White Coat Comedy

By Colin Flaherty

Kicking off last month, White Coat Comedy is a monthly room that encourages comedians to stretch their wings and try something new – experimentation  being the order of the day. Dave Warneke, the booker and a comic only too happy to fiddle with the stand up form, answers some questions about this new venture:

What prompted you to start the room? Do you have any accomplices?

I’d wanted to set up something for a while and then I did some gigs at Club Voltaire in North Melbourne and thought it was the perfect little space.

I must give some credit to the Tuxedo Cat for inspiring me to set up this kind of night though. The Tuxedo Cat is a venue hub that sets up and hosts multiple shows (many of them alternative) for things like Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festivals. I was lucky enough to perform my comedy festival show with them in April. On a Saturday nights during the Comedy Festival they run a late night show and invite performers from The Cat and across the festival to come and perform something new, or something that they’ve always wanted to do. I found it to be such an exciting unpredictable thing that I thought ‘Melbourne needs a room like this!’

I run the room with fellow up and coming comedian Kieran Bullock. He does the tech stuff on the night and designs the rather flashy posters, and I book most of the acts.

What do you think it is about other Melbourne rooms that discourage performers from taking risks?

Don’t get me wrong the Melbourne comedy scene is awesome! There’s stacks of comedians and heaps of rooms running right now and it’s great. There’s different kinds of rooms where some things will go down well and others not so much.

I wanted to set up a risk free room where both the audience and performers know that they’re in for an unpredictable night, but also they might see something you can’t see else where. There’s places some performers feel if they don’t smash it they’ll never get a gig there again. But if we all did our ‘5 minutes of gold’ every time then we’d never get new material. New ideas, new styles and new material have got to come from somewhere. I hope White Coat is a perfect place for that.

I imagine that this room is popular with comedians and hardcore comedy nerds. Did you have particular audience in mind?

The first night a lot of comedians came down and checked it all out and gave me some great feedback about what was going on. I just wanted an audience that loves comedy and is ready to go on a journey with the performer and see what whacky or new stuff they come up with.

Do performers come to you with their ideas before getting a spot? Or do you simply give them free rein?

I trust the performers and let them do whatever they want to do. I just ask if they need any props or the projector and screen.

Simon Keck who’s on Sunday night told me he was coming up with ‘something special’ as he winked at me and climbed into a taxi a couple of weeks ago. I like to be as unprepared as the audience as to what’s gonna happen.

What is your policy with newbie performers?

Newbie performers are very welcome, I mean there’s nothing more unpredictable and newer than that. However because we only run once a month the spots do fill up quickly.

My suggestion to Newbies would be to check out Sunday Shorts which is the comedy heavy variety night that runs at Club Voltaire every Sunday the White Coat Comedy isn’t on. It often has spots available for newbies and is great for new performers. My White Coat partner in crime Kieran Bullock is in charge of booking that.

Did opening night unearth many inspired moments?

Opening night was great fun. I invited some of my favourite comedians to come down and launch it and they did not disappoint.
Adam Knox opened the night by asking the audience to yell out punch lines to jokes that throughout the night he wrote the preceding joke to and performed at the end.
Simon Taylor improvised a story as prompted by the audience.
Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall read out a hilarious list of things that he is thankful for.
And I demo’d a live comedy game called ‘Is It Porn?’ a video of which can be seen here. On September the 12th I am launching a live comedy game show called ‘The Facty Fact Gameshow’ with several comedic guests at The Workers Club in Fitzroy and White Coat was a great place to unveil such a game.

White Coat Comedy happens on the last Sunday of every month at Club Voltaire (fourteen Raglan Street North Melbourne) with doors opening at 7pm.

The big second show is this Sunday (29th July) featuring Jonathan Schuster, Ryan Coffey, Pete Sharkey, Simon Keck, Beau Stegmann, Dave Warneke, Kieran Bullock, David Fairclough, Katie Castles and Alan Driscoll.

This is the Facebook page for the night http://www.facebook.com/WhiteCoatComedy/timeline

An Interview with Paddy Magee about going to his first Edinburgh Fringe Festival

By Lisa Clark

I recently recieved an email from Paddy Magee kindly informing me that I had missed him in our list of Aussies performing in Edinburgh this year. You might know him as Patrick Magee, one of the brilliant performers in Sydney sketch troupe Comicide (described by our reviewer Dan Nicolls as ‘Fucking Hilarious”). He, like many other local performers, has taken the plunge to move to London and this year and will be performing a show at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival for the first time. I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about his experiences and ask him for ‘5 Good Reasons’ to see his show Do Not Trust the Animals – free.

What/Who inspired you to work in comedy?

Actually, I wanted to be a serious grown-up actor and play Doctor Who on the telly. But while I was doing drama at Uni, I met Dan Ilic and one night in 2005 he asked me to do some stand-up for a night he was running (I think the bill was running short). And from then on I was bitten by the bug.

Just kidding! My material was awful and it was a horrifically traumatic experience. I didn’t perform stand-up for another two years after that.

The first time we discovered you was performing in Sydney sketch group Comicide at MICF 2008 along side the likes of Dan Illic and Toby Truslove. How long were you involved in Comicide?

I think by MICF 2008 Comicide had been running for six months. I was involved from the very beginning when Dan first set it up as a fortnightly show running out of the upstairs of a small pub in Sydney’s Inner West. I have no idea why he kept asking me back, I guess I was punctual.

After 2008, Toby and Dan moved to Melbourne, which was a real shame. Comicide limped along for another couple of years but it was never the same, and I quit after the 2009 MICF show. That was an awful time in everybody’s life.

God I miss Toby Truslove. I hope he’s doing okay for himself.

Did you do solo stand up previous or subsequent to this?

