Can You Take This Photo Please?

2015 Blog 29: Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney. Gigs 178 - 182

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by Rove McManus to move to Sydney to work behind the scenes on his new breakfast radio show.  It was the type of offer that comes from out of the blue and at an interesting time in my life.  I have loved living in Melbourne the past 13 years but in recent times felt that I was in a bit of a rut.  There was nothing particularly wrong but there was also a lack of adventure in my every day life.  To overcome this I had projects like "The Shelf" but even then it was beginning to feel very much like I was spinning wheels.

You may have heard me talk about this on my podcast "Can You Take This Photo Please?" but I'm going to repeat it here because I feel like this was important advice given to me when I was younger.  My friend Richard took me aside when I was in my early thirties and told me to look out for my mental health in my early forties.  That period can be a tricky time for men and Richard had experienced two of his good friends commit suicide at that age.  I took that advice and filed it away for when that far away magical age should appear.  

Sure enough in my early forties I think I understood what Richard was telling me.  Of course I understood it intellectually as a guy in his thirties but at this age I understood it emotionally. From my perspective it felt like people start treating you as if you no longer have potential. That whoever you are now is who you're going to be for the rest of your life.  I've never felt that before and while it might be something that I was projecting it definitely felt real to me.  I guess if you're not happy with where you're at in life then that could be quite a daunting prospect to overcome and I could see how people might make some foolish decisions.

From the moment I fully understood what Richard was talking about I have been putting parts of my life on hold to make certain I didn't succumb to this way of thinking.  There was a reason that this year's stand up show, "Snacks!" was a fun, upbeat show that spent a lot of time looking backwards in my life to make sense of where I am today.  I wanted an upbeat show that would be performed many times and not only engage with the audience but also give me something positive to come back to night after night.

When Rove called and offered this job as "Creative Producer" (Fancy title, right?) it felt like the type of opportunity I needed to kickstart the next phase of my career.  I want to continue to grow as a performer and writer and this was a great way to stimulate the creative side of my life. I want to round myself out as a person and chisel away at the preconceived notions that other people might have while also building myself back up to be a better version of "me".  I want to shed this dark cloud that has been dogging my every step for the past year and see what I can turn into once it is gone.  Self improvement is only achievable if you're willing to change and change can be equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. So I said yes and am currently living in an apartment in the city while I look for a new place to call home.

I would be lying if I didn't say that I feel exhausted and the new breakfast radio show hasn't even started yet!  Moving house is stressful and I've been flying back about the country honouring my work commitments that were already booked in months ago.  In the past month I have flown to Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.  It has left me on edge and tired.  My season of my new show "Hoot!" begins in Perth toward the end of January which when you take into account a new job and the Christmas break, doesn't leave me a lot of time to get the show right. I love stand up and performing on the live circuit has been my bread and butter for 21 years.  I don't want those skills to atrophy over the course of this radio commitment.  I've always prided myself on committing to live performance yet I can already tell this is going to be the biggest challenge of my career trying to maintain a certain level of professionalism while changing my lifestyle.  Who knows what the future holds but in the end I guess that was the whole point.  I wanted adventure and something to happen that would shock me out of the melancholy that had begun to haunt me.  Now here it is and we'll see what happens.

Gig wise I was up in Brisbane at the Sit Down Comedy Club for the first time in quite a while. Three nights at the Paddo looked like this:

 

22nd and 23rd of October:  Sit Down Comedy Club

 

Plane vs Lightning Storm

Water On Mars/Photos From Pluto

Just Like Shit!

