I had a very bizarre day leading into the first show for the Perth International Comedy Festival. I literally (proper use of the word literally) spent the day attempting to work out what my setlist for the show would be and found myself crippled by the options. Should I put in place some sort of narrative structure? Should I just perform my favourite stand up? Should I only perform material that has been produced in the last six months? Since the show was billed as a "live" show that meant I could perform anything and since I could perform anything I had a nightmare of a time choosing just what I should perform. I spent the day poring over my new material and past shows. There was stuff from "Idiot Man Child" that I enjoyed but hadn't performed in a quite a while. There were certain routines from "The Goodbye Guy" that could be taken out of the original script and would work fine up against the new material. The final story from the show "Circular" was a fun piece that was long and built to satisfying climax but I hadn't thought of that story in well over a year so I would have to re-engage with it immediately so I could remember the rhythm of the routine.
This continued for the whole day and by 3.30pm I was exhausted. The show opened at 6.45pm and I still hadn't locked down a basic setlist. My soundcheck was locked in for 4pm so I had to get something together for at least then. To try and kickstart the process I decided I would pick my house music and walk on/walk off tracks. I was hoping that my subconscious would then help lead me in a certain direction. I chose a bunch of white girl soul music by artists Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents, Clairy Brown and the Bangin' Rackettes, Duffy's "Mercy" and Amy Winehouses' "Tears Dry on Their Own" to close out the night. That suggested to me a fairly upbeat vibe so that helped me to whittle my list of possible routines from roughly 35 to 15.
Still I couldn't work out how I would begin the show so I ended up having contact with my friend and publicist for "The Shelf" Jodi and told her of my quandary. Jodi told me that her favourite sets of mine were loose and she always enjoyed watching me work out where it was going when I was onstage. This was good advice. I would take that mindset into the show and see where it lead me. In hindsight this is exactly what I should have done but at this point I was too close to the problem and that is why it is good to have people you can trust who give you good suggestions.
With this in mind I arrived at the Astor Theatre for my soundcheck. The room I'm performing in is a beautiful old cinema and quite intimate. My techie works from upstairs in the projectionist room and I quickly surmised that it was going to be a bit of a dash to do my intro from upstairs and then make my way down in time. Nothing worst than an audience at the start of the show clapping their hands with excitement and then left wondering if you're ever going to appear onstage as you wheeze your way from beyond. Since I had already decided that I would keep the show loose I decided I would engage in some audience interaction. I'm not a big fan of that style overall. Most of the time when a comedian is talking to the audience I am annoyed as I didn't pay money to find out about Joe Blow sitting in the front row. Also I think very few comedians actually work an audience that well. The master of it is Adam Hills. He's gotten to a stage where he can literally walk onstage with no routines and work the audience into a lather with his interaction. For me? Not so much. What I did decide though was that I would walk onstage cold, point out this was a terrible way to start the show, that I was going to introduce myself from upstairs but it was too far away. From there I would actually show everyone exactly how far away it was by doing exactly what I said I wasn't going to do Once I had done that I would take someone out of the audience who would be given a cue, the music would start, they'd introduce me and we'd have our "proper" beginning to the show. This seemed like a fun way to start and since it was taking me out of my comfort zone it would make my brain work in a different way. It would literally kickstart me out of my confusion and lethargy.
The only decision I made was that I would end with my favourite routine from "The Goodbye Guy" which entailed monster hunting, purple cows and flashlights beaming into the night sky. Whatever happened from the beginning I at least knew how it would end.
Afghanistan: Marching on ANZAC Day
I’m a war hero!
“Hey, be careful!”
Soldiers are funny.
Port Power Supporters in Adelaide
Journey into Kabul
Afghanistan: The Worst Sentence Ever
Hurt When I Stand Up
Fix Your Flaws
Car Crash in Adelaide
Invite Who You Want To Parties
Being An Arsehole
Little Boy Joke
Tripping and Farting
Laughing in Greek Class
Laughing at a Funeral
“You’re An Ugly Hooker!”
Twitter and Felix
“That Won’t Get Him A Job.”
No Need to Share All Your Opinions
Glitter in Invitations
People wearing your glasses
It was interesting to note after the show that the material I gravitated to was indeed mostly the new gags. There are only a handful of routines that are older than six months included and it seemed that starting pretty much with 15-20 minutes of stories about my performances in Afghanistan made for an interesting as well as funny start to the show. From there it returned to a form that was familiar but even within this there was a lot of ad libbing. The story about laughing in Greek class in year 8 is a story I haven't thought about in a long time but it just breezed into the set and found a very natural place to fit.
I also remembered that when I have an hour to myself there is a gentleness to the way I perform that I prefer. I don't know if it is noticeable to a punter but I definitely feel it onstage. A lot of the routines were suddenly revealing new ideas within them and when it came time to close up the show I was surprised at how quickly the time had passed. Then without thinking I totally bypassed the routine I told myself I would finish on. When it was over I walked upstairs to find I had in fact finished bang on one hour. Nice.
After the show I was lucky enough to meet some really cool kids and their parents who had attended the show. After some lengthy chats about comedy I checked out Daniel Kitson's "work in progress" to marvel at his use of language and ease with words. There really is nobody like Daniel and I find him quite inspiring to watch. A day that was full of confusion ended up being a great start to a festival.
2nd of May, 2013
Perth, Western Australia