Make sure they are warm before bringing on the first act

Get them into the groove of hearing jokes, laughing out loud and then listening to the next one. In the age of television and cinema, people are used to sitting silently while being entertained. This is not ideal in a comedy club, so encourage the loud laughers and make the audience feel like a team.

Laughter is a form of communication, which is why we seldom laugh at really funny movies when we watch them alone. If we do, it’s usually accompanied by a mental note to share the joke with friends later, because it’s still communication, just delayed.

Laughing in a comedy club tells the other audience members that you are having a good time, but more importantly, it tells the comedian that you are having a good time. People need to subconsciously learn this behaviour in the first few minutes of the gig, and it is the MC’s job to train these Pavlovian responses.

Don’t do too long

If the audience is warm, if they are laughing at jokes and having a good time, then get off stage. Being an MC requires you to leave your ego at the door. Every comic wants to be the star of the show, but you have to remember that a crowd’s love and energy is a finite resource. If you take too much of it, then the night runs long and the later acts have to perform to a tired crowd. Not cool.

Be likeable

You are the first person the crowd meets, possibly the first live comedian they’ve ever seen. It’s vital that you do not scare them off. Justin Hamliton summed it up perfectly: ‘Treat the audience as if they’re a new friend, and all the comics appearing on the show are your old friends who you are introducing your new friends to.’

Try to begin with nice material on relatable subject matter that will appeal to most demographics. You won’t be on stage long enough to really develop your character with the audience, so avoid material that is too surreal, high concept or offensive. At least at first. If you do your job well and the crowd grow to trust you, you can lead them down your darker paths, but it’s imperative that you are first and foremost a fun, friendly person.

Introducing comedians

To be brutally honest, the audience doesn’t care what the comedian’s name is, as chances are they’ve never heard of them. It’s better to reassure the crowd that the comic is funny by telling them the highlights of the comic’s CV: ‘You might have seen them on Good News Week… they were nominated for the Johnsy award.’ This reassures the crowd that the next act is funny, or at least should be. It’s actually a lot more important that you say their name after they’ve been on, so people can make a mental note of their favourites.

Never slag off other comedians

Whatever petty little feud you have with another act, leave it offstage. The audience have come to laugh, not deal with the fragile egos of comedians.

Even if an act has bombed horribly, the comics need to show a united front. It’s a team sport and you must always back your teammates. In cases where an act has deeply and obviously offended the audience, it may be worth a little acknowledgement – ‘well, that was intense’ – but the best thing to do is move the show forward quickly and win the crowd back with some nice strong material.

Don’t do any material before a break or after the headliner

This is just plain rude. The acts who have just performed have earned their applause and adulation and deserve to be the last thing the audience experiences before a break or at the end of the night.

Also, think of the audience, they’ve been sitting still and concentrating and laughing for a long time. They might be busting for the toilet, keen for a beer or have an important phone call to some babysitters to make – and they’ve been primed to expect a break. Do the bare minimum then get off stage.

Before a break it is really important you suggest the crowd all buy a drink, the symbiotic relationship of the bar and the comedy night is dependent on the audience purchasing things. If the bar makes no money then the night will die. Remember that.

Talking to the crowd

There are a few schools of thought here, some MCs like to begin chatting in the opening section, whereas some like to play conservatively and save the banter until after the first break so the crowd feels more relaxed within the environment.

I would advise any new MC to take the second option. A lot of the general public have the misconception that comedy clubs are just like they are in the movies, with acerbic comedians looking for weaker audience members to savage mercilessly with a tirade of abuse and teasing. If you come out and immediately single out an audience member for a chat they may freeze like a deer in headlights. Remember, the audience want to trust that the comedian is funny, but you need to prove this to them first.

A good tactic when chatting to the crowd is to address them as a whole rather than individually: ‘Is anyone here from out of town?’ ‘Are there any students in?’ That way those who are willing to chat to you will show themselves. And remember, never ask a question of the audience without having material you can segue into if you get no response.

Inbetweening

A common mistake made by inexperienced MC’s is to think they have to do material in between every act. This is absolutely false. If the crowd is warm and really digging the show, then the better option is to bring the next act straight on and keep the momentum going. There are really only a few circumstances, in which you should be doing material in between acts:

  • Mopping up blood

Invariably, there will be acts who struggle – their new material doesn’t gel, they don’t click with the crowd or they are just horrible comedians. It is vital that after such an act you come on and reassure the crowd that the rest of the night won’t be the same. Not literally of course, but through doing some strong material of your own to whip them back into shape. An off comedian shakes the crowd’s confidence so you owe it to the other acts to get the crowd back onside.

