Interview with Geraldine Quinn

By Noel Kelso

Geraldine Quinn has been a regular face on the comedy scene in Australia and the UK since 2005. Combining music, comedy and acting into her sell-out shows she presents an imposing figure on-stage in outfits as outlandish as some of the songs she sings. Last year she was busy with three productions – ’80s Apocalyptic sing-along Sunglasses at Night; Bowie-esque musical Stranger (a personal favourite) and touring her show You’re The Voice in Australia and New Zealand.
She has twice won the Brian McCarthy Memorial Moosehead award at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, most recently in 2013 for her new show MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt , a reflection on life without marriage or kids at 30+ which debuts at Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2014.
I asked the self-described ‘ginger idiot’ a few questions about MDMA and more during a gap in her busy schedule.

Noel: Have you always been attracted to performance?

Geraldine: At early primary school, I would devise plays and ask teachers permission to ‘tour’ them from class to class, so…yes. I am sure I was a thoroughly annoying child, but it was my outlet for being incredibly shy. I barely spoke to anyone otherwise.

Noel: What inspired you to first get started in comedy / musical comedy, and why not be a straight musician?

Geraldine: When I was 18 or so, I couldn’t play any instrument well enough to accompany myself, and I didn’t know enough musicians to start a band, and I wasn’t really writing songs. And unless you could do pub circuits, etc. or someone wanted to push you there weren’t really any options. So I went into acting, auditioned for the occasional covers band (and failed to get in) or musical in Dingley, then sort of let it slide. Cabaret was an outlet when I discovered after three years of acting training that there was even less work for thespians.

Noel: Which comedians – past or present – do you admire?

Geraldine: Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Morecambe & Wise, Lucille Ball, Joyce Grenfell, Terry-Thomas, Carol Burnett, Lynda Gibson, Marg Downey, Eleanor Bron, Rod Quantock, Dave Allen, Jo Brand, French & Saunders, Fry & Laurie, Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews, Olivia Colman, Sean Lock, Johnny Vegas, Sarah Millican, Armando Ianucci, Chris Morris…not to mention people I know like Anne Edmonda, Kate McCartney & Kate McLennan, Geraldine Hickey, Flick Ward, Celia Pacquola and Lori Bell. There are loads – Denise Scott is an anecdote machine. And Cal Wilson has more energy than all of us. And that’s not to mention the cabaret people.

Noel: Anyone who knows you will know how much you love David Bowie how does he inspire your work?

Geraldine: Bowie is a very clever magpie – he knows how to steal smart, how to search for ideas and sounds and break up traditional formulas for writing to try to get to a fresh idea, a lot of which I think was influenced by the luminary glam-nymph that is Brian Eno. So when I get stuck, I run for my Oblique Strategy cards or put a Berlin album on, because I don’t see much point in producing work that is neither honest nor innovative. One or the other should be true, if not both.

Noel: Who are your other musical heroes?

Geraldine: This list threatens to be as long as the comedians one – Neil Hannon, Andy Partridge and Elvis Costello are all bit songwriting influences. Same for Kate Bush, Kirsty MacColl and Bernard Butler/Brett Anderson, Leon Russell, Mick Ronson, Willie Nelson, Nick Lowe, Thin Lizzy, Toto, Clare Bowditch, Patti LaBelle, Roxy Music, the Finns, Elliott Smith, Divinyls, The Kinks, Vanda & Young, Levi Stubbs, Dusty Springfield, Heart, Hall & Oates, Janelle Monae, Lightspeed Champion, Loudon Wainwright III, Jarvis Cocker, Mina, Peter Gabriel, Vince Jones, Ella Fitzgerald, 10CC…I have a lot of space sucked up by music.

Noel: Which do you find comes first in terms of writing – the music or the comedy? Or do you find they both appear simultaneously?

Geraldine: I think most people who do their job interestingly have a sense of humour. Though it is nice sometimes just to write a song without trying to rhyme a gag in it, I find when I am left to my own devices to write a serious song, I get a bit too Neil Finn and bitsy with my imagery, so I try to follow the Paul Kelly/Neil Hannon/Kirsty MacColl influence and write stories.

Noel: Your shows appear to draw on real life experiences for inspiration. Songs such as ‘Fang It’ and ‘Festival’ are clearly drawn from personal experience. Do you find yourself consciously using real world events as inspiration for your writing?

Geraldine: How can you not? The hard thing is changing some truths a bit to save feelings…or get a better laugh by exaggerating it.

Noel: You were nominated this year for a Green Room award in Cabaret for your show ‘Sunglasses At Night: The 80s Apocalypse Sing Along Cabaret”. Is recognition by your peers important to you as an artiste?

Geraldine: Of course (and you don’t need to put the ‘e’ on the end, I’m not posh!). If you can’t pay your rent and you wonder about your worth every day, it means even more that people who you admire like and respect what you do. It’s what gets you through the day sometimes.

Noel: Your costumes appear to be an integral part of your shows. Do you have an image of what you’d like them to be as you write or is it more of an organic process as you rehearse?

Geraldine: Pretty organic, I tend to have ideas of what I don’t want, and then a stack of broad ideas. I do a lot of Google searches of eras or acts or designers, and then say “let’s make something that mashes up all of these, adds a bit of Bowie, then make it 70% more bonkers”. The people I’ve worked with don’t get given a drawing to create, we sort of work out and brainstorm, and then bear in mind my level of activity, my vanity and whether or not I have to play a guitar!

Noel: Do you make them yourself?

Geraldine: I WISH!! I’ve worked with Tristan Seebohm and Sam Bolton so far, and I am always on the hunt for interesting stitchers. Lately I have got some leads through burlesque circles as well, which is exciting to me.

Noel: What can you tell us about your latest show ‘MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt’?

