New Comedy Rooms in Melbourne

By Lisa Clark

We’re half way through 2014 and the live comedy landscape which is ever evolving has been gradually changing in Melbourne. Some comedy rooms have closed (or are Winter dormant – it can be hard to tell) and new ones are opening, so I thought it might be pertinent to highlight some new venues popping their heads up around town.

We are lucky in Melbourne to have a good stable base of established rooms that have been around for many years giving performers and punters regular spaces to get their comedy fix. It is always a good thing though, for a fresh outlook, either with a new concept or even an old one re-opening in a new space. It can encourage new audiences and inspire new performers as well as new ideas amongst old performers and gives us all new places to play.

The hard part is keeping track of them. Our Keeper of the Lists Colin, does his best, putting hours of work into hunting down info on comedy rooms but it seems to us that some room producers would prefer to keep their rooms secret with very little on-line presence or out of date/scant information. Sometimes we only hear about a new room because a performer tweets that they are performing there and it’s very rare that anyone announces when a room is closing. This is why we mostly concentrate on Melbourne rooms. I know the list below is not exhaustive and the best information can be found on the gig guide drop down menu above. If you are planning a comedy night out on the town check out Colin’s work on our comprehensive Comedy Gig Guide. If you know of a room not listed feel free to let us know!

Meanwhile these are some of the new- ish rooms happening around Melbourne we wish them all great success.

 

TUESDAY

Society Variety – Standup Comedy and Variety acts

In a classy café [sounds like the very roots of comedy in Melbourne back in the 70s.] You can have cocktails or dinner here too.

Monthly – Last Tuesday of Every Month from August

Venue – Society Restaurant, Bourke St Melbourne – 7pm $20

http://www.societyvariety.com/

 

WEDNESDAY

A Very Public Punch Line – Standup 

It’s by the Yarra in the CBD. Not brand new, they had a season in 2013, but new to us…

Weekly

Venue – Melbourne Public Bar, 11 Dukes Walk  South Wharf –  8pm (Dinner available from Bar from  6.30pm.)  $15

http://www.melbournepublic.com.au/upcoming-events/details/65-A%20Very%20Public%20Punch%20Line%20-%20Comedy

 

THURSDAY

Tiki Bar Comedy Night – Standup 

With an islander atmosphere and Mai Tais in Richmond.

Weekly

Venue – Tiki Bar, 327 Swan St Richmond – 8pm  Free (coin donation for charity)

http://tikiloungeandbar.com/2014/07/02/tiki-bar-comedy-night-every-thursday/

 

FRIDAY

Friday Night Comedy – Standup with a difference 

“Comedians battle for the ultimate comedy championship. Everyone in the audience can take out their phone, log in to a super-secret website, and write stuff that goes on the projector screen behind the comedian.” definitely something different…

Weekly

Venue – Butterfly Club, Carson Place, off Little Collins St Melbourne – 10.30pm $14/12

http://thebutterflyclub.com/show/friday-night-comedy

 

SATURDAY

Alan Smithee’s Screen Test – A comedy gameshow 

Two teams of comedians compete to show off their film and television knowledge – live and uncensored. Recently moved to the gorgeous Butterfly Club now in the heart of the CBD, down one of those famous Melbourne Alleyways.

Monthly

Venue – Butterfly Club, Carson Place, off Little Collins St Melbourne  – 10.30pm $15 / $10

http://thebutterflyclub.com/show/alan-smithee-s-screen-test

https://www.facebook.com/AlanSmitheeST/timeline

 

Rule of Three  – Comedy Variety 

With different line-ups each month including: Sketch, Improve and Character comedy.

Monthly

Venue –  Butterfly Club   10.30pm $10

http://thebutterflyclub.com/show/the-rule-of-three

 

SUNDAY

Ha-Has at Yah Yah’s  [not to be confused with HaHa’s at YaYa’s in Perth] 

Standup at what is an inner city music venue that has presented comedy festival shows in the past.

Weekly

Venue – Yah Yah’s 99 Smith st Fitzroy – 7pm $10

http://yahyahs.com.au/

 

The Fancy Boy Monthly Super Show – Variety 

If you’ve seen the Fancy Boys you’ll know that they are smart and they pull no punches also – no money will be refunded to walkouts. The team were the hot ticket for those in the know at Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2014 and won The Golden Gibbo Award. Toff in Town is a beautiful little music-hall theatre styled venue in the CBD with tiny round tables up the front with candles on them, a bar and food nearby.

2nd Sunday of the Month (starting August 10th)

Venue – Toff In Town, Level 2, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne- 8:30pm $20

http://tickets.thetoffintown.com/event/view/8gjf91xrb

 

Groove Bar Comedy – Stand-up curated by Justin Hamilton. 

The Winter season has just finished with astonishingly good, tight line-ups and packed audiences every week.

Weekly – the next season will be starting in October

Venue – Groove Bar, Crown Casino, Southbank Melbourne – 7.30pm $12

 

Check out the full Squirrel Comedy Gig Guide

Justin Hamilton – Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994

By Lisa Clark 

The mood is set with blue lighting and a blue song from Bowie, ‘Sound and Vision’, to place us in the mind set of Justin Hamilton pretty much at the time where his last show The Goodbye Guy left off, a time of change, of feeling a bit wistful and taking time out to reassess his direction. Developed from his more theatrical shows, Justin has found a style that works really well and suits him and his confidence in the audience’s intelligence and its willingness to go with him. There is no preamble, no banter, he’s straight out of the gate, like a primed racehorse in top form.

Johnny Loves Mary 1994 is proof that a year off from the festival can be a good thing and allow an artist to get off the treadmill and have the time to explore life and come back again when the passion returns with something exciting to share. Not that he stopped working. Constantly cranking out several popular podcasts and a blog that diarised every single show he performed last year as well as organising regular seasons of The Shelf and then there was his eye-opening trip to perform for the troops in Afghanistan which was clearly the inspiration for the theme of this year’s show; exploring what it means to ‘be a man’.

Justin is the master of taking his standup routines and weaving them seamlessly into his festival show. He also seems to cram in even more jokes to give audiences maximum comedy value for their bucks. This year he takes his recent standup stories, familiar with die-hard fans, much further, into darker places than he might share with a pub crowd and some take on greater meaning in this larger context. These include helping a woman in trouble in an impromptu attempt to be Batman and why he might not make such a great dad. His tale of an argument at a BBQ becomes the juxtaposition to his war experience. He presents us with two different forms of conflict and confrontation. At the front, in a place of genuine danger he sees and feels how ridiculous his nerdy persona is when placed beside the soldiers, the men ‘carved in granite’ he meets, like ‘Buzz’ and ‘Chook’. At the BBQ he wields his own powerful weapons with great expertise; his words and they find their target. Though proud of his skill he still feels somewhat dubious about its brutality.

With Johnny Loves Mary 1994 Hamilton sets the bar even higher for himself and other Festival performers. He takes the same style used in his more fictional stories of the past and strips away the veneer of fantasy revealing a very personal and accessible festival show about his recent life experiences and observations. Some that are obviously still quite raw, there were a couple of fragile moments where he seemed close to tears. The laughs are never far away though and this is definitely a must-see for comedy fans and a masterclass for other performers. The show finishes as abruptly as it began and couldn’t help but leave me wondering  about the material he chose to perform for the soldiers in Afghanistan, but I can be certain that it was carefully chosen, expertly constructed and brilliantly executed.

Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994 is on at the Victoria Hotel – Acacia Room until April 19

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/johnny-loves-mary-forever-1994-justin-hamilton

Interview with Tony Martin.

By Lisa Clark

Tony Martin is a legend in Australian comedy with a huge loyal fanbase of punters and comedians alike. There are not many performers with fan websites lovingly devoted to previous work such as The Late Show (www.champagnecomedy.com), Martin/Molloy (www.martin-molloy.org) or Get This (http://www.rampantstupidity.net/) to name a few, years after the programs stopped airing. Tony is the dream guest for most podcasters and the dream interviewee for this Squirrel. He was kind enough to find one and a half hours for an interview during this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival.

If this were an old media article, the interview would be, no doubt, significantly edited, but as space isn’t an issue here I’ve only edited it for grammar and the occasional potentially libelous content. He made me laugh throughout and mimicked most of the voices that he quotes.

Tony has been very busy recently working on Upper Middle Bogan on the ABC and is looking forward to the release in the UK of Ross Noble’s new series Freewheeling for which he was a Creative Producer. When I interviewed him Tony was in the middle of the Melbourne Fringe Festival run of The Yeti (in which he performs a whole chapter from his autobiographical book Lollyscramble) his first Solo Festival show in thirteen years, at the adorably kitschy Butterfly Club. His last solo festival show was A Quiet Word with Tony Martin in 2000. Though he did read out some stories from Lollyscramble in Tony Martin Reads Stuff Out at The Bella Union Bar in 2011 and has popped up in literary festivals and comedy rooms occasionally, such as his regular appearances at The Shelf over the last couple of years which always sets off waves of excitement around Melbourne. He gives some insight here of what may have shied him away from comedy festivals and sounds positive if a little nervous about his return.

Tony also gives us a lot of fabulous information about early live performances by him and comedy friends in Melbourne, for those out there keen to update Wikipedia or fan pages. He kindly offers up an idea for a government grant, documentary or possible PHD study, and confides in us his secret to a long career in comedy.
He also reveals that Ross Noble is actually a Superhero.

 

Lisa: How has the run of The Yeti been?

Tony: It’s been good, what I’ve learnt is, it’s the sort of show I should’ve done earlier in the evening. I’ve done eight O’Clock shows and nine O’Clock shows & it goes considerably better at eight O’Clock and I’ve realised that in the nine O’Clock shows people have had a lot more to drink and I think they are expecting it to just be normal standup. I have noticed in the later shows that there are a lot of drinks on the stage and as I’m essentially performing a play I can’t really refer to too many things. The first two were at eight O’Clock and they went really well. The next three went OK but they were really only laughing at the big jokes. Then I went back to eight O’Clock last night and it was the best it’s ever gone. So I thought ‘Note to Self: only do things like this early’.

 

Lisa: What is it like saying the same thing over and over? At least stand up can be tweaked but The Yeti is a form of verbatim theatre.

Tony: I’ve snuck in two extra jokes, but apart from that, it is actually word for word.

Well the reason I did it really is because I had so many people asking me to do the story, whenever I do book festivals and things. You can’t really read it out, because it’s got all those character voices, so it demands to be acted. One idea was to turn it into stand up. Although I remember, years before I wrote Lollyscramble, I did actually do a version of The Yeti in standup and it absolutely died in the arse. I realised later that in order to get the story down a standup length of about three minutes I had to sort of accelerate it and smooth it out and I don’t think anyone believed it. People were looking at me like ‘No way that happened.’ Whereas, when you’ve got fifty minutes you can leave in all the messy real life stuff. I was thinking of actually converting it to standup but so many of the laughs are in the narration, in the way the narration is so sort of flowerily worded as opposed to the rather blunt things the characters are saying… you just learn. Franklin Ajay was in the audience last night and he was saying to me afterwards (Tony doing an impression of Franklin) “You could turn that into a kind of a sitcom like Fawlty Towers, you know all those characters living in that house” And I’m thinking, Yeah, but what he hadn’t noticed is that so many of the laughs actually come from the reaction of the narrator to the things that are said. If you stripped away the narration it’d be quite ordinary actually. So in the end I thought yeah; I’ll just perform it exactly the way it’s written and because so much work had gone into editing that story for the book, I remember thinking, well, the work’s been done.  I could spend two months trying to turn it into a more standuppy show but  at the end of that there’d be as much work as went into the actual writing of that story or the whittling down really of that material. They’re very hard stories to…

When you write you basically take everything you can remember and then you just throw it on the floor and go “Right, is there a story in all of this or is just a bunch of anecdotes? What is the difference between an anecdote and a story?” And of course because it is something that was said twenty years ago, your memory only remembers odd things. It’s funny but when you ask someone to describe ‘OK you lived in a house twenty years ago, what do you remember of that year?’ you won’t remember everything in order, you’ll remember really odd, particular things, you will have forgotten months of mundane activity. So it’s a very odd series of building blocks to try to construct a story from, as opposed to if you were writing a fictional story about some people living in a house. You’d go ‘Well I need a bit so I can get from there to there, I need a proper ending. Whereas those biographical stories are ones where you’ve got to make a story from the only available parts which are the bits you can remember.

 

Lisa: There is so much information in your stories, we get some evidence of your hoarding of keepsakes at the end of The Yeti, but do you keep a diary at all?

Tony: I don’t now, it’s a pain in the arse. I just did this big tour around England with Ross Noble and we’re working 12 – 16 hour days and the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is write a diary, but because I was in England, I actually made myself write a diary every night, sometimes for two and a half hours

Lisa: Wow

Tony: So I’ve only started doing that lately, but I don’t really keep a diary but I’ve always kept notes of things people say, because what I’ve discovered is that someone says something funny in a conversation, even if it’s hilarious, when you come to tell someone three days later, you’ve usually changed the wording, you’ve usually forgotten the wording or you’ve often tidied it up and it’s not as funny. So when I hear someone say something funny I try and write it down exactly the way they said it. Like in that story from The Yeti when Gunter say’s ‘SO BLARDY FLARSH DEM TURTS!’ he doesn’t say ‘So flush them bloody turds’ the way you would say it, he says ‘So Blardy Flarsh dem Turts!’ The bloody is in the wrong place in the sentence and but it’s more like something someone would say. So I do try with phrases and things, I’ve always kept quite detailed notes. It’s not so much keeping notes, it’s just that when something funny happens….like all the stories in those books involving my family when I was growing up, they’re stories that’ve been going round for years in our family. We’ve all told those stories. Like when Skippy came to our town and fireworks night. They are quite well known in my circle.

 

Lisa: I loved your show at The Shelf, Do you think you could turn your slide night into a show?