Interstellar Message

Nostalgia

Smooth and Smoother

Justin Bourne

Uber Stupor

Kenya West

Viv Richards

Adam Goodes

Mum At 19

Frankie Called Me a Bastard

Catching and Distributing Mice

Gay Banana

Mum Is Stubborn

Bob and the Joker

Mum's Frustrations Are Now Mine

Hushed Angry Conversation

 

Apart from the final routine this was all new material that needed to be run in.  I thought the Thursday night show was better than the Friday night.  I think I was better on the first show with quite a bit of energy that I chased a little more in the second show.  I also thought the audience was more in tune with some of the topics I was discussing on the Thursday night.  I think my talk about racism on the Friday night was not a topic that a percentage of the audience wasn't interested in at all.  That is fine.  When an audience isn't in tune that is when you learn the most about your new material.  It gave me a good look on some of those new routines so I could really get my head around what could be improved upon.

On the Saturday night we unfortunately had a few tables of drunk people in at the show.  On one table there were a group of girls who thought the show was all about them.  Right next to them were a group of guys who would let you know they weren't into you by getting on their smart phones until the act finished.  Both of these tables were right up the front too so happy, happy, joy, joy.  Up the side was another group of women on a hen's night so they were FUN too.  All these tables made it difficult for the night to progress and I decided after watching the first half that I would do some new material up front but for the most part I'd concentrate on doing an airtight club set.  This wasn't the night to be playing around with new.  In fact I just wanted to do my job and get out of there since those punters had annoyed me so much with their disregard for the comedians I was performing with that night.  

 

24th of October:  Sit Down Comedy Club

 

Plane vs Lightning Storm

Water On Mars/Photos From Pluto

Just Like Shit!

Interstellar Message

20s, 30s, 40s

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

Glitter in Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

People Watching Movies Out of Context

Islamic Writing

Bjork CD

Spooning

 

Before I went onstage I told the crew that I was going to do 40 minutes without breathing and that is exactly what I did.  I performed most of my set looking past the front tables and engaging with the rest of the poor audience who were there to have a good time.  It is frustrating when you know people have paid good money to see a show and their night is ruined by the myopia of a few people in the audience.  I think the show finished well but after talking to some of the punters at the end of the night I could only feel annoyed that the night had been sabotaged by these rude tables.

From there I flew back to Melbourne to work on how I was going to proceed with the upheaval of my life while working on the new show.  I flew to Darwin on the Friday night for a corporate gig and then to Sydney on the Saturday.  The company is putting me up for the next month so I can hopefully find a place to live in that time.  On the Tuesday I flew back to Melbourne for the first show of the "Can You Take This Photo Please?" live season at The Toff In Town.  I had wanted to try and work on some new skills and thought the podcast being turned into a different type of live experience would be a nice challenge.  On the night of the first show I opened with some stand up, New Zealand comedian Guy Montgomery also performed some stand up and then participated in an interview with me.  Josh Earl knocked it out of the park with some music and then after the break I interviewed Judith Lucy and Denise Scott.  I had such a great time and loved everything that the performers brought to the stage.  My opening looked like this:

 

November 3rd:  "Can You Take This Photo Please?" Live

 

Not The Melbourne Cup

First Time In 13 Years

Richard's Advice

Male Role Models Come From TV

New Job

What is Superannuation?

What is Holiday Pay?

What is a Sick Day?

Saying Goodbye To My Hairdresser

All Star Comics

My Doctor Was At The Hives

My Landlord's Daughter Loves Interstellar

Giving Away Stuff

My Sydney Plan

Everyone Hates Hammo's New Girlfriend

 

There was a lot of new material involved and it was fun to have a play with new ideas to a great audience.  It was such a fun night and I'm looking forward to the next two shows although it is going to be a challenge.  We start breakfast radio tomorrow so late nights are going to kick my arse but we'll make it work even if I have to sleep...well, I'm not certain when I'm going to get to sleep.  Christmas I guess?

