2015 Blog 26: The Shelf, The Comic's Lounge and Regional SA. Gigs 160 - 170

It has been a while between drinks...or blogs to be more accurate.

Over the past couple of weeks I've taken some time out from the world of gigging and social media to try and reset myself for the run up to the end of the year.  This has been a productive time and also a trying time in many ways.  When the opportunity came to return to Adelaide and spend time with my family for my birthday I knew it was the best thing that I could do. This industry can be so inspiring yet draining.  If you're not careful you can leave yourself exhausted especially if you try to fit too much into a day. That day becomes a week.  That week becomes a month.  Before you know it you're half way through the following year wondering what happened to get you to this point.  I have that performer's mentality where you say yes to just about everything because in the back of your head you have that fear that it could all end tomorrow.  In the process you can inadvertently push aside the important parts of your life and neglect them to such an extent that you have trouble recognising yourself.

The goal in my 43rd year is to take time out and be a little more selfish. Take time out from the industry and spend more time with those friends that I grew up with.  When your job blurs the line of going to work and being social it is important to reassess the lines and make them more prominent. Just because you work with someone it doesn't mean they're your friend. Just because your friends don't go out at night it doesn't mean they don't have time to see you.  Just because you're tired doesn't mean you can't find time to make contact with the people who matter the most.  

Anyway this all seems a little heavier than I intended but I find around my birthday I constantly try to take stock of where I'm at, what I can improve and what I can build on for the future. Having quiet time in Adelaide amongst family and a select group of friends can really help out with that.

Shows in this period were all over the place.  It was indeed a bizarre run of gigs that left me a little exhausted and on edge.  In fact the last had me not dealing with a situation very well at all but we'll get to that at the bottom of this blog.  

The last two shows for season 12 of "The Shelf" were great though.  Excellent audiences, terrific line ups and a lot of fun.  The set lists were:

 

August 24th:  The Shelf

 

Kenya West

Meeting Viv Richards

Adam Goodes

 

August 31st:  The Shelf

 

Basketball Coach

Operation Fortitude

Smashing Stuff

Blender

Forgotten Kid and His Kid

 

Both gigs were uniformly great and I've been happy with both seasons we've had this year.  I also felt that maybe there was a creeping malaise that while all three shows were of a high standard maybe the show itself had become a victim of expectation.  I didn't feel that there was a stand out moment that had me excited or buzzing.  In defence of the show there are few gigs in a year that really hit the heights of inspiration.  Once it becomes a job it is exactly that and you have to temper expectations so you don't walk away from a really good show feeling disappointed.  It is one of the most difficult aspects to conquer in your professional life.  I think when you start the highs are so amazing and the lows are so depressing it is easy to ride that pendulum back and forth.  Over time though you recognise most situations and therefore it is more difficult to be surprised or inspired.  

This feeling was probably my feeling alone and I don't want to suggest this was what people were experiencing backstage or in the audience.  Yet for me it felt like I had done all of this before and I wasn't certain that I was learning anything new from the show.  With that in mind I talked to Adam Richard, The Toff in Town and my management to come to the conclusion that this was the final season of "The Shelf" for 2015.  We'll bring it back next year for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and with a big block of time between now and then, I hope that the inspiration will find a way to help me find the heights it has hit in the past.  Instead in November I'll be hosting three live shows for "Can You Take This Photo Please?" with guests Judith Lucy, Denise Scott, Tony Martin, Lehmo, Anne EdmondsGuy Montgomery and more. Check here for details.

In between the second and third shows for "The Shelf" I was a guest on The Dollop live podcasts with Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds at The Comic's Lounge and in Adelaide at the Arkaba Hotel. After the Adelaide show we put on a bonus gig at The Rhino Room which included Greg Fleet. This was a fun and anarchic show that started at 11pm and finished around 1am.  I hosted and the opening of the second bracket was literally 15 minutes of me telling Fleety to stop interrupting me with comedy gold.  A lot of fun for a show that felt like it should have been a part of the Adelaide Fringe.  Here's the set list for the opening bracket:

 

August 26th:  The Rhino Room

 

Justin Bourne

Uber Stupor

Hollywood Is Mental

Australian Movie Universe

 

From there it was a four night stand at The Comic's Lounge with me hosting, Celia Pacquola headlining, Geraldine Hickey opening and Harley Breen supporting.  On the Friday night Dave Thornton filled in for Harley who was already committed to a gig on the Gold Coast and young fella Ciaran Lyons also joined us at the top of the show on the Friday and Saturday night. This was a challenging run of gigs for a bunch of different reasons.