  • Catching their breath

This is the opposite of mopping up blood. If an act has just blown the roof off a gig and walked off stage to an ovation worthy of the AFL Grand Final, you need to spend at least a full minute on stage so the crowd can finish their laughter and get back to the warm level where they are willing to listen to more.

If you bring the next act on straight away, they will be fighting the memory of the last comic and their first few gags will fall flat. You don’t need to do material, a well timed ‘How good was….? Let’s have another round of applause!’ Then remind them of some other acts coming up and what a great audience they are and by that stage they should be ready for their next act.

  • You have complimentary material

If the previous act has just done some great gear on their trip toUkraine, and you have a nice little piece onUkraine’s entrant in this year’s Eurovision song contest, then it can be a nice touch to perform that bit straight after the act, since the subject is fresh in the audience’s mind. However, you need to be certain that your material doesn’t tread the same punchline territory, or you’ll look like a copycat.

Troubleshooting

Lots of things can go wrong when MCing and they probably will.

  • Hecklers

If there is a dickhead in the crowd who wants to heckle, they will begin with the MC, and sadly it is up to the MC to see how much of a dickhead they are.

Some hecklers just want some attention and can be politely told that their input is unnecessary. In the case of a proper disruptive prick, engage them with some of your nicer put-downs. Coming out too strong will spook the rest of the audience and it’ll be an uphill battle for the rest of the night. If it doesn’t look like they are going to shut up, then become a human shield, tell the heckler that heckling the MC is all fun and games but it’s not cool to interrupt any of the other acts.

Then if/when they do interrupt the acts, start the smackdown approach. If that fails and if you can, get security to throw them out. If there is no security, then call them aside and explain to them calmly that they are only allowed to heckle the MC. For some reason being told one on one is a lot more effective than being told from a stage.

  • Chatty crowds

In so many ways, chatty crowds are so much worse than hecklers. Chatty crowds seem to think they are in their lounge room and can have a discussion about what they are watching. Most people are good natured enough to realise they are being rude and stop if just call attention to it.

If they keep chatting (and the promoter isn’t good enough to intervene) continue with your opening, get the rest of the crowd warm and bring on the first act. Then approach the chatters and whisper to them that they are disrupting the show and they should continue their discussion outside or even better, keep quiet. Often chatters will react better to the MC telling them this than the promoter because they know the MC is part of the show and they’re not faced with some stranger telling them to shut up.

I’ve seen legendary crowd wrangler Brian Nankervis do this to a room full of 700 trade unionists with an open bar. It was beautiful to watch. He silenced them all with nothing more than a smile and some well-placed: ‘Shhh!’

  • Forgetting the next act’s name

This will happen, being an MC involves multitasking and sometimes things will slip your mind. I find honesty is the best policy: ‘Oh god, I’ve forgotten who’s on next, sorry everyone.’ The crowd will forgive you and hopefully someone backstage will feed you the name. If you can only remember half their name then announce it and bluff the rest, remember it’s more important you say their name after they’ve been on.

And on the flipside – at some point an MC will say your name wrong. Do NOT correct them as the first thing you say on stage, the crowd doesn’t give a shit and you’ve wasted a valuable first impression. If you are funny, they will make a note of your name after your act.

  • The crowd is not into you

The other acts are doing fine, but the crowd is distinctly not laughing at you. Sometimes, this just happens, we all have off nights. It is particularly hard when you have to keep going back onstage to introduce the next act. If you have tried everything: speeding up, slowing down, a bit dirtier, a bit nicer, a bit absurd but still nothing, then keep smiling and bringing the acts on. Yes it sucks, but you are the host and the show must go on.

The end of the night

It’s been a great night of comedy. The headliner has just walked off after kicking arse thanks to the warm crowd you had ready for them. Back-announce the act with pride and tell the crowd how wonderful they have been, make them feel special, because they are.

Make sure all the people who are working get a round of applause, the bar staff, floor staff, sound, door bitch. Everyone deserves a mention. Reiterate that the bar is still open and the crowd should stick around for a drink. Name and thank all the comics again, mention yourself, humbly of course, then take your bow.