I flew back to Sydney on the Wednesday and continued working at the new job.  On Friday I jumped up to do a small spot at Happy Endings.  I was going to work on more new material but a few things worked against me on the night.  Firstly Tom Gleeson was in town and jumped up to also work on new material and the audience was (rightfully so) excited to see him.  I followed and while they were fine to see me it was definitely not the same excitement they had for Tom.  That makes a lot of sense as he has a much higher profile and if I hadn't been so tired on the night I would have insisted that Tom had gone on after my spot as that would have just been a bigger build for the audience.  I know how to put a night together but I was just a bit vague before the gig and let that one get away from me.  There was also a heckler in the audience (there appear to be a lot more around these days) who was belligerent and tedious which made it difficult to get a handle on the new material I was trialling.  I gave up the idea of working on the new halfway through my set and finished with some routines that I know back to front.  I dealt with the heckler, he was an easy target because he was such a tool but it was disappointing.  I was feeling the effects of the previous week and just wanted to blow out some steam and see if I could learn something the new gags.  It went fine but in the end I would have been happier to just go out to dinner and get to bed early.  

 

November 6th:  Happy Endings

 

Plane vs Lightning Storm

Water On Mars/Photos From Pluto

Just Like Shit!

Interstellar Message

Hushed Angry Conversation

Spooning

 

It has been an interesting few weeks and it isn't going to slow down.  I'm going to learn a lot and it is going to be a challenge to see how I manage everything from here.  My Saturday was spent looking for a new place to live and working until about 10.30pm at night.  I was in bed soon after that and I'm back up today at 6.30am trying to work on all of my little projects.  It is going to be a juggling act but I wanted something to shake up my life and here it is.  

 

Justin Hamilton

8th of November, 2015

Sydney

 

 

2014 Gig One Hundred and Nineteen: Edinburgh Fringe and Gig One Hundred and Twenty: Comedy Countdown

The day started with the industrial sound of progress and ended with me adopting a member of Aunty Donna as my son.

2014 Gig Ninety Four: Road Show Colac

Before we delve into the gig here is the snack that was bought at breakfast this morning:  

Tiff, Dave and I contemplate the hardening of the arteries via mud cake.

 

When you end up on the road with people that you enjoy hanging out with little routines begin to take shape.  This tour it has been the devouring of snacks in bakeries after a friend of mine from abroad asked me to rip into a vanilla slice.  While I have been disappointed to know I only have a short amount of time with this group my waistline may in hindsight be rapt especially if I keep up this snack based routine. Suffice to say it was tasty and chock full of after the fact guilt.

There was a mild trepidation heading into the Colac gig last night as we had heard that a couple of years ago fellow comedian and nice kid Joel Creasy was the target of some homophobic behaviour.  While we had no interest in judging the audience before the show began it was definitely in the back of our minds.  In the end we were thrilled that nothing occurred last night that would warrant our condemnation.  It would be unfair for last night's audience to be tarred with that brush but it goes to show how a few idiots can ruin a town's reputation.  I am pleased to note that last night's audience was the antithesis of the reputation it had garnered in some comedic circles.

 

Neel Kolhatkar was very funny in his opening set.

 

My aim for the show last night was to shake the order up a little just to make certain I didn't settle into a performing lethargy.  Sometimes if I perform set lists that are the same or too much the same I can find my mind wandering in the middle of jokes. To keep myself in the moment I like to shake things up in the set list a little.  While there will be a familiarity you will be able to see where some of the changes have kicked in. Check out the set list first and then I'll explain some of my changes and why I've kept some things the same.

 

Riffing with the audience

Turning 40

Car Accident in Adelaide

Fix Your Flaws

Invite To Parties

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

Hairy Baby

Little Boy Joke

 

 

Dave Callan just before he busted out some sweet dance moves.

 

When changing up a set it is important to make certain you don't add a routine that takes you over your allotted time.  I have been pretty conscious of that since the first show and while there are some of my routines I would like to pop out I have not had the time to check just how long they will go.  I don't want to launch into a longer routine and then find I only have five minutes to wrap it all up.  This also happened to me at The Comic's Lounge just last week so I am guilty twice of going over my time.