Tony: Laughs ‘I’ve had a few people say that to me and I’ve never considered it. It’s been so long since I did a standup show and I do want to do another one at some point that it sort of feels like cheating to have pictures. It feels lazy almost. But I notice that a lot of standups now have Dave Gorman style PowerPoint presentations. That was fun because a lot of the jokes had already been written on Twitter. In fact I think pretty much all of those photos I’d already shown on my twitter. So I had a lot of material already and I remember driving in thinking “Gee, if everyone there follows me on Twitter…but it seems like no one there did”

Lisa: Well we were laughing! Because it was funny anyway and it was a bit different and more detailed

Tony: I think you could make a show out of it, I liked the way that Adam Richard was just moving onto the next one real quick and you could have one picture and one joke and then go straight on to the next one. I thought, that’s interesting, I’d love to do a show like that where you flip through a lot of pictures really quickly. I dunno, Hammo’s (Justin Hamilton) keen for me to a bit more of that. I try and do something every time he does a series and I try to make most of them. It’s often not planned he just says (starts to do Justin’s voice) ‘Why don’t you come down?’ and it depends if I’m working or not, or if I’ve got something to do. I like the way he tries never to repeat anything on those nights. So I don’t think I’ve ever done the same thing twice, I’ve done standup spots, I’ve read out articles of mine. I did one where I read out a lot of phoney, angry letters to the editor I’d written and I’ve done a slide show. So I try and do something different every time. What I really wanted to do and Damnit, Paul F Tompkins beat me to it. I wanted to spend a lot of money and have a costume made of that bloke in Boardwalk Empire with half his face missing. Richard Harrow (played by Jack Huston) lost half his face in WW1, so he wears a tin mask over half his face and it’s a really fun voice to do. It would cost a fortune but I was thinking of having a full Richard Harrow costume made for just a one off appearance at The Shelf and then Damnit Tompkins beat me to it. He started doing it on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and then he’s done a thing for Funny or Die where he’s wearing the full gear. So, can’t really do that now. Damn you Tompkins!

 

Lisa: I wanted to ask you about you’re early live Standup experience because there is nothing much online, it’s really hard to find out about old live comedy performances. There are no old records kept.

Tony: I remember the first I ever heard about the Internet was on the front cover of Time magazine in 1994 and then I think I got the Internet in 1996. Already there was comedy nerd stuff on there, but there’s a real gap. You get comedians now who’ve done five gigs and already all of them are on You Tube. Whereas there’s this incredible gap of Melbourne comedy that’s not been preserved. I’ve been trying for years for somebody to do something with all the Espy Comedy videos. I started doing comedy there, (at The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda) it rather notoriously ran for one month shy of ten years when Trev Hoare, the man that ran it was ousted in a rather ugly coup. There should be a documentary about it. Peter Grace, who produced Martin/Molloy, used to be the kind of tech at the Espy and he had a camera set up. I don’t think it was recording the proper sound, like through the microphone or anything. Trev Hoare used to sit in his office and behind him was a huge wall of VHS tapes. It was just thousands and thousands of hours. They ran a camera across everything for years. I think someone told me they didn’t get the first two or three years but Gracie told me it was something like two thousand video tapes and it would require a huge effort for someone to transfer them and go through them all. It’s like a government grant should be given for someone to try and corral all that material. There could well be a great documentary in it and I know there are quite a lot of legendary Anthony Morgan and Greg Fleet things there; it’s just too big a job. I see Trev Hoare every five years I go “What’s happened to all those tapes?” and he goes (Does the voice) “Aw I’ve still got the tapes Tone” but that would fill in a gap if someone could get into all that material.

I started out doing standup at The Gershwin Room (in the Esplanade Hotel) when they did this brilliant thing called The Delivery Room. It started as weekly and only ran for five months. No-one can actually pin down the date, but I know I was on at the third one. I’ve got it written down somewhere, it was early December 1990. It must’ve started around November 1990 and it went through to Comedy Festival 1991, when they did a great show called Gift from the Gobs. Which there’s actually an album of. That was the famous Delivery Room, with The Rope, where they had the rope hanging from the ceiling and you couldn’t do old material, you’d have to go over and hold the rope. People would yell out ‘Rope’ if they recognised an old joke.

Lisa: I remember that and I saw a show in Edinburgh a few years ago that did that too.

Tony: Yeah, because that’s become quite famous and often overseas comedians that would come on Get This would say ‘I’ve heard about the rope thing you used to do here’. So I think the rope thing they did in Edinburgh is probably copied from the Espy Comedy one.

What was great about those five months is I just remember so much material was generated. It was a new three and a half hour show every week. People weren’t just writing standup, they were writing sketches and there was a dance troupe that did this terrible choreography and Anthony Morgan wrote this brilliant news report every week. Pretty much The Melbourne comedy scene, which was of course much, much smaller in the 90s was fuelled for about four years by the material that was created in those five months. Then, after that Espy Comedy continued through the 90s but they didn’t have the Rope policy after that.

Lisa: There is nothing on Wikipedia about all of this.

Tony: Wikipedia is great in general but once a year I’ll go have a look at my page and it’s riddled with inaccuracies. Not that I care, ‘cause I know that if someone fixes it, a week later my name will be Penis again.

Lisa: So did you do any Festival shows as such?

Tony: Gosh… I’ve done four Comedy Festival shows but I’ve only done one on my own. The first one I did was with the D-Generation in 1991. We did a show at Le Joke called Midnight Shenanigans. That was quite a famous show at the time. Have you ever been to Le Joke?

Lisa: Yes, but I didn’t see that, I actually saw The D-gen’s very first show downstairs at The Last Laugh in 1984

Tony: Would that have been “Let’s Talk Backwards”?

Lisa: Yes, I think so!

Tony: Yes that’s the one that most of them came from, then Magda and others were in the next years one called Too Cool for Sandals. We did a show, that was with everyone from The Late Show series one, so not Judith, and then John Harrison, who was in Let’s Talk Backwards, we dragged him away from his proper job and we did a show at Le Joke. Le Joke was upstairs at the Last Laugh. I think it held about 120 people but it was really small. It was the most expensive show, I think we were paid about $500 a week to do the show and we spent thousands on really elaborate props and we had a cart system in the days before laptops and we had TV monitors and we had Santo the Magnificent. His disappearing cabinet had to be dragged up the back steps. People would come along and couldn’t believe how elaborate it was in this tiny room. So that was the first Comedy Festival show I did. Then I did one the following year in ’92, I did one with Mick Molloy, Greg Fleet and Matt Quattermaine, called The Show with No Name at Le Joke. I can’t remember a lot about that but it opened with a musical version of Cape Fear and it closed with us singing the Daniel Boon theme song but we changed the words to Jesus Christ. So it was ‘Jesus Christ was a man’. There was occasionally boos for that.

Then we did The Late Show and in 1994 I did a Comedy Festival show at the National Theatre, ‘cause that was when we were quite huge. Me and Mick & Judith Lucy did a show called Martin, Molloy & Lucy in fact. I didn’t do standup when we did Martin/Molloy and then I went all the way back.

What happens with me is that I don’t do standup for a few of years and then it’s like going back to being a tryout all over again, so I went to Edinburgh with Judith. I probably would never have done standup again after Martin/Molloy ‘cause, four years is a long time in Standup. While I was doing Martin/Molloy all these new people like Dave Hughes had come along and suddenly there was massive amounts of comics around so I was a bit intimidated. Then Judith Lucy did this great thing, she was going to Edinburgh to do her show called ‘The Show’ and I think she had a one and a half hour slot but the show was only seventy minutes, so she said to me ‘Why don’t you do twenty minutes at the top, I won’t put you on the poster’. It was quite rare for someone to have a support act in their festival show in Edinburgh. So I got to go up and do twenty minutes every night supporting her and it wasn’t advertised and no-one knew who I was which was great, it meant that the material was judged on the material and I started to build up a completely new act.