With thanks to Harley Breen and Justin Hamilton

This article was originally printed in Chortle.Au on 20/09/2011

Commedia Dell’Parte – Interview with Marcus Newman

By Lisa Clark

Marcus Newman took some of his busy time out of co-ordinating Commedia Dell’Parte to talk to Lisa about his experiences running this relatively new room in St Kilda.

1. Have you run rooms before?

I’ve never run a comedy room before. I am a comedy nerd though and I’m running it with a comedian buddy, Sean Ryan. We worked together before on videos, films and on a fairly well known podcast called The Scream. I come from a dance, music background, running nightclub nights and working bars and stuff.

Sean Ryan is busy elsewhere tonight. Sean has a show on at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival called 2 Dudes 1 Show with Craig Mcleod at Loop Bar.

2. Why did you start the room up

Sean’s been doing comedy for four years and I’m a massive comedy nerd and we’d said many times over the years ‘Why don’t we start up a comedy room? Run it the way we want to run it and have awesome people on’ So some time in June or July 2011 we said Why don’t we do it? Sean’s going to Uni and walked into class and asked ‘Does anyone know of a venue where we could run our comedy night?’ and this guy said, ‘Yes my friends have got a bar in St Kilda’ We were running, like, a week later. It was meant to be. We’ve got a strong vision of what we want and where we want to go, we’ve got branding which we’re putting on clothing like hats and Tshirts etc. We’ve got the Facebook and Twitter.

3. What is the concept behind it?

We want to look after young comedians and always have a couple of open spots, we also want to look after the slightly more experienced but what you might call amateur comedians like those that have become our friends, and then we have a well known headliner to round it off. So the young guys get to see the old guys and everyone gets a go. We are also keen to make sure everyone gets paid. We manage this despite there being no door fee, as the audience is encouraged to ‘pay as you like’ and we share the takings around.

4. What is your policy on newbies

If they come along to the night we will definitely talk to them and tell them how to get on at our room. The problem we have is when people just email us randomly. If they come along they can see how it works and we can give them some advice. We’ve had people on stage who’ve never been on before and we’ve had some comedians who’ve never Emceed before and we’ve accommodated them.

5. Do you have advice to wannabe comedians

Just go and see as much comedy as possible and get up on stage as much as possible. The only way you’re going to learn your craft is by getting on a stage.

6. What have you learned about running a comedy room, as say, opposed to a music venue.

People don’t really understand the concept of time very well. That can be the host of the show who’s having a great time and doesn’t realise that the night is dragging out or the comedians, then getting people back from breaks. I thought I’d just play the music at the right time and it would all happen, but no. You don’t want people getting tired, one night I even had to bring up the music like at The Oscars. So I think timekeeping is crucial for running a room and I didn’t really expect that before I started. You’ve got to really pay attention to the details.

7. Any favourite moments at the club so far?

We’re in StKilda on Grey St which is rather famous for prostitutes and one evening, a lady of the night came in, she wasn’t wearing very much at all and she just started spinning around! We used to have a bulldog that used to come in and sit and watch. Great moments are when great comedians just drop in and do a set like Jeff Green, Greg Fleet and Chris Franklin, who’ve heard about the room and wanted to give it a go.

8. How/why did you choose the unusual name?

The show title was Sean’s idea. Back in high school we were in a production of Commedia Dell’Arte play, “The Servant Of Two Masters” together. It was good fun. When starting the room I said we need a cool hip name like “Sacapuntas!” (the name of a well known NYC comedy night) and that’s what he came up with. He is clever! We took a couple of things from NYC actually. I loved the “Parte” bit so much, the theme song we play at the start of the show is Andrew W K’s “Party Hard.” Sean makes the joke, as Commedia has two M’s, Dell has two L’s and Parte is spelled with an E, we are probably the hardest comedy room in the world to find on google.

Find out info about Commedia Dell’Parte at their website here

Commedia Del Parte

By Colin Flaherty

Behind a nondescript door in George Lane lies the George Lane Bar. It’s located at the rear of the same building that houses the Melbourne Wine Rooms and the George Public Bar so it feels like a hidden-away rogue brother of the aforementioned drinking establishments. For the past fifteen months Commedia Dell Parte has been holding court here every Thursday night.

