Monday, 6 July 2015

No, it's not "just a joke"

I get quite cross when people use "it's just a joke" as a defence for being offensive or out of line.

Having said that, there are times when it's true.  If it's a kid parroting what they've heard their friends say, someone blowing off steam after a particularly ghastly day at work, or someone three sheets to the wind with their equally sauced-up mates egging them on, maybe it really is just a joke and doesn't mean anything.

But if you're expressing yourself for a living, then no.  It's not "just a joke".

If you're a writer, then your words are supposed to have some weight and meaning.  They're meant to be a quality product, even if you're dealing with light-hearted subject matter.  Part of being a writer is being able to put an idea in words accurately, 

If you're a comedian, your jokes are supposed to be good.  They're better than the gags in a Christmas cracker, the non-sequiturs floating around the playground, or the ranting of someone having a bad day.  They're supposed to be "let's pay $46 to hear these, and another $35 for a t-shirt on the way out" quality. Saying "it's just a joke" is like a fashion designer saying "pffft, it's just a dress, who cares?"  

You should.  It's your livelihood. 

I'm not arguing that comics should be social justice warriors.  That's a whole separate barrel of feelpinions for another time.  But I do think if you have a platform (even if it's a tiny one in a corner of a cafe) you should be willing and able to defend what you say there.

There are jokes in my current sets that poke fun of the anti-vax movement, people who keep multiple large dogs in small suburban backyards, bra shops that don't cater to larger ladies, and various incidences of people being rude or weird about my name.  They're all things I'm happy to discuss, because they're all things that ultimately I have some solid convictions about.  

Let's say by some chance someone actually listens to my act, and the front page of tomorrow's paper says "LOCAL COMIC MOCKS ROCKY DOGS". (The price of beer made the front page last week, so it's not impossible.) I'm ready to back those jokes up with a serious discussion of under-trained, under-stimulated animals bored out of their skulls and barking at everything that moves.

Because while I made a joke about it, it's not "just" joke.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Allsorts update

Amateur Allsorts is a regular(ish) open mic show in Rockhampton.  It's a place for comics, musicians, poets and other culture vultures to try out new material, experiment, build their confidence and figure out how this whole performing thing works.

Until recently we were based at Eldino's Cafe in East St.  But now, we have to move on.

Sadly, Eldino's has gone the way of all too many other independent locally-run businesses, and closed at the end of May.

Allsorts will continue.  In the nine months we've been going we've watched our regulars grow their confidence, develop their material, and really find their feet as performers.  We've had some awesome established acts drop in to slum it with the newbies for an evening.  We've provided a safe, supportive place for people get up and perform in front of an audience for the first time in their lives.  And we're going to keep doing that.

Because the world needs more of this

Allsorts will be back on Sunday, July 5 from 1pm at CQ Leagues Club in Lion Creek Road, Rockhampton.  We don't have a date locked in for August yet, but that show will be at The Workshop in East St, early in the month.

It's a new venue but the same Allsorts goodness - no auditions, no membership fees, no meetings, just a place where any and all all-ages acts can get up and do their thing.

There are spots available now for the July show, so if you've been on the fence about getting involved in Allsorts now would be a great time to get off the fence and onto the stage.  The Leagues Club also has a bigger stage than we've had in the past, so dancers, sketches, and other acts that need space will have more room to stretch their legs.  There'll also be meals available til 2pm, and the bar will be open.

Could you do me a favour?  Could you please circulate this news around anyone you know who might be interested, either as a performer or just to come and watch?  (There's a flyer below to make it easy.)  I'll let the media know and try to get out through the usual channels, but word of mouth's always been our most effective means of promotion.

Thank you!!

Monday, 18 May 2015


Time for a look at interesting stuff and great things being done by good people. It's the return of...

Self promotion alert: the Rocky Comedy Cartel, AKA local comics Damien Challen, Annie G, Thabo Tshuma and me, has a shiny new website.  You can see us in action, find out more about our merry band, and get in touch.

Stonecutter Records are a new Rocky-based music store, concentrating on vinyl, cassettes and CDs.  Stay in touch on Facebook and Instagram to find out where they'll be and what goodies they have in stock.