Then I did a show called A Quiet Word with Tony Martin which is nothing to do with the TV show that I did. That was in the year 2000 and that was the first solo Comedy Festival show that I did and that was actually nominated for The Barry Award. I remember Fleety (Greg Fleet) and Alan Brough were nominated as well that year for something called Interrogation but The Boosh won as well they should. But I haven’t done a show since then really which was fourteen years ago.

I did standup for about four or five years in the early nineties and then didn’t do it again ‘til what I just described. I remember there was quite an ugly…It was quite interesting when I did that Quiet Word show because there was a notorious rock journalist from Britain, I think he wrote a book about Nirvana. He  reviewed comedy festival shows for The Age that year and he wrote a really nasty review claiming my show was racist. I had to actually phone him up and ask him ‘What was the racist bit?’ and it was a fraction of a quote, an innocuous bit where I quoted word for word a conversation I’d had with this Scotsman (and in fact I’m technically Scottish, because my family are from Scotland) but it got into the papers that I was doing this racist show, although it didn’t explain what.

I always remember going to see my blood specialist who was Egyptian and he was coming into the room with my file to basically tell me if I was going to die or not, so you’re waiting for that information, and without looking up from his clipboard he just goes  ‘My ahhh, my receptionist tells me you’re doing a racist show’. 

He’s doing the Egyptian accent and we laugh despite ourselves.

So it was quite ugly, because the reviewer was writing for both The Age and Inpress, so I had The Age and the Inpress calling me racist and yet at the same time I was also nominated for The Barry Award, so it was an odd experience and I didn’t do standup for a few years after that.

I’ve mentioned Trev Hoare before, cause I’m such a fan of his, but he started up a room in Milano’s Tavern Sandringham do you remember that?

Lisa: No!

Tony: Every now and then he’ll just start a comedy room in a bizarre place. He was the one who did comedy at Young & Jacksons a few years ago on Monday nights.

Lisa: I remember that, I went to that

Tony: I used to go there and do spots. What was great about Milanos was that it was just out of town enough that there were never any comics in the audience. There would often be only twenty five people in the audience but it was a really good place to try out new material and if it went badly no-one would ever hear about it. So I think I went there every night for months and that was again like going all the way back to the beginning and starting all over again.

Lisa: I’ve heard this from another comedian; do you find it a bit intimidating sometimes having the comedians in the room, like they used to be up the back at The Prince Pat?

Tony: Well, it depends how many there are. Up the back of The Prince Pat was fine, because then you’d have, maybe 200 punters as well, but I remember (I’m not going to name any rooms) but I remember there was a couple of rooms that I used to go to in the early noughties where there would be forty people in the room and twenty of them would be comedians. Of course there’s no tougher audience than comedians for comedy. So I’d go ‘I don’t want to go try out new stuff with twenty comedians there’.

 

Lisa: I heard that you put up Internet Movie Data Base pages for obscure Aussie TV comedies that didn’t have their own page?

Tony: Well mainly New Zealand movies. I think Karl Chandler, seems obsessed with this, but in fact most of my IMBD work has been New Zealand movies. When the Internet started the IMDB only had two New Zealand movies in it and I had a project in the nineties when I first got the Internet to try and get every single New Zealand movie on it, which is something like four hundred and fifty, so it took me three and a half years and I did it.

Lisa:Well done.

Tony: So when I finished I started adding obscure Australian comedy shows like Brass Monkey and things like that.

Lisa: It’s obvious that you love movies but I suspect you have a particular, possibly goulish love for really bad/trashy films. Is that true, or do you just love movies in general?

Tony: Yeah, well, I like good and bad movies. I remember that when I was in Edinburgh, I was watching so much comedy and so much great comedy that eventually you go ‘Let’s go and see some BAD comedy’.

 

Lisa: I was impressed that you spent your money from Martin/Molloy to make your own films.

Tony: It was always something we used to talk about. It was something we used to do on the breakfast show. It all came about because we did these pilots for The Late Show in 1990 and we went out to the car park with home video equipment, which no-one ever did, and shot sketches. We shot test sketches, we thought, we’ll film it on home video and if they’re any good and the show gets up we’ll re-film them again properly. But there was just some kind of quality to these crappily low budget, shot on home video in a car park sketches, they looked like shit, but they had this life to them! What we found is that, when we were doing sketches on the D-Generation they would spend so long lighting them and they would do eight or nine takes and they’d use take nine because that was the one where the camera moves were perfect but it was probably the one where the actors were exhausted and not funny. Whereas when we shot the stuff on home video we went aw well let’s just use the takes where it’s funny. Who cares if it looks like shit.

That was such a lesson to us, so when we did The Late Show on TV we spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of our own money shooting our own sketches and films and post producing them ourselves. That’s how Frontline came about, that’s how they ended up being able to direct Frontline themselves on really small cameras.

Lisa: Some of those Late Show sketches still stand up today on line

Tony: So I thought well that’s a really good lesson, investing in yourself. You know, we were young, we didn’t have any children. Occasionally I’ll go, maybe I should’ve hung onto some of that money. With the film Bad Eggs, if I hadn’t invested my own money I don’t think I would’ve been allowed to direct that myself. I didn’t have any directing credits up to that point, apart from doing sketches on The Late Show and the Mick Molloy Show. Yeah, I put three hundred grand into that film and it sort of opened doors. I think the head of Village Roadshow said ‘Woah we’ve never had someone offering to put their own money into their film’. It’s a cliché but it’s one you hear all the time, “The first rule of the film industry is never put your own money in because you’ll never see it again”. Although Bad Eggs has actually slowly but surely finally recouped all its money. Of that three hundred grand I think I’ve made about fifty grand of it back and I wasn’t expecting to see any of it, so that’s been a bonus.

Lisa: Well I liked it

Tony: It’s not for everybody, that film, but it does have a following. It was very popular in Germany, like David Hasselhoff’s music. It got rave reviews in Germany where it was known as Mit vollem Einsatz! which means ‘With Extreme Force’. [though literally translates as With Full Use]

 

Lisa: I read how hard you worked on Martin Molloy – basically from the moment you woke til going to bed, was it the same with Get This?

Tony: It was and possibly Get This even more so. Well we don’t have writers or anything. With Get This because I was paying everyone, (my company was making that show), I felt I wasn’t paying Richard and Ed enough to demand that they give their entire lives over to the show. So I was the one writing the sketches for that show…oh no no, that’s not fair! Because Richard and Ed would often write their own sketches, but not everyday. Martin/Molloy was very scripted, although now, ‘cause we’ve said that so much in interviews, I think people think that everything was scripted. Obviously when we were talking to callers or interviewing people that wasn’t scripted, and some of the mucking around in the second hour obviously wasn’t scripted. That whole first hour where we would do those long rants and things; that was all written.

