"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 12: Uncomfortable

It took 12 weeks to have an experience which I really didn't like. I was messaged by my friend Henry on Facebook asking me if I wanted to take part in some hidden-camera "pranking" on Saturday. Always up for a story, I agreed.
'So what will it involve?' I asked.
'Oh, you know... mocking people, staring at them, telling bad jokes.' ...Right. I had a bad feeling about this.

I got to the Adelaide Uni where this was taking place. Henry was there with his friend Edward who was the cameraman. We were at the Hub, which is the central meeting place at the uni. We took a table and got set up.
'Okay,' said Henry. So for this one we'll ask someone for directions to another building and then when they answer we like, mock them for being such a smart ass. Like "Ooh, look at me, I'm all smart! I'm wearing a fancy shirt and I know where everything is!"'

Now could I really bring myself to do this? I've spent a lot of my life making myself likable and friendly - the type of person that makes people go "I like that guy." It kind of goes against all of that to go up to a stranger and mock them like that. I watched Henry do the first couple. He'd go up to someone and say 'Excuse me, do you know where the Barr Smith Library is?' They'd point it out and give them directions and he'd wave his arms around and go 'Oh, you take the stairs do you? Oooooh.' They'd look at him weirdly and start walking off and he'd start laughing and go 'Haha I'm sorry! We're doing a hidden camera prank. There's our camera there. Over there. That's Edward and that's Michael over there in the white t-shirt. Say hi Michael!' I'd have to lift my face out of my hands to give a half-hearted wave. I was embarrassed to just be watching.

The reactions from victims were varied and I imagine they would have been funny if I wasn't so mortified. Some of them were like "Oh, that's pretty funny. Others were like "I see..." and walked off there was one girl from Canada who was in her third week in Australia and she was actually getting upset. She was saying things like 'Well you don't have to make fun of me!' It came to an end when he did it to a girl wheeling her bike through the hub. He makes the reveal to her and she says 'Well that's not funny.' Henry says 'Do you mind if I put it on YouTube?' and she quickly and emphatically says 'No.' He starts walking back to the table and she calls out 'And you need to delete that.'

'Yeah, we will, he replied.' And we sat in silence for a moment before hearing her again. 'Are you students here?' 'I just kept my mouth shut. I've never been a uni student in my life. Henry said he was a media student and this was for his class (that was crap) and she said 'Well I work for the Vice Chancellor, so...' As if she was trying to muscle us. So at that point we left. I hadn't joined in on any of the shots, much to my relief. The next thing we were going to try was something I was much happier to be a part of.

It was one we called 'the phone stealer'. It involved person A (played by me) sitting near a person or persons in the park and putting my phone down next to me. Then person B (Henry) coming along and admiring my phone and asking if he could have it. I say yes and he thanks me and walks off. I liked it because it was cleverer and less confrontational. We went out to a grassy area by the Torrens where there were a bunch of people lying down. I went to sit down next to an older man who was reading a book and opened up a book of my own. After that came the worst acting I'd done in a while. Henry came up to me and said 'Hey, this is a nice phone.' I said 'Yeah, it's... good!' in a voice two octaves higher than normal.
'I've always wanted one of these.'
'Yeah... it's... it's an S3...'
'Can I have it?'
'Yeah sure.'
You sure?'
'Yeah!'
'Thanks man,' and he walked off. I waited there for about ten seconds and then looked at the man and said
'Did he just take my phone?'
'Yeah.' He said incredulously.
I swore under my breath and got up and chased after him, but he wasn't expecting that. He was just standing there waiting for me to tell the guy it was a prank. I kind of caught up with him, yanked back my phone and talked under my breath with him while the man watched us with distaste. Let's have another go.

We scanned the bank of the river looking for a target. We saw two men fishing on the opposite bank and so we left Edward on this side and crossed the bridge to approach them. When I sat down near them, one of them was in the middle of catching a big one. They'd even gathered a bit of a crowd. We went through the same routine, but this time we were on the same page. We pretended were were old friends who knew each other and my acting was a lot better. When he walked off with it and I turned to the two fisherman I realized that them and most of the crowd were staring at me.
'Did he just take my phone?'
'Yeah, man...' said the fisherman who'd caught the fish.
got up and chased him like last time and after watching the video feedback, I discovered that we had the whole crowd's attention for the whole race. The timing was fantastic. Once I caught him we did go back and make the reveal to them and they found it relatively funny. It was a decent end to the day, but I won't be doing it again.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 11: Art and Science

It was the last week of the Fringe Festival, which meant my last opportunity to see shows I'd never seen before. I spent days scanning the Fringe guide looking for something unique. Hmm... There's a show here called Relatively Speaking, a musical about the work of Albert Einstein... Queen Zeppelin, a nostalgic look back at the music of two of England's biggest musical exports... Ooh, Silent Disco! Where everyone only hears music through there own headphones and anyone looking in from the outside thinks you're a dancing lunatic!
"But hang on..." I thought. "Isn't the whole point of this challenge to open yourself up to things you wouldn't normally do?" I'd go to a silent disco with or without a challenge and Queen and Led Zeppelin are smack bang in the middle of my musical tastes. Keep looking.

