Rove McManus

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 November Gigs 172 - 178: Imperial Hotel to Wil Anderson Support

November is turning out to be a busy time of the year.  I'm always quite surprised at how my self esteem improves with the amount of gigs that I'm performing.  Even when I'm taking a break that I know is necessary there is a mild funk when I'm away from the stage. I don't believe it has that much to do with a desire to perform but more a sense that you're working and therefore earning a living.  It always makes me laugh when people tell me that I work too hard and should just take a month off.  I will gladly do this when someone offers to pay me holiday pay.  Heck, I've been doing this for twenty years, I'm owed two loads of long service leave, right? My first gig for the week was helping to fill in a gap at Imperial Comedy.  I've been performing there quite a bit lately and it is beginning to feel like a second home. With a rock solid audience who are locked into every show it has provided me with an opportunity to really play around with my material.  By changing the sequence in some of the routines I've been able to reveal more jokes and interesting asides that have helped flesh out the new material.  Here's the set list for the gig:

 

18th of November:  Imperial Hotel

 

Biker Gig

Milne and His Fine

Manson Getting Married

Abbott Shot In The Face

Liberal Government

Legal Pot

 

For those of you who haven't seen the material just enjoy the heading of "Abbott Shot In The Face" and extrapolate from there where that material might go.  It was another fun night at the Imperial Hotel but I had to leave early as the next day I had a flight to Darwin to support Wil Anderson on his tour.

My tour manager Claire and I managed to upgrade to business class for our flight and I'll be honest, it is brutal when you have to return to economy.  Big seats, real cutlery and staff that just want to keep serving you booze are just some of the joys of sitting up the front of the plane.  I love drinking on flights as I find the air pressure in the cabin combined with the booze ends up making me a little teary.  I'm made for a weepy flight moment and anything can set me off.  As an example I watched the trailer for "True Detective" (a series I have watched stacks of heaps of times already) and found myself getting a bit weepy watching that.  Hang in there Rust, everything is going to be ok!

 

Between shows hoping I don't have a bald patch showing up in any mirrors.

 

Our first show as part of this tour was at the Darwin Entertainment Centre where a thousand Ando fans came along to see the big man in action.  As a support act I feel you have to go out, warm up the audience, get them in the mood and don't outstay your welcome.  They're not there to see you, at best you're a bonus.  Do you job and hit it hard. This was the set list:

 

19th of November:  Darwin support for Wil

 

Kid At Cap

Turning 40

Before The Internet

Fix Your Flaws

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

 

This was a great start to the tour except we had some major sound issues.  With a cordless mic that was feeding back throughout the first five minutes it made it difficult to land punchlines.  Also for some reason the smoke machine had a mind of its own and was spewing out the type of smoke that even the makers of "I Dream Of Jeannie" would find excessive.  At one point with me dressed all in black surrounded by smoke and a mic that was making lightsaber noises I must have looked like a "Be Kind Rewind" version of Darth Vader.

Funnily enough I was so relaxed with this happening about me that I was actually finding it quite funny.  When I was younger I think I would have had a mild nervous breakdown but knowing there was nothing I could do until the techie fixed the problem was in a way quite liberating.  Also I feel as the support act this is the type of thing I'm there to help solve.  It is better for the sound to be a mess while I'm onstage so when Wil comes out for his show everything is sorted.  In a weird way this is part of my job. Still the audience was great and the gig was a fun one despite the tech problems.

The next day we flew to Perth (back in economy...no upgrade for Claire and I this time...booooo!) and had a day off before getting back into the swing of things.  Over the next four shows (including our show in Kalgoorlie) my set list remained the same. When you know it is not only working but coming in on time you don't want to mess around too much in case you throw everything out of order.  So the set list was:

 

21st – 23rd of November:  Perth and Kalgoorlie support for Wil

 

Kid At Cap

Turning 40

Before The Internet

Fix Your Flaws

What A Woman Likes About Me Now

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation

 

In fact I tell a mild lie.  I dropped the "What A Woman Likes About Me Now" after the opening show in Perth.  I just thought it messed with the flow of the set ever so slightly. Not that anyone would have noticed but I wasn't 100% happy with it.  The audiences were incredible and very giving.  Considering I was the support act I felt very much like they were rapt to have me there.  This is also helped by the generous introductions that Wil gives at the start of the show that lets them know in no uncertain terms that I'm there because of him.  I thoroughly enjoyed these gigs and it is a massive buzz to perform to roughly 6,000 people over such a small amount of time.  If you'd told me when I first started out that one day I would have that opportunity I would have been rapt as I am now.

 

Wil in action in Kalgoorlie.

 

There was one other gig tucked in amongst these shows.  On the Saturday night Wil had two shows at the Perth Exhibition Centre and after the first gig I was booked for a corporate gig that was in the same venue at exactly the perfect time.  What are the odds? I can't remember having that type of luck before and have been very thankful that it turned out the way that it did.  It was for a company of three hundred and I was booked to knock out 20 minutes at their end of year Christmas party.  I didn't perform any material at this gig but instead did audience work instead.  It was that type of gig where they enjoyed seeing someone from their company feel awkward more than they wanted jokes and I was happy to provide!

 

Adam Richard and I turned up to see Rove's secret gig at the Imperial Hotel.

 

Monday it was time to fly from Kalgoorlie to Perth to Melbourne.  What a great way to wipe out a day but after a fun run of gigs and a fair amount of travel it was nice to not think for a while.  I'm relatively happy with the new material as it is getting to that comfortable stage where it feels like the material I've been performing all along, a natural part of my regular set lists.  That is a good sign heading into some down time before the new year begins.

The following day Rove was headlining the Imperial Hotel and I went down with Adam Richard to just watch the show.  It is important to go to gigs and just sit back and enjoy the night.  It was a perfect way to relax before the next run of gigs here in Melbourne.

 

Justin Hamilton

28th of November, 2014

Fitzroy North

2014 November Gigs: 166 - 171 From The Imperial To The Final Comedy At Crown

A great week of gigs with the highlight being a moment where I found a way to improve a new routine.