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Who’s Dead?

Whosdead

Okay. Back it up, people.

Every comic and person with a sense of humour I know has been Twittering and Facebooking clever, ironic, sick or perceptive gags pretty much since the news broke this morning. The ones lucky enough to be employed to do this professionally for television or radio have been sharing their joy at how many quality jokes they’re producing (and ought to be warned, everyone else producing quality comments and sharing them will be watching to see if their work is uttered and broadcast for free or in exchange for the increase in somebody else’s bank balance). But others still are busy being offended and deleting and unfollowing former ‘friends’ for making such remarks. All of these pursuits are ways of reacting to and dealing with stuff. None of them will have an effect on Michael Jackson now.

So here’s the thing: before today I can’t remember having heard a good word said about Michael Jackson in a decade and a half. I can’t. Not at all. Not a single one. I don’t know anyone who has bought a CD that wasn't a reissue or compilation in that time. I don’t know if he released an album in that time that wasn't a reissue or compilation. I don't know anyone who’d know.

If you’re getting all sanctimonious now, my question is, why didn’t we hear from you when everyone was putting the boot in? Don’t pretend you don’t remember Martin Bashir’s doco, Living with Michael Jackson. Shouldn’t that have been the time to get defensive and demand people lay off? Why didn’t you? Were you too ashamed and embarrassed to admit you actually still liked him? Were you quietly fuming? Or did you feel let down that the same guy responsible for Off the Wall and Thriller had become an A-1, certified, irrefutable nutjob? I remember Ross Noble doing material, as made available on one of his Official Bootleg CDs (neither of which is available any longer). It went something like this:

Did you see Michael Jackson on that documentary? What the f*ck was that?! What was he buying?

“Look here, I’ll have that, please, I’ll have two of them, all of that… have we got them…?”

“Yes. Yes you have. Yes. You’ve bought all of them. (Shit, he didn’t but we’ll say he did; he’s clearly mental.)”

You know my favourite bit of that documentary? The best bit of that – and this is where I thought, “Michael Jackson: proper mental!” – is that bit when Martin Bashir went into his hotel room and he had all of these models, weird waxworks. There was one – and this is where I just thought, “this is beyond madness…”; I’m not making this up – that he had that was the Jolly Green Giant. A model of the Jolly Green Giant.

And you could see Martin Bashir go, “I don’t want to be alone in a room with this guy…”, you know what I mean? He sort of looked and went, “Oh, my sweet Jesus…”. It was like he’d been invited to a pool party at Barrymore’s house. He was like, “Oh, I’m not into this at all”. And Jackson turned around and out-mentalled him. It was great.

He turned to the camera and went, “What…er… What is that?!”

Jackson did a brilliant thing. He just went, “It’s the Jolly Green Giant.” Proper mental!

And Bashir, trying to be Mr Journalist, was like, “Oh yes, good.”

But he didn’t leave it there – he rubbed it in. He went, “You know – ‘Yo, ho, ho!’” – like Bashir was the most retarded man on the face of the planet. You know what I mean? Like he’s gone, “It’s the Jolly Green Giant. This guy’s clearly mental. He just doesn’t understand. I’m gonna have to help – ‘Yo, ho, ho!’ C’mon Martin, it’s okay. One day you’ll be smart like me. And my good friend, the Giant.’” Freaky.

It was fantastic.

I do like that it’s massively kicking off in the Gulf. It’s like, “Oh, we’re gonna have a war.” And the big thing in all the papers was, “Michael Jackson’s got a fairground”. Hold on a second – we’ve got our priorities wrong here.

(c) Ross Noble

Note that even Ross has the good sense to make a bit of fun of Bashir and point out the foolish priorities of modern media while also making fun of Michael Jackson. But if this media event – the Bashir doco and subsequent vilification by the public-at-large – didn’t move you to speak out, if you didn’t have a good word to say about Michael Jackson in life, if you would’t defend him to the death, then why on earth bung it on now, after he’s died?

Every death is sad.

The tragedy in the Michael Jackson story – the poor kid robbed of a childhood, growing up to be a reclusive  genius perpetually trying to recapture that childhood – was the plastic surgery-having, nighttime oxygen chamber-inhabiting, baby-dangling, Lisa Marie Presley-marrying, ‘Blanket’ child-naming, untold fortunes-squandering, Elephant Man skeleton-buying, deserted theme park-owning, up a tree in the Bashir documentary like some sort of animal-shinning, allegations of little boy-touching, albums with altered cover art-reissuing life  he was living up to this point. Not the death that followed.

