When you bring up the 150 you want it to be memorable. A great audience. An over the top funny gig. Pretty people flirting with you before, during and after the show. A famous person in the audience telling you they thought you were great. Somebody bringing snacks to the stage. A girl throwing undies on the stage. Clean undies! All of that above. One of the above. Turns out last night didn't really have any of the above.
I was only jumping up at the Rhino Room as request from promoter Craig Egan and it was also an opportunity to perform with local acts, host Damien Power and close friend Tom Gleeson. I arrived just as the show was beginning armed with some new material that I have been working on in recent times. I'll tell you what that piece was at the end of the blog so you will appreciate the irony more. When I walked up the stairs one of the girls who works at Rhino set my alarm bells off by telling me there were 30 electricians there for their Xmas party. This smelt of not a good thing.
Standing up the back of the room at the beginning of the second bracket I watched these men and women sway, yell out and act generally quite belligerent. Immediately I decided to drop my new material idea and just throw out ten minutes of muscular comedy that could withstand the scenario. One woman in particular was making a right tit of herself by yelling out consistently to the comedians onstage and I knew that if she was still talking I would have to take her down immediately. Once I hit the stage though she was already gone having covered herself in embarrassment and shame, although in her defence she was so drunk she probably woke up today still feeling as if she had been wronged.
After yelling to the comedian onstage one more time Egan approached her and asked her to stop talking through the gig. A fair request. Of course she was a drunken fool who argued with Egan that she was just having fun. I love these types of punters, the type that have so little connection with the reality of a situation that they believe they're the wronged ones in a situation. She continued to argue the point and Egan was firm and polite that he wanted her to sit back, enjoy the show but keep the comments to herself. I saw all of this happen and I think Egan was more than fine in his requests.
Then she stumbled off the seat. That is what drunk people who are making tits of themselves do. Then her partner/husband/boyfriend/bodyguard/son with a thyroid problem/tool/living arsehole attacked Egan by grabbing him by the throat for attacking the woman. This didn't happen. She fell. Egan caught her. That is the fact. No time to argue the situation with Man Mountain Douche though. While the comedian onstage continued performing Damien Power and I jumped to Egan's defense. By the way, if this guy took a swing we were all dead. We pushed some of the other men out of the way and talked this idiot down. He wanted to take it outside. We weren't prepared for that to happen just yet.
While we dealt with this tool I left the room and walked downstairs. Gleeson was walking upstairs and I suggested he return to the Green Room because he didn't need to be involved in this situation. Later Gleeson told me it was like a CIA agent telling the President to return to the Panic Room. I hit the ground floor, asked the girls to bring in security but discovered there was none. I had one of the girls in charge call the police and then returned upstairs to inform the bar there what was happening. I then returned inside to the gig and suggested to Damien that he should throw to a break as soon as the comedian onstage was finished. I wasn't going to have time to jump onstage while helping Egan.
By this stage I was talking down some of the other men who with beers in hand and goatees carefully manicured, were the type of men I had no interest in talking to. By this stage the police turned up and Egan told them they weren't needed. I didn't agree with this but I understand why he made that decision. Personally I'm all for having big men around who by the law are allowed to deal with arseholes. Egan was doing a good job of dealing with the drunken idiots and the woman who started everything, feeling harangued, left yelling all she wanted to do was have fun. I hope that her hangover today is reminding her of her fun and that she is somewhere in agony praying to die. She deserves as much pain as possible along with the other arseholes she works with.
Once we were at a break I used that as an opportunity to get Egan away from the people he was dealing with by telling him he was needed back inside to co-ordinate the next bracket. I informed Egan that I didn't think it would be great for me to jump onstage as I had just spent a lot of time being an authority figure to a bunch of tools but Egan pointed out that I had been promoted and it would be disappointing for some people there. I saw his point but the last thing I felt like doing was performing. The irony in the material I was going to work on was that it was the story about me stopping a fight in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, material I had performed once at finale of The Shelf. Maybe I'm giving off some major Alpha Male vibe that is attracting these types of situations? For those of you who know my physique I hope you appreciate the joke in that musing.
Before I hit the stage I made some definite plans on how I was going to deal with it.
