Justin Hamilton – The Goodbye Guy

By Lisa Clark

In 2007 Justin Hamilton changed the way he did festival shows and raised the bar for everyone when he performed his gorgeous, melancholy trilogy of shows about his love for Melbourne, a lost relationship and growing up in Adelaide, Three Colours Hammo. If any of you have been hanging out for another episode of the trilogy this is as close as it’s going to get. What’s more, it’s better.

Justin Hamilton is one of the best comedians in Australia and a master of taking his brilliant, hilarious stand up routines and working a sublime story around them in such a way that the whole feels organic and complimentary. Despite obscuring what is true and what is fantasy, it all feels like it’s coming from Justin’s gut. The plot of The Goodbye Guy revolves around an alternate yet hauntingly similar version of Justin who is famous for writing a humorous blog on a website called ‘The Crooked Smile’ but the culture has changed, it’s no longer making him happy and he’s struggling to realise that it’s time to change his life and move on.

Along for the ride, fans will be rapt to discover, are some familiar characters from the past. They include his nemesis, Jason Harrington (from The Killing Joke and Goodbye Ruby Tuesday) as the repugnant, successful, mainstream comedian made good and Kaliope his wise and mystical muse from Three Colours Hammo. These two play the good angel and the bad angel on Justin’s allegorical journey through his life and career. His comedy routines take the part of the blogs he’s written for the fictional website. Some of the routines are borne out of his actual blog and it is thrilling to enjoy them performed live. There are also tales as old as the hills appearing like old friends and new ones that had me falling about. Despite the many in-jokes for fans and those in the comedy community, Hamilton remains the everyman gag meister with hilarious stories about being mistaken for a New Zealand icon while touring with Greg Fleet and his inability to chat up women that will appeal to all.

Hamilton’s writing is cinematic with darkly humorous and romantic influences that include Woody Allen and, George Clooney’s film Up in the Air. Although it doesn’t stop being funny, there is a point where the stand up is left behind and that comes when Justin sits at his laptop to write his final blog ‘The Goodbye Guy’ while Bernard Fanning’s lovely ‘Weekend of Mystery’ plays for quite a lengthy time in a scene not unlike something from one of Daniel Kitson’s best story shows. A brilliant storyteller in his own right, Hamilton stretches beyond stand up to create theatre that’s more captivating and visceral than most of the stuff being produced by well funded theatre companies.

There are usually many shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival that advertise themselves as ‘must see’, but I can’t imagine that there will be anything as essential to this years festival experience as this. Justin makes it very clear that this will be his last festival show for the foreseeable future and although it is a devastating loss (because he is so damned good at it) I can’t wait to find out where Justin takes his talent from here. It’s a show about grief, about dealing with change, but most of all it’s about hope for the future and letting the child within dream.

The Goodbye Guy is on at The Victoria Hotel.

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2012/season/shows/the-goodbye-guy-justin-hamilton/

 

Dave Bloustien

by Lisa Clark

How did you become a stand up comedian?

I certainly never trained or applied for it. But there was a point when I looked back and realised I’d been doing stand-up and comedy writing all my life. Having said that, I do remember performing an entire Colin Lane routine for a camp talent contest when I was about 14, so I must have had an inkling. I didn’t start performing at open mic at the Sydney Comedy Store for another 12 years.

Who inspired you in comedy?

Growing up, I was a massive comedy nerd. My earliest stand-up memories are of Bill Cosby and Tom Lehrer on vinyl, but when I got a bit older I used to watch the Big Gig. I was a big fan of Anthony Morgan, Glynn Nicholas, Jean Kittson, The Found Objects and the Doug Anthony All-Stars, and I’d go see what I could at the Adelaide Fringe. I also went through a big Steve Martin and Emo Philips phase. The first full stand-up concert I remember seeing was Lenny Henry on SBS, and I was mad for Alexei Sayle in High School, so my tastes were pretty eclectic.

You’re obviously very busy at the moment. Is this why you’ve decided to perform your brilliant Moosehead winning The Social Contract instead of a new show (which was to be called The Grand Guignol)?

Yeah, there were a number of factors, but the biggest one was probably Randling. It’s a new show I’m writing for and helping develop for the ABC, and it turned out to need all my days, two of my evenings and bits of my weekends. Plus I’m co-producing two other shows, developing a sketch comedy show and (until recently) running a monthly comedy room in a bookshop. And being a dad. If I’d had time to think, I would have realised much earlier that I was an idiot and could’t get Grand Guignol as polished as I wanted in time.

But I was also particularly proud of both The Social Contract and A Complete history of Western Philosophy, and wasn’t prepared to perform Grand Guignol if it wasn’t up to the same level of quality yet.

Is it true that you will be doing a short taster of The Grand Guignol at the MICF this year?

Sure is! There are parts of it I’ve been developing over the last year at a room in Sydney called Arthur B’s. Every so often I’d go read out a new comedic horror story, so about half the show had already been written. It just wasn’t going to be polished or memorised. I’m no quite sure what the taster will be yet, basically an hour of stand-up, mucking about, some horror stories and maybe some impro. But I know it will be fun.

In reply to Justin Hamilton’s blog about performing his last festival show you tweeted: “Mine (current MICF show) must be about ‘realising last year SHOULD have been the last one”. I’ve had the feeling that Justin Hamilton has been putting off changing his life for a few years now, are you getting those feelings too?

