Cal Wilson

2015 Blog 25: The Shelf and Chapel Off Chapel. Gigs 155 - 159

At a time when it can be quiet on the circuit I was rapt to have a very busy August.

Between The Shelf starting up and a quick trip back to Adelaide to appear as one of the guests at the live recording of The Dollop, I've only just had an opportunity to sit down and write about these gigs.  In fact we won't get to The Dollop shows until the next blog so consider that a bit of radio sizzle skill as I let you know what is coming up after this Stereophonic triple play.

With season 12 of The Shelf starting up all efforts were funnelled into opening night.  Once the season begins I find the season quite easy to manage but I'm mildly paranoid I'll forget something important in the lead up and the show will unravel before my eyes.  With a stellar line up to juggle and a desire to start strong I spent a lot of time preparing for this gig.

I think the show itself was excellent but I felt a little removed from the opening.  It was frustrating to have that type of start because I thought the preparation was good and the material relatively strong for new routines.  I even added a little extra to the Justin Bourne story that may find a way into next year's show, "Hoot!"  I'd had a distracting afternoon and unfortunately it followed me onto the stage.  Luckily one of the team from my management group was there and when they pointed out that they felt I was a little distracted it actually helped me refocus.  From then on I felt like I was back in form but it was annoying to not be quite on top of it at the start.  I have to bring a certain energy to the show as the host and it was definitely not quite up to scratch.

Booooo to mediocrity, right?

I'll have to do the right thing by the material in subsequent gigs.  Here's the set list from the opening night:


August 17th:  The Shelf


Justin Bourne

Uber Stupor

Hollywood Is Mental

Australian Movie Universe


The next night I ran the workshop and hosted the open mic night at The Comic's Lounge.  I enjoy these types of nights and the new comics that came to the workshop were interesting and asked good questions.  I didn't know the workshop was supposed to finish about half an hour before the doors were opened to the general public and instead went right up to almost the start time of the show.  That was a two hour workshop and to be honest I was knackered by the beginning of the actual show.

(Yes, I am trying to bring "knackered" back to the everyday vernacular.)

So once again I started the night a little low in energy and it came through in my performance. Two nights in a row!  Bah!  I was 100% peeved at myself and could feel the gears crunching in my opening set as I fought my own lack of energy and attempted to corral a mildly apathetic audience into line.  

By the beginning of the second bracket I was so annoyed with myself that I brought a much better energy to the show that was fuelled completely by frustration.  Never let it be said that negative emotions can't be turned into something positive.  

In the end it was a late night and between the workshop and the show I'd practically talked on an off for nearly 5 hours.  I can imagine a lot of you out there thinking that might be four and a half hours too many and to be honest I don't necessarily disagree.  Here's the set list:


August 18th:  The Comic’s Lounge


1st Bracket


Biker Gig

20s, 30s, 40s

Invite To Parties

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation


2nd Bracket


Can’t Drink Anymore


3rd Bracket


Before The Internet


I had the following night off before launching into a three night stand at Chapel Off Chapel as part of the "Glow Festival".  Each night there were different headliners and support acts while I hosted all three shows.  With line ups that included Dave Thornton, Tommy Little and Cal Wilson, these were three fun shows that allowed me to work in a different part of town and a venue I'd never set foot in before.  I can't believe I'd never been to Chapel Off Chapel and not only was it fun to perform there I was over the moon that my atheist vibe didn't set off some residual faith that may have been floating in the rafters.  


Here are the three set lists:


August 20th:  Chapel Off Chapel:  Headliner Dave Thornton


1st Bracket


Kid At Captain America

20s, 30s, 40s

Invite To Parties

Hairy Baby

“I Don’t Give A Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation


2nd Bracket


Justin Bourne

Uber Mistake



August 21st:  Chapel Off Chapel:  Headliner Tommy Little


1st Bracket


Biker Gig

New Year’s Resolution



“I’m Entitled To My Opinion”

Islamic Writing

Bjork CD

Scouts Gig


Between Acts


Hushed Angry Conversation


2nd Bracket


Glitter In Invitations

People Wearing Your Glasses

Watching Movies Out Of Context




August 22nd:  Chapel Off Chapel:  Headliner Cal Wilson


1st Bracket


Kid at Wedding

Can’t Drink Anymore


Between Acts


“I Don’t Give a Hoot!”

Hushed Angry Conversation


2nd Bracket


Before the Internet


All three of these shows were a lot of fun and it was also a great opportunity to catch up with some friends I hadn't seen in quite a while.  I gave myself the challenge to not repeat myself for the staff that worked at the venue and apart from a few repeats between acts in the first bracket I was able to keep up that side of the bargain.  Often it is easier to stick with what you know works in a space but I think that can lead me to lose focus a little.  With some of the distractions I had earlier in the week I wanted to make certain that didn't happen this time and while I know all that material works it was fun to keep on my toes.

A weird week where I started my first two shows slowly before finding form and then finished the week off with a bunch of fun gigs.  I guess it isn't a bad thing to know that sometimes if you don't hit your stride straight up you can still grind out a good night.  When you're younger I guess once the night starts one way it usually stays that way.  Always a positive to learn some new lessons about yourself while still doing your job.  

Having said that no more slow starts please.  Time for this guy to focus a little more at the start, push distractions aside and do my job properly from the outset.