As you can tell, I wasn’t a massive fan. Even though it doesn’t rock like ‘Black or White’ or any of the cool tracks, my favourite song was the least known duet he did with Paul McCartney, the Pipes of Peace album track ‘The Man’ (a proposed single release was cancelled).

Of course, the lyrics now have a delicious irony:

There’s a man
Who plays the game of life so well –
Oo, there’s such a man.
His thoughts you can never tell.
Oo, and it’s just the way he thought it would be
’Cause the day has come for him to be free.
Then he laughs, he kicks, then rolls up his sleeves:
“I’m alive and I’m here forever!"
This is the man.

(c) McCartney/Jackson

As nice as it would be for Jackson to be remembered just for the musical genius, the phenomenal dancing and the super-stardom, truth is, there were other aspects to him. I can’t think of him without thinking of Frank Zappa’s little tribute, re-writing his song ‘Tell Me You Love Me’ as ‘Why Don’t You Like Me?’ (featured on the album Broadway the Hard Way):

Although I am also fond of this clip, featuring ‘Scoop Newsworthy’ (Bill Cosby).

So CNN broadcasts Michael Jackson tributes back-to-back; Sony issues its own tribute without admitting how lucky the company is if, unable to call in loans made to the star, it just secures a greater share or total ownership of the Beatles songs Jackson bought ages ago and borrowed against; and true fans who already bought tickets to upcoming ‘comeback’ shows are truly saddened. Still, don’t forget: Charlie’s hottest angel Farrah Fawcett also passed away today.


ADDENDA

I’m adding to this section as something grabs my attention that I would have quoted had it come up before I posted this blog. So far:

  • I tell a great, big, fat lie: my friend Juhyun has always admired Michael Jackson’s work, and rightfully championed the good stuff as it came, if it came. So he’d know what new material has been issued. He’d most likely own it. And, on occasions where I wasn’t being too pig-headed and ignorant, would have played it to me.
  • Upon reading this blog entry, my friend Rachel wondered how different things might have bee if Jackson’s personal eccentricities hadn’t outshone his music. I don't think anyone is that brilliant without personal eccentricities. To be really good at something you have to sacrifice something else in order to spend that time getting good. For Jackson, it was the childhood that he lost. Others forego human interraction and so perhaps don't know how to make small talk, and are perceived as 'arrogant'. Or become arrogant after being shunned for not knowing how to socialise. If Michael Jackson could have maintained the musical output at least there would have been other things to talk about, either instead of, or as well as, the kooky stuff. But to have been more ‘normal’ would have required a ‘more normal’ up-bringing, which would have meant more time being a kid, and less, being a hit musical star. So I don’t think he could be so talented without being so strange.

Boxing clever

I am going to be Kara Kidman’s guest on Out of the Box, on Radio FBi Sydney, 12pm Thurs 25 June. Tune in: 94.5 on your FM dial or, if you’re not in Sydney, hear it streamed online via fbiradio.com.

The format for Out of the Box is that the listener chooses a playlist of about ten meaningful songs, plays them, talks about them.

I went through a bunch of different choices before landing on my final list – a list I still thought could have been improved upon as I headed out the door, armed with the discs, to head to the station. One thing that could have been included was ‘El Paso’ by Marty Robbins.

Robbins was a ‘singing cowboy’ who specialised in ‘outlaw ballads’ and I grew up listening to him because my mother had a K-Tel compilation tape of his greatest hits. ‘El Paso’ is my favourite: a cowboy fancies Salina, a Mexican girl who works in Rosa’s cantina ‘out in the west Texas town of El Paso’ (El Paso being Mexican for ‘The Pass’ – it is, as you’d expect, on the border of Texas and Mexico – and New Mexico, as it happens). In time, the protagonist realises he has a rival for Salina’s affections, a flash young man who is far more enticing. A gunbattle ensues, the protagonist shooting ‘the handsome young stranger’ dead. The protagonist rides out to ‘the badlands of New Mexico’ to evade rightful retribution for his crime But he misses Salina, so brazenly rides back. But there’s a posse waiting. You can guess how it ends.

