Comedy

My stand up comedy work and related shenanigans

Gig Guide

Upcoming shows and events

MC services

Need an MC or event facilitator? I can help

Writing

My writing: some of the latest pieces, and a few old favourites

Allsorts open mic

Allsorts is an all-ages, all-acts open mic in Rockhampton

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Awesomesauce

Time for a look at some new stuff, interesting things being done by interesting people, and the odd good old-fashioned internet timewaster.  It's time for...


The Rockhampton Cultural Festival is coming up on August 30, from 11-4 at the Heritage Village.

Are you a musician in Central Queensland?  A CQU researcher would like your input on working in the regional CQ music industry.

There's nothing like local knowledge, but how do you record it?  Jeremy Staples is doing just that in the Bundaberg region.  Video by Brad Marsellos from ABC Open.

Elmo Keep's The Unbearable Lightness of Being Corporal is a beautiful piece about the terminally-ill pet she's separated from by half a world.  I've read it several times, and every time it makes me bawl like a ninny.

"The last time you saw me, I was leaving you behind. But I did not know that at the time, I hope you will believe me. I know that on the day I found you I promised that I would never leave you, and one day I lied."

The realities of looking for work in the Wide Bay, a region with some of the highest unemployment stats in the nation, from Ross Kay at ABC Wide Bay.

Jonathan Duffy, actor, filmmaker, comedian, and do-er of many interesting things, recently moved to Iceland.  His blog post about the move covered some interesting ground about gatekeepers - both official and informal - in both the arts and GLBTIQ+ communities:

"You will probably find that in a majority of situations the personal cost to you for passing on information or retweeting is nothing. The person you are helping is someone who needs it, and in many cases, is trying to a positively influence the rainbow-coloured cacophony of issues that all bundle together to create our equal rights."

A very clever poem as a Venn diagram.

Turn any photo into a mosaic of emojis.  We have the technology.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Comedy show etiquette

So, you're on your way to a live comedy gig - maybe the Rocky Comedy Cartel's next show - and you're wondering what's going to happen.  What if the comedian picks on you?  What if you have something funny to add?  What if you're not even there for the show, you're just out for a meal and there happens to be comedy on that night?

Here's a brief guide to answer all those questions and more.

Annie G and her red boots rocking the mic at the last Allsorts show
Is it going to be like Ross Noble/Arj Barker/Insert Visiting Big-Name Comic Here?

Maybe, maybe not.  All comedians have their own style.  Performing live is also a very different animal from a TV show, so even the big names might bring something quite different from what you've seen before.  Our local comedy scene has performers with widely varying styles, backgrounds, and levels of experience.  That's part of the appeal - there's something unpredictable and anarchic about the artform.

Laugh!

Seriously, it's OK to laugh at a comedy show.  It is, after all, what we're there for.  But people can be shy about laughing out loud, especially at daytime gigs.  (Outdoors in daytime isn't the optimal venue for stand up comedy, but our local crew are up for anything, anywhere, anytime so it's happened before and will happen again.)  Don't be shy - some feedback from the audience is always a great way to gauge what you like, and help us give you what you want.

Where do I sit?

If you're up for interacting with the comic and possibly being singled out for crowd work or games, get right up in the front row where we can see and hear you.  (More on interacting with the performer in just a moment.)

If you're there for the show but maybe a little shy about ending up in the spotlight yourself, get up as close as you can without being in the front row.  It's harder to play to a crowd that's really spread out, or when everyone's taken off to the far end of the bar.  Come closer, my pretties.

If you're not there for the show and want to have a meal or carry on your own conversations, please find a spot down the back or away from the stage.  It's not easy to play to the back of someone's head while they're scarfing down a chicken parma.  If you're having a conversation please find a space away from the show - not just because it's offputting for the performer, but it's distracting for the people who are there for the gig and are trying to listen.

Can I tape the show?

Please don't.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

Firstly, we've put a lot of time and effort into the performance, and once it's on video the show may have been spoiled for anyone who was looking forward to seeing it live.

Secondly, our skills are always developing and our acts evolving.  The material I'm really proud of now will probably make me cringe in five years time.  So in five years' time, I'd like to be able to control who can see that older work, and that's hard if it's on someone else's YouTube.

It'll look like crap anyway.  Trust me, it's hard to get a watchable video on your phone at a live gig.

Can I heckle?

No, you can sit down and shush.