May is Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Month, and Anglicare Central Queensland (disclosure: I work there) is rounding out the month with the AnglicareCQ Boy's Night at Eldino's Cafe on Friday, May 29.  Grab some mates, bring a few drinks, and settle in for a night of great music, live comedy, and a little bit of information on the side.  More info here.

Rockhampton Little Theatre's next outing Black Comedy opens on Friday, June 12 at the Walter Reid Cultural Centre.  More info and tickets here.

Yeppoon Little Theatre, flush with the success of Cosi, is tooling up for their next project: short play festival Pull Up Your Shorts.  They're auditioning on May 25 and May 27.

Winterfest Weekend is a celebration of the Bundaberg region's glorious produce on the weekend of July 11 and 12.  There'll be farmers' markets, a degustation dinner, and other delectable events.  Check them out on Facebook to find out more.

Speaking of that weekend, the Rockhampton River Festival runs from Thursday, July 9 til Sunday July 12 with free entertainment, art, food, and all sorts of good things.  Including some comedy!  I'll be there along with some of our other local comics, but I can't tell you much more right now.  I'm not being mysterious, we're just not finished working out the trifling details of who's doing what where when.

Speaking of things I can't mention just yet, leave the night of Friday, June 26 free.

When storms in the Hunter region forced many local schools to close due to power cuts, the local ABC Radio crew had to read a long, long list of closures.  Then it turned into a remix.

Have you met We Want Plates?  It's a Twitter dedicated to documenting the weird things food is served on/in these days, from slabs of slate and marble to shovels and shoes.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to mothers and mother-types everywhere.

Mum and I meet a local at Lightning Ridge

Monday, 4 May 2015

Stop fetishising paper books

I love books and I love reading, but I'm not on board with the romanticisation of paper books over their digital counterparts, as though physical books have some sort of moral superiority over ebooks.

They don't.  They both have their good and bad points.

One of these things is... much like the others, really

The batteries never go flat in a paper book, but you can't adjust the text size or contrast.  If you want to read a paper book in the dark you'll need a light of some kind, but depending on the device you're using to read your ebook you may find the illuminated screen causes eyestrain or insomnia.

There's nothing like rummaging through the cheap book bin at an op shop and finding something good in among the old Dolly Fiction and 70s cookbooks.  But with hard copy books you're limited to what's on the shelf or what you can have shipped to you, and transporting paper books takes takes time, money, and fossil fuels.  On the other hand the sheer size of the internet's cheap book bin means poking around without a clear idea what you're looking for is unlikely to dig up gold.  But if you do know what you want and it exists digitally, you can have it right now regardless of how old it is, how obscure or unfashionable, and how many physical copies exist.

You can store a whole library in a digital device, but it's not socially acceptable to perve through someone's Kindle to get a snapshot of their personality the way you can snoop on their bookshelves.  And bookshelves are lovely, but physical books are bulky and heavy and if you move around a lot - like I have - sooner or later some of your precious collection is going to either get damaged or disappear without trace.

I've personally never understood the excitement about "old book smell".  Maybe it's a sensory processing thing.  Or maybe it's because my own old books are mostly either bought from op shops or have spent years in cardboard boxes under relatives' houses, so they smell less like vanilla and ancient wisdom and more like cat pee and mothballs.

(Another thing I don't understand: the hate for organising books by colour.  They're your books, sort them however the hell you want.  But if you're buying books specifically for the colour or to use as decorations rather than to read, maybe it's time to look at your life choices.)

You can underline things and make notes in the margins of physical books more easily than you can in digital ones, but you'll have to get online or use other books to check references, verify facts or look up unfamiliar words or ideas.  My Kindle is an older model and not built for internet browsing, but it has a built-in dictionary you can access by pressing down on the word in question and can usually cope with a quick visit to Wikipedia.

Reading's not just a very good way to pick up useful knowledge and skills, but it exposes you to different opinions, point of view and experiences.  It can take you to different places and times and give you an opportunity to walk in shoes very different from your own.  Reading is important because the words and the stories are important.  The format really isn't.

So use whatever works for you.