Another song I wish I’d had room for was ‘You’re A Good Man Albert Brown’ by the Dukes of Stratosphear – a band I became aware of by stumbling upon the most gorgeous record cover ever, for their first album, 25 O’Clock. They were a psychedelic band. A mock psychedelic band, it turned out. They were in fact XTC trying to recreate the psychedelia of their youth. I still didn’t know this when, years later, they released their follow up album Psonic Psunspot. The lead single was ‘You’re A Good Man Albert Brown’, a song with the aftermath of World War I as its setting. Lord Kitchener was on the cover.

I didn’t know why psychedelia involved Victoriana – vintage army costumes like the ornate ones worn by the Beatles on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. I do now: apparently amongst the images and sensations unlocked by the drug in the form of hallucinations are memories of youth – it encourages a retreat to childhood. And for many young musicians in the 60s, this entailed memories of Granny’s house: photos of uncle so-and-so who never managed to return from the Somme, and so forth. Well, that’s English psychedelia; in the US, it was often cowboys and indians or civil war regalia.

My copy of the ‘You’re A Good Man, Albert Brown’ was pressed on ‘psychedelic’-coloured vinyl. Instead of black, it was multicoloured. It looked like vomit, actually. I can’t remember when I discovered the Dukes weren’t a new band who liked sounding old, but a less-new band who liked sounding older. It didn’t really matter. They created that ‘vintage sound’ quite well. And they gave rise to my own cod-psychedelic band, Psychedelic Spew.

Anyway, neither of these made my list. Here’s what I went with:

1. ‘Favourite Pack Of Lies’ – Steve Kilbey, The Slow Crack

I was a late-comer to Sydney band The Church, but I fell in love pretty early with the solo work of their bassist Steve Kilbey, for two reasons – the album The Slow Crack with its elaborate psychedelic cover art, that I stumbled on while filing records away behind the counter at the record shop I worked at – and this song, ‘Favourite Pack Of Lies’, that stood out when I put the record on while working back one evening. I was hooked. Eventually I got into the band as well. In fact I worked briefly with Peter Koppes, the lead guitarist of The Church, about 15 years ago. He still invites me to gigs. Awesome local talent, still going strong!

2. ‘Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’ – George Harrison, Brainwashed

This really should have been the single from Harrison’s posthumous album. It should have been included on the recent compilation Let It Roll, and issued as a single. As it is, it’s an excellent, under-rated song that captures George and his love of ukalele. It also betrays a love of ‘granny music’, an accusation often leveled at Paul McCartney, by John Lennon.

3. ‘My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama’ - Frank Zappa and the Mothers – Weasels Ripped My Flesh

I became a Zappa fan(atic) after someone I worked with in a record shop (it was the late-’80s, we still sold records) told me if I ever see Zappa albums secondhand, I should buy them. They were hard to get. I’ve blogged about this before.

I had a hard time deciding what song to play. It’s a matter of balancing the humour, the ribaldry and the musical chops. This has the first and third without so much of the second quality.

4. ‘My Name Is Nobody’ – Ennio Morricone, Film Music

One of the really popular CD sets I used to sell when working in music retail was a collection of film themes by Ennio Morricone. One day I found a single-disc compilation that was kind of a ‘best of’; let’s face it, for the novice, all you really want is ‘The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’ and ‘The Mission’; anything else is a bonus. Fist Full Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More… either, or, or both, whatever.

So I used to bung this on, listen intently to the opening track – The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – and then let it fade into the background. Sure, I’d notice it again when ‘Chi Mai’ came on. In the UK, it was the theme to The Life and Times of David Lloyd George, which means nothing to me. In Australia, it was the musical accompaniment to one of those short interstitials that would fill time between shows in the afternoon on the ABC. Maybe it was a hot air balloon, or people ice skating? I don’t remember.

Then I discoverd the deliciously dark sitcom Nighty Nighty, written and starring Julia Davis. The theme music seemed so familiar, but just out of my reach. I thought it was maybe the instrumental break of a late-’60s pop song. And then I somehow remembered it was one of the Ennio Morricone themes that I didn’t recognise, most likely to a spaghetti western I’d never seen.

5. ‘Rhubarb Tart’ – John Cleese, – At Last the 1948 Show

At Last the 1948 Show is one of two immediate precursors to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It featured Cleese, Graham Chapman, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Marty Feldman, while Do Not Adjust Your Set featured Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and, eventually, Terry Gilliam. Both date from 1968. The following year the six began working together as Monty Python.

