2015 Blog Two: Gigs 6 - 11

On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of seeing Billy Connolly performing at Hamer Hall here in Melbourne.  At the age of 72 and suffering from the onset of early Parkinson's disease "The Big Yin" could easily have sat in a chair for 45 minutes and everyone there would have been more than happy.  Yet he delivered a two hour set that showcased all the tricks of the trade and moved about where he could to act out his stories. It was a lesson in the beauty of stand up comedy and showcased why he is still the master. I came away from watching Billy humbled and inspired.  He reminded me of skills I'd long forgotten about and revealed a few more I'd never thought about before.  It was a night of delight and a reminder that no matter how tough your personal life is you can still channel all that energy into something positive on the stage.  

Billy's set before the show.

 

My opportunity to see Billy Connolly was in the middle of a run of gigs for me that took me from one extreme to another.  The first of these gigs was down in Launceston for "Beer Fest" which was an amalgamation of two things I no longer have interest in:   beer and festivals.  Stewart Bell was running the gig though and I have enjoyed working with him in Launceston before so I said yes to the gig.  It was a daytime show with local acts and Rhys Nicholson.  I hadn't performed during the day for a while and quite enjoyed the challenge it presented.  Here is the set list:

 

17th of January: Beer Fest

 

 Little Boy at Wedding

Little Boy at Cap

Can’t Drink Any More

Before the Internet

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

Fix Your Flaws

Glitter in Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

Spooning

 

I used to perform during the day all the time back in the old days when lunch time university gigs were all the rage.  They're tricky gigs because with everything lit up distractions are readily available.  You could spend a lot of time setting up a joke and if a bird flies in and lands on the ground next to you as you deliver the punch line you're dead in the water.  The trick is to keep all the routines tight and short.  If you have a longer piece you'll have to make certain it has a stack of jokes.  As I said before it had been a while since I last performed at a day time gig but I enjoyed this a lot.  It gave me an opportunity to flex some muscles I hadn't thought about in a long time.

From Launceston I flew to Sydney where I was performing support for Wil Anderson at the Sydney Opera House.  I have been very lucky to perform at the Opera House a few times now but this was my first time in the main room.  Wil was recording his new DVD there and I was fortunate enough to do support for the two shows that were being filmed that night.  I decided that I would use the material I had been performing in Perth when I last supported Wil.  This was for a number of reasons.  One:  the set worked. Two:  I knew it came in spot on 15 minutes.  Three:  I thought it had a few different looks which would keep the audience engaged.  Here's the set list for both shows:

 

19th of January: Sydney Opera House

 

2 shows

 

Little Boy at Cap

Getting Older is Bullshit

Before the Internet

Fix Your Flaws

 

Here I am!

 

I made a deal with myself that I was going to stay in the moment.  I wasn't going to think about what might be coming after the gig.  I wasn't even going to be thinking about what comes next in the set list.  I wanted each joke to be enjoyed for its own merit.  This might be the only time I get to perform in the main room of the Opera House and with fifteen minute sets that meant I had a fair bit of time on stage.  Also there were roughly four thousand people at the gigs combined so you want to enjoy that as much as you can.

I thought the gigs went extremely well and I was chuffed at how giving the audience was considering I'm just the support act.  They were there to see Wil and were also pumped up like nothing else.  It could have been understandable if they really wanted me to get out of the way but as a whole they were loud and fun.  These two gigs were definitely highlights of my career and I had such a great time with Wil and the gang behind the scenes that after it was done I felt mildly flat.  I had been looking forward to it for so long and then it was over.  I better stay in Wil's good books in the off chance he ever films another show there!

 

I have a feeling I pull shapes like this all the time.

 

I returned to Melbourne and had a pretty busy week before getting to my next gig hosting the Public Bar.  Normally these gigs are on a Wednesday but Steele Saunders is putting on a summer season that begins at 4pm on a Saturday.  I think it has been such a smart move and this first show was a blinder.  Here is the set list:

 

24th of January Public Bar

 

1st Bracket

 

Getting Older Is Bullshit

Balls In Jeans

New Year’s Eve Fat

Just Giving You My Opinion

Trying Not To Be An Arsehole

Siege Tweets

Scouts Show

 

2nd Bracket

 

I Can't Drink Anymore

 

3rd Bracket

 

Fix Your Flaws

 

You can check the stellar line up for the show here.

 

I tried some new ideas out at the top of the show to go along with a few pieces that I'd been working on at previous gigs.  I'd had a few stories bouncing around that I thought might work as pieces.  I also have made a deal with myself to try as many new ideas at smaller rooms as possible.  It is important to back yourself at all times and I want to keep my new show "Snacks!" as loose as possible.  I'd like to have around 80 minutes of material that I can pick and choose for every show.  While I'm guessing there will be a definite spine to the show I'd like to be able to vary it up to keep me on my toes every night.

I was very happy with the opening but the middle bracket had my drinking routine that I have had difficulty nailing the ending.  It has been two months now where I have tried a few different ways of delivering the last line but it has been completely unsatisfying when I arrive at the end.  A few people have told me that it is fine but fine isn't good enough. When the rest of the routine feels strong I don't want to end on "fine".  Unfortunately that is exactly how the routine finished on this day and I knew it was time to pull it apart and see what I could reverse engineer.  That one routine in particular has driven me crazy! Excluding that frustration though the rest of the gig was great and I had a great time with my friends who were on the bill.

My next gig was at the Local in St Kilda on the Monday night.

 

26th of January The Local

 

1st Half

 

Getting Older Is Bullshit

C-Bomb at the Opera House

Balls In Jeans

New Year’s Eve Fat

Trying Not To Be An Arsehole

Siege Tweets

Scouts Show

 

2nd Half

 

Fix Your Flaws

 

I had been happy with my opener at The Public Bar so I wanted to see if it still had legs at another venue.  I was pretty happy with this gig but there was a slight sound problem that could only be heard onstage.  It was very distracting and had me along with the room's producer Janet McLeod very confused.  Overall thought this was another fun gig and the new material went down well enough that I think it might score a guernsey for the new show.

Finally I visited the Comic's Lounge for their new comics/established comics trialling new material night.  I took down one routine and that was this one:

 

27th of January The Comic’s Lounge

 

I Can’t Drink Anymore

 

I had taken the routine apart and written it down in different sections to work out what was working and therefore why the ending was coming up short.  I realised that one of the best jokes was about a third of the way into the routine.  This was a good joke but it was raising the stakes too early.  This also made me come to terms with another joke that took place pretty early on was just not working well enough.  Of course it was my favourite joke so that is probably why it took me so long to acknowledge it just wasn't strong enough.  So I removed the joke that I liked and moved the material that was raising the stakes to the end.  With this new look I gave it a go at the Lounge and lo and behold it worked soooooo much better!  Now I know that is only a one show sample but it felt right, it felt stronger and I was exhilarated when I jumped off the stage.

 

I was almost as happy as this dude in his carrot car.

 

After two months of working the routine I think I may have finally cracked the code.  I have a series of shows up in Sydney this week and that routine will be given another couple of cracks so I can really get a sense if it is on the right track.  I'm feeling confident that it is and with a couple of minor adjustments I can finally just enjoy the routine rather than be sweating out the last line.  Hopefully when I report back I will have more good news regarding this routine.  If I don't keep an ear out for my head exploding somewhere in Sydney at the end of this week.

 

Justin Hamilton

1st of February, 2015

Fitzroy North