Further on I saw Vivaldi: His Masterpieces and thought "That's more like it!" But I'm not sure how easy it would be to write a good blog about it. Then I reached the Visual Arts section of the guide and it hit me. "An art exhibition!" I read out all of the descriptions for the different exhibitions to Jerida. I managed to narrow it down to three options for her: What? - a literal interpretation of popular phrases and sayings that we've long forgotten; Collideascope - What happens when bold colours are clashed and thrown back at you; and Adoorable - a collection of doors of all varieties and what they mean in our lives. Jerida rolled her eyes and said "Whatever, just as long as I don't have to pay." After some pushing she decided she wanted to see Adoorable the most. I decided What? was my favourite. We called up our friend Jason and asked if he wanted to come and he said "Yeah, that Collideascope one sounds interesting." So we had three different people voting for three different exhibitions. We decided to just meet him at his house and decide there.

We got to Jason's house and as he made us lunch we started discussing the options Jason began with 'Ok, so who voted for what?'
'I voted for What?,' I replied.
Then Jerida shouted 'Who's on first?' and we laughed and laughed at just how monumentally lame we are.

We realized that Adoorable was too far away to drive and it would be almost closed by the time we got there, so eventually we decided on Collideascope. We jumped in the car and set a course for... the Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital? They have art galleries there now? Whatever, it's close and we're running out of time. We got to the hospital and began the unexpected task of trying to find the place. The listing in the Fringe guide simply said "Gallery A" The map on the wall didn't show any Gallery A. It took us 15 minutes to find it. You know why? Because Gallery A wasn't a gallery. It was just a corridor between buildings with a few paintings along it. Oh well, we're here now. Let's check it out.

The paintings were all by an artist called Tracy Vandepeer. They looked like Aboriginal paintings, which hadn't been alluded to in the guide. The three of us had fun trying to interpret each painting ourselves like real art people before consulting the descriptions next to them. For the first one we had pretty much nothing. We had no idea how to interpret this series of dots, lines and circles. But as we moved down the corridor, we got better and better until by the end we were pretty much nailing it. I've got here some photos of the paintings next to their descriptions. See if you can do better than us...


We nailed this one. We figured that the four colours represented the elements and that people needed to come together to protect the Earth.


This one was a little bit harder. I deduced that this was some sort of spirit of mischief (an Aboriginal Loki) and that the shadow behind him was his dark aura. I was half right about the shadow I guess. I was the only one who picked out that he had three sets of eyes.


My first guess at this one was spot on, but as we kept speculating, we got further away from the truth.
That's us admiring a painting...

It took us 20 minutes to see 7 paintings. So when we got to the end we looked at each other and said "Do you want to go see What?" So we got back in the car and made our way to the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Stepney. Now in my mind, art exhibitions had always been in dedicated galleries. I had no idea that an artist's works could go up for display in just any old venue that would have them. It took me two goes to learn that lesson. In hindsight, the name "Wheatsheaf Hotel" should have tipped us off. But we happily plodded along thinking this would be a proper art exhibition like we'd imagined it.

Nup.

It was a pub with photos hanging on two of the walls. We had to kind of navigate our way around the patrons like dorks, being the only people who were actually there for the art. The photos did look nice though. It was just as the listing in the guide had suggested, with photographic interpretations of weird sayings. Multiple artists had contributed to it and they each had there own way of doing it. One of them had decided to concentrate on sayings that involved horses and each of her pictures featured someone wearing a horse's head mask and doing human things. One was "Get Off Your High Horse" and featured the horse-human sitting in front of a couple of lines of coke. Another was "Hung Like a Horse" and the horse was doing chin-ups.


These are the first four.


Aren't they pretty?

It took us ten minutes to do that one before finally giving up and grabbing a drink. He hung around and chatted for a while and then dropped Jason off home.

But it wasn't the end of the day for Jerida and myself. I had a Fringe voucher that I'd gotten for Christmas and still hadn't used, so we decided to check out the Einstein: Relatively Speaking show. All we new about it was that it would have music, comedy and Einstein, presumably all at the same time. We got to the venue and were greeted by the man himself - a tall, thin man speaking in a German accent, shaking everyone's hand and excitedly saying 'Hello, I'm Albert! Nice to meet you!' Once we were all seated, he began his "lecture on theoretical physics". Here, interspersed with a few songs, Albert broke down some very complex ideas into very simple and palatable demonstrations. For the first one, he began talking about the speed of objects. He brought two people out from the crowd who had arrived a bit late to be his volunteers. He put them on opposite sides of the room and told them that they'd demonstrate "inertial reference frame" by using the age-old institution of "courting".