‘Rhubarb Tart’ is a foolish novelty song set to the tune of one of John Philip Sousa's marches. It prefigures a lot of Python interests, including the name-checking of philosophers, artists and Lionel Bart (writer of the musical Oliver!, among other things). Sousa made a career of composing marches, one of which was ‘The Liberty Bell’. Which went on to feature as the theme to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And the ‘Every Sperm Is Sacred’ sequence in The Meaning of Life is one of the best parodies of Oliver! ever perpetrated (think: ‘Consider Yourself’.)

6. ‘From Beginning To End’ – Psychedelic Spew

When I was in Year 8 my English teacher was a cool guy called Steve Green who wore the widest, psychedelic ties and, up until that year, a big handlebar moustache. He looked a bit like Dave Crosby, before Crosby became a walrus. That year, Mr Green set an assignment for students to work together and create a package – writing, artwork, video and recordings if possible – of a band. Some people chose real bands. Some mates and I came up with Psychedelic Spew. We were into the Beatles, and I was particularly into psychedelia (and Steve Green’s ties).

The first time I created this track, it was with a record (The Beatles Rock’n’Roll Volume 1; the song’s ‘Twist & Shout’ if you haven’t guessed) recording onto a blank cassette on a Sharp three-in-one hifi unit. For some reason the tape mechanism was so precise that when paused, there was no slippage at all. I must have pressed pause and then lifted it off just before the very end of the song. The end result sounded impressive. That tape has long since disappeared, and while this re-creation sounds as impressive, there’s no skill involved in manipulating and cross-fading digital files. The idea’s still funny.

7. ‘No Wucken Furries’ – Dom Romeo

One Christmas in the mid- to late-’80s my brother convinced me that we should convince our parents to invest in a four-track recorder for the ideal Christmas present. They did. I started work on my ‘heavy concept album’ to be entitled From the Sublime To The Ridiculous – And Back Again! Unfortunately I ran out of teen angst long before I completed the work. There may be a bunch of C60 and C90 tapes with the songs on them somewhere in the house still, but I doubt it. The only one I could lay my hands on was this, which was written and recorded to serve as the theme to a derivative, undergraduate, university sketch comedy show, some of which was actually video taped. The title was someone else’s suggestion.

The best comment it’s had is, ‘it’s so bad, it’s almost good’. I know things aren’t quite in tune, but it was recorded with real instruments, in real time, long before your basic computer came with all the instrument pre-sampled and ready to go, indeed, before every computer was a recording studio. In fact, before most people could afford very much more than a Commodore 64 or Vic 20. 

Actually, the best compliment came from a mate who said it sounded a bit Flaming Lips-ish. I’ll take the compliment.

8. ‘Broad Lic Nic’ – The Doug Anthony Allstars, DAAS Icon

The Dougs are probably my first real contemporary, local comedy love. They were regulars on The Big Gig, a weekly cabaret comedy show directed by Ted Robinson. They were funny, there were musical, the three-part harmonies  – often singing offensive lyrics – were brilliant. For a while, I’d see every Sydney show I could get to. I interviewed them a few times towards the end; I should find those and put them on my blog!

Choosing a song shouldn’t have proved so difficult but I was torn: the popular funny favourite, ‘KRSNA’? The gorgeous, tortured ballad, ‘Bottle’? ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’? In the end I went with the drinking song. I’m fairly certain there’s a Scotish phrase – though I don’t know its original context; it may be the poetry of Robert Burns! – that goes ‘it’s a broad licked moonlit nicked tonicket’. Translated to English, it is in fact ‘it’s a broad, light, moonlit night tonight’ with all the consonants pronounced. So this song is, ‘Broad Light Night’. Possibly inspired by time spent at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

9. ‘Gummy Bear vs Dracula’ – Joe Romeo

As a kid, my big brother was a bit of a dag – he grew up loving classical music and understanding it and knowing how to compose, arrange and orchestrate it. But he never was allowed to pursue it totally – my father’s plans for him were to become a doctor. So now he’s a country doctor with a home studio and when not serving as doctor, psychologist, confessor and everything else a country doctor has to do, he mostly writes and records songs of praise. But he’s started dabbling in electronica. The retro simplicity of this track reminds me of Giorgio Moroder’s stuff in the early ’80s, like the soundtrack to Electric Dreams, with a touch of the classic synthesizer tones of Jean Michel Jarre.