Geraldine: I’m almost 40 with no kids or spouse, unlike everyone else in my family, and I wondered why having kids was such a focus for everyone else when it wasn’t for me. And as they got older, I wondered what sort of a terrible role model I was becoming to my nieces and nephews. The eldest is about 22 years old.

Noel: How long did it take you to write? And was there a specific process or daily routine for you whilst it was being written?

Geraldine: Who says it’s written yet – I mean, yes,the ideas ping around for months, then I try to cement a structure then the crying and screaming writing process begins and things shift around. Then repeat in microcosm for each song.

Noel: In the past, society tended to pity women who remain single while those around them married. Is this new show intended as a commentary on this outdated attitude?

Geraldine: In a way. I don’t see why a breeding status should have anything to do with a person’s sense of self. That goes for people who make presumptions about parents, as well. Just because they have kids doesn’t mean they are all alike. I suspect if I ever ended up in a mother’s group a) I probably would have got lost and b) I’d struggle not to throw up in contempt on everyone. There’s only so much chat about nappies and schools one can take, and I imagine that’s the same for parents.

Noel: Are you constantly planning for the next project?

Geraldine: For the next festival or grant pitch, yes. But I’ve already done three different shows in 2014 (Sunglasses in Melbourne and Perth, Stranger  in New Zealand and now MDMA  in MICF) and it’s only March, so I might need a rest first…

Geraldine’s MDMA: Modern Day Maiden Aunt  is at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 27 – April 20 in the Melbourne Town Hall – Lunch Room

Details on the website http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/mdma-modern-day-maiden-aunt-geraldine-quinn

Interview with Tegan Higginbottham

By Alanta Colley

Tegan Higginbotham is a fresh-faced force for good with a firm foot in the Melbourne Comedy Scene. Humblingly  younger than most of her contemporaries; Tegan has for the past few years been prolifically producing fast paced sketch in outfit  Watson,  The Anarchist Guild Social Committee, regularly appearing on The Shelf,  as well producing regular commentary in her column in the Age on sport.

Tegan is back and better than ever this Comedy Festival with the release of her new solo show ‘Game Changer’. Game Changer forms a trilogy of Sports themed shows for Tegan,  following her very successful ‘Touched by Fev’ (dedicated to AFL star Brendan Fevola) and previously with the acclaimed ‘Million Dollar Tegan’; which explored Tegan’s personal foray into the bizarre world of boxing. ‘Game Changer’ explores social attitudes towards pole dancing and lingerie football, and asks the question: just who sets the standards when it comes to what defines a ‘real sport’ anyway?

Tegan took a quick few minutes out of her Comedy Festival prep to talk to me!

Your love of sport has been a central theme of your last two comedy shows, with Touched by Fev and Million Dollar Tegan. Can you tell me about how your love of sport and comedy came together?

I didn’t mean for it to happen. It wasn’t a conscious thought – when I took up boxing the experience was so ridiculous comedy was a way of sharing what happened. But as a massive film buff I love a good trilogy. Star Wars is the main reason this ended up being a trilogy!

Pole Dancing is a bit of a break from boxing and footy. What attracted you to Pole Dancing as a theme?

I came across a really heated and negative response to the idea of pole dancing becoming an Olympic sport. As I engaged in the argument I realised I didn’t know anything about pole dancing, so I wanted to find out more about it. I started doing a lot of research about pole dancing online. You have to be really careful what search terms you use when you’re researching pole dancing! But it was fascinating.

I found out that there was a massive movement of people who accept pole dancing as a sport. I ended up trying it out. I found it incredibly hard. Women who do it are so strong. There’s a lot of  muscles  and skills that they need to develop that are different from any other sport.

It was similar to the lingerie league – when it came to town all that anyone noticed was what they were wearing. It took a while for people to realise that they were extremely strong and fit athletes.

What sort of response do you get from people as a woman in comedy, talking about sport?

It took a lot of convincing people that I was telling the truth about my love of sport. They thought of it as a gimmick or didn’t believe I knew much about it. Having a regular column in the Age has helped a lot to help people take it seriously. The more I perform the more people are getting on board with it. I want to be seen first and foremost as a comic.

Who should come and see this show?

This show should be perfect for everybody. It’s great for people who love sport, but I’m also a massive nerd so there’s no way I’ll be able to keep that hidden. I’ve also challenged myself to talk more about myself in this show; so there’s a bit more story telling about my life in it than there’s been before.

What do you hope your audience takes away from your show?

Hmmmm. I’d hope they’d take away the willingness to think about sports like pole dancing a little more before reacting so strongly to them.  And I hope they have a really good laugh.

Many of us are super sad not to see Watson this comedy festival.  Will Watson rise again?

Absolutely. Adam and I love working together. It was really hard but we made the decision that doing a show at Comedy Festival show this year wasn’t going to work with our schedules.  But our ideas keep getting bigger and bigger. You’ll see Watson put on something pretty special at Melbourne Fringe this year.

You recently reappeared with the Anarchist Guild Collective Social Committee, which performed to a  sold out room. What for you is the biggest difference between performing sketch and stand up?

Sketch for me is more like play and stand up, while rewarding, is a lot more work. I love stand up and how challenging it is.  Though stand up is a little bit lonelier after the show. I really like having the chance to do both.

I hear that you’ve got upcoming television role, This is Littleton  can you tell me a bit about that?

This is Littleton goes to air this February! It’s a really fun sketch show. The story is set around a Town Hall Community Centre.  I perform various roles  throughout the show. The comics performing all write their own material; many of the characters are based on characters they’ve taken from their own work, so it’s a really interesting collaboration. The show is lots of fun. 

What are you looking forward to the most this Melbourne comedy festival?

The first show.  There’s nothing like the feeling after your first show for the run.  You have so much doubt and you put in so much preparation and you don’t know how its going to turn out. The feeling of relief after the first performance is over is just amazing.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing?

I always love seeing Celia Pacquola. And because I love sketch I love seeing Girls Uninterrupted, and Lords of Luxury and Aunty Donna. There’s a lot of great sketch this festival.  