'So let's pretend Darren wants to have relations with Alicia,' Albert said. The two were clearly already a couple. 'What could he do to achieve that?' Suggestions came out from the audience, but Albert stopped them and said 'No no no. There is one vital action that Darren must first take if he wants to "get it on" with her.' It eventually clicked for someone in the crowd, who said
'Walk to her!'
'A-ha! Yes Darren, we will get you to walk over to Alicia in order to try and get it on with her. Please walk to the other side of the room at the average human walking speed of four kilometers and hour.'
So he did. But just before he got there, Albert stopped him and said
'Uh uh, not yet. We don't want you to finish prematurely. Go back to your starting position. Now let's assume that Alicia is just as eager to get it on with Darren as he is with her. She must also walk towards him. So can both of you walk towards each other at four kilometers an hour.' They did, and there was laughter as they both met in the middle and awkwardly tried to figure out what to do next. Eventually Albert put a stopped to it. 'Well done. Now here's where inertial reference frame comes in. From Darren's point of view, how fast was Alicia approaching him?'
'Eight kilometers an hour!' Yelled someone from the front row and Albert said
'Yes! This man has just performed a complex mathematical equation we like to call "four plus four". Now let's assume that Darren is REALLY eager to get it on with Alicia - which is not hard to imagine because Alicia is pretty and Darren is a man - He's going to walk towards her at eight kilometers per hour while Alicia will remain at four and this time they're going to meet and we will see what happens.' They walked towards each other and met on one side of the room. There was more awkward staring and then they lightly kissed and the crowd cheered.
'Well done, so from Darren's point of view, how fast were he and Alicia approaching? That's right twelve kilometers an hour. Thank you for your assistance, you may sit down.'

So then he continued. 'But that's what happens on a very small scale. What about when two beams of light are travelling towards each other? As we know, nothing can go faster than the 300 million meters per second that light puts out. So to demonstrate what happens here, we will need two more volunteers.

One girl volunteered straight away. Props to her, because everyone else was too nervous to do so. Albert spent a good minute trying to look for a male to accompany her on the stage. The whole time Jerida was nudging me to put my hand up and I eventually gave in. I put my hand up and got asked to come out the front to the the crowd's applause. He put us in the same positions that the previous volunteers had been.

'Now as we all know, this is 1918, so we're in the middle of the great war. Michael has been a soldier in the war, so we need something to represent that. We're not allowed to have guns in here, so we'll have to use this,' and he pulls out a plastic light saber from behind his desk. 'There you go, you can hold that. And if you press this button, it makes sound effects.' I pressed it and the who room heard the sound of a light saber extending.

'Now Michael and Brenda are lovers, but Michael's been off at war, so they miss each other terribly. Luckily, Michael's been given leave, so they will be reunited what do you think will happen when he returns home?' My arm was just hanging at my side at this point, which meant the light saber I was holding was at about crotch level. When Albert asked the question, I tilted my wrist up about 45 degrees and hit the sound effect button, indicating something quite crude.

I like to think I got the biggest laugh of the night. Jerida might recall differently, but even doing stand-up, it's rare to hear a crowd laughing so hard it hits you like a wall. I felt pretty smug after that.

I can't really remember much of the science that went on after that. We had to run really fast on the spot for a while while he explained more concepts and I can't remember why. I think we were representing two objects going at light speed. Then when we started running towards each other, we had to do it in slow motion to represent how time slows down the closer you get to light-speed. So there I was running in slow motion towards this stranger trying to figure out what I'd do when we met in the middle. Would I give her a hug? Would I grab her hands and jump up and down? Would I stab her with the light saber? We got to the middle and Brenda threw herself backwards and fell to the floor, indicating... I don't know, that we'd come together with such force that she'd bounced off me? The audience gave very surprised laughter at that, and even Albert didn't quite know what to make of it, but it was endearing and we got a big applause when we went back to our seats.

The play continued and we got into bigger and more important moments in Albert's career. It got funnier and funnier right up until the moment the atomic bombs exploded. Then it actually got quite serious and sad as we watched him deal with the consequences of his life's work. It ended with him dying and reminding us that what made him such an important figure in history - it wasn't that he was smarter than anyone else, it was that he stuck with problems longer. Don't worry, he didn't leave us in a state of despair, everyone was smiling when they left. I went home and did a bit more reading on the subject and decided I still just can't get my head around E=MC2.


Tuesday, 18 March 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 10: Just a Great Night Out

Saturday night was the closing night of my show. It was time for me to start really taking advantage of my Fringe artist's pass. Up until then I really hadn't seen anything. So I started planning the shows I'd see for the rest of the week with an absolutely bumper day on Saturday.