OK, that was harsh.  There is a time and place for interacting with the comic: if we're asking a question, having a chat or playing a game, we'd love you to answer or get involved.  But if we're in the middle of a story and building up to a punchline, having someone start interrupting or yakkai-ing can throw the performer off their game, and annoy the people who are trying to listen.  Also, the people heckling and trying to compete with the comedian are usually pretty drunk, and that means the filter between brain and mouth is loose and they might just possibly not be as funny as they think they are.

Can I have a go?  I'm funny!

Sure... but not at a gig where someone's been paid to entertain the crowd.  If you really would like to try your hand at comedy, put you name down for the Allsorts open mic and show us what you've got.

Monday, 27 July 2015

The Cosmic WD40 Theory

The more I do, the more things happen.

That might sound like stating the obvious (and the laws of physics) but I've noticed this isn't necessarily a simple cause-and-effect situation.  Often it's not the thing I'm working hard on that turns into gold, but that the work itself leads down a rabbit hole where other opportunities are waiting.

I call it the Cosmic WD40 Theory.


Not being much of a mechanic, my tool kit consists entirely of blu-tac and gaffer tape for things that need to stay in place, and WD40 for things that need to move.  Whether it's a window, a hinge, or one of the mysterious greasy things under the bonnet of the car, a blast of tinned oil will usually get it moving.

I've found that making yourself useful can have a similar effect on your life.

It's not about the work itself being brilliant, or you being the most skilled superstar.  It's about turning up and doing something productive.

Getting involved and doing things means meeting people, and the more people you know the more likely you are to hear about opportunities, jobs, gigs, and random nifty things to do.  You don't have to become besties with everyone - although you are more likely to find people you get on with if you're active in groups that deal with your interests and passions - but building a working network of acquaintances who are helpful to you, and who you help in turn.

Making something happen also lets people know you have a bit of initiative.  Even if it all falls flat, which it sometimes will, you'll be "that chick who tried to start a knitting circle" or "that guy who tried to make scuba golf a thing".  That's a step up from "that dude nobody's heard of because he spends all day gaming and trolling".

But I also think there's something more to it.  I think, on some level, doing something productive sends a message that you're ready for stuff to happen.  Maybe it's cosmic, maybe it's spiritual, maybe it's the difference it makes to your own mindset, but I really do think things happen to people who make things happen.

Fun fact: WD40 is short for Water Displacement 40th Formula.  So now you know.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Free Friday Fiction: Blue

Blue is Bud's hair and her left eye and her lover.

Blue curls up from the willow pattern on the unwashed plates in the sink and pours itself through a hole in the screen door. A slim stream of colour threads its way down the steps and into the garage, looping through air thick with cut grass and diesel. In the corner by the window, Bud settles a fresh canvas onto the easel and busies herself with pots and brushes and slices of foam yellow like tea cake. Her back is turned to the door, and she doesn't notice ribbon of deep blue until it dances across the chipped polish on her toenails. Coils around the ankh tattoo on her ankle. Springs from speck to speck of the paint spattered across her legs, under her fingernails, at the corner of her nose. Combs through her hair. Bud tucks a blue curl and the colour she loves behind her ear and salutes the naked canvas before her. She pours out paints onto a scrap of fibro: prim acrylic blobs of magenta, turquoise, grey, white. Blue curls down from her scalp to her fingers and helps her squeeze a handsome quantity of her signature colour into the tub itself. She grabs a double-handful, cold and thick in her fingers like yesterday's custard and smelling faintly of plastic and self-doubt, and sets to work.

The first strokes across the primed canvas are seeking, cautious, her brown eye on market analysis and competition briefs while her blue eye sees the work as yet unpainted, primal and calling to be born. Her hands dance a line between the twin visions of raw creation and return on investment, coaxing line and meaning from polymer emulsion and espaliered linen. As the work takes shape she hauls the canvas from easel to floor, prostrating herself across the slick surface as cobalt blue churns under her hands and picks out the lines on her palms. Blue on her elbows, on her breasts, in the little v-shaped tears where she picks the skin raw around her nails. She pours herself into the work, flesh as fluid as the paint beneath her hands. Blue in her long hair, blue against blue, split ends adding extra streaks to the canvas. Blue dances along her arms, guiding and encouraging while Bud calls forth the visions yearning to be seen, the images that have always existed yet never seen light until her hands tear them, slippery as any other newborn, from the all-knowing darkness and the collective unconscious and the bottles of paint lined up neatly by the windowsill.

