The Rise and Fall of the Bunta Boys Part 1

Not many people probably know or remember that

before I became the mega/minor successful comedian I

am today I spent my first five years in a musical duo

called the Bunta Boys.  This is their story.

I always wanted to be a writer.

As far back as primary school I knew that was what I

wanted to be when I grew up.  When I was writing

stories that were a combination of Boba Fett up

against “Raiders of the Lost Ark” style adventures I

knew that this was the life for me.  My first “book”

was a story called Zodac the Warrior Chief which I not

only wrote back in grade three but also provided the

front page artwork; a combination of pencil work and

shading (shading was produced by colouring in a

cloth with your colour pencils and then rubbing the

cloth over your artwork) that conveyed the power

and majesty of the story inside.  Only recently when I

was looking over this piece did I realise that the story

had Kiss songs for chapter headings.  My influences

were worn proudly on my sleeves and would be for

quite a long time.

Throughout high school I knew I was going to make it

as a writer.  I picked my subjects accordingly and

flourished in any topic that required reading, writing

and a strong opinion.  Not necessarily a correct

opinion but definitely a strong opinion.  I am

surprised I didn’t end up reviewing movies for the

Age with those strong credentials behind me.  By the

time I reached the end of year eleven I had picked my

subjects for my last year with this in mind.  English,

Modern European History, Ancient History, Classical

Studies and Biology…the science you picked when you

had to pick a science.  I was sent to see our school

counsellor, a man who wore pleated pants to match

his pleated shirts, a man who had no hair on top of

his head but what hair he had looked like he had

pushed a curly neck brace up above his ears; a man

who would help me with my decisions for my future.

“This is a lot of reading and writing,” he remarked

looking at my choices.

“I know.  When I leave high school I’m going to be a

writer,” I replied.

“Hmmm…y’know, you probably won’t achieve that,

you do live in Adelaide, maybe you should set your

goals a little lower.”

“Maybe I could be one of those dudes who writes

amusing poems for his friends’ 21st birthdays and

then everyone can come up to me and say, hey, you

should have been a writer?”

“That’s the spirit.”

So I dropped Ancient History and Classical Studies

and took up Economics and Geography.  The next

year I came top in English, third in Modern European

History…and I failed the rest.  Because I didn’t go to

my other lessons.  Because I knew deep down that I

didn’t care about hairy stamens, I didn’t care about

how a mountain eroded and I knew the term fiscal

policy was never going to come up in a conversation

with someone who was fucking interesting. 

Since I failed year 12 I had to go straight to work,

which was fine with me as I was going to be a writer

and seriously, what could uni teach me that life

couldn’t?  Ah the blind arrogance of youth…how I do

miss you my old pal.  I scratched around working,

discovering booze, playing a lot of sport and writing

short stories here and there.

One day when I was 20 a friend of mine returned to

Adelaide for a couple of days.  That friend was all

round good guy Richard Fidler, a member of the

funniest comedy act of all time the Doug Anthony All-

Stars.  I had met the Dougs for the first time when I

was 16 and they were doing some work with my

Mum.  I loved them on the Big Gig and after I went to

see them live for the first time was taken backstage

and introduced.  I remember trying to impress all of

them.  I told Tim that I understood his Joe Orten joke

about hammering in the morning.  I told Paul that I

was a big fan of the works of Dennis Potter.  I talked

music to Fidler.  And they were absolutely lovely in

that they didn’t take the piss out of this dorky kid

who was quite clearly having a seizure in his attempt

to impress.

I had stayed in touch with the Dougs and they would

come to Mum’s place for dinner any time they were in

town.  I would hang out with them after their gigs and

thought they were the coolest guys ever and maybe I

was even a little cool by being friends with them. 

What a fucking nerd, right?

So when I was at the ripe age of 20 I tentatively gave

some of my writing to Richard to have a read.  A few

days later when we caught up again he told me that

the writing was funny, really funny and that I should

think about getting into the world of stand up

comedy.

