Adelaide Fringe Award Winners 2012 Announced

After another very successful Fringe where ticket sales were up by 10% The Adelaide Fringe Festival Awards were handed out yesterday. Michael Workman, who won best Newcomer at last years Melbourne International Comedy Festival won the Best Comedy award for his new show Mercy. Workman is originally from Perth and won Raw in 2008, which was his first year of doing comedy and that saw him flying off to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe. Workman will next be performing Mercy at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The other nominees were Andrew O’Neill for Alternative and Felicity Ward in the Hedgehog Dilemma.

The Award for Emerging Comedy Artist was given to UK hip hop act Abandoman who are Rob Broderick and multi instrumentalist James Hancox.

Best Children’s Presentation Award went to Brown Brown Brown Brown – The Kids’s Show by Dr Brown & Stuart Bowden.

The Pick of the Fringe went to sexy circus troupe La Clique’s La Soiree and The TalkFringe Award went to Mindblown a close up magic show by Matt Tarrant.

The Underbelly Edinburgh Award which comes with $27,000 went to beat box vocal percussionist Tom Thum for his show Strut & Fret and Tom Thum.

Full list of winners can be found on the Adelaide Fringe Festival site

Justin Hamilton somehow finds time to explain The Shelf Podcast

By Lisa Clark

The Shelf Podcast accompanies a comedy room curated by yourself and Adam Richard, was there always going to be a companion podcast?

That was always the plan.  We originally wanted to record the game show and put that up as a podcast but it would have cost way too much to put together.   We may do something like that in the future but for now it will be Adam and I with the occasional guest.

Was the podcast always planned to keep going at times when the show itself was not on?

Definitely.  Since we decided that The Shelf would be produced season to season the idea of a podcast that bridged the gap was always the plan.

You are both workaholics from what I can gather and have discussed on The Shelf the stress this can create.

Apart from preparing for upcoming festival shows Adam Richard has recently hosted the Showdown on Sunday afternoons and Justin Hamilton has been in Adelaide for The Fringe Festival.

Justin Hamilton – The blog and Podcasts Can You Take this Photo Please? And Dig Flicks

Adam Richard, – The radio gig/s, online blogs, promoting Outland and looking after Fab’s online presence as well as podcast The Poofcast.

Have I missed anything?

The work Adam does every day for radio is out of control.  I think he works three different markets every morning all over Australia so it isn’t just Fox FM in Melbourne.  I am staggered at the amount of work that goes into what appears to be a breezy grab each day.

I have also been producing a late night show in Adelaide for the Fringe Festival while working for the Talk Fringe website interviewing performers and audience.   While in Adelaide I also hosted the Adelaide Comedy Gala, performed in the Adelaide Debate and hosted the South Australian final of Raw Comedy. I produce and host a show out in Berwick that happens once a month.  I also have a weekly movie and TV review spot for Botica’s Bunch in Perth, their number one breakfast radio show that I’ve been lucky to be a part of for the last five years.  In my spare time I am finishing up the latest draft of my first manuscript that will hopefully see the light of the day at the end of the year. 

Oh…and I’m directing Tegan Higginbotham’s first solo MICF show. 

You’re only here for a short time, no point in lounging around.  People are quite surprised to know I’m usually working anywhere between 9am to midnight most days.  I know people don’t believe me when I tell them that I’m busy but this is what my life has been like for at least the last five years.

How does the Shelf podcast fit in with the other podcasts you both do?

This is 100% what Adam and I sound like when the mics aren’t on.  That is one of the things we love about the podcast and I think it has worked even better while I’m in Adelaide.  We really are just catching up.  If you listen to our latest podcast you will hear us talk about everything from Yumi Stynes to The Dark Knight Rises to my disdain for bread that won’t toast properly.  “Can You Take This Photo Please?” is more about interviewing comedians and the like about their process and history in regards to their craft with anecdotes to pepper the tales while “Helliar and Hammo Dig Flicks!” is really just two movie buffs getting extremely nerdy with each other and our guests.

Do you see this as an avenue to explore different topics to your other podcasts?

We literally do no preparation for the Shelfcast.  Invariably when the show starts is exactly when we’ve begun talking to each other.  I love the spontaneity of it.  I’m as surprised as anyone to hear what we’ve talked about when I listen back to the show.

Has the podcast has morphed into something beyond its original scope?

The great thing about podcasts is that is there is no governing regulation stating what makes a good show and what makes a bad show.  Therefore it is completely creative and isn’t trapped by a set of didactic guidelines that try to dictate how a podcast should work.  I would hope that all the podcasts I’m involved with are slowly morphing over time.  My prediction is once they introduce podcasts awards; if they haven’t already; we’ll see a conservatism begin to sneak in as people chase the “prize”.

You often talk about how you love to get together and chat at your favourite café. I think you’ve captured that well on the podcast. Listening in to your conversations is like sitting at a nearby table and listening in to your private conversations. Do you sometimes forget that there is an Audience listening?

Without a doubt.

Have you thought about the difference between performing this sort of chat live & it being recorded for posterity?

When you’re performing live there is a sense of responsibility to go for the laughs more but since people are listening to podcasts driving or going for a jog etc I think there is an easy going nature to just recording your conversations and letting the jokes flow a bit more naturally.  It is good to think about what you’re saying though.  I was quoted from one podcast recently in regards to the Jim Schembri scandal.  You never know who is listening out there.

Are the recordings edited afterwards?

Adam and I don’t but we’ve had guests on who like to change something a little bit later.

In the first series, last year I noticed that you had some Shelf regulars as guests, such as Tegan Higginbotham and Gatesy and Not as many guests in 2nd series of podcasts.

That is purely down to time and distance.  I’m still in Adelaide and Adam can call me first thing in the morning to record.  Have you ever attempted to organise a gaggle of comics?  It can be a nightmare!

