Gig 33: The Shelf

The Shelf: the comedy show you will never see on TV. Adam Richard and I came up with the idea for The Shelf in 2011 when we lamented the fact there were no rooms that existed where comedians sparred with one another. When I first started performing in Adelaide and Melbourne the established comedians would walk on and off stage together, attempt new acts, try ideas or just throw the comedian onstage a curve ball to have some fun.  This doesn't happen anymore.  It often feels like comedians are attempting to nail the ten minute set they have for that TV show that doesn't exist.  We both found it quite depressing.

We also lamented that TV and radio appears to want comedians to be anything but funny. There is a noticeable lack of edge in comedy in this country as radio stations and networks are too afraid to let anything appear long enough to find its feet.  It is into this type of environment that the low brow jokes of "The Footy Show" are mistaken for having the balls for taking on political correctness.  This is incorrect but how can we prove that comedians know how to tackle the world with proper cutting edge comedy when the local product is for the most part castrated before it ever gets an opportunity to air?

With this in mind we decided that the only place comedy shows can flourish is onstage and with that in mind we joined up with publicist and friend Jodi Crocker to create The Shelf.  We pulled together a small bunch of comedians who would perform every week as regulars and rather than have the show continuously on month after month, we would produce "seasons" that only lasted three or four shows.  In a small amount of time we have had a lot of success with a loyal fan base that builds with every new season.  We sell season tickets that get the punters in to every show at a very low price and these punters are treated to a brand new show every time.

The show is presented at The Toff in Town which has to be the most beautiful room to perform comedy in Australia.  For those punters who may remember me from my Rhino Room days in Adelaide, this show is the grown up version of what was started there.  I host the show with Adam playing sniper throughout the night.  We present a night full of different styles of comedy:  stand up, chats, character, musical and sketch. Sometimes the action is onstage, sometimes it takes place out in the audience.  If you attend many of the shows you will be privy to the ongoing gags that take place like yelling "Huzzah!" every time Wil Anderson makes a certain mistake, the "Stale Sperm Dance" to let women know these guys are past their used by date, yelling "40!" at me every time I ask the audience my age.  These "in-jokes" are never punchlines, instead they pepper the night and add flavour to a big night of comedy.

The show begins at 7.30pm and usually finishes around the 10.30pm mark.  This is another reason we only produce 3 or 4 show seasons as they're exhausting to put together.  We have seen some regular comedians come and go as the workload can burn people out.  I know I have produced hours of material over the six seasons, some of which is only performed once and then discarded.  When The Shelf is between seasons Adam and I produce a podcast to fill in the gap until the next season begins.

The last season of The Shelf was exhausting but after nearly three months away it was exciting to be back with a bigger and better show than ever.  Our opening night was sold out and I started the show by hugging many members of the audience from the front of the stage right to the back of the room where I leapt into the arms of my six foot ten friend (ex basketball championship winner Brett Wheeler) and had him carry me back to the stage.  If you ever wondered what that might look like then wonder no longer:

 

 

This was not pre-planned but luckily Wheeler knew where to deposit me.

 

Setlist One:

 

Comedians and the cry of “Me!”

Snobby with bookings

Afghanistan:  Marching on ANZAC Day

I’m a war hero!

“Hey, be careful!”

Soldiers are funny.

Journey into Kabul

Buzz might be Batman.

Afghanistan:  The Worst Sentence Ever

Bronzing Up!

 

This was a very similar opening set to the one I performed at The Local the previous night but this time I made some positive changes by deleting some unnecessary information and then adding some totally new ideas.  This time the opening worked a treat and by the time I brought Adam onstage the room was ready to go.  We had a great line up as well that consisted in running order of Joel Tito, Tegan Higginbotham (one of our loyal regular comedians), Fan Fiction's Joseph Moore, Luke McGregor, Wes Snelling and Kate McClennan, Wil Anderson, Travis Nash, Celia Pacquola, Rich Hall and Lessons with Luis.

There is also no point in writing down some of the material performed as so much of it was ad libbed it is difficult to remember everything that happened.  In any show I would honestly say there is about an hour of malarkey that occurs especially between Adam, Wil and I.   Examples:  Adam and I spent about five minutes on a banana skin that Adam had produced.  Wil and I spent about five minutes introducing Luke trying to work out whether we should talk him up or down.  Travis Nash was just watching the show but something happened that reminded me of a story he once told me so Wil and I brought him up onstage to tell his tale.  Wil had been at The Project with Rich Hall (one of my all time favourite comedians) and brought him down at the last minute.

The show is organic and eclectic every night.  Wes and Kate performed a sketch in the middle of the room over the punters.  Joel Tito gave us a look at some material from his Moosehead Awarded show "The Trial and Death of Socrates (No Relation)"  We finished of the night with Lessons with Luis performing their Xmas set three months too late. If you like traditional stand up then we had Tegan and Celia bringing that to the table.  It is a very fulfilling show to put together.

The only annoying aspect of the show was there was a woman who; while not heckling; ended up so drunk she began talking to the comedians onstage.  This derailed the end of the night slightly and I think it took the audience by surprise because this is the first time in six seasons we've had anything like this occur.  It was annoying after the show was finished to find people mentioning this in their tweets and Facebook status updates. When a show lasts over three hours and someone is annoying for ten minutes it feels like people are focusing on the wrong part of the show.  Then again I can be pretty touchy with The Shelf as it takes so long to put each show together it is difficult to reconcile these blips on the radar.

 

 

Apart from this it was still a great show and with three to go I am back to looking forward to Monday nights at The Toff in Town.  The Shelf is the type of show that I hoped to be a part of when I was growing up and it is important, no matter what is going on around me, to remember that and have some fun.

Justin Hamilton

26th of March, 2013

Fitzroy North