With its red lighting and asian themed décor, the room resembles an opium den or classy brothel (not that I would know what such places actually look like! It’s just an assumption.). This atmosphere is apt seeing as the bar lies a stones throw from the notorious Grey St in St Kilda.

Luxurious seating in the form of velvet couches and armchairs are laid out in rows before the stage to seat about 30. Additional seating is available on stools at the bar located near the back of the room as well as plenty of standing room in this spacious venue.

Even though not a lot is on display, this bar stocks a wide range of bottled beers and spirits. They are especially well known for their cocktails.

The night of comedy consists of a line up with about eight acts; a manageable number but it threatens to conclude past eleven when the performers disregard their allocated time. The talent begins with some new faces leading up to familiar names in the later and headlining spots.

Commedia Dell Parte works on the “pay as you feel” honesty system, trusting that punters will pay a reasonable amount for the night’s entertainment. Room organiser Marcus Newman farewells the patrons with his cash box, welcoming Gold coin donations as well as much appreciated notes.

The show starts at 8:30 so get on down there, grab a drink and support the local comedy scene.

 

 

 

 

The Little Dum Dum Club – Tommy Dassalo & Karl Chandler

By Jayden Edwards.

The Little Dum Dum Club has risen above a sea of local podcasts to become one of the most downloaded shows out there. It’s nothing fancy, just two blokes having a yarn, plus a special guest. It’s the shows simplicity and gosh darn likeable and self deprecating hosts Tommy Dassalo and Karl Chandler that keeps the listeners and guests coming.

With big success over in the U.S with the Will Ferrell backed “Earwolf Challenge” and the boys about to embark on a run of shows recorded live from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the show just keeps going from strength to strength. Karl was kind enough to let me pick his brains to find out a bit more about the show.

How did this beautiful partnership begin, how did you guys meet?
We met whilst working on Channel 31’s Studio A. We didn’t really know each other through standup, and it didn’t take long until Tommy fell for my irresistible charm, Hollywood looks and pleasant odor.

So, the podcast, how did the whole Sha-bang start?
Well, we seemed to enjoy mucking around backstage at Studio A more than actually doing the on-air stuff. We’d make each other laugh a lot before and after gigs, and thought that it was sometimes a lot funnier than what was happening on stage. And we thought a podcast would finally legitimise all the time wasted, hanging out and acting as stupidly as we possibly could.

So what’s the routine? How do you guys prepare every week? Straight into it?
We have a guest every week, so we’ll think about what we want to talk about with them, whether it’s questions about what they’re up to, or subject matter about our own lives that we think they’ll be able to riff on. We do feel the radio host grind a little.. we’re constantly looking around during the week for things to do that we can talk about on the podcast. Real life chews up a lot of content. I find myself praying that my girlfriend does something stupid.

Has your show changed/Evolved away from your original vision of it?
I don’t think the initial idea of the show has changed much. We always wanted a guest in every week, and to simply be as funny as we possibly can. I didn’t forsee us talking as much about our personal life as we have, and getting so many listeners, to be honest. It is that weird thing where you meet people who listen and they know everything about you. That’s when I remember that I’m not just in a little room, talking to a mate. I’m spewing the minutae of my stupid little life onto the internet for thousands of people to listen to instead of doing something productive.

You’ve managed to grab some pretty high profile guests, like Weird Al Yankoic and Marc Maron, how do you go about getting them.
Sometimes we know people, sometimes we know people who know people. Marc Maron was very kind to come and talk to us, and given that’s really how he’s made his name, maybe he felt like he should come and help out another podcast. Or maybe it was because we told him we were Hamish and Andy.

Last year you guys came 2nd in a reality podcast competition ran by U.S digital comedy site “Earwolf” . That must of been exciting?
It was! Tommy organised our entry to start with, and we really didn’t know what was going on.. but it quickly exposed us to thousands more American listeners, and ended up with us in Los Angeles and New York, performing on bills with Azis Ansari and Sarah Silverman.

So you’ve been going for a bit over a year now, who have been some of your favourite guests?
We loved having Shaun Micallef on the show, given than we love him and we were just really keen to try to get a laugh out of him. And we loved having American comedian Paul F. Tompkins on twice. He’s just a lovely, giving man and extremely funny. I think his episodes might be our best ones.