Thanks Tegan!

 

You can catch Tegan’s New show ‘Game Changer’ at the Gold Room at the Portland Hotel from the 28th of March to the 21st of  April (no shows Mondays)

Tickets: $24 Full, $22 Concession, Tight-arse Tuesdays $20

Times: 7:15pm (6:15pm Sundays)

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/game-changer-tegan-higginbotham-

 

Her Website: www.teganhigginbotham.com

Interview with Adam Richard about Gaypocalypse, Spicks & Specks, The Shelf and his busy fabulous life

Adam Richard ended 2013 with a milestone, finishing ten years with Matt & Jo on their high rating breakfast radio show for Fox FM last year. This year he begins a new exciting journey as team leader on the revived and refreshed Spicks & Specks on ABC1. It seemed like a great time to have a chat to him about the past and the future.

At the moment Adam is also busy preparing his new solo Festival show Gaypocalypse  which will be his first in seven years, not to mention all the other things he gets up to. But I will. He and Justin Hamilton have been running the pop up boutique comedy night The Shelf  since October 2011 out of which came the podcast of The Shelf which is like listening to mates having a chat. The live Shelf is also like being audience to some friends getting together and performing for a (rather wild) private party. They pride themselves on being unconventional with a great mix of performers from stand-up to the theatrical. Adam’s other podcast is the Talking Poofy podcast or ‘Poofcast’ with performing buddies Scott Brennan and Toby Sullivan. The podcasts seem to be a bit on the back burner for him at the moment, but will be back hopefully when he finds a pocket of time to pop them in.

Lisa: What led you into the crazy world of stand-up / showbiz?

Adam: There were a combination of factors: I used to go to a lot of gigs with Corinne Grant, so I saw what an exciting medium it could be; one of my old school mates, Katie Pinder, was working for Token (and her dad was John Pinder, who created the Last Laugh) so I was being exposed to some of the best comedy in Melbourne; and my friend Ged was running a comedy room called Elbow Grease that I seemed to end up at every Sunday. These things conspired to convince me to sidestep from spoken word into standup.

Lisa: Who inspired you (comedians or otherwise?)

Adam: I was mostly inspired by the comedians I saw every week, people like Wil Anderson, Meshel Laurie, Corinne Grant, Rove, Dave O’Neil, Brad Oakes, Merrick Watts, Dave Hughes, the late Dave Grant; the people who I was working alongside when I first started.

Lisa: Where & when did you start your live stand up?

Adam: Elbow Grease at Nicholson’s in North Carlton (now a block of flats) December 1996. Ged Wood, who was running it, talked me into it at a party the week before. So I technically started out in 1996, but it was one gig in December, and I don’t think you can really call yourself a comedian until you get paid. That was 1997.

Lisa: You made your TV Debut on Hey Hey its Saturday, was that on Red Faces?

Adam: No. It was my commercial tv debut, I was booked to do standup by the divine Pam Barnes. I had already appeared on the ABC on the Raw Comedy National Final and on Foxtel’s Comedy Channel documentary oz.com.edy with Carl Barron.

Lisa: I hear you studied Cinema Studies at LaTrobe Uni for a short time

Adam: Yes I did. Until I came to a realisation during a tutorial where we were talking about Doris Day in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, and I thought “I don’t need to incur a HECS debt for this! I’m a gay man, I can talk about Doris Day at the pub!” 

Lisa: Do you think you perform differently for a gay audience than a straight one?

Adam: I don’t do a huge number of ‘gay’ gigs, but I pretty much give the same performance no matter who is watching. I believe in audience equality.

Lisa: Have you ever had an audience that hasn’t coped with your homosexuality (and/Or) have audiences become more accepting?

Adam: Depends how putrid I’m being. I have had individuals be completely horrified by the fact that I have a voice, and I’m not hiding my sexuality from them, which is what they would prefer.

Lisa: Did being on radio help with audiences knowing what to expect from you.

Adam: Radio audiences are awesome, but chatty! They get so used to participating in the show, being able to ring up and be part of the fun, that if you ask a rhetorical question on stage, they have a tendency to answer you with a story from their own life. You have to politely rebuke them; “you haven’t called thirteen ten sixty, love, this isn’t the fox.”

Lisa: It has occurred to me that your radio persona may have restricted your choices in Festival material. Did you choose your material (often about celebrity gossip) to suit those audiences and will that change somewhat, now do you think?

Adam: Actually, my radio job came out of what I was doing on stage. I did a show in 1999 called Adam Richard in Disgrace which was about gossip mags like the New Idea and Woman’s Day. Talking about celebrities became part of my club and touring routine after that, so that’s what I ended up talking about on Triple J in 2002 and the Today Network from 2003 to 2013. We only really love the kind of gossip about celebrities that we want to hear about the people we know at work and at home; relationship breakups, weddings, babies, death, etc. Those everyday things are what I talk about in my shows, sometimes about celebrities, sometimes about me. That, and zombies.

Lisa: Are you involved with the radio gossip site Scoopla ?  Or is it a clean break?

Adam: No more Scoopla for me. No more Southern Cross Austereo at all! Well, I am still appearing on some of their shows, as well as shows on other networks, as part of my job doing publicity for Spicks and Specks.

Lisa: Has it occurred to you that you have helped pave the way for younger gay comic performers like Josh Thomas, Tom Ballard and Joel Creasey?

Adam: I don’t think I can take the credit for that. I think our society is more accepting of homosexuality than it once was, which has made it easier for comedians to be themselves on stage. If I inspired any of them because they thought they’d be better at it than me, that would make me very happy. A lot of gay men will say to their friends “I’m funnier than him!” but that’s as far as it goes, and it’s easy to say. Getting up and doing the work, day after day, that is hard.

Lisa: I adored Outland

Adam: Thank you!