It started at 4pm with a live recording of the "I Love Green Guide Letters" podcast. I'd never been to a live podcast recording, so there was a new experience already. I also hadn't heard this particular podcast before, I'd just heard about it on other podcasts. The room was huge and pretty much fully packed out, which surprised me. I thought it would be 20 people in a well-lit room. The host Steele Saunders came out and introduced himself, saying 'I'm Steele Saunders and I DOOOOOOOOO love Green Guide letters.' That confused me, he said "do" in a high-pitched voice like a wolf-howl or something. Some of the audience did it to, which made me think it was some sort of recurring opening. He did a bit of stand-up at the top of the show, referring to individual super-fans he knew in the audience including two girls in front of me who'd driven in from Melbourne and made their own show t-shirts.

He introduced the guests for this episode which were Adam Richard, Chris Wainhouse and Greg Fleet. They all sat on the stage and just started chatting. It wasn't like a normal chat, because when four people are talking there tends to be a lot of talking over each other and mentioning in-jokes. This was a more audience-friendly type of chat. Adam and Greg had a great rapport with each other, while Chris wasn't as involved. It seemed like he wanted to find a place to slot in, but didn't want to step on anyone else's punchlines and potentially lose something funny. Steele was just sitting back watching it all unfold and occasionally being a mediator. After half an hour of conversation, Steele decided to get to the first letter.

For those who don't know, the Green Guide is the TV lift out in the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne. Each week they have a section where the public writes in on TV-related issues. Steele looked at his notes and read the first letter out in a high pitched old lady voice like you'd hear on Media Watch.
"Dear Green Guide. How wonderful to hear the vibrant commentary of SBS' telecast of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras! I hope SBS makes this an annual event! The vibrancy of our progressive and secular society sits in contrast with a government that wants to discriminate against the community and their right to choose the option of marriage. It is a bittersweet juxtaposition of our political culture and our open society."
To which Greg Fleet replied...
"I like how she wants this to be an annual event. I don't want to tell her anything about history but it's been an annual event since 1969."

They chatted about the letter and about the Mardi Gras for a while and then moved on to the next letter. Again he put on the high-pitched old lady's voice.
"Channel Ten's coverage of the Winter Olympics has been the best by a country mile! In the past all we got was hours of ice dancing and figure skating. This time we got to see a 50 kilometer cross-country ski race! Live! Congratulations on a job well done!!! And that's from Simmo in Pascovale."
More talk about that one with frequent request to cut bits out of the show and callbacks to things already mentioned. A couple more letters and then the guests were thanked and the show was finished up with a showcase from another Adelaide Fringe act - a young nerdy looking white kid who took words and phrases from the audience and then completely blew us away with an improvised rap song containing all of those things.

From there I had a bit of a break before going to see Greg Fleet perform at the Rhino Room. He was working on a show called The Games Master which I was intrigued by. It was all about how competition permeates our whole lives and how boys can come up with some sort of competition just by locking them in a room with an apple and a match. I saw the show and there was not one mention of games or competition in the whole show. I was disappointed, because I usually love Fleety. He claimed he'd been a bit self-indulgent that night, so maybe it was just a bad night to come. And darn it, the guy's so charismatic that it made me want to see the show again to see if it would be any different.

After the show finished I had half an hour to get from that room in the top end of the CBD to the Astor at the bottom end where my show was held. Simple enough, that trip only takes five minutes max by car...
I'd forgotten that parking spaces are at a premium during Fringe time on a Saturday night. I burst into the venue at 8:25 with half the guests already in their seats. It turned out ok though. Better than ok. In fact, closing night was the best night of the whole run. We were just having as much fun as possible with it - we were already in celebration mode at a season well run. And the audience went along with it the whole way.



I planned to go out and celebrate for a very long time after the show. The first stop was an Asian dessert place on Gouger St with Russell, his girlfriend Kit, his parents who were down from Whyalla and some friends of Russell's and Kit's. It was one of those places where the menus weren't written in English for most of it. I got Russell's friends to pick a number at random and I'd have whatever item corresponded with that number. They picked 117... which was a grass, red bean and jelly soup. Well, here comes new experience number two.

Now Jerida will tell you how big I am on finishing my food. I've often finished food on other people's plate just so it won't get thrown away. I don't know when it started or how I became so obsessed by it, but it's become a good source of laughter for her and her family. I couldn't finish this soup. It was such a small bowl and the first couple of spoonfuls weren't so bad. But with each spoonful it got more and more unbearable until just over half way through when I finally gave up. I went to buy a second dessert to get the first one out of my head and that was much, MUCH better. I was called a mango volcano, if that gives you any idea.







From there Russell and I rushed off to the Late Show at the Producer's Bar. I'd always wanted to go to a late show because I'd heard about the ridiculous stunts that get pulled by the comedians and the crowd. Things such as sculling contests, hecklers and crudity. Alas, this wasn't one of those shows. It was a simple lineup show - but still, it was a great lineup. Jack Druce, Nick Capper, James McCann, David Quirk, Chris Wainhouse and Steele Saunders all did a good job, but there was one sketch comedy act that definitely needs talking about. The act was introduced simply as Stella as a girl in pigtails and pink shorts bounded up on stage and started talking about how she was a "Like, so famous 11-year-old pop star". She did some song-and-dance numbers while interacting with a stagehand that kept popping onto the stage. She kept making demands of the stage hand and then telling her to stop and get off the stage because she was so ugly. I've never seen so many audience members with their jaws hanging open.