Justin Hamilton

2nd of September, 2015

Fitzroy North

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2014 Gig One Hundred and Thirty Five: Best of the Fest. Gig One Hundred and Thirty Six: Prompter. Gig One Hundred and Thirty Seven: Edinburgh

With three shows in one day I finally work out what the main challenge will be for the rest of the Edinburgh Fringe.

2014 Gig One Hundred and Thirty Two: Battle of the Superheroes and Gig One Hundred and Thirty Three: Edinburgh

A superhero smack down, a super clown singing and an Australian comedy super star attending my show made up my final Monday in Edinburgh.

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 One Hundred and Seven: Edinburgh Fringe

The first night of the Edinburgh Fringe has finally happened and it is all systems go go go!

2014 Gig Sixty Four: The Shelf

The final show for The Shelf Season 9 took an hour longer than expected and that seemed just about right on the night.

2014 Gig Fifty Four: The Shelf

Did you miss The Shelf last night?  If so you missed this line up:  

Wil Anderson

Hannah Gadsby

James Acaster

Cal Wilson

Claire Hooper

Justin Hamilton

Adam Richard


Tegan Higginbotham

Corey White

Lessons With Luis

Wizard Sandwiches

Alice Fraser

Tracey Cosgrove

Fan Fiction Comedy featuring Joseph Moore



The calm before the storm.


With this show I hit the half way point of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. My first show was on the 24th of March when we held a special preview of "Johnny Loves Mary Forever 1994" for all of our season ticket holders.  Since then it has been work every day and gigs every night without a break.  The Shelf is the hardest night of the week because so much goes into every show including the wrangling of comics and the energy it requires on the night.  As I stated last week I haven't had time to write some new material so I went way back into the vaults for a story I haven't told in years.  The set list for my opening was:


Fire Trap Gives Me The Barry

Journalists Ask About Terrible Gigs

Mount Isa

"I Heard Gravity"

Biker Corporate Gig


I took this photo 25 minutes before the show was scheduled to begin.


We had a packed out audience and I riffed off the top about how if there was a fire I would not only survive but it would inspire me to write a show that would win me The Barry for best show at next year's M.I.C.F.  It is a dark way to begin a gig but our audience is so fantastic they not only went with it but understood it was more a take down of the semi serious comedy shows you might see at the festival.  Yes, I was having a crack at me and the type of show I'm performing just in case you weren't certain that I had missed the irony.

Journalists are mad for asking us about terrible gigs and that gave me a jumping off point to get into some old material.  I'm not certain whether I have performed the "I Heard Gravity" story onstage before.  I think I have but I don't have the time to go through all my previous entries to find out if I did.  Anyway it popped into my head and I figured I'd throw it out there and it fitted in nicely with the theme.

I also ad libbed a comment that I had made on Wil Anderson's podcast "FOFOP" about never having a bad gig and was surprised at the genuine and spontaneous applause of acknowledgement from the audience.  I thought it might be a nice throw away but the response was one of recognition and it took my completely by surprise.  I wasn't certain if I was going to mention it or nor in this blog but I had my suspicions confirmed by Shelf super fan Ethan Lesh on Facebook who wrote to me about that exact moment.  I'm glad I wasn't lost up my own arse with that moment and a bit thanks to Ethan for confirming it for me.

The story about performing a corporate gig for bikers with fellow comedian Mickey D occurred somewhere around the turn of the century and is a story that I haven't performed for a long time.  Between last week's "What's a bit of wrinkle..." routine and last night's story I had forgotten how much I enjoyed them in their day.  I don't know if I could find the same energy performing them on a regular basis now but they might be good to keep in my back pocket for gigs further down the track.

I was rapt not only with the audience last night but also the acts.  I had a bunch of comedians who hadn't performed at The Shelf before (Wizard Sandwiches, Corey White, Tracey Cosgrove and UK comedian James Acaster) who fitted in like they've always been a part of the line up.  Getting the balance correct between new and established comedians is part of the joy of putting the show together.  Introducing new acts to our audience is incredibly exciting not only for the crowd but also the comedian. We have such a loyal and smart following that a lot of these acts can be assured to score some ticket sales out of their appearance.


Thank you to Rebecca Dunbar for taking this photo.


The highlight of the night for me was sown at the end of the first bracket. Somehow for the first time ever The Shelf was running to time.  I made the mistake of mentioning this onstage and out bounded co-host Adam Richard and floating Wil.  We proceeded to ad lib enough that the show was now 20 minutes behind schedule.  As the night continued we became more and more behind time and ended up finishing an hour after what I had planned for.  Brilliantly the majority of the audience (and when I say majority I mean 90% of the audience) stayed around for the end.  Only one person I knew had to leave and that was one of the main instigators of getting the show behind time:  Wil.  He was out of there with about two acts to go.  Hilarious.  As we have pointed out before The Shelf isn't about a tidy night out.  Every show aims for the fence and I feel if it wasn't bloated, unwieldy and full of moments where we say things we sort of wish we hadn't then it actually wouldn't be the show we love to be a part of.

Next week's show is the final show for The Shelf for the next six months.  I'm guessing at this point the earliest it will return will be mid November so if you're keen to check it out you should head here to book your tickets.  This is well on the way to selling out and I'm guessing will be a cracking way to finish the season.


Justin Hamilton

8th of April, 2014

Fitzroy North



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