Cleaning out an old hotmail folder, I discovered the text of an old interview conducted with Colin Lane and Frank Wood, those Clowned Princes of Physical Comedy more popularly known as Lano & Woodley in 2002, for their Sydney Opera House Studio season of Bruiser. I daresay that this was their last Sydney run of shows. They ought to perform here again, dammit.
The article appeared in Revolver in March 2002.
“I don’t want to undermine what we’re doing, because we’re trying to get people to come and see our shows by doing these interviews. But there’s no great skill involved.” This disingenuous self-deprecation comes from Colin Lane, as a response to my observation of a seminal aspect of his stage character. Colin has a tendency to laugh like a maniac while his bottom jaw shudders, like some evil robot from a Saturday morning cartoon. He claims it’s “a complete lack of self-respect” that leads him, in an apparent absence of the ability to write anything, to instead laugh loudly and do the jaw thing. That people continue to pay attention to him because (or maybe even despite) it means that he’s “gonna keep doing it”.
Colin’s comedy partner Frank Woodley has a similarly character-defining physical idiosyncrasy, which Colin sums up as Frank’s ability to “run on stage and wiggle his hands a bit to demonstrate how much of a goof-ball he is.” According to Frank, this hand-wiggling activity “doesn’t come easy”; he has to practice “six or seven hours a day” to perfect it. Colin reckons Frank mastered this talent with the completion of a “ten-year course in Being a Dickwit” at France’s “Le Coque-Up” college.
Ladies and gentlemen, just in case you hadn’t worked it out for yourselves, may I present to you that delightfully juvenile pair of clowns known as Lano and Woodley.
It’s been some three years since Lano and Woodley last performed in Sydney. They played the Seymour Centre then, and Woodley remembers David Suzuki delivering a lecture in one of the other theatres. “I snuck in to hear him talking about the end of planet earth as we know it,” he says, “and had to rush out to do our show. For the first ten minutes, I was trying to be Mr Funny Silly Clown Man, just thinking, ‘we’re all doomed!’”
That the pair are playing the Opera House this time around is kind of funny in its incongruity – particularly when you realise that their show is called ‘Bruiser’. Set in a gym, the action sees Lano and Woodley take turns at playing a muscle-bound oaf and the oaf’s spunky girlfriend – with whom Woodley falls in love – in addition to playing each other. ‘Bruiser’ had its premier at last year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival in an equally incongruous venue – a rather gorgeous sandstone church hall with stained glass windows. “It’s part of the Uniting Church” Colin explains. “There have been letters of warning as to the type of material they allow in their building.” Does Lano and Woodley in drag, beating each other up in a boxing ring, fall within the proscribed guidelines? Yes, says Frank: “They felt that it conveyed the teachings of our Lord Jesus adequately.”
Keeping with the theme of the show, I choose not to pull punches, and point out that ‘Bruiser’ features many older Lano and Woodley routines. “Well,” says Woodley, “we believe in recycling. That was the David Suzuki influence. Ever since that performance, we’ve been really dedicated to energy efficiency.” Lano, on the other hand, reckons it’s only the hardcore train spotters who quibble about the presence of old routines in their contemporary material. “A lot of the people come and enjoy it no matter what vintage,” he says. “It’s like a vintage car: it gets funnier as it gets older.”
‘Bruiser’ certainly gets funnier as it gets older: having done the show “about a hundred times” since last year’s Melbourne premiere, it’s become “a lot more refined”. “We’ve read the script now,” Colin Lane says. “Basically, we write the script, then put it on, then figure out what works and chuck out the things that don’t.” Some of the stuff that hasn’t been chucked out includes a very funny photomontage, and some shadow puppetry. However, according to Lano, the shadow puppetry remains only because it has improved. “Last year in Melbourne, it was really, really shit shadow puppetry, and now it’s just pretty shit shadow puppetry,” he says.
“By the time it gets to Sydney, it might even just be shit,” Woodley adds.
While the hardcore trainspotters remember fondly Lano and Woodley’s book ‘Housemeeting’, and their television show ‘The Adventures of Lano and Woodley’, more projects of this nature are unlikely. As far as the book is concerned, Lano says they’re “a bit pissed off that the Education Department didn’t include it on the HSC reading list; we’ve taken that as a literary snub.” And rather than more television, the pair currently have a film script in development. However, they have also made a bunch of short films that will feature in their Melbourne Comedy Festival offering this year – and maybe on their website. Ultimately, though, it is the live work that they enjoy the most. “It seems to be going quite well,” says Lano. “We’re happy and chuffed to still be able to be able to do this. After thirteen years of mucking around together, it’s not a bad way to be making a living and I thank the Lord to be able to do it.”