For Martin/Molloy we’d get in at 10am and work all day ‘til 4 and then the show would go from 4 – 6pm then I’d go home and write ‘til, midnight and you’d be up first thing reading the papers. You’d have to read all the papers, there wasn’t the online aggregate, where the whittling was done for you. It was just a huge amount of work and the production was… now you can build an elaborate sketch quite quickly on a computer, but computers where much more primitive in the 1990s. So Vicki Marr who was the Matt Dower of Martin/Molloy would spend hours on it, I remember being there ‘til midnight some times. Mick putting down a sketch that probably only went for two minutes fifteen and was probably only ever played twice. That was all kind of part of what we were trying to do.

We weren’t interested in being ‘radio personalities’, that’s not why we were doing the show. We just wanted to do a comedy show. We wanted to do a radio show that was like a TV show where you wouldn’t want to miss any of it. As opposed to a radio show that goes for three hours but you know ‘I hear about twenty minutes of it’. We’re going No No, we want people to listen to the whole thing like they would watch a TV show. So that was our rather pompous sort of declaration. The standard we set for ourselves.

Some of it sounded a bit stilted because we were sitting there reading off spirax books, but because there was nothing else like it, the novelty got us through a lot of the time. Whereas by the time we got round to Get This that style, that read out style had become a bit out of fashion, so I would write things, but I would try to do them from memory or use point form lists so that it wouldn’t sound as stilted. There was still just as much, or even more work that went into Get This as Martin/Molloy.

 

Lisa: Do you think you’re a bit of a workaholic?

Tony: Oh, not really. I think of myself as quite lazy. I’ll try and get out of work whenever I can. It’s just fear, with radio it’s just this beast that eats up every idea that you’ve ever had. So you put in a really big day’s work then you go home and you’re back to zero and you go, right what’ve we got for tomorrow? You want it to be good, sooo…. but it’s not through any desire to be a workaholic. It’s just that, this is how much work you have to do to make a show like that any good.

Lisa: Not everybody would say that.

Tony: Well I’m not saying it’s the only way to do a radio show. I mean someone like Marty Sheargold, (now I’m sure Marty does a lot of preparation) he’s got the genius of sounding like it’s all coming off the top of his head. A show that’s had a lot of work put into it can often sound like that and it’s hard to listen to, whereas radio, especially FM radio is at its best when it’s relaxed casual and you just go ‘Well here’s something I found in the paper’. The problem is that the radio year is a long year and by August most people are fucked. So if you can think of a way to do a show where you don’t have to kill yourself every day, well Done!

 

Lisa: Do you think you might do another stint on radio one day, maybe even the ABC?

Tony: I don’t know if I really fit in on The ABC. They have a bizarre rule where they only have one host and so they have a man or woman in a room talking to themselves. Whereas the kind of radio I’ve always done is talking to an actual person.

 

How has working on 3RRR been?

It’s great! Obviously you’re not being paid, it’s volunteer radio, but I remember after the sort of quite unpleasant last few months of Get This, I remember going and doing shifts with Tony Wilson and talking quite uninhibitedly for long amounts of time about obscure things. He’d go to a song and the door would burst open and Mick James the station manager would come in and I’d think ‘aww… we’re going to cop it!’ and he’d go ‘GREAT! Do more of THAT!’ So that was great, but you can’t make a living, although that’s not fair, I think the Breakfasters get paid a very small amount of money to do that show but really it’s all volunteer radio and I love doing it but I can’t do it full time.

Lisa: Is there any chance you might do some more episodes of ‘A Quite Word With’ on the ABC? Are there more people you’d like to interview?

Tony: We did pitch a third series, there were budget cuts at the ABC and they didn’t want to do another series of that. There were hundreds of people I would’ve liked to talk to but we did two series of it and for the second series I got to go to England which was quite exciting, though we were only there for four days. We got Rob Brydon and Richard E Grant and a few people who we wouldn’t have got if we’d just waited here for people to come. You don’t get as many people coming out here anymore, unless there’s a festival on and obviously you’ll get some comedians. It was a very cheap show really, it was mostly just shot in a bar. I’d love to do some more. I’ve often thought of bringing it back just as a podcast, but finding the time…

Lisa: I don’t know if you can make much money out of podcasts either

Tony: There are so many podcasts and people are always saying ‘Why don’t you have a podcast’ but it would be like a radio show. It would take up so much of my time. I have to say, we already have some good ones, I mean Justin Hamilton does a great one [three in fact, but I think Tony is referring to Can You Take This Photo Please?] and The Little Dum Dum Club and I love Green Guide Letters. We have some really good comedy podcasts in this town. I’m not sure if we need another one. I ran this website called The Scriveners Fancy for just over two years and that started out as a hobby while I was out of work. It was only one day a week but by the end of it, it was three days, sometimes four days a week work because I was having to be like an editor of a newspaper and try and call up people and beg them to write me something for free. That was great when I had time to do it, but eventually I just couldn’t keep going because I had to go and do some actual work. I do quite like the idea of doing a podcast at some point but trying not to just do… It’s like every single comedian in the world has a podcast where they interview every single other comedian in the world. It’s what I feel like the world’s podcasting is and I think, do I really need to add to that? I don’t know, if I think I can think of a slightly different way of doing it, may be.

 

Lisa: So what about this show you are doing with Ross Noble in the UK Called Freewheeling? (starting on Oct 29th on Dave). How did it come about?

Tony: I just got an email from him. I’ve known Ross for quite a while, well, I’ve been a fan of his since 1999 when I saw him in Edinburgh and he was the talk of Edinburgh in that year. I don’t think he was even nominated for the Perrier, but he was all everyone was talking about everywhere you went ‘Have you seen this amazing guy’. Then he started coming on Get This and he was a huge fan of Get This

Lisa: He was brilliant on it.

Tony: When you watch that show he made in Australia in 2007, though it didn’t get shown ‘til a few years later, Ross Noble’s Australian Trip. He said whenever you see him riding his motorbike through the outback, he’s listening to Get This on his headphones. So he was quite the fan. He was almost like a fourth cast member, in a way, sometimes. Then he did A Quiet Word with me, then I had a really good reaction from a podcast I did with him on the ABC’s website. Then earlier this year I got an email from him out of nowhere (in Ross’s voice) ‘Do you want to come and spend Summer chasing me ‘round England?’ It sounded great. I was picturing Brideshead Revisited. Then a week before I went over I’m calling up the production office and they’re telling me that it’s the coldest recorded Summer since records began in 1813. It was pretty full on, it was a great thing to do but it was really strange because there were no other Australians there. It was just me and all these English crew members chasing Ross around the country for a few months in a van. In three vans in fact. He was on a motorbike and there were fourteen of us in three vans. My official role was called Creative Producer and I had to think up… well it was whittling down the tweets more than anything. Ross would tweet ‘What should I do here?’ and there would literally be about 200 tweets in thirty seconds. So I would go through them and say ‘What if we did this?’ and ‘You could go there’ and ‘We could do something like that.’

Ross and I wrote a huge amount of material, because one of the original ideas for the show was that in addition to us following him around England, the format of the show would be like a send up of travel shows, because there are so many of them. So we wrote all these sketches and phony history reports and these scenes where the narrator version of Ross was arguing with the real Ross. So we wrote a huge amount of material but in the end we didn’t use any of it because the stuff with him just following the tweets was so great and there was so much of it. It’s only a six hour series and we probably shot enough material for three times that. So in the end all the written stuff has been stockpiled and Ross is talking about doing another series, where we just use the written stuff. So I’m possibly going back to do another show which will be quite different.