Lisa: Have you ever thought about doing standup or even a comedy show specifically about your not-quite-so-secret-anymore nerdy side? Do you think there is a comedy audience for that?

Adam: Gaypocalypse will be dealing with some of that. There are zombies on the poster and in the show. Many references to The Walking Dead, for instance. There is a big thread of upheaval and change in my show, so it might seem like a regeneration episode of Doctor Who.

Lisa: Has The Shelf helped you deal comedically with all of that?

Adam: What Justin and I talk about on The Shelf podcast are the kinds of things we’d talk about on the phone, or at a cafe. Well, maybe not entirely, because we have a tendency to get into a shock spiral when we’re alone, where all the most horrendous thoughts and ideas come out and we egg each other on until one of us says “too much.” Which almost never happens.

Lisa: Has The Shelf been a rewarding experience for you? (both live & podcasting)

Adam: The live show is one of the best things ever. I absolutely adore it. I had grown quite fatigued by seeing comedians deliver their tightest material to every single audience, as if the comedy circuit was some kind of bizarre ongoing audition process for a tv show that isn’t on anymore. Those rooms are great for that, and I love playing them, but rather than occasionally subverting the paradigm of a room that is functioning really well as is, it seemed there needed to be a room where comedians could blow off steam whether in a chat, or a sketch, or in the case of Claire Hooper, bizarre arts and crafts. Justin pretty much programs the room, because he does so much more standup than I used to, and he sees who is out there who would relish a chance to do this kind of batshit crazy comedy night.

Lisa: Will your podcasts/poofcasts keep going?

Adam: I don’t have access to the radio studio anymore, but hopefully I can work something out. I haven’t done a solo show in 7 years, and I have never done a weekly TV gig, so I am just sorting out how much time all of that takes before indulging in what is, essentially, vanity broadcasting.

Lisa: Will Festival performing become more difficult (do you think) because of the Spicks n Specks workload. Or will it be easier for not having to be up at godawful o’clock?

Adam: Getting up at 4am is easy. It’s like ripping off a bandaid. It’s the afternoons that are hard. Your brain turns to mud some time after 2pm and you can’t function. You fall asleep around 8pm and your social life is nonexistent. Festival is going to be punishing, because I am working 22 days in a row without a break, doing three stage shows and one tv show all in front of live audiences. I just hope I come out the other end not looking like Hairy McClary.

Lisa: Will you acquire a different audience because of being on the ABC do you think?

Adam: I don’t really know. I was on Spicks and Specks as a guest a number of times, so I don’t know that being on the show every week will make that much of an impact in whether people come to see Gaypocalypse. I am really proud of it, as a show, so far, and I have done a lot more work on it than I would have been able to if I had breakfast mudbrain every afternoon, so I at least hope people come and see what I can do when I’ve had a decent night’s sleep!

Lisa: Are you prepared for the Aunty fan club backlash (they seem to vociferously HATE any change to any aspect of the ABC)

Adam: Weirdly, that fear of change is one of the core themes of Gaypocalypse. The fear our society has that if we allow asylum seekers to have refuge here they will somehow destroy our way of life; the fear that allowing same sex couples to marry will somehow destroy our way of life; the fear that broadcasting a music quiz show without Adam Hills will somehow destroy our way of life.

Lisa: Now we’ve all seen Spicks & Specks on the telly, it looks like a whole heap of fun. Has it been that much fun to do?

Adam: More! It was always a fun show to do in the past, and it is just as fun now. Josh, Ella and I are the only new kids on the block. Everybody behind the scenes has been there for years, and worked with Adam, Myf and Alan. We are in very safe hands, so we just have to turn up and have fun, to be honest. It’s like going to work at an awesome party every week.

Lisa: Do you think this will put you on a different plane or level of fame in Australia?

Adam: Fame should not be a goal, because it is a not an end in itself. Fame doesn’t pay the bills, and fame isn’t something you can list as one of your skills on a CV. Kim Kardashian is famous, but what does she do? I have a job, I enjoy entertaining people, I love making people laugh, if fame is a byproduct of that, and it gives me the freedom to do even more work that I love, then I’m not going to shun it, but I’m not going to chase it around you end up looking like a puppy chasing its tail.

Lisa: What is Gaypocalypse going to be about?

Adam: Gay zombies. Fundamentalists have been predicting apocalyptic disasters if marriage equality is permitted what if they’re right? What if gay marriage will lead to gay zombies wandering around Bunnings, terrorising Aussie battlers? What if gay marriage actually means the end of gay culture and gay society? Will it be the ultimate irony if achieving marriage equality is the thing that makes us all go away?

Lisa: Is this a more politically motivated show than you’ve done before?

Adam: Like all my shows, it’s ultimately quite personal. It’s about my own private Gaypocalypse, and the destruction of my world that was necessary to bring about a new and better one.

Lisa: Will you always be Fabulous?

Adam: Given the meagre budgets at the ABC, I will now insist on being billed as The Affordable Adam Richard. 

Adam Richard – Gaypocalypse is on at The Adelaide Fringe Festival in the Rhino Room from March 4
http://www.adelaidefringe.com.au/fringetix/adam-richard-gaypocalypse/ade184fd-e063-44ad-8e74-3da6bf06ff55

Adam Richard – Gaypocalypse will also have a season at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival from March 28
http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/gaypocalypse-adam-richard 

THE ANARCHIST GUILD SOCIAL COMMITTEE RETURNS TO MELBOURNE

Sketch comedy is notoriously difficult. Even for the best sketch troops not every skit hits gold, but brilliant sketches can live forever, shared around, re-discovered by new generations and quoted by nerds at parties. It can be an intimidating art form to go into and requires hard work and a certain amount of discipline to create so much silliness.