Drenched in paint and sweat and endorphins, Bud drags the canvas back onto the easel and stands back to inspect her work. She presses her hands into the building ache in the small of her back, leaving magenta-and-turquoise handprints on the back of her black singlet. Blue embraces her, a caress against her cheek, a gentle squeeze at her waist, a tug towards the house, towards their unmade bed. 

“I'm sorry,” Bud whispers. “I can't. My shift starts in an hour. I have to get cleaned up.”
You don't have to work, Blue ripples through the paint that coats her arms. Stay home. Paint. Bloom. Be bountiful.
“I need money. The rent's due on Thursday, and the car, and we need groceries.”
All we need is the beauty you create.
“I don't have time. I have to work.”
If you made time, you wouldn't have to work.

Under the hot blast of the shower, Bud scrubs and scrubs until her skin is red and clean but not unmarked; fragments of blue paint and of Blue linger forever around her cuticles, highlighting every flaw and imperfection in her battered hands. She rinses the shampoo suds from her hair and wills her mindful of clutter and worry and noise to follow the foam down the drain. A momentary peace. Calm. Thinking about nothing. Thinking about thinking about nothing. Blue's words echo off the avocado-green tile and swirl around and around like the last pitiful bubbles that can't find the plughole.
Stay home. Paint. Bloom. Be bountiful. 
She'll be bountiful on Thursday, when there's money in the bank.

Tonight's other waitress is new and slow, and Bud doubles down to keep the food coming. Mandy tilts her head and giggles and shrugs the neck of her top artfully over one slender white shoulder while Bud works and quietly fumes.  Four hours.  For more hours. Four more hours before she can trade rattling crockery and greasy, sticky smells for peace and quiet and Blue. Bud ferries plates from kitchen to table, bed-sized plates with tiny meals served vertically in teetering culinary towers of Babylon. Plates dotted with congealing brown gravy and seared flesh, with cream cooling to a skin, with slippery green, with traitorous red, with non-committal and cowardly orange. No blue. Even the blueberry pie, the kitchen's bluest offering outside the chef's tongue, is the dark, reddish purple of curdled blood. Blue is not here. Blue does not understand why she needs to be here.

Bud wanders home at eight minutes to one, weaving with tiredness. It takes her weary eyes three goes to line the key up with the lock. Finally inside she kicks the door closed behind her to keep the world at bay and lets down her hair and her guard and the corners of her mouth for the first time in so, so many hours. Blue plucks itself free from the sky on the cover of a discarded brochure for half-price flights to Bali and pulls her into a warm hug. Her blue eye sees a night of pleasure, her brown eye sees herself having to open tomorrow. She stumbles to bed and is asleep in moments, Blue sadly stroking her hair in the darkness.

Bud opens at quarter past five, and by six the coffee machine is spitting steam like a Victorian folly. Mandy churns bean water and bovine lactate into wake-up juice for a sleepy, snaking line of people in uncomfortable woollen blends. She's slow at this too, and the early morning crowd-snake is much less forgiving than last night's diners marinated in bonhomie and house wine. Bud grits her teeth and busies herself with toast and eggs, making a point about Mandy's uselessness to herself and management and the unlistening universe. Bud grabs Mandy's latest concoction and finishes it off with a leaf in the latte. It reflects the pattern in the uncomfortable woollen blend that snatches it when its number is called. The line gets longer. The snake of uncomfortable woollen blends tuts and fidgets. Throats are cleared, disparaging sounds collecting in a cloud of displeasure around the exposed timber rafters. Mandy flails and fumbles and produces eventual coffee. The uncomfortable woollen blend at the head of the snake looks at Bud as through Bud is everything wrong with the world.

“Fifty-seven?”
The uncomfortable woollen blend snatches the drink and turns away with a grunt. A heartbeat later it whirls and hurls the cardboard cup, drenching Bud in recently-boiling liquid.
“You stupid bitch! I said soy!”

The snake rises, sleep-filled eyes now glowing red and the injustice of a thousand early starts distilled to venom dripping from fangs. The snake rears up and back, drinking deeply from the cloud of anger bubbling in the rafters. Bud steps backwards and stumbles over an artfully displayed bag of coffee beans. Mandy stands mesmerised, staring as the beast lashes its head side to side, seeking the source of this beverage-based slight against its person. Bud drags herself backwards, frees herself from the decorative bag of beans and crawls for the toilets.