How about shockers? Any guests that just haven’t been into it?
Not really. Everyone who’s done the show has done us a big favour, and even if someone isn’t that into it, we feel it’s our job to cover for that, and be extra funny to make up for it. Having said that, Bob Hope will never be on the show again.

Do you have a dream guest?
We’ve been trying to get Tony Martin since we started, but we think someone must have told him that Mick Molloy is a Dum Dum Club cast member. Either that, or he has a life.

The live shows! Every Monday night during the festival, what have you got in store?
We have three special guests every show, and we’re currently booking big name, surprise guests now. We’re definitely having famous people that we’ve never had on before, and we’re working on some surprises that aren’t usually part of the normal podcast. We really love performing to a live audience, and we’re looking forward to meeting people that come to the show, even if it’s only out the front after the show, giving refunds.

Click here to grab the show from Itunes
Or Non itunes: http://dumdumclub.libsyn.com/
Grab tickets for Little Dum Dum Club: Live Podcast with Karl Chandler and Tommy Dassalo, every Monday night of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival here: http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/little-dum-dum-club-live-podcast-with-karl-chandler-and-tommy-dassalo/

Who him?

By Annette Slattery.

In the lead up to the Adelaide and Melbourne runs of Robert Lloyd’s new show “Who Me?”, he sits down with Annette Slattery and talks about fear, obsession, inspiration, Sherlock Holmes and, of course, Doctor Who and those bloody David Tennant comparisons!

Others have described him as a David Tennant look alike and many expected him to do a show about Doctor Who before now. So in asking Robert Lloyd where the idea for the show “Who Me?” came from, you could be forgiven for expecting an obvious answer.

“Who me?” came about as an accident.

Ok, not so obvious then.

To understand the course of this happy accident we have to go back several years to a chance meeting during the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Having a drunken night out on birthday celebrations Lloyd bumped into Sarah Bennetto. Bennetto invited Lloyd to appear in her festival show Storyteller’s Club and, with very little stand up experience, Lloyd accepted. Unsure about how to approach the task he turned to a long time obsession for inspiration.

I came out and acted out “Scandal in Bohemia” which is one of my favourite Sherlock Holmes stories…it was a little bit funny doing little asides about it, so the comedy crowd were a bit confused about what was going on , I was very nervous and it was very exciting.

It was director and collaborator Scott Gooding who saw the idea’s potential that night.

Lloyd and Gooding first encountered each other at ‘Doctor Who Nights’, nights which involved a bunch of self confessed Doctor Who geeks getting together and spending time together watching Doctor Who. After Lloyd spent a week ‘Doctor Who flirting’ with fellow comedian Ben McKenzie in Adelaide he was given the official invitation to the revered sanctum.

Scott and I, originally (he’s gonna hate me for telling you this) but originally it was a very prickly relationship. He was the only one there who was always very bitchy and short with me and always cut me down…I found out he was jealous cos he was Ben’s first wife. But then I showed up on the scene and then I was the mistress, I was the other woman, When I arrived Ben and I shared pizzas together, drinks together. So Scott was very jealous of this. So once I snapped back at him and then he went ‘ok’ and then we became friends.

When I wanted to do my first show I always wanted to work with Scott just because I trust him and he pushes me and challenges me and we’ve got a great working relationship. We’ve been working out of each other’s pockets for the last two years and we’ve never had an argument or a disagreement. I trust him implicitly with where he wants to take my show; he lets me make a fool of myself in rehearsals and go a bit too far. We complement each other really well.

So together Lloyd and Gooding developed and launched “A Study in Scarlet” at Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2010.

A Study in Scarlet came about because I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes ever since I was in high school. He’s been one of my longest obsessions.

I just wanted to tell the whole story in an hour. ‘Cos that’s where I come from, I come from an acting background. And I wanted to work on characterisations and me performing as many characters on stage by myself. But Scott was the one who encouraged me to talk about my experiences

That show was a mixture of me acting out the first story and also telling stories of my obsession with Sherlock Holmes. When the show finished we got a lot of great press and a lot of people wanted to hear about my stories and I’ve never been interested in that because I see stand-ups and some of my favourite comedians and they’ve got fascinating stories, interesting stories and I never thought my stories were that interesting or that anyone would be interested in hearing. So when we started working on the Doctor Who stuff I never thought there was enough for an hour show

There was a line in the opening of [“A Study in Scarlet”] when I said “before driving, before sex, before comedy, even before Dr Who, in my life there was always Holmes”. So after we finished that show pretty much the first thing everyone came up to me and said was “so are you gonna do Doctor Who next?”

