Gig 96: The Marion Hotel

Last night was the first gig for me in Adelaide in nearly a year and it provided an interesting challenge very early on. There was a big crowd at The Marion Hotel that seemed to appear all at once.  At the very beginning of the night it was a smallish crowd but then as Tommy Dassalo started his opening set it was like the bells had been rung and the audience appeared out of nowhere.  Dassalo made a smart decision up front by performing a slightly longer set than usual to help give the audience plenty of time to enter the room, settle down and get into the flow of the night.  It was one of those decisions that most people in the audience wouldn't recognise but was a very good move as host.

There were some excellent Adelaide comedians on the bill, a few I had seen a handful of times and a couple that are on their way to being seasoned pros.  The material was diverse and funny but what stood out the most to me was how much each comedian's presence had improved and become more defined since I had visited town.

I was headlining so I was on in the third bracket.  I was keen to have a good gig for a number of reasons.  The first being that it was my first gig back in a while.  Second was that two of my best friends were in the audience, two lads that I grew up with, one of which I started my career with in The Bunta Boys.  There was an immediate challenge early on though but I'll explain what that was after you check the setlist:

 

Meth Fans

Turning 40!

Car Crash in Adelaide

International Bogan

Gastro

Fix Your Flaws

Hairy Baby

Adam Sandler:  Royal Baby

Being An Arsehole

Little Boy Joke

Tripping and Farting

Laughing at a Funeral

Laughing In Greek Class

Sargent Dick Long

Twitter and Felix

"That Won't Get Him a Job"

No Need To Share All Your Opinions

Qantas Rant

 

 

Very early in my set there was a man sitting in the audience who was making some weird noises.  It turned out he was mildly retarded and he had been walking around at the back of the club earlier in the night, approaching some of the young girls and making them feel awkward.  Whatever the case he was sitting behind some of the girls he'd approached earlier.  They were sitting second from the front and he was talking to them while making a very distinct noise that was a bizarre sounding laugh.  I feel pretty confident in these situations that I can just talk over the top to help drown out these types of noises.  I am also confident in the fact that if I work hard enough onstage people will forget that something isn't quite right in the audience.

Unfortunately the problem was that the young girls were laughing at the situation. This left me with some options.  I could bring attention to everything that was happening, try to talk it out and hopefully find some comedy gold in the process.  This would have been an acceptable approach in the world of stand up but I felt it would have been cruel. It also provides a situation where you can derail your set to such an extent that it ruins the gig. Therefore this was not an option for me.

 

 

The second option was to chastise the girls for their poor form in laughing at someone who is not as well off as they are.  The problem with this is I would have immediately set up a situation where I could have set some young people in the role of villains.  This could have encouraged the audience to be angry with the girls.  I was a bit more forgiving of this because they're young and sometimes laughter is not meant as a cruel reaction but a helpless reaction.  On the other hand if I had singled out the girls I could have been seen as me picking on the girls for something they had no control over and in turn I could have been made the bad guy which is a difficult situation to pull out of.

Finally I could have asked the promoter Craig Egan to remove the guy but that too was a cruel option and besides, I wasn't entirely certain he was doing anything that was really out of line.  Later I found out that he was indeed being inappropriate but at the time onstage he was just someone who obviously had some issues and I didn't want to bring any more pain to the situation.

By the way, everything I have just recounted went through my head in seconds while I was still performing.  I have in recent years been surprised at the thoughts and ideas that can race through your head while performing.  This was definitely one of those moments.

In the end I decided to empower the girls so I took a moment to point to them and explain I knew what they were laughing at, I knew what they had the giggles over and that they were better than that.  I explained that I was more than comfortable with a serious moment and I would rather they ignored the situation behind them and paid attention to the stage.  I reiterated that I believed they could be "better" in this situation and I was lucky enough to have them focus on the gig.  There was some little moments after that but overall everyone was well behaved and soon the audience was back on track.

I decided to perform a similar set to the one I had performed at the Perth Comedy Festival while adding some new material.  Some of the new material like International Bogan I wanted to try in a new context and I felt I made some progress with that.  Adam Sandler: Royal Baby came out of a conversation that had begun with Mum and then popped up again with Dassalo in our car ride to the gig.  It was a mildly high concept with a potentially harsh question (Basically I was commenting on the media's obsession with the new Royal Baby and what would have happened if the child had been born "special".  This lead into the baby growing up and morphed into a new Adam Sandler movie.  Like most jokes I'm sure you had to be there) but it worked on the night and may have inspired me to give it another go in my next few gigs.

Overall the night was a massive success.  I was quite happy to bring back some material like the Qantas Rant even if I wasn't quite word perfect with it.  There was a good flow to the gig and it seemed like the near hour I performed onstage flew.  It was a good beginning to my week of gigs in Adelaide.

 

Justin Hamilton

25th of July, 2013

Adelaide