Come be in the studio audience of Live on Bowen! Book here: http://www.liveonbowen.com/audience
I’ll be doing short spots at a bunch of rooms, so come hang out and hear my new jokes.
Sunday, June 1st – Arkaba Ha Ha
Monday, June 2nd – The Gov
Monday, June 2nd – Rhino Room Open Mic
Tuesday, June 3rd – Cranker Comedy
Wednesday, June 4th – The Marion Hotel
Thursday, June 5th – Tea Tree Gully Hotel
Saturday, June 7th – The Austral
Saturday, June 7th – Rhino Room
Click the links for for details :)
So the Adelaide Fringe website has a new toy this year. The Bank SA Talk Fringe section has a leader board for social media popularity. It tells you which shows have been spread the most over Facebook and Twitter and gives you the top 100 of these triumphant little legends. What a delightful feat of information technology that is surely a boon to the festival. Right? Wrong.
First off, famous people get the edge. Acts that have a television or radio profile are kings and queens of this leader board. Plus, many have an agency machine behind them generating copious amounts of paid publicity. Hey, good on them. Who doesn’t want a successful career? I certainly understand that having a profile is part of doing well in this showbiz game. I do alright out of my own TV credits and social media hustle, so why am I biting the hand that feeds me?
Because I believe this social media leader board is not doing what it was intended to do. It should be showcasing a qualitative public response to a broader range of acts. What it is doing is just reminding everyone who already has a pre-existing profile. I keep hearing the phrase “spirit of the fringe” lobbed around like it’s the mantra of a revolution. Well if so, my dear fringe friends, I’m going to put it out there that this social media leader board takes the spirit of the fringe and farts it out a technological anus.
Is it not more in the “spirit of the fringe” to reward good shows instead of savvy social media? The most astonishing part is that Talk Fringe already does this quite well with the review section. Anyone can review a show. Awesome! I’ve read some of the most elated responses to fringe shows I’ve never heard of. It puts the focus on the art over rewarding the fact you’ve got wide publicity.
My next point on this leader board is that the system can be cheated. I’m not accusing anyone. But it certainly is suspicious when acts with no commercial profile all of a sudden rocket up the charts. To prove my point I staged a little experiment to see if I could play the system. I found a website that offered 12 000 retweets for $5. Another that offered 1300 Facebook likes for $5. An insane amount of social media currency, for a quarter of the average ticket price. Look at my event page now. It looks like my show has gone gangbusters all because I gave $10 to web nerds.
I’m behind the wheel of my housemate’s white Subaru station wagon. I do a head check as I indicate my way into the left lane and push back up to 100kpm. Including me, the car holds four comedians bound for a gig in Leongatha. My knowledge extends to it being a small dairy town about 135km South East of Melbourne. I’ve never been to a dairy town before. I can only imagine it to be a lush green countryside with a handful of streets. Everyone there will drive Mr Whippy vans with pecarino cheese wheels for tires. The trees will be made of chocolate with little hobbit like creatures on ladders picking Twix Bars from their branches. When I get thirsty I will just drink from the strawberry milkshake fountain in the town square. I’ll be disappointed with anything less.
Earlier this afternoon I caught the train from the city to where my housemate was, to borrow the car, to drive back into the city, to collect two of the comedians performing, to then pick up the headliner from his house back where I was when I picked up the car in the first place. Comedians are to logistics what logisticians are to writing jokes: capable but uninterested. As the sun casts a scarlet light over the M1, the road trip feels well worth the hassle already. Discussions about comedy, who we like and don’t like, jokes, impressions, stories and musings all get tossed around like teenagers chucking popcorn. An inherent kinship seems to exist between comics. I remember back to my US road trip; I felt comfortable in any town where I could find a comedy club. There’s a certain camaraderie shared in this pursuit of being funny. Comedians know that any of us can die a comedy death on stage at any time. Yet we all embrace the prospect willingly. We’re just like the samurai but instead of swords we have humorous observations about our genitals.
I pull into the servo. It looks like a mini space station as dozens of cars cruise up to the pumps. It’s here I have a moment to think while I wait in line to pay for the petrol. The others get something to eat from the village of fast food joints. I’m fresh to comedy, I think to myself. Three years is still rookie level. My press releases always make me sound me more exciting than I really am…. it’s as if I write them myself. In the car I had a subtle neurosis to say funny things and be a cool guy around the others. The headliner has been doing comedy for 20 years so I want his stamp of approval. I hear myself saying things to him like “hey I should open for you when you do shows” and “you write poetry? I teach poetry” in a joking way but from a painfully serious place. What a dick I can be. I want to be a fun person to be around. So then I spend the whole time thinking “is what I just said fun? oh god I hope I’m fun”. Then my ambition emerges and I say stupid things. I hope that goes away. Then again, saying “hey Jay Leno, I’m going to write for you one day” ended with me writing for him the next day. There’s a fine line between having moxie and just being irritating. I don’t know where it is. The headliner signs an autograph on our way back to the car. Do I want that to be me one day? Yeah, I think I do.