I never intended to do a Dr Who show. There’s been ideas in my head and I’ve been working on a radio play about Dr Who but that’s a serious Dr Who audio play.

I’ve been coming up with ideas and I’ve been developing routines to deal with the constant regular questions I get ever since Tennant took over.

Lloyd has been continually compared with Scottish actor David Tennant, particularly after Tennant took over the high profile role of the tenth Doctor. It was kind of cool at the start, Lloyd says about the comparison. The first time I saw an image of Tennant…was a headshot that they used, and just from the angle it looked like [he was] a lot more round faced. But then I saw Casanova and I went “that’s a bit weird’ and then I saw Blackpool, which was amazing, and I went “that’s a bit weird’.

Then Tennant took over the Doctor for the first time. At the start it was pretty cool, says Lloyd. We were promoting “Hound of the Baskervilles” which was The Hound’ss first show and we were handing out flyers…and people were coming up “Oh my god you’re the new Dr Who, I’ll come see the show just cos you look like “Doctor Who”.

Awesome! Cool! Yeah I don’t care, I’ll haul myself out for that, it’s not a problem, and I was excited ok. A guy who kinda looks like me getting the doctor.

But it’s got to the point now that Tennant’s moved on and I’m still getting people saying it, It’s just a weird beast that I’ve had to deal with, it’s such a small bubble of a community…Doctor Who’s been such a big part of my life and the Tennant stuff has only been a small part of it.

My favourite people in the world come up to me and go ‘you look nothing like him’…and that’s why I married my wife…one of many reasons…she doesn’t like the way that David Tennant looks…she goes “you’re far more attractive than David Tennant, he looks like a weasel”. And I just go “I like this girl, I like her a lot”.

Both “A Study in Scarlet” and “Who Me” emerged from Lloyd’s obsessive nature, which he can trace back to childhood.

My favourite…source of inspiration was my aunt who lived with my dad’s parents, my grandparents on my dad’s side. They lived in Sydney, so every time we went to Sydney it was always a treat, we always went to the movies there…and we got to go see live shows as well, I got to see my first professional play, but what my aunt had (she was a theatre lover as well) she had a big book of who’s who of actors and so it had actors from A-Z. It was released in the eighties so it only went up to a certain point, but any actor I wanted to look up I’d turn to their page and they’d have a big chunk of all of their movies and a big autobiography about them and so that’s where I could find out about actors I adore now like John Hurt, Roddy McDowell, Alec Guinness, all these obscure actors, that was it you had to go look through books or magazines, or talk to people.

It’s that whole Indiana Jones thing, it’s the whole romantic view of you as an obsessive nerd going out and hunting it down and finding this rare thing and going to a second hand bookshop or going to a library and finding a rare autobiography or biography, of the people, and you can still do that to an extent now, cos we get a very limited release of DVD’s and books out here so it’s good to still go find extremely rare DVD’s that aren’t even released here anymore or were released for a couple of weeks

Or rare books…I’ve found so much stuff about little obsessions of mine…like rare video or DVD copies of Sherlock Holmes interpretations that I can’t get here, I’ve got online really cheaply, books on my favourite silent movie actors I’ve been able to get online that I can’t get here or they’re too expensive here, so the element is there but it’s not as hands on. It is a little bit cheap just clicking a button here and there and you get it in a couple of weeks…I much prefer the good old days of making phone calls…going down and picking up the big VHS copy tapes, and the massive books…

If I’m stuck on one thing I stay with it…explore it as much as I can; read everything I have and go ok good, it shifts from one thing to another, especially now in the era of the DVD box set.

From 2006 – 2010 Lloyd worked in comedy trio “The Hound’s” with Adam McKenzie and Teagan Higganbotham. I asked him if he was going to work with them again.

I not sure…I’m really excited by the fact that Adam and Teagues are doing stuff. (Higganbotham and McKenzie are still working together, under the name “Watson”.)