Bud crouches in the lavatory while destruction rages outside, the building shaking with each pounding thud as the snake methodically reduces the cafe to powder. Again. Again. A crack in the wall. It wasn't there and now it is. It spreads with every blow. Expands and blossoms through crumbling brick. Again. Again. The lights go out. Wall shears away from wall.

Bud climbs onto the sink and kicks at the sealed window. The aluminium frame is warped and twisted by the shifting wall, and the window pops free and falls with a clang and a tinkle to the alley below. On the road below the early morning sky is reflected in a thousand broken shards. Behind her the pounding is louder now. She risks a glance over her shoulder. The far wall is starting to hiss and bubble, venom eating it away from the other side. The snake is here.

Bud wriggles and kicks and her bum gets stuck and she ladders her new tights and then she's through and down, down, down so far too far too far

Blue

Blue leaps up from the reflected sky in the glass below, catches her holds her slows her fall

Her blue eye sees a future. She makes art in a friend's shed; wild, primal, beautiful, terrible things. She drags deep, unknowable truths out of the abyss and leashes them to re-used canvases. She sleeps on a mattress in the corner and owns two pairs of jeans. She says she's happy because she's doing what she loves, repeatedly, to the diminishing circle of people who'll listen. She'd be happier if she could afford to get her rotting teeth pulled.

Her brown eye sees a future. She sits at a grey desk in a glass office, dealing with paperwork in the same resentfully efficient way she doled out coffee. Her clothes are nice, a flattering and expensive-looking uncomfortable woollen blend. Behind her a canvas not of her doing, grey geometric shapes marching across a wasteland of black and silver.

Her blue eye sees a future. She rebuilds the cafe brick by brick, slotting every charred timber back into place with Mandy and a crane. She paints a vivid blue feature wall and sets aside a gallery space for local nobodies. She is hailed as a heartwarming local success story. She smiles in the photo in the local paper and smiles behind the counter and smiles in the street because if she stops smiling for a moment she loses the plucky small-town hero identity she wears closer than her skin.

Her brown eye sees a future. She finds another cafe and gets enough hours to pay the rent. She paints in her spare time, works summoned up from the depths and tempered by what's selling. She walks a rope slung between what's popular and what's real and what pays the bills. She courts thoughts of a radical new artistic vision, or a lucrative product line, but for fear of upsetting her delicate balancing act she does neither. She lives a comfortable life of half-measures and diluted dreams.

Blue lowers her to the ground and surrounds her in a warm embrace as the sirens start.

“What was that?” Bud whispers into the Blue that surrounds her.
Choices. Options. Futures.
 “Do I have to choose one?”
You choose with every action, every breath. 

So she did.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Building a culture of comedy

Whew, what a weekend.

I've been buzzing around doing stand up at the Rockhampton River Festival and co-ordinating other comedy acts, and sneaked in a private show for a fundraiser as well.  Plus I'm nailing together sets for next Saturday's pub gig in Mt Larcom, and wondering what I'll take to our next Allsorts show...

So why am I doing all this?

Lots of reasons, from skills development to just plain loving comedy and wanting to do it every chance I get.  But there's also an element of public awareness to our efforts to get gigs anywhere and everywhere.

Rocky, like all the bits of regional Australia I've lived in, doesn't have a culture of live comedy.  We have a bustling and diverse music scene, an active theatre group and an assortment of writers, poets and improv ninjas, but when you head out for the night you're expecting a band, or maybe karaoke, or at least a guy in the corner with a guitar. You're not expecting comedy, unless there's a big name at the Pilbeam for one night only.

We're trying to change that just a tiny bit, and get more locals thinking about and supporting live local comedy.


At every show, there's likely to be someone who's only experience with live stand up is a visiting headliner like Ross Noble.  Maybe there'll be someone who's never seen live comedy at all.  There might even be a few who, like my Mum a year ago, aren't even entirely sure what stand up comedy is.  By turning up at community events and festivals and fundraisers, we're gently introducing ourselves to those people and saying "hey, we exist."

We're also giving people ideas; ideas about their own events and fundraisers and fetes and parties and what to go and see on Saturday night.

We're also reaching other potential performers.  Since the vague idea of starting an open mic first popped up about a year ago, a whole collection of local comedians have come out of the woodwork.  Some are newbies giving it their first shot, and some have a surprising amount of experience and just need a place to share it.

In between all that, we're slowly but surely carving a little comedy-shaped niche into the community.