Here's the set list:
Clipsal Ad Lib
Country Folk vs Inner City Living
Car Crash in Adelaide
Being An Arsehole
Little Boy Joke
As you can see from that set list, apart from the opener, this is material that I have for the most part slowly phased out of my gigs over the past couple of months. I'll talk you through the decision on the pieces I chose. Before I do I have to praise Damien Power for doing a great opener to the third bracket that gave me time to formulate my plan. Also Tom Gleeson is an absolute master knocking out 40 minutes as the headliner and proved yet again why he is; without a doubt, one of the best comedians in the country.
The opener was my way of acknowledging the situation for the rest of the audience who had to put up with the bad behaviour at the back of the room. When a room has rowdy people in it lowering your voice can help focus the audience. The people up the back wonder why they can't hear what is happening onstage so they stop talking to actually listen. I was quite soft with my opener talking about how much I love Adelaide, how it is my home town, how I love returning home. The only problem is when they decide to have festivals they have them all on at once. Adelaide Fringe. Adelaide Festival. WOMADelaide. Writer's Week. Yet this year it was good to see they had moved one event to another part of the year, I just wish someone had warned me that Clipsal had started on this day. This worked on two levels. Punters who love the Fringe for the most part hate when the Clipsal Race is on at the same time. Rev heads and artists dressed in taffeta is usually not the best mix. Clipsal is short hand in Adelaide for having a crack at a particular type of audience. Double down on the fact that the idiots up the back were electricians and my message was clear.
It received a big laugh and I was away. With the rest of the material I had chosen, I used routines that sped up and slowed down, raised and lowered the volume. I kept the audience off balance so that way I can wrest some control from the back of the room. The other plan was that I was going to be as cocky as possible. When someone heckled me I put this guy down in a way blunt, dismissive and arrogant to send a message not just to him but to the rest of his mates. Another dude up closer made the mistake of saying something that pointed out his stupidity so I explained the joke to him very slowly for the rest of the audience's amusement and continued to explain jokes to him throughout my set to let him know I had no respect for him.
This might seem incredibly aggressive on my behalf but when you're in this situation and you know you don't have any security to back you up, you have to get your balls out and show the audience (this is a metaphor people, please don't think this what I actually chose to do) that you're in charge. One moment of doubt and the audience that loves you loses confidence and the hecklers gain the upper hand. You're a gladiator up there and unfortunately all you have to defend yourself are your words and your posture. I can't say it is fun but after the gig and the situation it was exhilarating. I don't usually score much enjoyment out of taming an audience, it feels like a young comedian's goal in life, but I did get a jolt out of this one.
After my spot I co-ordinated with the girl in charge at Rhino and she closed the two bars so when the show was over there was nowhere for the idiots to loiter. We also lost all the nice punters who I would have loved to have chatted with (especially some friends that I didn't get to speak to...hello and sorry Steve, Mel, Annette and Beth if you're reading this) but we had to make certain the drunkards returned to whatever backward part of Adelaide they live in and continued marinating themselves in their own ignorance. I guess I am being slightly unfair to a couple of the guys who were in there as they did show some remorse in how things turned out but they also stood up for the woman who started the problems and the idiot who wanted this to deteriorate into violence. Sometimes when you're being a grown up you have to stand on your own two feet and not stick with the crowd even if the crowd are your friends. I was sober. I saw all of this with all four of my eyes. The only other people who watched all of this unfold (on their side) were inebriated. They had no legs to stand on. Some literally they were that drunk. I hope some of them have woken up today horrified by their poor form and also the fact they missed some brilliant comedy from some of the best in the country.
I doubt it though.
While I didn't learn anything new about my material (which had been the objective at the beginning of the night) I did take solace in the fact that I could help out in a situation that needed some co-ordination. It probably dates back to the days when I ran the Rhino Room but it felt natural to help take point while Egan (who I have to state yet again) dealt with a volatile situation incredibly well. When you're talking to a violent idiot shit can go sideways quickly and the fact that it didn't devolve any further is a testament to his demeanour and approach. As stated earlier, if this guy had decided to go to down, a lot of us were in trouble. Damien's help on and offstage was great and the calming influence of Gleeson and the Adelaide Comedy gang (the least threatening a surprisingly effective gang of S.A.) was a great team effort.
The good thing was after everyone left it was only the good guys left and we spent the night burning off that excess energy that had built up during the gig. Greg Fleet is in town completely shorn of his Wolverine in the forest hair do and looking the best I've seen him in ages. We stayed out until three in the morning enjoying the night. You know a night has come to a good end when you have these photos to look back on:
That is some shiny forehead action going on right there but by that time of the night, I think we deserved it.
14th of December, 2013