I did it here and there, and performed the first iteration of the Aesop show  [Do Not Trust the Animals – free] at the Sydney Fringe last year. It’s not my favourite type of comedy, to be honest; I much prefer sketch, but you have to do all these rehearsals and get other actors and sweet Jesus it’s a lot of effort. With stand-up, there’s a lot less organisation.

How long have you been in London and what took you there?

I’ve been over here since early October. What took me here? An aeroplane! It’s just somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, and eventually my (now ex) girlfriend said “right, let’s move.” Also, I have an English accent because when I was 14 I listened to Doctor Who audio dramas in my sleep.

It’s famously expensive to live in London, has it been worth it in terms of comedy work and experience?

Expensive in terms of rent and transport, yes, but you can buy 500g of Quorn meat substitute for only £4. Also, store-brand vodka tastes almost as good as the real thing and no one’s gone permanently blind yet.

It’s been incredibly hard starting at the bottom rung of the stand-up ladder over here. Comedy is held in such high esteem in the UK that every moron who’s ever had a friend say “mate, you should give stand-up a go” has taken the advice seriously, and so rooms are flooded with people who have no experience or talent or jokes. Also, they seem pathologically incapable of keeping a room to time, so most nights end between 11 and 11:30 at night after twenty-something open-mikers have overrun their five minutes.

But I’m meeting some pretty great people. Celia Pacquola, who I only knew vaguely before coming over here, is now my best friend. She doesn’t realise this yet, but she will. She will.

Any advice you’d like to give comedians over here thinking of taking the plunge and moving there?

Don’t do it. There’s enough competition from no-hopers, I don’t need people with actual talent coming over here as well.

Have you been to Edinburgh as an audience member before?

No, this is my first time ever going to Edinburgh. I’m following in the footsteps of my friends Madeleine Culp, Jen Carnovale, Ryan Withers, Eric Hutton and Shane Matheson who went up last year.

Did you always intend to do an Edinburgh show when heading over to the UK?

I did, yeah. In fact, I’ve been hoping to do an Edinburgh show since 2006, but for various reasons things haven’t materialised. In 2008 there was some idle talk of Comicide heading up; that was scuppered by the fact that three cast members (and I’m including myself here) had embezzled a LOT of our ticket revenue to get drunk during the MICF. We wouldn’t have taken so much but blimey, have you ever bought a drink from the Town Hall bar?

There are many other comedy festivals in the UK, have you performed in any of those?

I haven’t performed in any of the dedicated comedy festivals over here yet (and given how insecure I am about competition, I’m not sure if I would) but I have plied my trade at a couple of more general arts festivals and weekenders, like the Norwich and Norfolk festival and the Nabokov Arts Club weekend.

There are also a ludicrous number of comedy competitions over here, but most of them seem to be excuses for promoters to encourage acts to stack the audience. Actually, that’s a real problem over here: because there are so many rooms in London, many venues won’t let you perform unless you bring an audience member along. I tend to think that should be the promoter’s job, but I’m old fashioned like that.

Does the Free Fringe make it easier for an unknown performer to get a festival show on?

The Free Fringe is an absolute godsend for an unknown performer like me to get a foot in the door. The costs of theatre hire alone are so high that it would be almost impossible for me to perform otherwise, which is why they were set up in the first place. And with the passing round a hat at the end of the show, there’s the potential to earn a decent amount of money each night. Enough to keep me in Tesco brand vodka at least.

Was organising accommodation difficult?

Organising accommodation isn’t difficult per se, but it is incredibly expensive. As an example, I’m paying £500 to share a room, and that’s considered pretty reasonable. What happens is that, with something like 10 000 artists descending on the city for the month, landlords know that they can charge whatsoever they want because they will always find somebody willing to pay. It’sa rough system, but what can you do?

Where did the idea of a show about fables come from?

I’d been doing a bit about one of Aesop’s fables (The Man & the Satyr) for a year or so, and at some point literally nobody said “Hey Patrick, you should do an hour-long show about Aesop’s Fables.” The rest, as they say, as they say, is history.

It looks like there will be some audience participation and it sounds like it might be a bit more creative that simply straight stand up.

That’s not a question Lisa, but I’ll treat it as one. Yeah, during the show we write our own fable and I draw some pictures to go along with it based on suggestions shouted out by the audience. It gives them the opportunity to shout out stuff without it being a heckle, which I can’t handle or respond to without crying. Also, I don’t have an hour’s worth of material, so drawing pictures is a good way to eat up five, ten, twenty or even thirty minutes of my timeslot.

In the program you say you are ‘award winning’ which award is it?

Ah, look… Up in Sydney there’s a man called Stu. He comes to every single comedy show there is; he never talks to anybody, drinks scotch and Coke in a corner and is generally kind of enigmatic and mysterious. And he runs a blog called Sidney Critic, which isn’t a misspelling of Sydney but instead the name of the dog that apparently writes the blog. In that blog, he reviews all the comedy shows he sees and also drops tantalising hints about his past, like the time his best friend shot him in the hand or the day he went to a BDSM club and cried while a woman had sex with him.<

Every year he hands out awards on the blog, and in 2010 my show Hing & Magee: Illustrious Physicians of Romance won the Sticky Awards for Best Overall Show and Best Scripted Show. So… those are the awards that I definitely won.

Here is his website if you don’t believe me: http://www.myspace.com/blackbalckfalcon

Give us 5 Reasons to see Do Not Trust the Animals – free.

1. It’s free.

2. It’s on at five in the evening, so you can pop in and then see a show you actually like later on.

3. There’s a character called Hipster Pug.

4. At least one good joke about badgers, possibly more.

5. It’s free.

Paddy Magee’s show Do Not Trust the Animals – free is part of The Laughing Horse Free Festival. For more info see the Edinburgh Fringe Website.