Anything’s possible, adds Lloyd, it’s just I’m at the point now where I was so stuck in a way of performing for ten years, working with groups and I’m really enjoying the fact that I’m 33 and I’m doing shows that I have no idea what’s gonna happen. I’m really taking risks. For most of this year, for eight months I’ve been absolutely terrified about Who Me. Going to rehearsals has been exciting it’ s been exhilarating and Scott’s been great but just been sick with fear not knowing. What’s gonna work. Is it gonna be funny? Is it gonna be interesting? Are people gonna be enjoying it?…Is it gonna be a good tribute to this obsession of mine? Is it self-indulgent? Is it too self indulgent? Is it not self indulgent enough? Is it interesting? Is it too cut up? All these paranoias and fears we get as performers. I haven’t really been used to it cos I’ve been doing improvisation for most of my life, I get up on a stage and I know what to do and there’s no fear there. When I went to Uni …I discovered improvisation and that’s when I was hooked and I decided that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life…out of all my subjects at my Uni [improvisation] was the one that I got my highest mark for where other students just passed by… so I was fully aware that I was a freak who actually enjoyed getting up on stage with nothing whereas everyone else preferred their scripts and their rehearsals and their character development…Standing up on a stage with script that I’ve written and worked on and developed, that’s more risky for me.

Improvisation is something that Lloyd has become well known for, since his earliest days in Melbourne.

I’d been doing stuff with Impro Melbourne for a little bit…I was in my twenties and I’d just moved to Melbourne and I was young and I was impatient and I wanted everything to happen now, says Lloyd, admitting that his headstrong attitude led to a clash between himself and other performers. By the end of my time there I was kind of blacklisted

After helping out at the Comic’s Lounge Impro night he was offered the chance to run that.

We invited like comedians just to come down and we’d hang out for two hours and we’d do workshops and improvisations and we’d do a show for two hours and it just grew. ,

Lawrence Leung came down; Andy McClelland was one of our regulars; Charlie Pickering. So these high calibre performers, it was their chance to come down on a Sunday afternoon and just jam and just experiment and explore things they normally wouldn’t get to do with their stand up.

After building up an ensemble which included the likes of Adam Vincent, Madeline West and Cameron Knight “The Crew” became “legitimate” in 2003.

I look upon that time very fondly, it was one of the favourite times of my life…I ran my own company the way I wanted to with performers I wanted to be involved…The friendships and the skill and the performers and the atmosphere and the attitude and the company nature we had was always a highlight for me.

I asked him if Comedy is Art.

I think so, very much so, and some of the greatest comedians who I worship with a passion are pure artists.

He lists some of his greatest heroes as:

Comedy wise, old school, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, I love Harold Lloyd…Jack Benny I adore…Jacques Tati, he’s like the comedians comedian with his physical comedy in a sound era…One of my favourite comedians recently is Dave Gorman. Dave Gorman is a huge influence on me over the last couple of years…I like him when he talks openly about his obsession and his storytelling skills are just phenomenal.

A less public aspect to Lloyd’s life has been his teaching career. Teaching high school drama in Dandenong, this profession has run concurrent with his time with The Crew, through working with the Hounds and into his solo career. And it’s a role which Lloyd treats with the respect it deserves.

One of my key points when I got into teaching was to be the type of drama teacher I wanted to have when I was in High school, says Lloyd, referring to the parade of part time Drama teachers he was subjected to in his high school.

One rule I always set myself was that when I’m at school it’s their time. A lot of Drama teachers and people I’ve seen like to get up and say well this is how I do it…School is for them and my stage is my time…And then Summer Heights High came out so I made a point of never getting a comparison with Mr G.

I’m getting back into directing school productions… some of my proudest moments were to sit back in the audience and watch these students perform serious, legitimate, adult plays, not your high school plays which I detest.

I asked Lloyd what was on the horizon for him.

2013 is the big year because that’s the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who so we’d love to take it on tour and take it overseas, there’s a lot of life in this show.

And what about that third piece in the trilogy he hints at at the end of “Who Me”.

Can’t tell you but I’m glad you asked, It’s gonna be awesome though, it’s gonna be pretty fun.

Robert Lloyd will be performing “Who Me” as part of the Adelaide Fringe at Jahz from the 6th – 17th March. See www.adelaidefringe.com.au for details.

He will also be performing “Who Me” as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival at St Ali Cafe from the 10th – 21st April. See www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.