The first show just felt a little flat.  There was nothing wrong with it per se but it felt like the audience never quite got on board from the get go.  I'm guessing that the first two days of the week had suggested summer was finally here and then on this Wednesday night it was suddenly back to being freezing so that could be a very legitimate reason for an audience not having the energy you'd expect.  Everyone performed their arses off though and as I said up above, you have to recognise a show for what it is and then work out if within those parameters whether you pulled it off or not. I think we did but it also felt like hard work.

 

September 2nd:  The Comic’s Lounge

 

1st Bracket

 

Biker Gig

Justin Bourne

Uber Stupor

20s, 30s, 40s

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

 

2nd Bracket

 

Can’t Drink Anymore

 

3rd Bracket

 

Before The Internet

 

The second night of the run was a standard show although I noticed that there were a lot of older people in the audience.  This is not the worst thing in the world when you have a show that runs for an hour but as the night progressed from the first bracket to the second and onto the last bracket I could feel the energy drop.  I definitely felt at the top of the third bracket that they'd had enough of me over the course of the night and just wanted Celia on the stage.  That is fine. Sometimes you get that as the host.  You can't...or shouldn't...take it personally.

 

September 3rd:  The Comic’s Lounge

 

1st Bracket

 

Biker Gig

Justin Bourne

Uber Stupor

20s, 30s, 40s

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

 

2nd Bracket

 

Can’t Drink Anymore

 

3rd Bracket

 

Before The Internet

 

On the third night when I arrived I was informed we were going to start the first bracket with the lights on in the audience so a professional photographer could take pictures that showed how big the audience was. Audiences hate being lit up because it makes a very different type of energy in the room.  People feel self conscious.  It undermines the comedian because there are more distractions that can be seen in the room.  It isn't a great situation to be in.  If you ever see one of your favourite comedians doing a day time gig you will notice they are exponentially less funny.  It just isn't the right vibe.  Still I figured I would do my best and had decided to play around with my material so as to generate some fun.

One minute into the show after I'd finished the house keeping I was heckled by a punter.  It wasn't particularly funny or clever but it came right at the beginning while I was trying to set up the night that was already strange because of the lights on in the crowd.  I proceeded to go to town on this guy for a substantial amount of time and while it generated a lot of laughs it had me pitching my performance for the rest of the night slightly bigger than I would have liked.  Once the testosterone begins to flow it is hard to put a cap on it and while the night was a success I can't say that I really enjoy that type of performance.  I did my job but it isn't the type of comedian I like to portray onstage.  

 

September 4th:  The Comic’s Lounge

 

1st Bracket

 

Heckler

Biker Gig

20s, 30s, 40s

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

 

2nd Bracket

 

Before The Internet

 

3rd Bracket

 

Glitter in Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

People Watching Movies Out of Context

 

By the time I reached the final show I was keen to just have a good time.  It had been a good but bumpy ride and I just wanted to enjoy performing with my friends in a venue I've had a lot of good times in.  Suffice to say this is not how it played out.  It is too complicated to get into but between a couple of drunk friends, some more heckling and a couple of rednecks in the audience who were causing a scene out in the front bar, there was a bad vibe and a level of aggression I am not interested in.  When I was younger there was a sense of pride in being able to stare someone down and mentally eviscerate them with your humour but that was a long time ago. This night when the heckling began it was even earlier than the night before and I felt tired even having to deal with it.  I dealt with it throughout the night and would say I won the battle but it was exhausting.  I'm lucky that most of the time my job is a lot of fun.  Not many people get to say that.  Unfortunately though no fault of anyone involved it felt like a lot of work.

 

September 5th:  The Comic’s Lounge

 

1st Bracket

 

Heckler

Biker Gig

20s, 30s, 40s

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

 

2nd Bracket

 

Before The Internet

 

3rd Bracket

 

Glitter in Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

People Watching Movies Out of Context

 

I had a couple of days off before flying to Sydney for a debate and then it was on the road with Tom Gleeson for shows in Bordertown, Murray Bridge and Millicent.  Gleeson is one of my closest friends and the opportunity to be on the road with him was just the tonic I needed.  The gang behind Big Brown Productions put on some great nights and I just decided I'm going to do the same routine each night and be quite relaxed.  On the opening night in Bordertown the set list was the following:

 

September 10th:  Bordertown

 

Kid At Captain America

20s, 30s, 40s   

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

Can't Drink Anymore

Mum and Her Cats

Before the Internet

Glitter in Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

People Watching Movies Out of Context

Spooning

 

This was a really fun gig including the old lady in the audience who appeared to be off her tree for the whole show.  Gleeson and I thought she was hilarious but after talking to punters at the end of the night I think she drove quite a few people mad.  I can understand how that happens and it was disappointing to know that some people had their night tainted by a crazy woman's ravings.  