Lisa: That’s cool.

Tony: He’s brilliant to work with. I spent all day and night with him, ‘cause he doesn’t sleep, there’s no off switch. I would see him every day and you get to see how he operates up close. He’s not cheating, he is literally making it up as he goes along!

Lisa: Wow, so after all that time together you kept enjoying working with him and want to work with him again?

Tony: Oh yeah, he’s like a kind of a superhero really, what he can actually do. We would have had two hours sleep and we’d be in some dreary, depressing carpark in Manchester. It’s pissing with rain and no-one’s turned up and there’s just a sign in the corner and Noble would go over and somehow turn that sign into five minutes of comedy gold. Every time I thought ‘we are just going to get nothing out of this’, he would just pull it out of his mind. We were in a Services, they call it a Services, it was like a 7/11 / service station and it’s freezing cold and we didn’t have anything to do and there was a sign up for some charity that Terry Wogan does to help children in need and the logo is a teddy bear with an eye missing and he’s got a bandage over one eye and I remember Ross doing a three minute monologue about that picture. He was saying (does Ross’s voice) “You’d think after twenty years Terry Wogan would’ve done something about that poor little bear’s eye”. The crew was just crying with laughter. So that was just potentially three minutes of a forty-five minute episode, just belted off there.

We used to call it ‘Golden Minutes’. When we started, the production company was quite nervous wondering ‘What if you don’t get any Tweets? Or what if you get there and we can’t think of anything funny? We’ve got to do an episode a week and how are you going to fill the time?’ And of course Noble would just go up to a sign and rant on and we’d all look at each other and someone would say ‘Golden Minutes!’ The aim was we had to get something like nine minutes of finished show a day. On the first day we were worried about how much usable footage we had, because there was a lot of driving, we’d be driving to Cardiff for four hours and so there’s four hours we’re not filming. Then on the second day we got something like fifty-eight minutes of usable footage in one day. So yeah, his golden minutes.

I don’t know what the end result will be, I haven’t seen the final shows and I don’t know… I assume there’ll be a DVD and I assume they’ll have time to edit some of that extra stuff for the DVD, ‘cause Ross always does really chockers DVDs.

Lisa: Like yourself

Tony: Yeah, but he’s got one out called Headspace Cowboy, it’s got six separate shows on it! Some people haven’t done six DVDs ever! He’s done six shows on one DVD, so I’m hoping there will be a good DVD of this series.

 

Lisa: Do you think it’ll come to Australia at all?

Tony: You’d think so, he’s really popular here, people almost think of him as Australian.

Lisa: He lived here

Tony: Yeah, he lived here until the bushfires.

Lisa: Yeah that was awful

Tony: I know. Ross Noble’s Australian Trip was on TEN, although that’s got nothing to do with this, I don’t know if that means they’ll show it. It was shown kind of rather late at night if I remember. The thing about that show, by the way, is that it was never going to be a TV show.

Lisa: Oh

Tony: It wasn’t actually a series when they were making it. Ross was just on a Tour and Pete Callow, his brilliant director who goes everywhere with Ross, said ‘Why don’t we just film some stuff to put on the DVD?’ They were only filming for about twenty minutes a day, Ross told me, on that Australian trip, because he had shows to do and to get to. Then they got to the end and said, maybe we’ve got enough here for a TV series. I love that show, but it was not intended to be a show when they made it. The main difference between that one and Freewheeling is that about a quarter of Ross Noble’s Australian Trip was footage from his live shows, whereas there’s none of that in Freewheeling, because we weren’t on a tour. That was probably the main reason I was brought over, because I think Ross thought well hang on, I’ve got to do this and I’m not going to be able to cut to me doing jokes on stage, so what are we going to have instead? So we were going to write all these sketches which we did but in the end there wasn’t a great deal of need for them.

 

Lisa: About The Yeti, do you think you’ll tour it?

Tony: Well you can do a fifty minute show during a Festival but outside of a Festival it’s a bit of a rip-off. Do know what I mean? If you are on tour you really should do ninety minutes.

Lisa: Yeah I interviewed Alan Davies recently and he said you need a good ninety minutes

Tony: Yeah well, if you’re playing big theatres like he does, well, maybe two hours or something. But I wouldn’t do this in big theatres, I couldn’t fill big theatres but also it’s not really a show that…

Lisa: It’s an intimate show

Tony: Yeah, it’s a small show, and up until opening night I had no idea if this would even work at all, so I’m doing extra shows at the Lithuanian club which holds 220 people and I’m actually a bit skeptical as to whether it will work in a room that size but it’ll be a good experiment and if it works [according to those who were there it did work]  maybe I’ll do the same thing with a second story and maybe I’ll tour that. That’s one idea. I also want to get back to just doing standup, and get back on the road doing that.

But because I’ve been working on Upper Middle Bogan…

Lisa: Which is great!

Tony: We’re waiting to see if we’ll get a second series of that, so I’m in this weird limbo where I’m waiting to hear if I’m doing another show with Ross and I’m waiting to hear whether there’s going to be any more Bogan so I can’t really make any plans at this point.

It’s good to be working, that’s what I say.

Lisa: That’s what Squirrel Comedy is all about, we love to see comedians in work, it’s good.

Tony: Well the secret is…I turn fifty next year and to keep working at this age, the key is… the only bit of advice I ever give young comedians is…. just learn to do as many different things as you can, because when one thing ends I’ve always got another different thing I can do.

 You can buy Tony Martin’s books at his minimalist website

http://tonymartinthings.com/

Here’s the Freewheeling trailer from the comedy channel called ‘Dave’ in the UK. Freewheeling premiers in the UK on Tuesday 29th October  at 10pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjoON9Ds8rs&feature=youtu.be

Pic thanks to smh.com.au

The Butterfly Club, Brackets and The Greatest Show on Earth*

The Butterfly Club has built a reputation over the past decade as one of Melbourne’s finest performing spaces, particularly for cabaret and comedy. It has famously nurtured talented artists such as Tim Minchin and Eddie Perfect. You might have heard that after crowd-sourcing help last year The Butterfly Club has moved premises from South Melbourne to a laneway in the heart of the city. This proved particularly convenient during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, as the venue is now a short stroll from The Town Hall and other festival venues.

Owner, Simone Pugla is proud of showcasing world class cabaret  and comedy at The Butterfly Club. He has recently launched a new comedy room called Brackets late on Friday nights run by fellow ex West Australian Clayton Steele. Also coming up is a short season of comedy nights called The Greatest Show on Earth run by Tegan Higginbotham. I interviewed both Clayton and Tegan about their new nights.

 

There has always been a tradition of intelligent comedians. From Shakespeare’s King Lear, where the Fool is clearly the smart one in the play, through members of Monty Python and The Goodies who were university students often giving up careers in law and medicine much to their parents’ horror no doubt. Here in Australia we have many working comedians who gave up lucrative lives as Surgeons (Rob Sitch), Lawyers (Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner, Julian Morrow, Craig Reucassel, Libby Gore), accountants (Lehmo) or architects (Rod Quantock, Barry Humphries). Brackets is a room that wants to give comedians a space to showcase their brains to an appreciative audience. We were there on opening night and discovered that you don’t have to have a PHD to have a great time in the audience.

