2015 Blog 10:  Gigs 48 - 59 Adelaide Fringe

On that Saturday night a bunch of comedians put aside a spare seat to honour Karen Hyland. Karen along with her husband David attended so many comedy shows over the past few decades that their knowledge of the Australian stand up scene would put many of us in the business to shame.  They attended the big shows and the little shows.  They checked out the well known comedians and the little known comedians. They enjoyed stand up, sketches, musical and absurdist comedy.  They never judged an act on anything other than whether the person was putting in a good effort.  It didn't matter if the jokes weren't really to their liking or the comedian had a bad gig. As long as they gave 100% effort they were happy to go along for the ride.

During the Fringe Karen died due to complications that arose from the cancer that invaded her body.  Most of us in the industry didn't know Karen was sick because as she said, "She didn't want to ruin anyone's Fringe experience."  This is a prime example of Karen.  Always thinking about other people.  One of the pleasures of returning to my hometown of Adelaide was the knowledge that at some point I would see Karen and David because you could guarantee they would attend at least one of the gigs.  In fact it is because of people like theHylands that every time I return to the Rhino Room on a Friday night I always try to put together a set list that is a unique one off.  I like to think of them as mini shows.  They're usually mixes of new and old material.  When I return home I want to impress everyone at theRhino Room to show them that they're faith in me won't go unrewarded.

I wanted to impress people like Karen and David.  I wanted to reward them with an attempt at something special every time they were in the audience.

With all the politics that surrounds our industry it is easy to forget why we do this.  I'll be honest with you:  I hate the politics.  Hate it.  It ruins the fun.  It ruins the special moments.  It ruins the triumphs.  That poison surges through the veins of most comedians even if they don't admit to it.  Maybe they're just unaware that it is even there?  The fundamental reason I got into this business is because it makes me happy to make people laugh.  I've felt that all my life, well before I even thought of setting foot onstage.  I like people laughing and I get a lot of happiness knowing it was because of me.  It doesn't have to always be me making people laugh but I like knowing it is my work some of the time. People like Karen and David represent the reason I do this.  It is important for me to remember that when all the bullshit bubbles up in the background.

Now that Karen is gone I feel the trips back to Adelaide will be diminished ever so slightly. At first it will be almost imperceptible.  I'm guessing my first gigs back in South Australia will go to plan like they normally do.  Yet I know it will be in a moment when I realise that an audience's laughter is missing a distinctive cackle.  I'll feel it when I look into the audience and there will be an empty chair.  I'll know it when I finally have an opportunity to see David again.  I also know that when I return to the Rhino Room for one of those Friday gigs, that I'll still be doing my best to impress the old friends.  I'll be trying to impress the new friends.  I'll want my audience to be having a great time.  And even when they're having a great time deep down I'll still be trying to give Karen a special one off performance on the night because she deserves it.

The final five days were hectic even if it started simply on the Wednesday night.  A simple set list that night as it was just the show:

Snacks

The Thursday night wasn't too crazy either.  I hosted the Bank SA free gig at the Bandstand at 5pm but there was no material to talk about for that gig.  All of the gigs I did for the Bandstand were straight hosting jobs.  So from March 12th - 15th you can literally say the set list was nothing more than:

Bandstand

So that Thursday night the set list was just the show:

Snacks

On the Friday I had a Bandstand gig at 5pm and then I was off to the Adelaide Oval for a corporate gig.  Normally corporate gigs can be a little on the tough side but this was a corker.  Great audience who were up for an idiot turning up and cranking out 20 mins of comedy.  The set list was:

Hen's Night

20s, 30s, 40s

Before the Internet

NYE 2015

Snack Song

Entitled To My Opinion

Speaks Islamic

Bjork CD

"I Don't Give a Hoot!"

Hushed Angry Conversation

Scouts

This is almost the same order of material from about the halfway mark of "Snacks!" with a couple of extra routines from previous shows slotted in around it.  After a great gig there it was off to perform my solo show which funnily enough was the hardest gig of the run.  For whatever reason they just weren't a very loud audience and it took a lot of cajoling for them to step up.  I don't think it was my performance.  Some times you can be so fired up from a previous gig that you can almost come in too hard at the start of your show for an audience who haven't warmed up yet.  I just think they were having fun but forgetting to let me know with their faces and lungs.  It wasn't a bad gig but it was definitely the least enjoyable.

From my gig it was off to the Late Show where I was hosting.  My set list was:

Country Spiders

Hen's Night

Mount Isa

Word In Scrabble

Invite to Parties

Hairy Baby

"I Don't Give a Hoot!"

Hushed Angry Conversation

Another fun late show and a great end to the night.  There was a 13-year-old lad in the audience who was sitting in the front row and I managed to take this photo of Peter Helliar meeting the young fella before he nailed it in his headline spot.

The following day it was a similar set up.  Bandstand at 5pm, Snacks at 9.30pm and then the Late Show at 11pm.  I was hosting again and the set list was:

Hen's Night

Mount Isa

Word In Scrabble

Invite to Parties

Hairy Baby

"I Don't Give a Hoot!"

Hushed Angry Conversation

Not much deviation from the previous night as it was getting to the end of the run in Adelaide and I was starting to feel tired.  At this point you just want to stick with what you know and do your best within that.  Heck, it was so close to being like the previous night that this time we had a 12-year-old girl in the front row.

From this Late Show it was off to the closing night of the Rhino Room.  I decided to tell a story that I knew Karen enjoyed and I hadn't told for a while.  My set list was:

The Acid Story

To be honest I didn't feel it at the Rhino Room that night.  It just wasn't for me and I don't know if it was because it was late, I was tired, I was a little drunk, I was thinking about Karen or all of the above.  I didn't enjoy my set that much and when I brought Wil onstage I wasn't feeling the buzz that I normally feel when I share a stage with a friend. One of the good things about getting older is having the experience to know you've done your job and there is no more that is required.  So at one point while Wil was talking I figured that was enough from me for the night and walked off the stage (I knew Wil would be fine and someone would jump up to fill my spot.  In fact I could see some of the comedians champing at the bit to get onstage), grabbed my bag, walked downstairs, jumped in a cab and was home before the show had finished.

Possibly my greatest exit.

The final night of the Fringe was for the last time Bandstand at 5pm and then my final show at 9.30pm.  Great final night audience and I'd say the whole run was a lot of fun. I thoroughly enjoyed my time back in Adelaide and enjoyed the new energy that pulsates through the streets of the city.  Tiny bars, cool cafes, a genuine sense of get up and go were all evident in my hometown and I found it all to be rather intoxicating.

I've now had a week away from comedy and slowly preparing to do it all again for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.  Here's hoping the MICF can live up to the high standard Adelaide and Perth have already set.

 

Justin Hamilton

Fitzroy North

23rd of March, 2015