After the gig finished I stood outside with Mike Wilmot talking to one of the punters who had just seen the show. He was early twenties, tall and shy. Good country stock. He approached us with his girlfriend and stammered ever so slightly as he spoke to us, his eyes trained squarely on Mike.
“That was incredible,” he said. “I couldn’t breathe at one point.”
His girlfriend concurred immediately.
“It’s true. He couldn’t.”
We thanked him for coming along and told them both that we were glad they enjoyed the show.
“That is the first stand up comedy show I have ever seen,” he said.
We’re pulling into Capella after a five-hour drive. The clouds were heavy and brooding. At intermittent points rays of sunshine punched through the gloom and cascaded over the empty fields. Capella looked tiny. Maybe 9 people lived here tops. At our hotel the manager shook my hand with a big strong grip, his thick wrists revealing my soft life by proximity alone. Country hands. This man has never had a need to order a latte.
“Ever been to Capella before?” he asked.
“No,” I replied.
“Neither had I until I came to run this place.”
At dinner Marina Franklin, the sassy comic from New York who was experiencing country Australia for the first time, ordered a peppermint tea. The waitress stared blankly at her.
“Do you mean green tea?” She asked.
After a failed explanation Marina graciously ordered a coffee instead. Our meals took too long to arrive but when they came out they were delicious and big. No one is watching his or her weight here. They just want a big, decent meal that leaves them satisfied.
We arrived at the venue and discovered there will be only about a hundred or so at the gig. On Road Show we perform to at least 300+ every night. The room is set up with chairs at tables thrown together at right angles that suggest a cubist Rorschach artist. I wondered what hidden memories would be unleashed while I stared out from the stage throughout the show.
Backstage we prepared for the worst. That is what comedians do. We’re not necessarily pessimistic but we’ve all been in too many situations where we’ve been too confident going into a show and been burned for our perceived hubris. Looking at the configuration of chairs and tables can only suggest the worst.
It turns out you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover and you shouldn’t judge a gig by the way the chairs are placed. The audience is electric. People have travelled from over 50 kilometres to see the show. They’ve paid up near $40 to be entertained. Inner city hipsters won’t walk 50 metres and pay $10 to see a gig. We’re spoiled for choice. This is a fact.
I used old school material for an old school audience. Routines about performing at hen’s nights, exploding fairies and embarrassing moments fit snugly like an old jacket that has somehow retained it’s initial shape. Every act walks off beaming. The audience laughed heartily at Bob Franklin’s poems. Marina held them in the palm of her hand gently manipulating them into whatever shape she needed them to be. The cardigan assassin Mel Buttle knocked them dead with her relatable tales of living with her Father. Mike Wilmot is Mike Wilmot; an unstoppable force of nature that whips the already manic audience into a ballet of whirling dervishes who danced for his delight.
At the end of the show Mike and I stood outside talking to the punters. Our friend tells us he had never seen a stand up comedy show before. This is what it is all about. After the unimportant politics of the Melbourne Comedy Festival where “he said, she said” tales rule the roost; where reviews are given too much credit and the number of people in the room is more important than whether you connected or not; where ticket sales will determine if talent sinks or swims; you hit the road and remember it is all about one thing and one thing only.
It’s all about the jokes, baby.
29th of April, 2011