The Raw Comedy Competition is a fantastic opportunity for young comedians and punters who'd like to give stand up a bit of a crack. There is a real joy in watching people with little experience hitting the stage and having a go. You get to see people who have quite clearly been influenced by other comedians (there was a very funny act who had appeared to have worked out the cadence of a Dave Hughes' style joke) or acts who have a particular idea of what is funny that come from a place that is almost unrecognisable. Both approaches are valid and even an act that struggles is still interesting to me. We were running a little late last night as producer Daniel Moore had to run a daytime super Raw Comedy Heat in St Kilda, then make his way to Fitzroy to meet the rest of us (Dil Jayasinha and Tegan Higginbotham were the co-headliners for this heat) before we could drive to Geelong. We arrived about ten minutes before the show was to begin. After a quick moment with all the acts, a run through of how the show was to work with the Geelong crew, sound checks and the answering of queries from the contestants I found myself onstage before I'd had time to really take in my surroundings.
Before we go any further this is how Raw Comedy works. An act is given five minutes to perform their routine. They are shown a red light at four minutes thirty to let them know they have thirty seconds to wrap up. Then the light reappears at the five minute mark. They're given a brief moment to finish but if they continue with their set the mic is turned off and the house music is brought up. This might sound harsh but sometimes when you have twenty to thirty contestants any extra time adds up and leaves the last few acts having to deal with an exhausted audience. Last night there were fourteen contestants which gave us a very workable seven in a half with two headliners to entertain the audience while the judges decided who won. The judges are invariably looking for someone who is original, well presented and (of course) funny. The most important thing to remember with Raw Comedy is that every contestant should aim to have fun with winning a secondary concern. I've know comedians who have won the whole competition that have faded from the public view and contestants who never proceeded past the first round now some of the biggest acts in the country. In the end it just a gig and if you have fun and learn from your experience whatever else comes of it is gravy. As an example Dil didn't make it past the second round last year and this year he is headlining one of the heats.
Sometimes the person who has the hardest time of it is the host. The audience can watch you wishing you'd bring their mate on so they can see them rather than the "so-called professional" who is keeping the show from falling into disarray. No such worries last night as the Geelong audience was great. To be honest I was a bit off my game for the first five minutes, a few stumbles on certain words really annoying me. I know the audience doesn't notice this type of stuff but you can't help but be frustrated. What I did to overcome this was keep on smiling while I performed (an early mentor of mine, Canadian comedian Jack Smith, always used to say, "Big smiles, best night of your life". It sounds really corny but my mate Lehmo and I often think of this when a gig doesn't start the way we would like and it invariably helps turn things around) I also added a bit of movement to a routine, working as much of the stage as possible to give me time for my head to click into place. I also had a chat with a young lad in the audience (his name was Charlie, 14 years old with a cracking head of hair that made him look like he'd just come straight from 1977...his little "afro" made me extremely envious and self conscious of my receding hairline...the strange things that go through your mind while you perform!) and once I'd settled I returned to my material. Here's the setlist for both halves:
Partying During The Week
Chatting with the audience
Car Crash in Adelaide
Tripping and Farting
Invite Who You Want To Parties
Being An Arsehole
Little Boy Joke
It was nice to be able to throw in some old material ("Partying During The Week", "Hen's Night" and "Biker Gig") alongside the new. The gig itself was great and the Geelong crew who work for the Geelong Performing Arts Centre were a delight to work with. There were some surreal moments downstairs in the green room as we were sharing space with a production of Les Miserables. Often you would find yourself talking comedy with the contestants while being surrounded by people who looked like they might steal your belongings...that is if you happened to be carrying a loaf of bread with you...which I often do in honour of our forefathers. Megan McKay was the winner of her heat and a runner up (who I have drawn a blank on his name...he was very good though so don't take my old man memory as a slight) who will go through to one of the preliminary heats in Melbourne. I think both have an excellent chance to excel in the next round. It was also great to see Dil and Tegan really nail their spots especially seeing all the hard work they put in around Melbourne paying off in another city. Translating what you perform to new audiences in new venues in new cities can be one of the harder aspects of stand up comedy but both of them performed with aplomb.
All in all an excellent night (besides my unevenness in the first five minutes...I will hopefully let that go sometime later in the day) and a good way to finish a run of six gigs in five days.
3rd of February, 2013