She pulled out a "volunteer" from the audience and got him to join in on a dance number. Then she announced to the audience that the two of them were dating and asked him what he wanted to tell the audience about her, to which he replied 'Aren't you 11?' She closed her set with a medley of love songs begun and ended by Am I Not Pretty Enough by Kasey Chambers, sung with crossed eyes and a cartoon voice. It was when she got to Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love You and the audience member gave in and started singing along that I finally lost it. I laughed so hard I couldn't breathe for the rest of the song. So the late show was my third new experience. It may not have been that different from what I normally do, but it counts, so shut up.

From there, Russell left to go home and I joined some other comedians to go to the Fringe artist's club. It was around 1:00 in the morning by this stage, but the club had been turned into a nightclub, so it was still full of activity. I couldn't really see over the massive crowd, but it seemed like there was a shirtless gay dancer performing on the stage at the front. I just sat around chatting to other comedians for a couple of hours and let my night fizzle to a close. Last drinks were called at 3am and security guards had to come out and block off the bar. I headed over to the Rhino Room where the party was still going and chatted a bit longer before finally heading home. I think it was quarter to five in the morning when I stumbled into bed. I hadn't stayed out that late since New Year's Eve 2008. It had been a great night.




Saturday, 15 March 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 9: Performing My Own Show

I've talked about new shows I've seen and I've talked about being part of other shows, but this week for the first time I had my own comedy show. Me. I was in charge, I was the star and all the profits went to me.

...Ok, that's not entirely true. It was a split bill. My good friend Russell Hartup was the one who created the listing in the Fringe directory and it's under his name. So it wasn't purely my own show, I had a 50% stake in it.

I hadn't really done much stand-up in about a year when Russell called me up and proposed the idea. I was out of practice and pretty much out of sight and out of mind of the comedy community. Plus I always thought I'd wait until I was absolutely ready before starting my own show - I'd heard too many stories of people losing money, seen too many people desperately handing out flyers to people who were just annoyed by it and gone to too many shows that only had three people in the crowd. I stalled for days on making a decision. Russell had already done a fair bit of research - he'd picked out a room that could only seat forty people and decided five nights was the best season to do. In the end I decided that I really should just do it for the experience. Who cares if we only performed to three people a night and it ended up costing us money? It would be something I'd remember with fondness years later. Plus I think Russell was kind of counting on having a second person there so he didn't have to do a whole hour of material himself.

We registered the show with just a few days to go before the deadline. We called it "Mike and Rusty Jump in the Deep End", a name that we hoped would convey the idea of two people who had just decided on a whim to do a show at the Fringe, but who still knew what they were doing. So we had a show. The next step was to work out what the show actually was.

We worked out that we should do 10 minutes of chat together at the beginning of the show - greeting people, talking to individual crowd members, making a few jokes here and there - then one of us would do 20 minutes of stand-up, the other one would do 20 minutes of stand-up, then we'd both be on for a 10 minute closing sketch. At one point I realized "Hang on... I've got two musical comedy songs I could do. I've also done a couple of really successful five minute sets in the past. What if I just use them?" And bam, I had my 20 minutes. This was easy. I also came up with an idea for a new song and began writing it to make it my closer. It was basically to update Bob Dylan's "The Times, They Are A-Changin'" to reflect current Australian politics. Sounds hilarious, right? Don't worry, you'll see what I mean soon enough.

Next step: to practice my material. The two songs I already had didn't need practicing. Songs are easy to perform because they're word-perfect. There's an exact inflection of your voice, movement of your body and economy of your words that you don't get with normal joke telling. The fact that you have to make the jokes fit into a poetic structure means it's pretty hard to fluff around and get sidetracked. Basically it equals the maximum number of laughs per minute. So that meant all I had to do was work on my two five-minute stand up sets.

The first one was difficult. I wrote a bit about a girl I liked that already had a boyfriend. At the time I wrote it more than two years ago, the basic concept was true, although greatly exaggerated. Now that girl is long gone and I was left to make it sound like I still felt that way. It had dated jokes in it too. There was one which involved Coke bottles with people's names on them, which is something they did back then, but not anymore. This was going to be tough.

It took me longer than it should have to start going back to open mic nights. By the time I returned, we had six weeks left before opening night. I figured I'd have three practices of the first set and three practices of the second set and that was it. Meanwhile I was still working on this third song. I'm not a very good guitar player, so even after I finished working on the lyrics, I had trouble playing it and singing it at the same time. Anyway, at my first open mic night, the host made a big deal about me having been away for a while before bringing me on. It was like I was staging a big comeback gig. I was disappointing. I didn't get much laughter and I'm pretty sure the lighting guy flashed my one minute warning a bit early. That's ok. I left, rewrote a little and went back for the next one. Slightly better. Still not great. Went and rewrote again. Went back for the third week.