To keep things moving along I added a couple of routines in the Car Accident story and the Fix Your Flaws routine.  From there I just added and subtracted which routines I would go into next and when the light came on to let me know my time was nearly up I turned to the Little Boy Joke to finish on.  I had planned on telling the story about the little boy at Captain America but I haven't had enough time to flesh out that idea and I think there might be more to it.  I'd like to give that a crack tonight if the opportunity presents itself so I'll try to get stuck into that some time today.

I'm also using this tour to continue to rework my talking to the audience skills.  Last night the front row consisted of an older audience and the person I picked to speak to was a bit of a smart arse.  Not in a bad way but in attempting to be funny from the audience he waffled a bit too much.  I had to take that opportunity to (nicely) put him in his place but he was a good sport as were all the group he was with.  On this tour one of the goals we've given each other is to drop a hack line in the middle of our set.  A hack line is a line that is so generic that loads of comedians use it.  I managed to drop a big one on the gentleman in the audience as he was surrounded by four women (two on each side).  I gave it a bit of, "Whoa, this looks like a computer date fuck up".  I did this for mainly the comedians watching side of stage.  Yet the line went down a treat and garnered a round of applause. I was thrilled and felt dirty at the same time.  "Let he who plays with hack lines bear the outcome no matter what that may be," said some comedian at some point.  I can't back that up but it feels like something someone would have once said.

I thought everyone had a great show last night but in particular Rhys Nicholson had a scorcher.  I have been immensely impressed with both Rhys and Neel and have found their company to be quite energising.  It also has inspired me to try to be even better onstage just so they know the old man can keep up.  Of course the same can be said for touring with Dave Callan and Tiffany Stevenson.  Dave has been a legend on the scene for a long time now so I want to do well in front of my peers.  Tiff is a new friend but feels like someone I have known for a long time.  Since she's out here from the UK I definitely want to impress with my best work.

 

Rhys Nicholson owned the room in his set last night.

 

I like the positive competitiveness that can be inspired by touring with good comedians. I believe it is always a good aim to attempt to be the best on the night but not to the detriment of your team.  When someone I like has a tough gig I feel nothing but empathy for them.  I know that feeling and there is nothing anyone can do to help you shake it.  It is just something you have to work through on your own.  It is amazing that even when touring with a bunch of comics stand up is still so often a solitary exercise.

After the gig I had Neel explain to me the differences between the Australian and US YouTube communities which I found fascinating.  I plan on having him on my podcast "Can You Take This Photo Please?" soon just so he can share his thoughts with you. If you don't know Neel I think you'll be surprised by how articulate and thoughtful he is. Definitely a bright kid with a great future.

 

Tiffany is closing the night beautifully on this leg of the tour.

 

After the gig Tiff and I recorded a podcast that I'll post sometime next week.  It is a very funny podcast that ranges from the surreal to the sublime.  Tiff's explanation for why Bruce Springsteen is the shit is riveting even if you're not a fan of The Boss.  By the time I had returned to my room it was another late night but it is difficult to return to your room when you're enjoying everyone's company.  Two shows to go and we're at Airey's Inlet tonight for another sold out show.  If they're as good as the Colac audience we'll be in for a bumper Saturday night.

 

 

2014 Gig Eleven: Spleen Bar

This was a gig that happened by accident. I was over at the Imperial Hotel watching a couple of trial shows earlier in the night. I think we've talked about trial shows previously but if you haven't read those blogs I'll give you another (quick) run through.  Basically a trial show is where a comedian will perform onstage to a small bunch of people (usually fellow comedians but sometimes general public) with the notes for his or her new show.  The idea behind it is just to say some of the routines out loud or explore some of the ideas onstage to see how your show is coming together.  I performed a few last year but didn't end up writing about them because I wasn't certain they came under the heading of proper gigs.  They're a great way for you to discover the rhythm to your show and find some new ideas.

