2014 Gig Forty: The Toff In Town

Yesterday I had that great Melbourne moment when you realise winter is just around the corner.  The colour has begun to drain out of the city and the weather hinted ominous repercussions for anyone who wasn't properly prepared.  I had an interview with Lehmo at Gold FM in the early part of the afternoon and took this photo of the city:  

Winter is coming...


Of course I am writing this with sunshine streaming through my window so full marks to Melbourne for continuing to be the schizophrenic city when it comes to weather patterns. Yesterday though definitely felt like a goodbye to sunshine and it will be interesting to see how long this blue sky manages to hang around.

Last night we had our media night for my new show "Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994" but rather than just have mainly media in we used the night as an opportunity to give a bonus to the punters who had bought season tickets for "The Shelf".  We've given bonus gigs out to our season ticket holders before but they've usually been shows that take place just before the regular show begins.  This was an opportunity to say thanks with a sneak preview of the new solo show before the Melbourne International Comedy Festival begins properly.  The set list was:


Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994


Now since this will be the night that is reviewed everything you take from this blog will be my interpretation of the night.  I had a great night onstage so if you suddenly read a terrible review then there is obviously a major disconnect with me and the reviewer. This can happen!  I've also had the opposite where I've walked offstage thinking a show was the worst night of the run only to be showered with praise.  Who knows with reviews, right?

The first thing I noticed onstage was how much time I had to perform.  I had a great time at the Adelaide Fringe down in the Garden of Unearthly Delights but the fact remains that there is a lot of noise bleed.  What this means is that you can hear what is going on outside so clearly that it can ruin the focus inside the venue.  One of the reasons I wanted to take this show to Adelaide and perform in the Garden was because of the noise bleed. It might seem strange but I knew that if I could make the show work there then it would toughen it up for Melbourne.  The problem with noise bleed is that it takes away the opportunity to slow the performance down.  It makes it difficult to have a fragile moments onstage that might be there so you can ratchet up another section of the show. You have to really concentrate on the softer points because if you're not careful you find yourself yelling and forcing the gag to be heard over the sounds seeping in through the walls.  When I hit the stage last night I noticed how much time I had up my sleeve and I felt giddy with excitement.  I hadn't really thought about it in the lead up because there has been so much to do but once it hit me I could barely contain the grin that accompanied me throughout the first ten minutes.


That is a beautiful stage to perform on and is probably my favourite in the country.


With the knowledge that I didn't have to worry about noise bleed it put me in a very playful mood.  There was quite a bit of ad libbing in the show that were mainly inspired by reactions from the audience.  Our season ticket holders (or Frequent Shelvers as we call them...yes, we're very childish at The Shelf) have seen a lot of the material in the lead up but I had deliberately kept the spine of the show a secret so they wouldn't know what was coming next.  The spine of the show is the graffiti that I found carved into cement when I was in my early twenties and their reaction to that part of the story justified the secrecy that I had shrouded it in.  I like shows that have a little mystery and while I have been using social media to promote the show by posting many photos of different messages written in cement, unless you have seen the show you have no idea what it represents.  When I hit the final part of the show and heard the reaction from the audience I couldn't have been happier.

I think last night was the best performance of the show.  After Tasmania and South Australia helped put the show through its paces it was nice to bring it to Melbourne and perform at such a great venue like The Toff In Town.  Will the reviews reflect this? In the end it doesn't really matter.  The experience can never been taken away and last night it felt just right.  Now it is just down to the taste of the reviewers and there is nothing you can do about that.  You do your best and then just wait to see how it all plays out.


I took this sneaky photo of the audience just before my intro music began.


Now the show begins the proper run this Thursday at the Vic Hotel.  Regardless of what happens from here I can say that with my Frequent Shelvers we definitely had at least one night where everything seemed just right.  I'll refrain from talking about the show too much but as we go further into the season I'll reveal more about the process and how the show has evolved from inception to now.


Justin Hamilton

25th of March, 2014

Fitzroy North