Can we expect that the live Shelf shows during Melbourne International Comedy Festival will be like the previous versions of the show?

I think there will be elements that will be similar, there will be the chat with Adam and I, possibly even some guests for that part.  I remember the night we flew Wil Anderson down just for the chat was a highlight.  I also enjoyed performing an old Bunta Boys song with Gatesy a lot.  I hadn’t warbled in public in over 12 years!  The singing might have needed some work but it was gratifying to see a 15-year-old comedy song still get big laughs.  We’re re-introducing the game show for the MICF.  We will also have a few new regulars and special guests.  We’ll always keep you guessing.  The idea behind the show was never to reinvent comedy.  The idea was to provide a show that was exactly that:  a show.  That way we could intertwine skits, character comedy, stand up, musical comedy and games.  I’m very proud of everyone who was involved in the first two seasons, I think it inspired them to some of their best work yet.  This was the kind of room I would have loved to have seen when I was a young man.

Monday nights are becoming increasingly popular for performers. Please give our readers 5 reasons to choose to come and see The Shelf during The Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

  1. 1.     We have some very special guests who are going to make cameos every night alongside our regular crew.
  2. 2.     For a measly $25 you will be treated to a two-hour show that is unlike any comedy show in Australia. 
  3. 3.     You will see some of your favourite acts in a way that you’re not used to seeing them eg Gatesy performing stand up, Wil not performing stand up, Tegan Higginbotham and Adam Rozenbachs nailing the news etc
  4. 4.     You won’t see this show on TV because we want this show to be naughty, dangerous and exciting…something that TV executives just don’t understand.  This is what a comedy night should be.
  5. 5.     European Man.
You can listen to the podcast from The Shelf website  http://shelvers.com.au/

You can get tickets or a season pass to see the naughty, dangerous and exciting The Shelf live during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival here

The Shelf season 1, 2011.

By Lisa Clark

To Celebrate our Featured Podcast we are republishing a room review of The Shelf from it’s Debut at The Toff in Town.

Melbourne has a fabulously healthy live comedy scene with venues offering comedians for all tastes, from the nervous newcomers to the polished stars. Four months ago Melbourne comedy legend Dave O’Neil started up his Comedy Funhouse in Fairfield and now two other stalwarts have opened up a weekly room, for the month of October at least, and have their own fun.

These two are Fabulous Adam Richards, gossip bitch of top rating breakfast radio show The Matt & Jo Show,and Justin Hamilton, currently a movie reviewer for breakfast at Mix FM in Perth but cherished as Australia’s best stand-up comedian who isn’t a household name. They seem like an unlikely pair of mates, but apart from both being astute experienced comedians they are geeky fanboys at heart and have obviously created a place where they can put on a show in their own terms and have some fun with friends.

So what is The Shelf and how is it different to the established rooms about town? For starters it has a team of regulars joining Hamilton and Richards: Steven ‘Gatesy’ Gates of Tripod, Tegan Higginbotham of The Hounds and relative newcomer European Man (Ted Wilson). The evening is separated into three distinct brackets, the first is a bit of a mix of chat, stand-up and music, the second a full long set from a headlining guest and the third a live trivia gameshow.

The first section on opening night begins with Hamilton providing a searing set about his recent shenanigans touring New Zealand with Greg Fleet, as well as introducing the evening and co-host Richards. Hamilton is fairly renowned as one of the best comedy MCs in the country and is the perfect host, clearly excited by his new enterprise.

The first guest is rising star Celia Pacquola, home from her new digs in London, her stand up just gets better and better as she becomes more assured about her work. Pacquola has a delightfully quirky edge to her comedy that always adds surprises to her warm, friendly style. She endears herself to the home crowd, which tonight is full of friends and comedy geeks, with tales about how she’s having fun in the UK using her Australian openness to freak out the Pommies.

Next up is a bit of a historical moment in Australian comedy, the first ever solo spot by Gatesy from Tripod. The highlight, which is going to be a weekly feature is his ‘Non Topical’ song where Gatesy sings a song that has been topical in the past, but is not now. Tonight’s song is about Stuart Diver being rescued. It was a bit shaky, but his experience at working an adoring crowd got him through.

The second bracket is pure nonstop Tom Gleeson, currently starring in Good News World and fresh from Edinburgh, where hecklers quickly learned that Tom is not to be messed with. In fact the bulk of his material was about how his hair-raising experiences at boarding school made him impervious to persecution. Tom is in top form, like a thoroughbred during the Spring Racing Carnival he sprints out of the gates with the crowd roaring, and is magnificent to behold.

The final segment is the least polished, which is part of its charm. A mini game show hosted by Richards, with team captains Hamilton and Higginbotham with a guest each, Pacquola and Gleeson. The trivia questions are about things found on the shelf: books, DVDs, CDs or games etc. Helping Richards are European Man and Gatsey, who provides the clues through song.

The room itself is set up in cabaret style with small tables. Toff in Town has hosted many legendary comedy nights including Tripod’s Pod August Nights and Asher Treleaven’s Oyster Club. On this night, I couldn’t recommend the bar as everyone on our table had bad experiences with service. A more positive aspect is that you can book your seat and know in advance that you will get in, which is important for a room with a limited run and popular line-ups.

There is nothing revolutionary about The Shelf, it reminds me a little of Hessie’s Shed by Crowded House’s Paul Hester which was a series of high quality live comedy and music with a trivia quiz at the end hosted by Brian Nankervis. That quiz went on to become Rockwiz on SBS, so who knows maybe ‘The comedy show you’ll never see on TV’ as The Shelf is describes itself, will somehow end up there anyway

Originally published in Chortle.Au on 7th October 2011

Check out  http://shelvers.com.au/

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