10. ‘Suicide Bomber’ – Tripod, Songs From Self Saucing

I’m always a bit surprised that Tripod can still divide an audience. There are those who think, ‘well, the music’s sound, why do they have to go and ruin it by trying to be funny?’ and likewise the people that would like them better if they were real comedians, and didn’t resort to songs. I say, rubbish. If you know anything about music and comedy, you’d see these guys are brilliant exponents of both. Early on, they had to politely tolerate constant comparisons – warranted or not – to the Doug Anthony Allstars. A shallow comparison to make, but not helped when Ted Robinson revived The Big Gig as The Sideshow and Tripod became the musical trio in residence. But if you are not moved by their music and amused by their comedy, only bring up the issue if you want me to yell at you.

Irrespective of all of that, Tripod’s Self Saucing proved that they had moved on to the next step. It is almost objectively clear that the music and the humour was the most effective and clever it had ever been, taking on a wide bunch of topics including the expected geeky take on popular culture, and, in this instance, modern politics. Great stuff.

11. ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ – David Bowie, Aladdin Sane

There aren’t many Bowie songs I dislike, but among the several that I love, this one stands out for his faultless falsetto, Mike Garson’s excellent piano, and the flamenco guitar. (I should know who the guitarist is, but I don’t.) A gorgeous song from a faultless – in my humble opinion – album. Bowie himself quite likes the song, too – he chose it for a compilation he recently put together called I Select Bowie.

12. ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ – Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, Alone In Iz World

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole was a Hawaiian lad with an awesome voice. Unfortunately also an awesome girth. I don’t know much more about him other than he died of a respiratory illness related to his obesity. This is one track that you cannot play in a shop or on air without at least one person wanting to know more.


Sydney Opera House in corporate sponsorship shock…

As part of the recent Vivid Sydney celebrations, the Sydney Opera House (along with parts of the CBD) has been looking… vivid, I guess, what with the fancy-schmancy colours. The various pretty patterns reminded me of another cultural icon that in recent times has been given to fancy-schmancy colourings – the Converse sneaker. No reason why we couldn’t consider it in this strapped-for-cash state of New South Wales, is all I’m saying. (Original photo by Jason Ford.)

Converse opera house


What price art?

Or: Some people just can’t take criticism!
Or: ‘Guess who don’t stew’

I was scrolling through the Facebook ‘home’ page, trolling through friends’ status updates – my comments are where I do some of my best work, quite frankly – when I came across an update from someone I’d obviously friended but didn’t recognise. He’d just started a new endeavour, and was spruiking for a logo. I’ve edited to make it less industry-specific.

Owner of the Facebook: To celebrate the new company, I want to give all of you the chance to help design the new logo. I’m looking for the most talented designers. Remember, your work could be seen by lots of people. The only requirement is that it features the specific figure. GOOD LUCK!!


Now I’m not the cleverest capitalist. In fact, my level of generosity makes me appear more socialist, or possibly just foolish, but I couldn’t help noticing there was no mention of recompense or return for work being requested. So I made a comment.

Me: Wow, you make it sound like by encouraging people to work for free, you’re somehow doing them a favour!


This riled the owner of the Facebook, and even though I consider it justified, in hindsight, I can understand why someone who seemed to want something for nothing might be upset about it (like, if they were in denial that that’s what they wanted; or if they knew full well, but still hoped people were happy to give stuff up).

Owner of the Facebook: There's always got to be one!!!! The reason I'm asking people on MY FACEBOOK is because people here are creative and it’s something I know they would like to do. Thanks for your comment. Very encouraging.


Someone else agreed with my interpretation of the original status update.

Someone else: Dom is right, though.

Call it what it is - a competition, a freebie, a piece of your folio for a young designer, or a paid job.
Making the incentive clear whether it’s design or unpaid crewing is a good idea.

Good luck with the endeavours, though.


See, what I know about copyright is this: if someone’s paying for your creativity, they own what you produce while under their employ, unless a legal agreement states otherwise. If you’re not being paid, you own what you do. So I think it’s messy, working for free, creating a logo for someone to use anywhere and everywhere for ever and ever amen.

But I must also admit, my Stand & Deliver logo was never paid for. My mate Nick O’Sullivan drew it for me. If he ever wants to turn around and demand financial restitution, I have to give it to him. Or possibly face a court battle. I am grateful that when I asked him to draw it, he was happy to do so as a favour. I didn’t attempt to hoodwink him by making it sound like I was doing him the massive favour, when he was clearly doing me one. I will always owe him for it.