Between 2008 and 2010 Melbourne was blessed with a group of experienced local comedians who regularly pumped out over an hour of new, entertaining live and recorded sketches with an infectious sense of fun and camaraderie. For comedy fans The Anarchist Guild Social Committee became “must see” comedy in Melbourne. Audiences gathering at the Bella Union Bar of Trades Hall on a Sunday afternoon got to feel they were part of a group of friends who mucked about together, enjoying making each other laugh. So it was pretty exciting to learn that the Guild are re-uniting for a special performance at the Bella Union this coming weekend.

The core of the old crew are back including Andrew Mcclelland, Celia Pacquola, Richard Mckenzie, Tegan Higginbotham, and Nick Caddaye along with a long list of guest appearances.  The Committee’s acerbic host Nick found time to answer some questions about working with the group and it’s upcoming reunion.

Lisa: How long did the original run of the Anarchist Guild Social Committee actually go for?

Nick: The AGSC (which is what I’m abbreviating it to from now on because long titles are exhausting) ran one year full-time and one year part-time. In the first twelve months we put on a totally new 75-odd minutes of sketch comedy every month alongside special guests and other malarkey. We travelled interstate, did charity gigs and best-of shows, and generally ran ourselves into the ground.

In the second year, we were more a special-event kind of thing. We’d only turn up to celebrate seasonal holidays and festivals. Our last show was our 2nd Anniversary show in June 2010.

Lisa: Why did you stop doing it?

Nick: Exhaustion. We genuinely lived in each other’s pockets for 18 months or so – we’d see each other every week if not two or three times. Even when a team is as awesome as ours is, that can be too much. Also, people started to get busy, and in the end Celia moved to England. So, there just wasn’t the time.

Lisa: Why have you got the Guild together again?

Nick: Everyone was (mostly) available. So, we thought we’d give it a crack just the once and see how it went.

Lisa: There is a much smaller core group for the reunion show [5 down from about 8]. Was it hard to produce the same amount of material?

Nick: It wasn’t. The thing is, if you all write two good sketches, you’ve got 10 sketches and that’s the backbone of a show. Then I go away and write piles of extra stuff to tie it all together.

Lisa: Was it terrifying/thrilling to put on a live monthly sketch show of new material in front of an audience?

Nick: Everyone in the team is pretty experienced and frequently play to big houses here and abroad, so there’s no particular fear of the audience. The scary part is doing otherwise untested material for the first (and often last time) on stage. But that’s also part of the pleasure – the opportunity to try things that you might not otherwise be able to and work with people you might not otherwise get to work with.

Lisa: There was a great sense of camaraderie on stage, yet I often wondered about the tensions behind the scene and of herding a bunch comedians into getting material together & putting on a monthly show. I’m guessing it’s about everyone having certain strengths to add and knowing each other well. Are you the main wrangler?

Nick: I’m the main creative driver but our Producer, Leah Collins, is the one who worries about logistics. And yes, the hardest thing about this project was never the ‘funny’ parts – it was the logistics. Thankfully everyone not only gets along famously but they also understand each other’s strengths and can write to them. Chemistry cannot be over-rated in this context. And that means we can get a lot done in a short amount of time because so much of the work is already done.

Lisa: Was it hard when everyone had festival shows to put on etc. Or did it help in creating ideas & material for the performer’s festival shows?

Nick: Festival time is bloody hard because everyone is being pulled in a million directions. One of the reasons that we’ve been able to do this show is because Andy isn’t doing a MICF show for the first time in 12 years or so. And then Richard and I have gigs and stuff like Late Night Letters and Numbers lined-up, but not full shows. It’s only Celia and Tegan that have to maintain the balance.

As far as influencing the individual work, I know Celia has adapted sketch ideas into stand-up bits. But generally I find creativity begets creativity, so if I’m working on one thing, the next thing is much easier to start. I’m not sure if it works like that for the others, but we always managed.

Lisa: I’ve always admired the strong female contingent of the Anarchist’s, it was especially noticeable back then, but even now it seems to be a rare thing in sketch comedy groups. (Any chance of Courteney Hocking popping in?)

Nick: Yeah… I’m not sure why it’s a rare thing. Impro groups are full of women tearing it up, but a lot of sketch groups tend to be reasonably phallocentric. There are always exceptions of course, like Girls Uninterrupted who are a two-women sketch duo. But for every one of them, there are great lumps of men putting on silly voices and dropping their trousers.

It might have something to do with sketch comedy groups usually being groups of like-minded friends, and that the sort of person who says ‘yes, I will put on a sketch comedy show with my friends’ being the sort of person who doesn’t have many female friends? But that’s a maddeningly sweeping statement that’s both insulting and reductive.

Or perhaps it’s a matter of influence? What comedy do young sketch comics watch? Do they see women in these shows and view them equally? Or do they only see men and, as such, only consider men in this context?

My plans for the AGSC were to have three men and three women. It turned out to be three men, three women and two extra men floating about (myself as host and Ben McKenzie, who was intended as a utility player but is such a fine performer and a whizz as learning lines that he ended up with more work than I had planned).

Whilst I was friends with Courteney Hocking, I’d only met Tegan and Celia once or twice each before I asked them to be in the show. All I knew was their work – that they were bloody good. So, it was and wasn’t about gender – I was looking for women for the show, but in the end I just chose the funniest people. It was a bonus that they were women.

As far as Courteney is concerned… I asked her to be involved in the show, but she replied that she’s been Comedy clean for eleven months and wanted to keep it that way. I can understand that.

Lisa: How else have things changed?

It’s funny how little it’s changed. Despite it being three-and-a-half years since we last did it, we’ve mostly fallen back into our old rhythms and the style and structure of the show will be classic AGSC.

Lisa: Will you be doing pre-recorded sections again?

Nick: We’ve done quite a bit of pre-recorded stuff. Our promos can all be found on Youtube (just search for The Anarchist Guild Social Committee) and there is other stuff we’re keeping for the live show. Filming stuff is hard work, but very rewarding because at the end of the day you have *something*. Live comedy is more ephemeral.

