It is that time of the year where comedians begin to write new material. We start to gather our thoughts and our disparate ideas pulling them together to create new routines that will hopefully find their way into our new festival shows. They're written down, memorised, placed on a stage and we hope that they'll fly. If not we might give them one or two more opportunities but if they fail to find their way forward we will place them to one side and let them know thank you, but no thanks. You didn't get the job. Return to the ether from which you once sprung. I have begun to work on the new ideas and also bring back some of the routines that I had been using in the middle of the year. There was some stuff (like my stories in Afghanistan) that had served me well especially around the time of the Perth Comedy Festival but I had looked over them and thought I might like to use them next year. I also felt that some of the routines were beginning to get a club room shine to them and I didn't want that to happen. What I mean by that is I find when I'm performing in clubs you slowly edit out the smaller moments in a routine that don't produce as many laughs and turn them into muscular jokes that barely have a quieter moment. Using the Afghanistan stories as an example, for me the best story in the routine is the one with the fewest laughs. While this might not fly as well at a gig it would sit perfectly in a show so I placed it to one side and will begin to fire it up in the next few days.
Also since the end of August I haven't written or performed a lot of new material and I am definitely out of practice. It is a muscle that needs to be brought back to peak fitness and I was gasping for air yesterday. I wrote down and played with ideas for the whole day in preparation of the Rochester Castle Hotel gig and had come away with loads of scraps but no definitive stories. My desk was looking a mess, very different to how it normally looks:
Instead it looked more like the crazy work of a Fox Mulder type, writing down clues about conspiracies and hoping to find connections between the disparate scribbles. The hope is that if I find some ideas and thoughts that connect I can place them together to form a coherent story. I also wanted to take some new material I'd performed twice and spoken with on Wil Anderson's podcast "FOFOP" and clarify one of the ideas. I'll get to that in a second.
I hadn't performed at the Rochester Castle before but I had hung out at gigs with Taco who helps run the night. Apart from his nickname suggesting he might spend a bit of time with Al Pacino in "Carlito's Way" I was impressed with his work ethic and approach to his gig. I was more than up for coming down to his gig and wanted to make certain that I was as prepared as I could be for the headline spot while working on new material and dusting off some routines earlier in the year. My thought process was to run with as much new up front and then finish with a routine that I knew a little better. As always when writing down the set list anything in bold is brand new. You will also notice that there is quite a lot of subject headings. That is due to the fact that there are loads of little bits and maybe over time some of those routines will coalesce and form one bigger piece.
Turning 41 Is A Bit Shitter
My Perfect Girl
No Interest In New Friends
80's Film Clips
Maybe I Want A Child
Hushed Angry Conversation
Hurting For No Reason
I'll Neck Myself
Can't Be Bothered
Care About Stuff
Destroying Right On Guy
Paul and Basic Instinct
My 18 Year Old Son
Destroying a Nerd
I am slowly getting better at recording my sets and listening back. It is a skill I have been derelict in developing for some time and have had to "get over" myself so I'm used to listening to me. It is an excellent skill to develop and any young comedians who might be reading this should take it from me and get used to it sooner rather than later.
I approached this gig as with some ideas in mind and also I wanted to see what would bubble to the surface. I think in the past couple of months I have been performing material that is so polished that it has possibly become too slick. It is always good to have that type of material at your disposal but I think in the process I have not really been talking about anything that is important to me. I haven't dug deep enough to find the material that will make me unique amongst all the caucasian male comics around the world. I personally see this as a weakness that has crept in and have decided to try and discover a little bit more about me that will provide a unique experience. I think this has happened because I have been performing in a lot of rooms that are showcase rooms. The Comic's Lounge in Melbourne and The Comedy Store in Sydney are two great rooms that encourage a style of comedy that hits hard. I like that style a lot. Yet my favourite material is the type that takes its time, takes you somewhere interesting and has something different to say. That type of material is usually a little longer for me so when I'm performing shorter, punchier sets it doesn't lend itself to that style of show. As an example I don't want to perform a longer piece as a host and find that it didn't quite get the audience where you wanted them before bringing on an act so instead I perform a shorter piece that will do the job.
Having a look over the new material it is appearing to be a lot darker. I am fine with that as they're ideas that have come easily and not being used as shock tactics. You might read a heading like "I'll Neck Myself" and think I might need a hug but the idea behind his routine is about preparing for the future when I potentially have nobody to look after me. Hang on. After writing that sentence I'm guessing you're right in that it is pretty dark. Hug time? Kidding of course...I'm fine but that is where my head is taking me now.
I also received a message from a young girl about my material revolving around "Blurred Lines" that made me rethink it a little. She had been incorrectly thinking that I was talking down the effect the film clip has on women but the point of the story is that I was toying with a young man who was being a bit "right on" with his political correctness and the glee I had in shooting him down. It is a routine about being an arsehole and sets up a story when one of my comedy heroes did the same thing to me when I was 18. The message from the girl wasn't shrill or overly dramatic so we had a bit of contact over her misinterpretation. I did think that maybe I wasn't being clear enough in the set up as to what the story was about so I have taken that into account and attempted to clarify the routine in the introduction. Maybe the girl wasn't wrong and instead I could have been at fault for not introducing the idea properly? This happens with new material and it is why you perform smaller gigs in November to iron out any faults in your routines before their presentation on the bigger stage.
This is pretty much what my life will be like until the new show debuts in March next year at the Adelaide Fringe. I fly to Brisbane today and perform at Jupiter's Casino tonight before three nights at the Sit Down Comedy Club. Then I return to Melbourne and have my first trial show next Thursday. It may have been a bumpy beginning of writing during the day but it is always good to get the brain thinking and the process up and running.
6th of November, 2013