Black Wednesday! Even the nickname given for the first day where full price tickets kick in brings a certain amount of dread. The image of performers being suffocated under the weight of their flyers or hanging themselves with crepe paper from the trees as warnings to future festival goers fill the heart and imagination. There was only one thing to do: be prepared for the worst and be thankful for anything that rises above that. What would the worst scenario be? Nobody turning up. To be honest that is not the worst thing in the world to me. Sure your ego might take a hit but in the grand scheme of things nobody turning up on the other side of the world is far from terrible. Catching the ebola virus during your gig is much worst. Having a plane slam into you as you nail your final punch line would be a proper tragedy. (Especially if you were "nailing" some classic aeroplane material)
I hit the streets flyering a little earlier and was mentally preparing myself for what might come my way. If I had to cancel I would see it as a bonus. I'd run straight over to where the Aunty Donna boys are performing and use that opportunity to not only see their show but also be a good audience member. If that was the worst case scenario then so be it. I had already seen a really excellent comedian I know perform to eight people and they'd been so professional and generous I knew that was the way to go. Yet my mood here has been pretty positive and I've come to this festival with (no exaggeration) 20 million shows knowing full well that it was going to be a lot of work. I've enjoyed being away from Melbourne because I've had no distractions, a lack of extra responsibilities and embraced the fact that there is adventure to be found in not knowing a decent place to score a good breakfast. Also helping my mood immensely was spending some time with this legend:
After a couple of hours of flyering and with my team helping me out (Demi Lardner who has been a trooper from day one and super star ring in Geraldine Hickey who I paid in pounds and sausages...ooer!) I prepared for my gig and waited out the front knowing full well the front of house staff could be it. Lo and behold we had an audience and not just one creepy man by himself but an honest to goodness crowd. The setlist was:
Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994
To help create an intimacy with the audience I chose to perform off mic. I haven't done this since my show "Justin Sane" way back in 2004. That Adelaide Fringe season I also tore a part of my vocal chord, developed a polyp and had to have surgery to get my throat back on track. I have been averse to performing like that ever since but yesterday I threw caution to the wind (and the knowledge of previous experience) and it helped create a different type of bond with the punters. At one of my trial shows the mic had fallen apart and I had performed the show without a mic there. My director Declan Fay had liked it so much he had wondered if there was a way that I could always do the show like that. We had thrown that thought aside as the season wore on but it was not entirely alien to me to approach the show like that.
I thoroughly enjoyed the show last night and also found a nice rhythm to the performance that came without using the mic. It might be something that I continue to use. I can be pretty expressive with my hands and it is something I have to be aware. Even I notice that my hands are bordering on "jazz hands" sometimes but I like to use them to play out the cadence of the routines. As long as I am aware and don't allow them to turn into some comedic Tai Chi work out I think I'll be fine. Otherwise that was close to one of my favourite performances of the show (including my Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festival runs) and I feel the show is improving every day.
After the show I joined my friend Claire and we had drinks at the Assembly Rooms performer party. It was there that I was able to chat with two girls who had not only come to the show but have dads who are in the army. It was a delight to be able to chat with two people who have an experience of the army and they found it interesting to hear about my experience as it is from an idiot comedian's point of view. After that Claire and I visited the Underbelly for a drink. The Underbelly has a giant upside down purple cow on top of it (fans of my previous work would know that I have an affinity with purple cows) and looks like this:
We met up with Jimeoin and Sam Simmons for a drink. Sam's wife had attended the show and I have to be honest and say I was chuffed. I am always grateful when a comedian's partner attends any of my shows because I figure they've had their fill of comedy on a regular basis. This is me commenting on how annoying I can be when in festival mode but I'm guessing some of my fellow comics might be much better than me in the annoyance stakes. After a drink Claire and I nailed a savoury crepe on the way home and it was time for bed. With construction starting out the front of my house at 7am it was time to nail a cracking five hours sleep. With the sun streaming through the window I'm up and ready to tackle a new day!
7th of August, 2014