Clayton Steele

Tell us a bit about your background in comedy and how you found yourself working in comedy?
I lived in Melbourne for a short period in the early 90s and, having known Matt Parkinson (Empty Pockets) and Judith Lucy from working together in Perth, I naturally found myself frequenting the Espy and the Cheese Shop. I was hooked.
I moved back to Perth and after searching for like-minded souls, managed to find the local scene which, at that stage, was still in its infancy.
We established The Laugh Resort (a comedy co-op) and eventually I found myself running it for many years. During this time we saw the emergence of talent such as Rove, Dave Callan, Brendan Burns, Dave Hughes, the list goes on.
After that I was still always involved, judging, coaching, writing, whatever it took to get my fix.
Now living permanently in Melbourne, I fill my time directing, producing, coaching, writing and secret stuff I can’t talk about.

How long have you been in Melbourne?
About 5 years. Long enough to know that those horse and buggies in the city can do hook-turns better than most drivers.

How do you see the current state of comedy in Melbourne (or generally)?
I see the Melbourne scene in particular as problematic and I’ll focus on this scene because that’s where I am.
It would be easy to focus on the positives. The potential and the talent is there but I don’t believe the industry is as healthy as it could be.
I think there are too many people in this industry who want to use it only as a springboard to something else. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with comics going on to do TV or Radio. It’s the prevalence of comics, who got into the industry solely as a way to become famous, I find disrespectful and damaging to the art form.
I think that Melbourne comics (and perhaps others) have become too festival-centric. It seems that what you see in rooms nowadays is a trial for an upcoming festival show. The way that it is supposed to work is that a festival show is meant to showcase your highlights from the year. It would appear sometimes, to be a case of putting the cart before the horse.
I think that we have lost our way with how rooms are run. If you charge nothing to see comedy, do you want punters to think that that comedy is worth nothing? People are prepared to pay $19 to see a projected recording of a Michael Bay movie, surely a live performance is worth something. Why does it cost $19 to see a movie? Because movie stars get paid so much. Why do movie stars get paid so much? Because people are prepared to pay $19 to see a movie.
Having said that, open-mic nights are an exception. The problem is that open-mic nights in Melbourne are advertising big names to compete for the audience. A choice has to be made. Are you running an open-mic or are you running a professional room? If the latter, you need to respect the performers. Rather than competing for the same slice of pie, we need to focus on making the pie bigger.
And, if I’m going to be on my soap box, I think we have moved way too far into the realm of audience participation. At last year’s Comedy Festival I was dragged on stage on 6 separate occasions. Audience participation is great for the extroverts in the audience but I personally know a lot of introverts who will not go to comedy because of this. If you really have to involve an audience member, learn how to read their body language. An unwilling “stooge” can quite easily become a comedy ex-punter.

How did Brackets come about?
I spend a lot of time outside venues. It’s what I refer to as exit-polling. If punters are leaving a room and rather than talking about something they just experienced, they are talking about what they are doing tomorrow, maybe they haven’t been engaged.
I see this a lot more now than I ever used to.
Back in the day, comics were very proud of their material and competitive about how clever their gags were. Now I see a tendency towards shock tactics and, quite frankly, I’m not shocked by a rape gag, I just think it’s become rather hack and you have to ask the question: Do those jokes make the world a better place?
Another thing that has bothered me is that the norm is for rooms to have short sets. I feel like the comic never has enough time to get to the “meat”. Short sets are like take-away food, they satisfy the hunger but sometimes you just want to sit down to a nice meal.
So, I knew what I wanted, I just had to find the right room.
The answer came in the form of Simone from The Butterfly Club. As a fellow Mensan he shared my yearning for intelligent comedy.
Very rarely do you find the perfect fit with a venue but Simone, Xander and, for that matter, everyone at The Butterfly Club have made it feel more like joining a family than I could have ever dreamed.

Did it occur to you that it might be hard to find sufficient smart comedy to fill Friday nights? – Or are you confident in our local comedians’.brainpower.
I have a list of comics who could justifiably play the room and, if they all did, I would have a 6 month turn around. Comics, by their very nature, are generally highly intelligent and they all seem to relish the opportunity to show their capabilities.
I think that some comics have been guilty of occasionally playing to the lowest common denominator but who can blame them? It’s easier and the audience isn’t invested anyway.
The harder part is getting the message out to the audience who “get it” and are prepared to do a bit of thinking themselves. I know they’re out there.

Have you had positive feedback from the Mensa people so far?
As far as I can tell they are loving it… Or they are just really polite.

Do you think smart people in general are attracted to comedy?
I think human beings in general are attracted to comedy.
I’m not saying that “smart” comedy is superior. I have a lot of respect for your Kevin Bloody Wilsons etc. Benny Hill was a genius who found a niche and hit it hard. I just don’t happen to fall into that niche and I need to have a bit of a puzzle to solve for me to feel comedically satisfied.
For some, the audience participation, the physical involvement in a performance is necessary, for some it’s titillation, for me and, I’m sure, others it’s all cerebral.

Is there anything you would like to add?
I do want to explain the basic idea of what we are doing.
By saying “intelligent” comedy I am not saying that it is necessarily intellectual. It isn’t jokes about Maths or Tunisian politics. What the room is about is attracting an intelligent audience which in turn will give the comics the freedom to explore areas they may not otherwise feel comfortable in.
To me, shock comedy is nothing more than verbal slapstick. Stand-up comedy can be, and should be, much more than that. We have a responsibility as an industry. We get on stage and ask a group of strangers to listen to us. We better damn well have something to say

Future line ups at Brackets include:

June 7th:
Matt Elsbury
Adam McKenzie
Dave Thornton

June 14th
Harley Breen
Geraldine Hickey
Ryan Coffey

Information and tickets for Brackets can be found here

Tegan was asked to put these nights together in a bit of a rush and managed to get a top line up to perform over the four nights. The performers include herself and Adam Mckenzie as Watson, Justin Hamilton, Girls Un-Interrupted, Randy, Lessons With Luis, Adam Richard, Rama Nicholas and Adam Rozenbach. I spoke to her about what putting the show together was like.

Tegan Higginbotham.

Do you consider yourself the ‘curator’ of this show?
I suppose that technically I am the curator. Adam will be helping with things, of course, as that production is “Watson presents…”. But I think I’ll be doing a bit more of the heavy lifting given the late notice of the whole event. So “Ruling Overlord” is probably name I’m more comfortable with.

Did you have help?
So far Simone, Adam and Hammo have all been very helpful, yes.

Have you put a show together before?
Several. This show is an exciting little show out of a Festival setting, and I think it will be perfectly timed for everyone who’s beginning to feel the SADs a little. But as far as shows go, in the past two years I’ve put together a Melbourne Fringe show, 2 solo Comedy Festival shows and 2 Comedy Festival shows as a part of Watson.

Have you had a big idea like this bubbling away in the back of your mind for a while or did it all come together quickly?
The show itself has come together very quickly, but Adam and I have been talking about doing mini-shows throughout the year for a while. We also have plans for a big old Christmas show too.

How is it going to work, will all of those acts be performing on the same evening or will it be a different line up each evening?
The line-up will change each night. Some acts will do more than one night, like Hammo. Some guest will only join us once or twice. The idea is that all of the artists will be using this event as an opportunity to try something new and different.

