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