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