For my next reply in this status update thread, I acknowledged that I was addressing the Owner of the Facebook  publicly. And that I’d understand if he felt the need to remove my public replies. But I was addressing  his tone, rather than him personally, and as I was about to go in a bit harder, I would do so privately.

Here is what I mailed to him:

Me: I assure you, there’s more than just one unemployed talented person who'd take issue with creating work of value for nothing.

However, as I pointed out, it’s your tone – which sounds like every shyster who has convinced talented people bereft of an outlet to work for free – which appears disingenuous. (Again, note I wrote ‘every shyster’, not ‘every other shyster’; I'm not saying you are one, only that you sound like one.)

My comment is encouraging you to treat talented people with more respect. You’re asking them to do you a favour. Not the other way around just yet.

But as you point out, this is YOUR FACEBOOK. If my comments are offensive to you, by all means, delete them.


I was expecting a good discussion, one that, if shown the folly of my ways, I’d be forced to publically apologise after. I’ve had to before, I’ll have to again. No shame – feeling strongly about stuff, I argue strongly about stuff and learn important lessons about stuff. May life always be an education.

Instead, I got this response:

Owner of Facebook: Hi Dom, sorry but I have removed you as a friend on my facebook. I like to encourage people on my facebook to be creative. What you didn't know was the fact that there was a reason why I didn’t add any type of payment.... I wanted those people that still believe art is more important. A cash bonus was on the cards as well as some industry junkets, dvds and credit. I’m just not a person who likes any kind of hostile comments towards people who actually want to be involved. I’m sure you can understand.


Understand? ‘Empathy’ is my middle name. Or would be, if I had one. Actually, if I had one, it would probably be Shakespearean, like my Christian name (‘Demetrius’) and surname (‘Romeo’) – so I’d be Demetrius Yorick Romeo or Demetrius Falstaff Romeo or maybe even Demetrius Othello Romeo or if I were very unlucky, Demetrius Bottom Romeo. But whichever way I might be named, I assure you, I’d change it by deed poll to Demetrius Empathy Romeo at my earliest convenience, because yes, I understand.

Me: I do understand, but I hope you understand where I was coming from. You sounded like you were exploiting people. I think I was very balanced in how I let you know that, and I made my very valid, though most pointed, comments to you privately. Heck, we both could have done well if you'd removed my comments rather than friendship status. But I do understand. My mind’s open. And I don’t exploit anyone.

Oh, and re-reading, I’m forced to point out – my hostile comments were to the guy sounding like a shyster, not to the ‘creative people’ he sounded like he was about to exploit.


At this point, the Owner of the Facebook had unfriended me, so I couldn’t access his page any longer, and he had the last word:

His Facebook: hmmmm. exactly my point. ;)

So that’s the point: the guy seeming to do the exploiting won’t be criticised. He’s happy to put creatives to the test, to ‘play god’ as it were, but is beyond reproach. Ironically, he too is a creative. There’ll be a time when the stuff he does will be ‘reviewed’ by the public at large and professional critics. That’ll require a somewhat thicker skin. At least there’ll no doubt be a good, cheap logo in place by then.

Should I fear he may seek legal redress for this blog? Nah, this is my art, my creative outlet. Owner of the Facebook believes in art for art’s sake and would be disappointed if finance came into it. Bless.


ADDENDUM

If he hadn’t blocked me on his Facebook, I’d be sending him this link.


My second-favourite Twitter conversation thus far:

Nothing’s gonna top being re-tweeted and LOLed by Stephen Fry in a hurry, but I did enjoy this brief conversation with Ros Reines.

Her pages in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph include a section entitled ‘Guess Who Don’t Sue’, containing tidbits of anonymous celebrity folly. They’ll outline affairs, addictions, tantrums and acts of sartorial ineptitude perpetrated more publicly than should be considered wise. So how could I resist?

FashPol01

FashPol02

FashPol03

I still say it’d be cool if the section had an entry that teased, ‘which gossip columnist was evicted from a Chanel premiere for turning up in sweats?’

Of course, that would require someone in the celebrity-industrial complex who actually had a real sense of humour and could laugh at  themselves.