Our next night was in Murray Bridge and this gig started off on fire:

 

September 11th:  Murray Bridge

 

Biker Gig

20s, 30s, 40s   

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

Can't Drink Anymore

 

Break

 

Little Boy Joke

Can't Drink Anymore (reset)

Mum and Her Cats

Before the Internet

Glitter in Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

People Watching Movies Out of Context

Spooning

 

This gig was an absolute belter and I was having a great time when a young girl in the audience suddenly had an epileptic fit.  I can only imagine how scary it was for the girl, her family and everyone in the vicinity.  I could feel something was going wrong in the audience and once we knew what was happening I had the lights turned on and moved everyone out into the foyer to give the family some privacy.  Weirdly enough this isn't the first time this has happened to me or Gleeson so I felt fairly confident about how we had to deal with it.  Once we knew the girl was fine and the audience was settled we started the show again and I slowly eased back into my set. The audience were fantastic and we had a great night.  We found out that the girl and her Mum were able to joke about it in the ambulance and from all reports she is in good shape now.  Still, that is very scary stuff and hopefully nothing like that will happen again for the girl and her family.

Our final gig was in Millicent and Gleeson opened the show the same way he had the previous two nights by walking out onstage and introducing not just how the show would work but also me as the support act.  The first two nights were great but on this night there were a couple in the audience who piped up when Gleeson announced he would be out later. 

"We don't want a support act," I heard one of them say to Gleeson. Unfortunately it was close to my entrance and Gleeson missed it.  I tried to block it from my mind but when I walked out I noticed this older couple just refuse to look up at me while I was onstage.  I can't stress how great the rest of the audience were but throughout my set this couple talked, refused to look up and then eventually walked out to great a drink.  It is one thing to have an audience not like your material but to have people not even give you a shot is mildly infuriating.  Still I ignored them and continued with my set which was the following:

 

September 12th:  Millicent

 

Biker Gig

20s, 30s, 40s   

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

Can't Drink Anymore

Mum and Her Cats

Before the Internet

Glitter in Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

People Watching Movies Out of Context

Spooning

 

At the end of the night Gleeson and I had been finishing the night off by getting onstage together and riffing with the audience.  It had been a lot of fun and the audiences had been great. Yet in my gut I felt this night was going to be different.  I knew this couple had it in them to get a bit lippy and without fail the man had a crack at me about my delivery and how I was a liar.  That is one of the more bizarre heckles I have received but what annoyed me was that I know they hadn't given me a go having made up their mind when Gleeson said he had a support act.  After two weeks of weirdness onstage to have someone have a crack that I felt wasn't fair was too much for me. 

So I had a crack back.

And another.

And another.

And when everything was really awkward I embraced the awkwardness and had another couple of cracks.  To say that the night was totally derailed would be an overstatement but Gleeson definitely had to do some dancing to get it back on track.  It was not very professional of me and I should be above that type of stuff.  Yet at the same time I wasn't going to stand back and let this arsehole feel like he'd gotten away with his comments.  To be honest it has been so long since I had a brain fart like that onstage I have to admit it was mildly exhilarating.  This is not something I want to get in the habit of and what I should have done is nailed this guy with a smile and some jokes peppered amongst the truth of it all.  

Sometimes you have to call an arsehole an arsehole.  

And I did.

Probably a bit too much. 

Gleeson and I had a good night later sharing stories about the times we have lost it at someone onstage and while it isn't something to revel in it does make for a pretty funny night.  This outburst though told me I was tired and needed some rest.  After these gigs I returned to Adelaide and kept a very low profile by staying away from social media, comedy and work in general.  I would have preferred not to have had that moment in Millicent (And by the way the rest of the audience was fantastic.  A lot of them came up to me after the gig to have their crack at the guy I had to deal with.  Sometimes arseholes can be positive by bringing good people together.) but when something like that goes down all you can do is take a step back, learn from it and move on.

And that is that.

 

Justin Hamilton

25th of September, 2015

Fitzroy North