I watched a couple of trial shows and then after the gig had a bit of a chat to both acts about some of the ideas I had while watching them perform.  When I was done with this I knew there were some acts on at Spleen that I would like to check out so I ducked across the road and backstage to say hello.  Karl Chandler (promoter of the room and a funny comic in his own right) looked at the line up and noticed he was ahead of time so he offered me a spot at the end of the show.  As you know I've been taking it a little easy before everything gets crazy but felt a nice surge of adrenalin at the offer so I decided I'd take him up on it.

With the decision made I now had less than ten minutes (roughly the equivalent of two acts) to work out what I might perform.  I had been so unprepared for this spot that I had only two types of routines running through my head:  material from my latest show and (very bizarrely!) material that hadn't been performed in a looooooong time, possibly close to a year, maybe even longer than that.  I didn't want to produce material from my new solo show (Adelaide Fringe tickets here and Melbourne Comedy Festival tickets here) for two reasons.  The material about Afghanistan has been fleshed out and improved to such an extent that I didn't want to reduce it to the bare minimum and ruin the new flow I have with the stories.  The other material had only been performed at Spleen a few weeks ago and while they venue has a high turnover I didn't want to disappoint anyone who may have seen me back then.

Instead I embraced the weirdness of only being able to remember material from a couple of years ago.  Since I was on last and had been asked at the last moment to perform, I didn't want to stay onstage for too long and do a disservice to the night. There is nothing worst than a comedian deciding since they're on last they should hold the audience captive when all they really want is a couple more laughs before heading home.  My goal was to be funny and short.  (In time...I've already nailed short in height.)

 

The set list was as follows:

 

Hen's Night

Shaky

Mount Isa

A Word In Scrabble

 

Anyone who has been following me for a few years would recognise these routines. I've lost interest in talking about shit gigs in recent times because it feels a little bit too "in" of late.  Plenty of comedians talk about how bad his or her gigs were so why add to the chorus?  There is of course nothing wrong with talking about these gigs.  Heck, they can turn into good therapy for the comic.  I just decided until I had a new way into this type of routine then I wasn't interested in performing that type of story.

The Hen's Night and Shaky story though are nearly 12 years old!  I first performed these routines in my first solo show "Screw You Misery, I'm the Karaoke Guy!" and they're the type of routines I have only used sporadically in the previous years.  If anything I keep them for daytime corporate gigs as they're the type of audience that does not want to be challenged in any way.  Could you imagine me performing my "Pro Choice" material to an audience that just really wants to hack into their Chicken Kiev? Well feel free to imagine it because it ain't gonna happen.

Why could I only remember old routines?  I have no idea.  I did think of some other routines that are more relevant and up to date but I wasn't certain of how long they would take and I didn't want to hold up the show.  I could have performed a few routines but they may have blown out the night.  I did find it funny that these old gags popped into my head though.  Once I decided they were going to be performed it took all the pressure off and I could listen to the previous acts and take in the performances so I could get a read on where the audience was at.

I have to admit it was fun coming back to these routines.  They had treated me well for a long time and I can't really remember the last time I have just gotten onstage with no ulterior motive other than to have fun.  Funnily enough I feel this blog can sometimes strangle me as I want to find something interesting and inspiring in every show so I have something positive to report.  This time though I was just happy to jump up at one of my favourite venues and play for five minutes at the end of the night.

Maybe I should remember to just play more often?  I do appreciate the irony in reminding a comedian to have fun at a gig.  Might be time to get myself a tattoo, get "Have fun" tattooed across the back of my hand.  On the other hand I'd have "Less snacks" but that is a whole other blog.  I was so underprepared for this gig that I forgot to take a photo for the blog so instead I'm going to give you this picture of Tom Gleeson that I found while promoting my first podcast of "Can You Take This Photo Please?" for 2014.

 

 

Just a happy dude waving from his car.  Zah!

 

Justin Hamilton

5th of February, 2014

Fitzroy North

 

Music, Movies and Shows

A quick flick through the week where movies were seen, music was listened to, shows were written and superstition was once again defeated.