Not really, but never let the truth get in the way of a good punchline. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the amount of work that’s needed to be a successful comedian. I’ve never had an agent or a manager, and I’ve frequently vowed to quit and be a full-time writer / improvisor. But being on stage is very addictive, particularly once you get to the point where most of your gigs are good ones. I don’t think I could ever stay away for too long. You look at people like Lewis Black and think: screw success, I’ll just keep doing this til I’m old and shaky.

Does having a child to provide for change your perspective on your career?

Yes and no. I was a comedy writer with a steady income before I was a paid comedian. The big difference with having a child is that it saps your will to tour. It’s almost impossible to be a successful comedian in Australia without the ability to travel around it. If it wasn’t for my daughter, I’d probably spend at least 4 months of the year doing festivals. As it is, I usually just do a few weeks.

Tell us what you can about Randling.

It’s a game show about words, hosted by Andrew Denton and starring an excellent and bizarrely eclectic bunch of talent. It’s been really strange hammering it into shape, but the shows we’ve recorded so far have been thrilling and hilarious. If I wasn’t having so much fun with it, I would have written Grand Guignol by now.

You’ve done a lot of TV. How does it compare to stand up?

I tend to be behind the scenes, which is both exciting and frustrating. I will quite happily write pages of jokes every day, but I often get very emotionally invested in what I’ve written, and that can be hard when the person you’re writing for rejects your favourites or (worse) likes your favourite joke but screws up the delivery. More often they pick a joke you threw together as filler and use their superior delivery skills to spin it into gold. But with stand-up, you have to own the material yourself then and there. It keeps you honest in a completely different way.

Do you see yourself leaving performance behind and becoming a straight writer?

I could never be a straight writer. It always comes out bent.

What would be your dream job?

Computer Game tester, purely because I fit the demographics so well. I’m in my mid 30s and 60% male.

Tell us about Wit Large.

I started Wit Large because I was becoming frustrated with the Sydney comedy scene. It felt like it wanted to appeal to the largest common denominator, and as a semi-literate nerd with an open mind, I wasn’t just wasn’t part of that audience.

So, I approached a bookshop about running a political, socially progressive and intellectual comedy room, which seems to have worked. (I wanted to call it Smug, but the bookshop wisely convinced me that wasn’t a great idea). Since then it’s evolved out of the bookshop and into a ‘comedy label’, largely thanks to Carrie Hardie, who acts as my organisational brain. We’re producing my show at the MICF, along with those of Jack Druce and Shane Matheson.

What is your favourite thing about The Melbourne International Comedy Festival?

People whose work I don’t know bring their comedy close enough for me to see it. And the people whose work I already know push themselves to create something new and exciting. Mostly, that friends of mine from all around the world come to Melbourne to work and drink like the blazes.

Give us 5 Reasons to choose your show The Social Contract.

1. It’s a heart-warming tale of the little guy (that’s me) going up against ‘The Man’.

2. It’s topical: ‘The Man’ went on the run late last year with tens of thousands of dollars from high school formals around NSW. I’ve no idea if he’s been found, but he certainly made the papers.

3. It has been certified funny by the Bondi Junction Small Claims tribunal, and I have the legal documentation to prove it.

4. You’ll be supporting the fantastic St. Ali cafe venue in South Melbourne, a truly independent hub venue run by comedians, for comedians.

5. If you don’t, I’ll sue. 😉

The Social Contract is on at St Ali
Click here for tickets and more infomation

Tommy Dassalo- Pipsqueak

By Jayden Edwards

Since coming runner up in Triple J’s Raw Comedy competition and debuting at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2006, Tommy Dassalo has pushed himself: dabbling in theatrics, illustrations, voice-overs and complex story telling. But its in his new show that he takes on his biggest challenge yet.

He’s a young, baby faced, squeaky voiced, self proclaimed “Little Buddy” to all and believe it or not, Cancer survivor. Yep, as a young child, Tommy was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and spent much of his childhood in hospital, and it’s this that Tommy ambitiously chose to source material for his new comedy festival show “Pipsqueak”.

Performing to a small Wednesday night crowd at Brisbane’s Powerhouse Theatre minus his desired backing artwork that Officeworks fucked up, Tommy jumps onto stage and dives into some casual stand up and banter, then drops the C bomb… (Cancer, not that other word). The audience is taken aback at first and things are a little uncomfortable but, like ripping off a band-aid, the worst part is over and the show comes into it’s own.

Tommy cleverly structures the show around a few letters he wrote and received during his childhood. It’s these letters that produce some of the more sobering moments of the show, and some great comedic opportunities to riff off little Tommy’s apparent naivety during the whole ordeal (like totally screwing up his Make-a-wish!). Tommy masterfully uses light and shade throughout the show, brilliantly using the darker moments to surprise attack the audience with punchlines.

The heavy subject matter of the show was risky, and to revisit and retell this story mustn’t have been easy for Tommy, let alone to an audience night after night. But with comic timing and story telling skills well above his years, the underlying trauma just adds a whole lot of heart and soul to an hilarious story based show.

Tommy’s style of stand up and mannerisms are not dissimilar to that of Micheal Chamberlin. On stage he’s quick, witty, confident and just so bloody likeable. He really is ‘the little buddy that could’, sure to be a highlight of this years festival, and in years to come.

Reviewed at Brisbane Comedy Festival

Performing at Melbourne International Comedy Festival
at Victoria Hotel – Acacia Room
215 Lt Collins St, Melbourne
29 March – 22 April
Click here for tickets and more infomation