Lisa: I got the impression that the Anarchists hoped get picked up for TV ala The D-gen?

Nick: Well, it’d be bloody lovely if it was. We’ve looked into it in the past, but it’s something of an impossible dream. I’ve always thought the show would suit the TV and I suppose you never know what the future holds of course…

Lisa: Do you think today’s TV might be more up for Melbourne based sketch comedy than it was say 5 years ago?

Nick: Well, there are more channels than there used to be, so there’s a need for more content. And slowly but surely things are improving – you’re seeing more Australian comedy voices on TV. But it’s always going to be cheaper to show repeats of ‘sitcom X’ than fully fund new comedy.

Lisa: Do you think there seems to be more interest in sketch generally than there was a few years ago?

Nick: There really wasn’t much around when we started, and in a live sense, there’s still nothing regular. This is because it’s hard – what the AGSC did in putting on a new show every month for a year was HARD. And that’s why no-one else is doing it.

That being said, I can think of half-a-dozen sketch groups that you’ll see listed come Festival time that are good (and more that aren’t besides…). And there’s slightly more sketch comedy on TV than there was then.

These things are often cyclical.

Lisa: Do you think with a new government it might be less acceptable now to do political stuff (If aiming at a show on TV)?

Nick: The AGSC was never especially political, because the endless churn of new material meant that jokes that worked on script submission day would be two weeks old by show day and lose their zing.

Lisa: As a regular audience member I always felt like I was part of a cool club, is that what you were going for?

Nick: Absolutely. It was always supposed to be ‘clubby’. Although I’d say it was more a big nerdy club for nerds than ‘cool’…

Lisa: Has anyone turned up to the Bella Union Bar at Trades Hall expecting a meeting of actual Anarchists?

Nick: Possibly at our first show, but not in a demonstrative sense. Around the time we started there was a controversy about ASIO infiltrating some groups at Trades Hall, and I always loved the idea that the mole came to see our show just to see if we were up to something subversive and then had to write a report on it.

“There was very little discussion about bringing down the government, but one of the cast seemed to eat a lot of chicken…”

 

The Anarchist Guild Social Committee (and  guests) will re-unite this weekend – (and we’re quietly hoping it might lead to more shows.)

SUNDAY JANUARY 12th @ 5pm
Bella Union – Trades Hall (cnr. Victoria & Lygon St. Carlton)
Guests include
Lawrence Leung
Yianni
The Von Muiznieks Family Singers
WATSON
Dave Bushell,
Ben McKenzie
Kelly Fastuca

and more!

Get your tix from the Bella website 

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

Interview with Alan Davies

By Lisa Clark

Alan Davies is most famous at the moment for his work as the regular dunce on the quiz panel series QI and also for the titular character in the recently revived drama mystery series Jonathan Creek. In 2011 Alan spent several weeks in Australia performing live QI with Stephen Fry and a lot of Australian comedians and then did his first solo standup tour in over ten years. He did warm up gigs for it around small venues in Melbourne and then took the show, Life is Pain back to tour the UK. He’ll be reviving it in the UK for a short tour in November 2013.

In March 2014 Alan will be premiering his new stand up show in Australia called Little Victories. Tickets are currently on sale and Alan was kind enough to spend more time than I expected chatting with me about stuff.

Alan begins by telling me that we have half an hour before he will be talking to the Adelaide Advertiser.

Lisa: Do you still have relatives in Adelaide?

Alan: I’ve got 2 cousins in Adelaide I try & see them when I go down there.

Lisa: Is that why you are so good at doing an Aussie accent or is that because of all the years watching Neighbours?

Alan: Definitely Neighbours, but probably even more Richie Benaud who was always on the telly when I was growing up. He was wildly popular in the UK, I know he was loved in Australia but he was loved here too.

Lisa: We were lucky in Australia to see Life Is Pain your first live standup in over 10 years and you seem to have enjoyed it so much you toured it around and are back to do a new show for us March next year. Was it an enjoyable return to standup?

Alan: Yeah Loved it

Lisa: Is it true that doing QI in Australia made you excited about performing in front of live audiences and was the reason you decided to go back into stand up?

Alan: Not realy, the tour was already booked. The QI shows were part of my going back to that though. It was Marnie Foulis, blame Marnie, I’ve known her for 20 years I think, she’s Colin Lane’s partner. When Lano & Woodley & I were nominated for the Perriers to win…

Lisa: Oh you were nominated that year?

Alan: Yeah I was supposed to win, I was the red hot favourite. Me and Harry Hill were the red hot favourites. Everyone on the panel put Lano & Woodley as their 2nd favourite show. So when they added up the votes they won [sounds like our recent election]. I went to stay with Marnie and Colin at their house the following year and they put the Perrier Award on my bedside table, but despite that we’ve remained good friends. Marnie was saying “Come out to Australia, come out, come out, I’ll promote you” and she and Bec Sutherland promoted me. We started off in 2011, we booked five shows in five cities and we ended up doing sixteen shows in sixteen nights and the whole thing was off the back of the popularity of QI. I was a bit overwhelmed really and I loved doing the show. I’d worked on it at home then I came out and did warmups in Melbourne around some of the comedy clubs.

Lisa: I remember all the excitement in comedy circles when you were doing those warm up gigs around town. Are you planning to do that again while you were here?

Alan: Well it’s a different situation unfortunately, because at that time my wife came with me and we had two small children, we had a 4 month old baby and a two year old and the flight nearly killed em. It was pretty brutal that flight and everyone got sick. The kids got really ill, I don’t know how long the air has been in those planes, it’s just filthy and she said I’m not taking the kids on a flight like that again until they are older and they can cope. So last time I was out in Australia for eight weeks Now I’m going to be in Australia for fifteen days so all the warm ups and all my preparation unfortunately is going to be done in the UK & rather than go around all the little comedy clubs in Melbourne I’m going to Hamer Hall which is a whole different ball game, which is very exciting, I’m really looking forward to it.