Problem.

There were so many comedians working out new stuff for their shows that I didn't get a spot in the lineup. That's ok, I'll just do it next week and only work on the second set for two weeks instead of three.

Think again.

I didn't get on the next week either. Here's why: The way this particular open mic night works is that you have to bring three paying friends along to get on stage. Then you have to be one of the first twelve people to put their name down on the list. Now when the night first started up, everyone was bringing their respective three friends. But here's a tip no one realizes when they first start stand up - your friends get bored of you very quickly. They'll come and see you once... maybe twice if you're lucky. After that they've always got better stuff to do. So now you don't necessarily have to bring friends to get on the list. If there's less than twelve people that have brought friends and you get in early enough, you should get on. Well, that didn't happen this week. For the second week in a row I missed out because I hadn't brought friends.

So I was faced with a decision - with two weeks left to go until the first show, should I give the first set one more practice or just hope for the best with that one and start working on the second one? The second set was a sort of controversial set about religion versus homosexuality and where I stand being a Christian in that debate is hard. I'd only done that set a couple of times. The first time I did it it was the best set I'd ever done. I got four applause breaks, won a spot in the lineup of a different show and made some contacts out of it to do some gigs up in Perth. I tried it again in Perth and my nerves combined with the drunk and impatient audience meant it died gruesomely. I decided to trust the set. I'd give the first set one more go and then spend the last week trying out the second set. If it turned out that that second set was just as out of date as the first one, well... I was in trouble.

I got to that final open mic night full of nerves. It got to my turn and I walked up on stage and opened with what some comedians call the "tester joke" - a kind of throwaway line where if it works, you know you're in for a good night. If it gets silence, the rest of the set won't do much better. I got on stage and said 'So I discovered two things on Sunday which really surprised me. The first thing is that I can drive all the way from my house in Klemzig to my church in West Lakes and throughout the whole trip, I only have to change lanes twice. Twice, for such a long trip. That's impressive, right? The second thing I discovered later that day is that fucking no one cares.' It probably sounds pretty bad on paper, but when I said it on the night, the crowd loved it. I continued with my next two jokes and got an applause on the third one. The set was absolutely fine. No tweaking needed.

So now let's talk about the show itself. We had a total of 200 tickets to sell. We tried to figure out what our expenses would be. Registering for the Fringe cost $395. Hiring the room would be $440. We estimated posters and flyers for the show to be about $200. And somehow I got it into my head that the Fringe would take $3 for every ticket that was prebooked for the show. So we decided to set $20 for tickets. That way if we sold 100 tickets, we'd make money. 100 tickets. Didn't seem too hard. If we half-filled the room each night, we'd be in the green. It took a long time to start getting sales. We didn't get past twelve presales until at least February. But slowly it did start to grow. Out of five shows (Sunday 2nd March, Wednesday 5th-Saturday 8th March), Friday filled up quicker than the others by far. At one stage we'd sold 39 tickets... 28 of them were on Friday. Friday was practically sold out before the other nights had even hit double digits. Russell admitted to me that that was all because of people from his work. They'd all known he did stand-up for a while, but no one had ever seen it. Russell had been shamelessly pushing for them to book. After some investigation I realized that while all of my family and friends were planning to go, none of them had booked. It felt just like one of those open mic nights again. I was unsure whether to push people to go on Friday night when the large crowd was coming so they'd enjoy the show more or one of the other nights just to even it out a bit more. But then Russell revealed to me that a couple of reviewers had booked tickets for Sunday night. There's your answer. The mission became to fill Sunday night up as much as possible. Russell gave me constant sales reports. It was going up. It was getting faster and faster as it got closer to the date. Finally on opening night, not only was my entire friends and family there, but we oversold the night. It ended up being 41 tickets. It was amazing fun and we kicked it out of the ball park. I've put the recording of my part of the show below so you can see for yourself. That third song I was working on wasn't perfect, but I made it work. And we both had enough material to go for 25 minutes each, which meant that we didn't have to get back on for 10 minutes again after we'd both gone. The reviewers never turned up, which was a shame, but it didn't seem to matter. Numbers went up by double digits each day after that, until by the end of the run we'd sold about three quarters of all the tickets. We'd well and truly made money.

This wasn't Sunday night's crowd, but a good crowd nonetheless.


It was great fun and I'll definitely be doing it again. Maybe not next year, because I don't want to rely on my friends and family as much. But it will happen.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 8: Bogan Bingo (part 2)


So the second half started with a bang. They got out a burlesque performer who was dressed as a tradie and she did a striptease to Jimmy Barnes' Working Class Man. Yep, completely naked. It was touch and go there for a while as to weather she would do it, because for the first two minutes she was just dancing and miming doing trade work. Then she took of her mining helmet and removed her first gardening glove and the room all cheered. It finished off with her turning her back to the audience and dropping her pants. Then she turned back to the audience and it turned out she had little covers for her nipples and down there. I don't actually get that - it's not like those three stickers are stopping us from seeing anything private, she's already taken off her clothes in front of strangers...