Was it hard to get the line up you wanted?
I was pleasantly surprised how of my wish-list acts jumped on board. With Roadshow happening at the moment, I was expecting many comics to be too busy. But I also feel that there is a lot of good energy toward the Butterfly Club and comics are keen to jump behind the venue.

This feels a bit like a mini-The Shelf….? (Or is it just that they were the logical go–to people because you know and work with them?)
It is definitely logical because I know them and work with them, but it’s also because I know all these people will put on a good show. And in the case of Girls Un-Interrupted, Rama Nicholas and Randy, these are 3 acts that havn’t hit The Shelf stage yet (but I’m kind of hoping will)

Is this Justin Hamilton’s first outing of his mini festival-type show? Does he plan to expand on it or perform it in the future or is this a way of getting it out of his system.
I’m not sure what Hammo plans to do with the show in the future, but it will be it’s first outing.

Anything you would like to add? (about performing at The Butterfly Club?)
I visited the new Butterfly Club only 3 weeks ago and was really excited by how amazing the space is. Upon further conversation with Simone, I got to hear how much effort the venue puts into supporting its artists and creating an artist community. This is the sort of thing we need in Melbourne. So if by doing this show we can create positive buzz not only for a load of great comedians (some of whom will be heading into a Fringe season soon) but also a great comedy venue, then I’ll be incredibly happy.

The Greatest Show on Earth is on from Thursday June 13th until Sunday June 16th Thur – Sat at 8.30 and Sun at 7.30. Bookings can be made here

For more information about upcoming shows go to The Butterfly Club website
*No Guarantees.

Fan Fiction Comedy

By Lisa Clark

Wil Anderson was smart enough last year to spot a bunch of funny young comedians with the fabulous concept of performing fan fiction live and organised to get them over to Melbourne to share their passions with us. After a very successful run they are back this year and if you know what it’s like to be really into something so much you want to share that love with other people you’ll love this show. Each show is different, with different stories and different special guests, so there are no spoilers here.

Fanfiction comedy has some special one-topic nights such as their Harry Potter night which is great for Harry Potter fans, but generally it’s a bit of a Pot Luck with every performer bringing their own taste to the table. Luckily, even if you are not familiar with one performer’s passion, the stories are usually entertaining for everyone. There are two guest comedians in each show of five stories and we were lucky enough to have Justin Hamilton and Claire Hooper.

Justin, with absolutely no surprise to anyone who knows anything about him, brought us some Dark Knight fan fiction and dark it was too. The joy was barely contained as he made himself the hero in his tale of The Silent Knight. He had the music from the film playing gently underneath his reading at the perfect sound level, He seemed to rush a little, out of excitement perhaps or in that way a nerd rushes to tell you about what they love because they are a little worried they might be boring you and you’ll turn away. Perhaps he was worried that he was playing it straight rather than for laughs. But thankfully there are no rules at FanFiction. As long as it’s entertaining and that it certainly was.

Claire Hooper was a revelation with her sexy Lord of the Rings fan fiction playfully milking a lot of the double entendres with wide-eyed feigned innocence and perfect timing. Claire put a character in the action that sounded remarkably like herself and when it got hot and heavy, it was cute to see Hammo blushing in the background. The story was a hilarious romp from start to finish and Claire had everyone, especially the Lord of the Rings fans, in fits.
The other three storytellers were from the New Zealand team and they were all bloody fabulous too. Joseph Moore did a Rom-com satire using Transformers. Optimus Prime as the hero in a love triangle with Megan Fox and Megatron. The story was littered with funny and clever asides about transformer behaviour and their social etiquette.

Heidi O’Loughlin took us by surprise with some cleverly crafted chronicles about the Nokia mobile phone game of Snake 2. Snake was given a winding backstory that led beautifully to his inevitable ending.
The final fiction was about Harry Potter as told by Tom Furniss who was not a fan of the Potter world. Although it failed in fawning to the dyed in the wool Potter fans, it succeeded as an anti-homophobia fable. It also proved that Fanfiction might often be about children’s fiction, but you probably shouldn’t bring children along.

The host of the hour was the charming Eli Matthewson and there were two judges Joseph Harper, and Steven Boyce on the sidelines giving their thoughts to proceedings, though they seemed fairly unnecessary because the audience were the ultimate judges and they pretty much enjoyed everything.

This has been a popular addition to The Melbourne Comedy Festival scene and the regulars have been making a lot of new fans. It’s also another way to see some of your favourite comedians having fun away from their own shows. Everybody puts their heart and best effort into it and it pays off for performers and audience alike. Best of all Hammo will be returning each Sunday with parts two and three of his Dark Knight Trilogy.

Fan Fiction Comedy is on at the Victoria Hotel
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2013/season/shows/fanfiction-comedy

Tegan Higginbotham in Million Dollar Tegan

By Lisa Clark

When Tegan announced at a gig that she had signed herself up to train for a professional boxing tournament you couldn’t help but think that this was a bit of an extreme way to go about creating material for a festival show! She just doesn’t look like a boxer which of course she plays to great comic effect. So the first part of the show is about convincing us that boxing is something she really wanted to do, just as she, no doubt, had to convince disbelieving friends and family.

Though 24 Tegan Higginbotham looks like a highschool girl and not the sort of girl who gets boxing experience from punch ups behind the bike sheds. It’s also hard to believe that Tegan is almost a veteran of the Melbourne comedy scene starting in Class Clowns in 2005 and then in the following year getting together with Adam McKenzie and Rob Lloyd as part of The Hounds trio and now with Adam as Watson the duo and part of the team who puts together The Shelf comedy nights and podcasts.

Years of comedy experience and performance training are evident in her confidence and all the work that has gone into making this a successful production. Tegan is savvy and lucky enough to have one ofAustralia’s most skilled comedians Justin Hamilton to direct her debut festival show. She has also been around the comedy traps trying out parts of her show for many months and it has paid off with a polished performance that has laughs all the way through. Tegan has no props or film footage (as promised in the Fringe Guide – apparently it did not trial well with test audiences) instead, with only a few dramatic lighting changes and her passionate oratory skills, she has us in the gym with her.

Tegan brings all the colourful characters of the gym to life but when she finally finds herself in the ring in front of 1,500 spectators, wearing oversize shorts and smelly 2nd hand gloves it was shocking to me that she knew the moves but had no game plan or knowledge of how to start the match. Let alone how to deal with the confronting issue of having to punch a dear friend in the face and receive blows in return. As a trained performer it is fascinating that Tegan has chosen to be both a comedian and a boxer, she obviously has some seriously masochistic tendancies!

The show is at it’s most impressive at the end where Tegan holds the audience in the palm of her hand as her comedic story culminates in the riveting, dramatic account of her first professional fight. Not surprising then that this was nominated for Best Newcomer at The Melbourne International Comedy Festival. New jokes about current issues prove that the show has not rested on it’s laurels, Tegan has revisited it with a professional refresh. This is definitely a show worth revisiting and if you’ve not heard of it, it is a festival must see.

Tegan Higginbotham in Million Dollar Tegan is on at The North Melbourne Town Hall until October 13th

http://www.melbournefringe.com.au/fringe-festival/show/tegan-higginbotham-in-million-dollar-tegan/