We arrive in Leongatha. I can’t see the strawberry milkshake fountain but they do have a Network Video. So that’s good. We meet one of the organisers of the gig and check out the hall where the show will take place. I tinker with the piano at the side of stage. One of the comics jabs at me for showing off. Typical. A brief stroll of the town takes us to the local cinema. It’s cute, kind of tucked away into a strip of shops opposite the Safeway. Outside we’re introduced to group of local girls dressed up for a night out. “You coming to the comedy?” we ask. “Yeah nah we’re go’n to the Espy”. One is wearing a bright red dress designed like it was copied from a Barbie catalogue. It sits high enough to expose her thigh tattoos. She has a nose ring and is smoking a cigarette from the tips of her fingers. Another girl joins the group. “I got a traveller” she grins. I observe that a traveller is a can of UDL in a paper bag. I love this moment. Five young women, all canvasses of humanity painted with cheap dresses, tacky tattoos, studded high heels and nasal accents that refer to more than one person as “youse”. I want to have sex with one them but I don’t want my city friends to know about it. It’s this self-consciousness that usually makes me end up home alone writing blogs.
The gig is okay. Not a massive turn out and the crowd isn’t giving us comics the rolling belly laughs our egos starve for. They seem to be having a great time though. Backstage I can barely breath as the headliner tells me his favourite pub jokes. It’s amazing that there are two worlds existing in that moment: the MC on stage trying to stir some excitement in the audience with well crafted routines; and three comedians behind the wall clutching their guts with laughter over “a man walking into a bar” and fart noises. The show ends and we mingle with the locals for a bit. I have a chat to the blokes selling drinks from the kitchen area. All look to be in their late forties. Their skin is a speckled brown that only comes from years of rural work under a hole in the ozone layer. I feel some kind of nostalgic affection for them. All those songs and poems I learned in primary school about being “true blue” come to mind. When I ask what they’re up to for Australia Day tomorrow, one puts his hands on his hip “up early to milk the cows”. Bless. I wonder if he knows that skinny-jean-wearing hipsters a hundred kilometres away send their cafe lattes back if its not hot enough for their liking. I hope he doesn’t.
We collect our money, say our thanks and hit the road. Maybe I should visit the country more.
(Photo by Jillian Sipkins)
When I was five I did an Elvis impersonation at a school performance. Hair gel, wobbly legs, the whole bit. I wasn’t asked to. I just wanted to. At lunch times I’d practice the dance moves behind the church with a portable tape recorder… other kids played with their friends.
It was my 26th birthday on Tuesday. For so many years I’ve avoided celebrating them. When I was ten my mum opened my bedroom door to my gleeful exclamation “It’s my birthday!”. Even now I can still visualise her face sinking as she said “Oh shit. I forgot, sorry.” In that moment a small crack formed in my birthday spirit. The crack only became deeper as each successive year brought its own pile of “sorry I can’t make it” texts and empty dance floors. One year I made Mum cry because I refused to come home and cut the cake the family had made for me. I know, I know. I’m a monster. By that point my birthdays had only made me feel isolated, so I no longer wanted to participate in them.
This year I was booked to host a comedy night on my dreaded day of birth. I shot up the stairs at The Imperial Hotel to a crowd of friends, family and randoms there to see the show. I was greeted with hugs and presents. My favourite was a set of lightsaber chopsticks. Not because I like geeky things, they’ll most likely end up in a draw unused, but because I didn’t expect that person to get me anything. The last comedian of the night even got the crowd to sing me happy birthday. The room booker organised candles for me on a donut to blow out. The same old birthday things. Yet they felt different that night. Before arriving I had been in my room practicing the Elvis impersonation. I hadn’t done it since grade one, it was just meant to be a joke about how silly I was as a kid. When I took the stage with Blue Suede Shoes, though, it was like I’d been given my childhood back for a minute. This is what I’ve always done: work on something by myself in an attempt to win people’s affection. I must be growing up or something because I realised I don’t need to “win” people’s affection. I already have it… even if it comes in the form of a Krispy Kreme birthday donut and impractical Star Wars cutlery.
Later on that night, I ran into another comedian (who shall remain Josh Thomas) at a bar. He rustled through the small bag of presents I was carrying. He pulled out the lightsaber chopsticks, a psychology book, a Japanese anime wristband and the rest. “These are horrible gifts. I’d hate to get them from my friends” he said with the candid charm that makes it seem so easy for him to be famous. This made me grin. I guess one man’s trash is another man’s reminder that he doesn’t have to feel isolated any more.
Thanks for all the well wishes.