“The thing is you can write a novel, spend years

working on it, try to get it published and if you don’t

then you have to start again.  Whereas with stand up,

you can think of an idea, write the idea, perform the

idea that night and you will know straight away if it

works or doesn’t.  Also it is a great way to make a

living and tour the world,” Fidler said very matter of

fact.

I remember thinking, “Yeah, sure it’s easy for you. 

You’re in the fucking Dougs, the greatest musical

comedy group of all time.  It would be a bit more

difficult for a mere mortal like myself.”

I knew that Fidler’s advice was given with the best of

intentions but seriously this was never going to

happen.  So I spent the next year writing short stories,

sending them off and waiting for my big break...that

never came.

The beginning of 1994 I was working at the Hotel

Adelaide in North Adelaide on O’Connell St.  One of

my best friends was a guy I used to play basketball

with called Damien Kilsby.  We hung out a lot, played

basketball together, worked behind a bar together,

did a special “Cocktail” like performance to “You Can’t

Touch This” behind the bar every time that song was

played and also had the same taste in comedy.  Since

we spent all our money on having a good time, when

it came to our friends’ birthdays we made comedy

videos for our friends to give them as presents.  We

performed little sketches that were influenced by Fast

Forward, the Big Gig and totally ripped off Shitscared

from The D Generation’s “The Late Show”.  Without

intending I had in fact become a dude who instead

of writing amusing poems for his friends’ 21st birthday

parties but instead made amusing videos…welcome to

the world of progress!

“Hey, you guys should get into comedy,” our friends

would say.  Whatever! We were too busy having fun

and making a living of sorts.  Then one night we

heard about a regular comedy night that had started

up on Thursday nights at Boltz Café on Rundle St.  We

decided to go down and check it out.

Boltz Café was a pretty cool place to be seen on

Rundle St.  There was outdoor seating, there was

groovy food full of that 90’s sensation sundried

tomatoes, and its staff was full of attractive girls in

white shirts with ties and jeans or guys who were

good at their jobs.  The head-waiter was a giant

cuddly man called Mal who knew everyone on Rundle

St and was the heart and soul of casual dining in

Adelaide for a long time.  Upstairs was a perfect room

for comedy:  a bar on the side, pool tables up one end

and a stage at the other.  It was also packed and had a

great atmosphere.  Damien and I locked in near the

bar and watched the show.

The show was pretty funny.  We saw Lehmo and Dave

Williams perform who at this stage would have about

6 months of stand up under their belts.  There were a

few others who were quite clearly already making a

name for themselves:  Charlie Hill Smith, Pete

Monaghan, Jo Coventry, Nick Haines, Alex Collins and

a Canadian comedian called Jack Smith.  The night

finished with some impro games and the whole crowd

stayed around after the show was over to mingle and

drink, drink, drink.

By this stage Damien and I were quite drunk and

with the arrogance of booze figured we were good

enough to give it a go.  Damien through a stroke of

luck knew David William’s brother (it was Adelaide of

course…I’m surprised we weren’t all related in some

way) and went over to be introduced to our favourite

act on the night.  I continued drinking…the booze and

the atmosphere…and by the time Damien returned I

was fired up for anything.  I turned and realised he

had brought over Jack Smith who introduced himself

in a very quiet way, a complete contrast to his onstage

persona. 

“Damien tells me you have an act that you’d like to

put on here,” said Jack.

“We certainly do,” I replied not really knowing what

he was talking about. 

“Well why don’t you come down next Monday night,

we do a little workshop so you can show us your act

and we can give you a small spot next Thursday night

if you like?”

I looked at Damien.

“That sounds perfect.  We’ll see you Monday night

then.”

And as Jack was about to walk off he turned back

suddenly and said, “Oh, by the way, what is the name

of your act.”

“We’re called the Bunta Boys,” replied Damien.

“Cool.  See you next week.”

And with that, Jack was gone.

I ordered another couple of drinks and gave one to

Damien.  We clinked glasses in a celebratory way and

over the pounding music and the drunk bleating of

the crowd I said to Damien:  “Fuck.  We’d better write

an act then.”

To be continued…