Lisa: Your show last year had quite a bit of smut in it towards the end and I was wondering do you think you shocked some of your audience members who were expecting that nice bloke off the telly and you were using all these naughty words?

Alan: (laughs) Smut is such a funny word. Don’t even really know what smut is any more. But yes I know what you mean, there were quite a lot of sex toy jokes. I had a lot of fun doing that material and yes, maybe there were a few people in there going [puts on silly posh voice] ‘ooh my goodness I did not expect that’ and that’s the fun of doing the stand up. The stand up’s me and it’s my show it’s not me being the dunce on QI and it’s not me being the weirdo nerdy genius Jonathan Creek, it’s me being me talking about my life, my family & my view of the world and I think being away from standup for ten years gave me a chance to develop a view of the world rather than just jumping around and say anything I thought was funny which is what you do as a standup in your twenties. You’ve got bit of something to say and had a bit of a life and it’s interesting to go back to it and it means it works quite well for me now. Having a young family now, it means I can go away for short periods do some shows and get back home to them. If I’m touring the UK I can do about three shows a week and the rest of the week I’m at home. It’s about getting that balance right and seeing them while they’re small.

Lisa: Life is Pain had a lot of fantastic stories from your childhood and some about being a new dad can you give us any idea of what you are planning to talk about in this new one? Have you started writing it yet?

Alan: The shows quite well formed. I’ve been working on it this Summer over here in the UK. I do these work in progress gigs in a little studio theatre. I don’t do the clubs as much anymore. I can’t really justify leaving my wife at home with the little ones just to go and do five minutes somewhere. So I book a studio theatre and I go on stage with notes and I talk to an audience for an hour or so and at the end of it it evolves very slowly. I just did eleven shows in Edinburgh in a 150 seat theatre getting the material into shape. I’ve got a pretty good solid hour of stuff and it’s quite personal really. It’s about me and my dad and me and my son and me and my daughter and change you know with your parents when you become one and there’s a bit of illness in the family as there is in all families, you know So there’s a few things to talk about and it’s been a bit of fun exploring that. Now I’m putting that to one side and I go back and do last year’s show, [Life is Pain] I’m going around the UK doing that again in November. Then that goes out on DVD, and I can fully turn my attention to Austalia in March which is the new show and I’ll be doing warm ups in January, February. Dusting off the Edinburgh show, adding some bits, trying to evolve a new ninety minutes. That’s what I really need to put on a proper tour show, you need a good ninety minute set.

Lisa: I’d like to ask who in comedy inspired you? A lot of people you talk about in your book Teenage Revolution  are your heroes but not a lot of standup performers get the nod. You mention a few people in the last chapter that you encounter when you’re starting out in stand up like John Hegley and Eddie Izzard. So I was wondering who you looked up to when you were starting out?

Alan: A very big influence was Billy Connolly

Lisa: He was doing stand up when there was no standup

Alan: Yeah, well he was doing those big concerts in a way that other people weren’t. Standup was still in working mens clubs and strip clubs and end of the pier shows. The comedy circuit in London was quite fledgling and small.So Billy Connolly was a big influence, particularly he did a thing on ITV in the UK called An Audience With..

Lisa: Yep, I’ve seen that, it’s great [I think it was the best of all of them]

Alan: It’s a really funny hour, a very funny hour of comedy. Dave Allen was also very important.

Lisa: Yeah, Dave often gets forgotten as a great standup [or rather sit-down]

Alan: Then there are a lot of American comics, I really like Steve Martin, but I don’t know particularly what influences you. I think the thing is you have to find your own way and you have to find your own voice. That’s very important and you certainly won’t do that by copying. When I started in the circuit it was quite a political scene. There were quite a few comedians, mainly on the left and there was a lot of anti-Thatcher feeling generally in the UK and I was trying to do topical, news based material, but increasingly I found you’d go to a comedy club you’d have to say to the other comedians ‘What have you got on this, what are you saying about that’. But if you talked about your grandmother’s knitting, no one else is talking about that and if you talked about something several times over a number of gigs then it evolves into a routine rather than being two or three half developed jokes. So I found I could go in and be more autobiographical and then it was personal and it was just my stuff and it would grow and evolve over time and that was my development as a comedian really. I was never going to be a character comic and I was never going to be one of those surreal, off the wall type Harry Hill comedians. It was always going to be anecdotal nonsense. Half the time when I was starting as a comedian I didn’t know why they were laughing or why they weren’t. You know it takes a long time to get the hang of it.

Lisa: Did you keep diaries when you were growing up? I can’t remember my youth as clearly as you seem to.

Alan: When I was writing the book,… what’s interesting now is… much of what I was talking about is on Youtube. It’s really odd, there’s quite a lot of stuff, particularly if you’re talking about somebody like Debbie Harry or Paul Weller. When I was a kid, when Debbie Harry and Blondie were going to be on Top of the Pops, that week you had to be in at 7.25 and watch it. You didn’t have a VCR and it wasn’t repeated and that was your chance to see her for three minutes on television and now you can see, on line, all of anything that anybody’s ever done at any time of the day or night. It’s quite odd. That’s one of the major cultural differences I think that exists between my life now and my life as a young man. So I just did a lot of trawling through Youtube going back, remembering stuff. Apart from Youtube there are websites and they have loads of stuff about events in the 80s.It’s well documented. I remember specific important incidents from my teenage years, but it was a matter of looking at my own life on the internet. The book is about the changing nature of hero worship as you go through adolescence. It’s about who you revere when you are younger and how you find heroes and why you do and what they mean to you.