Anyway.

To begin the actual second game, we all had to stand up and play "you know you're a bogan if..." The hosts would call out a few numbers and then stop the music and make a statement such as 'Stay standing if you've ever owned a Ford or Holden.' I'd only ever owned one car, and it was a Mitsubishi Outlander. Not good enough. So I began to sat down when the host clarified 'If you've ever owned or driven a For or Holden.' Saved. Mum owns a Holden Cruse which I've used and I've also driven a Calais before. I got back up. The music came back on and a few more numbers were called. Then it stopped again and the host said 'Now stay standing if you've never attended a private school. You can't be a bogan if you went to a private school.' I was amazed at how many people sat down for that one. It was like two thirds of the room, including the three people I came with. Finally, all those years in the public system had paid off. A few more numbers and then the next question - 'Stay standing if you CURRENTLY drive a Ford or a Holden.' There we go. I had to sit down. The next question was 'Now sit down if that car's a fucken' Barina or a Focus' and a few people sat down.
'You know you're a bogan if you've got a flannie in your cupboard. It can be anything, shirt, pants, undies...' We were well into the single digits now.
'Now stay standing if you've got any ink. All bogans have some sort of tattoo.' Everyone sat down except for one girl, and I couldn't believe it - it was the same girl who'd won the first game of bingo AND was in the bogan idol contest! That girl was cleaning up.

The second game was almost half over by this stage. I was doing pretty well on a couple of boxes, only three numbers left. After another ten minutes, the first person got out of their seat and yelled 'COME ON!' to indicate they only had one number to go. The next number got called and two more people stood up to yell come on. Then the next number and two more people stood up. I was one of them. The rest of my table got excited and waited tensely for the next number. 52. I didn't have it, but one more person stood up. Next number... 79. That was it, I had it. I put I my hand in the devil-horn salute and yelled (with gusto) 'FUCKEN' BINGO!!' at exactly the same time as a person on the table in front of us. Everyone in the room looked at each other awkwardly as if to say "what happens now?" The hosts brought us both up the front to check our sheets. Yep, we both had it. So we went to the prepared tiebreaker situation. The main host placed us on the front and centre of the stage facing each other. Then he introduced what would become my second new experience for the night. He said 'We're going to play a little game of gay chicken.'

Well all the women in the room loved that. This guy and I stared at each other wondering how far we were willing to go. Have I mentioned how competitive I am? I dearly love winning. So my first reaction was "Right, I'm cool with this. I'm about to kiss a dude." But then I thought well is it kind of like skydiving? What if I'm all full of bravado right up until the last moment and then realize I don't want to do this and chicken out? Relax, it's fine. It's not like you'll turn gay if you kiss a dude.

Shit, will I turn gay if I kiss a dude? I don't want to be gay! I like my girlfriend! But I don't want to lose either. Is turning gay and leaving my girlfriend too big a price to pay to win an over-the-top comedy bingo game? What if this other guy's gay? He's a fairly strapping young guy with a soft face, I wouldn't put it past him. Then it's no longer a game of chicken for him, it's more of a game of "mess with the nervous straight guy." This is so unfair.

As an insurance policy I turned to my table and made the 'take a photo' motion with my hands. The crowd laughed. Their laughter put me at ease. Then I realized I'd just sanctioned photographic evidence of this and I started stressing again. Seb put on Belinda Carlisle's Heaven is a Place on Earth and we started walking towards each other. Turns out he was a lot taller than me.We got chest-to-chest and then I had to crane my neck up and kind of wait for him to stoop down. He wouldn't. He began shoving me towards the edge of the stage with his torso in some kind of attempt to win without actually taking the plunge. Nice try buddy, this is gay chicken, not sumo wrestling. Hey, that's a good idea...

The host grabbed us and put us into the middle of the stage again. There was no getting out of this. We kind of stared at each other for a few more seconds and then I closed my eyes, jumped up and gave him a peck on the lips. The crowd erupted. The host came in and announced me the winner and the guy walked off stage with a face like he'd just eaten roadkill. As a prize I was awarded a book called My First 100 Bogan Words, which had been published by the Bogan Bingo group. It was a picture book of course, because bogans don't like to read. I got home that night and placed the book on my bookshelf like a trophy. I watched it sitting there for a while, then sighed and turned away. It wasn't worth it.

The two hosts of the night.
Schapelle Corby was there!
And here's me... kissing a dude.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 8: Bogan Bingo

I had two new experiences this week - both on Tuesday. The Adelaide Fringe Festival is on in our city at the moment and I've been looking at new shows to see. I settled on this show called Bogan Bingo. It had been a show at the Fringe for the past seven years and I'd never gone to see it. I figured bingo was something I'd never tried before and what better way to get into it than doing it in bogan form?