I had a bit of a big idea for the book and I don’t think I quite realised it. It sort of fell between two stores and the publishers didn’t help much. The idea was that it was going to be a quirky non-fiction cult thing and then in the end the marketing department got hold of it and said ‘Hang on, isn’t it about Jonathan Creek has written a book about his life? We’ll put his picture on the front and try and market it as a Christmas celebrity book.’ And in so doing they absolutely killed it because people are sick and tired of Christmas celebrity books, they assume that they’re going to be absolutely shit. It didn’t really get reviewed, the only mention it got in the newspaper was from some world weary reviewer who said I’ve been handed a bunch of celebrity Christmas books which I assume have all been ghost written and I found that really really heartbreaking cause it took me months and months to write it and he’s not even going to look at it. If he’d read it and said it’s a load of crap I could put up with that. It was one of those things that sent me back toward standup actually ’cause I thought, Well I tried writing a book, I do a podcast about football which we can’t get any money out of, they cancelled Whites which was my sitcom that I was really proud of and thought would last three or four years and they canned that and I ended up thinking, you know what? I’m just going to get up on stage and talk to the audience, it’s the thing I do best and maybe I’ll enjoy it and if I don’t then I won’t anymore and I did. Luckily.

 Lisa: When did you realise that comedy could be a career for you?

Alan: I was pretty fixated on that. When I left university I didn’t want to get a job, I wanted to get on the circuit. I knew it was there. It took me six months before I started getting paid gigs.

Lisa: Did you think that this was a way of becoming an actor or was comedy the end goal?

Alan: Well I always wanted to.., I did a lot of both at university and I have some aptitude for acting. I’ve done a lot of plays. I never really considered standup til the late 80s.Though of course it was there. Most of the people at uni who I thought I might write comedy with in the French and Saunders style never quite worked out. So stand up presented itself and I had a really great five years on the circuit. That’s all I did, you know? Hundreds and hundreds of gigs, but after a while I though, I don’t want to be on the circuit for the rest of my life, I want to do other things. I want to do a sitcom, I want to do some radio and I want to do other sorts of comedy and so I started pointing myself in other directions and it was through trying to get a sitcom off the ground that I ended up getting the opportunity to audition for Jonathan Creek and things changed quite dramatically really. Then it became, once I was doing a lot of drama filming, it was harder and harder to keep my standup mojo. Cause you’re not in the clubs every week and you couldn’t get your material together and I fell out of love with the touring side of things a little bit and it was hard for me to go on the late spot at the Comedy Store cause I was so familiar to the audience from television that they would just get a bit too excited because they’d had so much to drink. I got a bit downhearted about it really and I never thought I’d be away from it for ten years. I really didn’t. I always thought I’d get back into it. It just took me a while.

Lisa: About QI Do you see it as a 26 year project? Do you think it will make it through to the full 26 years?

Alan: O yeah, we’re in it for the long haul, we’re totally in it for the long haul. We might end up on some obscure little website by the time we reach the end of the alphabet. I know the BBC will still be giving us airtime. Were up to series K that’s just started going out in the UK last week and hopefully you’ll get that in Australia sometime between now and March when I come. It’s a good series, we’ve got some good guests and it’s in rude health at the moment, QI, and there’s no sign of anyone – the producers, researchers or me and Stephen – we’re not flagging. We’re bang up for another lot.

Lisa: Have you learned a lot about the world from QI or has it just made things more difficult to get your head around?

Alan: Yeah, I’ve learned that I don’t know anything. That’s quite humbling and quite healthy.

Lisa: You’ve done radio, theatre, TV drama/documentary/comedy/panel shows, books, theatre, standup bit of film. Apart from your upcoming tour here, have you got anything else new on the go?

Alan: Well really I’m back doing what I always did. Today was the first day of shooting on the new series of Jonathan Creek. Which is three brand new episodes. I’ve been working with Sarah Alexander all day. I’m doing that for the next eight weeks. The new episodes will air in the UK around about the time I’m out in Australia or just before. So hopefully you’ll get those soon. Then I’m touring the old standup show [Life is pain] in November and then the new show warm up dates in February and a nice juicy tour of Australia in March and then I’m doing some dates in April and in May and June we do another series of QI. I’m quite busy the next six or eight months. It’s quite a busy period.

Lisa: Have you ever thought that you’d like to make a movie?

Alan: Oh yeah I think about it. It’s not one of those things you can control. One of the nice things about standup is that at least if you think “Do you know what? I’m gonna do a show”, you can actually just do a show. It becomes quite difficult when you’re dependent on being cast in other people’s things. There’s always something, you know. Whites was a big disappointment but Oliver Lansley was one of the co-writers and we became good friends and we’re noodling away at a show at the moment that we’re hoping channel 4 will take. There’s always something going on. But the things you actually end up doing are, as the saying goes, the things that come up between your plans.

Lisa: That’s really the end of my questions but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading your book because I grew up the same time as you and it resonated with me.

Alan: Well that’s nice of you to read it ‘cause it was so much effort to write it. I don’t know if you saw it, if you got in in Australia, but there is a three part TV series based on it about life in the 80s in the UK called Teenage Revolution

Lisa: I don’t think it did get shown here in Australia, but I got to see it on the Youtube.

Alan: Well the response I got about that, people our age were just bowled over by it. The rush of memories and the soundtrack that played for it.

Lisa: I enjoyed that your perspective on the 80s was different to how it’s usually portrayed in the media as a boom time of shallow excess. That’s not how I remember it.

Alan: Yeah. It feels so weird though. I started doing standup in that decade, yet it feels like a lifetime ago….No Mobiles

Lisa: Well we survived

Alan: Yeah… but…

[His voice sounds like he’s glad mobile phones came along.]

Lisa: Thank you, I’ll let you go now

Alan: Thank you and it’s very nice to talk to you.

Lisa: Nice to talk to you too and I look forward to seeing your show when you come out.

Tickets for Little Victories are selling out fast at Ticketmaster http://www.ticketmaster.com.au/Alan-Davies-tickets/artist/1621116?tm_link=tm_homeA_b_10001_1