For people outside of Australia, a bogan (bow-gun) is kind of equivalent to an American redneck or a Brittish chav - a crude lower-class person who tends to live off unemployment cheques. Australian bogans will always have a beer in hand, dress in flannelette shirts, own mullets and listen to a lot of 80s rock.

I went to this show with Jerida, Jason and Brooke. Jason put on his best flannelette shirt and somehow still looked awesome. We went into the function room and were immediately hit by the blasted sounds of Livin' On a Prayer. There was a big banner up the front of the room saying "Fuckin' Bingo!" on it and everyone in the room seemed to have dressed the part. I cursed myself for not bringing my Jimmy Barnes curly-mullet wig and tried to figure out how to look more bogan. Here's what I eventually came to - 'I know, I'll turn my cap backwards!' Nailed it.

We were given these sheets full of numbers and I had no idea what to do with them. Yes, I know that you just cross one off when it gets called out, but they seemed to be organized into six boxes and we were given more sheets than what we needed. All of them were different colours and each one was labelled as such.

Just cross them off and don't embarrass yourself.

The two hosts came out to the tune of Welcome to the Jungle and strutted around the stage in their mullets and flannies. One of them was a comedian I know called Seb Carboncini, although tonight he was going by the name Gazza or Dazza or Bazza or something. They introduced the night and got started while blasting out some Alice Cooper. They called the first number and I got excited because I had it on my sheet. Then they called the second number and I had that too. Then they called the third number and I had THAT too. That's when I realized how to play - all the numbers between 1 and 90 were on each sheet, but in different orders. As each number is called, you cross it off and if you manage to cross out all 15 numbers in any one box, you win. The colours were redundant.

The hosts went through each number, and a lot of them had jokes attached to them - when sixteen came out, the host would call 'Sixteen, never been kissed!' and the crowd would have to shout 'Pig's ass!' 88 was 'Two fat ladies,' and we'd have to yell 'Wobble wobble!' 87 was 'A fat lady with a walking stick,' and we'd yell 'Wobble hobble!' 85 was a fat lady in a wheelchair and the host made us yell 'Lazy bitch!' There were a couple of numbers where once they were pulled out the hosts would stop the music and perform a "bogan tribute". Like when number 5 came out, they paid tribute to the passing of the greatest number 5 in history, V8 race-car driver Peter Brock. They'd say his name and then play a piece of music corresponding to that person. I don't remember what Brock's was, but when they payed tribute to Steve Irwin, over the speakers came "Shot through the heart! And you're to blame..."

About halfway through the game we stopped to play a game they called Bogan Idol. The hosts brought out four inflatable guitars and asked for four volunteers to take them Jason and I looked at each other and in the bogan accents we'd been hacking out all night we said 'Let's do it fucken'!' We ran up and grabbed two of them and two middle-aged women grabbed the other two. The hosts put on Sweet Child O' Mine and we all had to muck around, having a little air guitar battle.

Now when I'm given a spotlight, I make good use of it. I have a natural ability to showboat. So I was taking up the whole dance floor, interacting with the other players... At one point I jumped up on the hosts' stage and started shredding away there, much to the delight of the crowd. When the song finished I did the whole rock star jump-of-the-stage-and-strum-the-final-note-as-you-hit-the-ground thing and the crowd applauded. One of the hosts came up and said 'Alright alright, don't get too excited. That was just the warm up.' And he made us all sit to the side and brought us out one by one to play for a prize. The host pointed to the the first lady to come up and she rocked out to Kiss' I Was Made for Loving You. Then the other host up on the stage held up five fingers, indicating a five out of ten. Then Jason was called out and he did his number to the last half of Stairway to Heaven. He also got a five. As the host pointed to the second lady and she rocked out to Van Halen's Panama, I thought to myself "Michael, don't you dare worry about the score. I know how competitive you are, I know you'll get upset if you're not judged the winner. But nobody cares what the score is or who wins and loses. They just want to be entertained." And so as the lady finished jiggling to the song and was scored an 8, I came out ready to just put on a good show. It was the first song I'd heard that night that I'd never heard before in my life. It was full of distortion and I couldn't tell where the extended first note ended and the rest of it began. I made the best of it and I think I still delivered on expectations (I feel like being picked last was a deliberate move by Seb), it wasn't as good as I wanted. I finished the song by lifting the guitar over my head and smashing it on the stage in an impression of rock stars after their concerts. It made a pathetic muffled pop sound and the audience laughed. I was given a 7.




That was all as far as excitement went for the rest of the game. They got us to stand up and yell "Come On!" like Lleyton Hewitt when we only had one number left in a given box and when we got it we had to put up the devil-horn salute and yell "Fuckin' bingo!" In the end it was the first lady that had gone up to play air guitar that won. I'd gotten as close as two or three numbers left. We were to go on a ten-minute break and then come back for another game, which promised to hold even more excitement. And it delivered. Trust me.



     
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