 Like the lady said, “as if that would ever happen”

Although, to be fair to Ros – (What? A blogger being fair to a tabloid journo? As if that would ever happen!) – when I did point this out, she did make a bit of a concession…

FashPol04 

FashPol05

Although, again, if I'm to be totally honest – I’m not sure what she means.


The Urban Dictionary Game

Go to www.urbandictionary.com and type in your answer to each question in the search box, then write the FIRST definition it gives you.


1) YOUR NAME?
Demetrius

A fine ass boy at my school

a boy at my school
[a]


2) YOUR AGE?
37

#1) Number often used in fiction because it is inconspicuous: a prime number great than 25 but less than 50. [b]

It was a dark and stormy night. A tall dark man wanted to buy a newspaper but had only 37 cents.

#2) Number that usually results in cheap magician's trick: Ask someone to pick a number in his/her head between 1 and 50 with both digits odd and the first digit less than the second. Victim usually picks 37 because of #1).

Valley Girl: Oh my God! You’re like physic or something. How’d you know I was thinking “37”?
Amateur Magician: You dumb bitch!

#3) Birthday number most likely to trigger a mid-life crisis.

“Oh my God! I'm turning 37 next week… the late -30s… and I still haven't picked a career!”

#4) The number of men a woman must give a blowjobs to in order to become a slut (see the movie Clerks).

Man: How many men have you gone down on?
Woman: Thirty-six.
Man: Oh, I see. Thirty-six including me isn't so bad.
Woman: Including you, thirty-seven.
Man: THIRTY-SEVEN!!!! THIRTY-SEVEN!!!
YOU SLUT!!!!!!!


3) ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS?
Annemarie

Hottest chick in town, loves to make you smile. Pothead… oh yes. But she will never fail to be there for you, and she has already found her love so don’t try. Sexy as hell, hates rules. Can’t stand to be closed in. Needs room to be free and to let it all out. [c]

Damn... that is one cool annemarie.


4) WHAT SHOULD YOU BE DOING?
Cleaning

(v) The act of shoving everything in a closet and calling it decent.

“I’m cleaning my closet.”
“Where are you shoving all your stuff then?”
“My room.”
“Ah.”


5) FAVOURITE COLOUR?
Maroon

A term of derision often uttered by Bugs Bunny when referring to an interaction with a dopey adversary. It is a mispronunciation of the word “Moron”

“What a Maroon!” “Will ya get a load of this maroon!” [d]


6) BIRTHPLACE?
Rome

Capital of Italy, the “Eternal City”.

“Roma” in Italian. [e]


7) MONTH OF YOUR BIRTHDAY?
August

The idea of perfection. The eighth month of the year in certain European and Asian cultures signifies greatness in achieving perfection, or something close to it.

You look August tonight my love!


8) LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO?
My mum

A word americans don't know how to spell

Also townies use the phrase ‘your mum’ as an insult

me: fuck off
Townie: your mum


9) YOUR NICKNAME?
Dom

n. Short for “Dominant”. The dominant person in a BDSM relationship or encounter.

She's looking for a dom who has knowledge of tying complicated knots.


10) LAST THING U HAD TO EAT?
Bacon and eggs

When you bang your friend’s hot sister in his house, then have her cook you bacon and eggs. You then stroll down the stairs in a house coat after finishing breakfast and say ‘wassup’ to your friend, forever humiliating him.

I bacon and eggs’d my friend's sister last night. He was pissed.


FOOTNOTES

a: The second definition was just as good. So glad it wasn't the third one, though.

b: The phenomenon described in this definition is probably what gives rise to Rule 37, also beautifully defined an illustrated in the Urban Dictionary.

c: Almost totally accurate!

d: Best definition is the fifth one, offering possible origins for Bugs Bunny’s insult: a possible reference to the Pottsville Maroons, a football team with the best NFL record in 1925, but “so dumb that they encroached on the area of another team and forfeited the NFL championship”.

e: Most boring. Definition. Evah!


Wil, latterly

Re-publishing old interviews always runs the risk of bringing back to light topics that have long been done and dusted. But while discussion of the Shannon Noll feud appears in this 2006 interview, conducted as Wil undertook his Wil Communication tour, so too does the fact that Wil was just leaving radio – something he did again quite recently. I present it here on the eve of the Sydney run of this year’s show Wilosophy – virtually totally sold out at the Opera House before it begins. (There was a[nother] late show added that still had seats available as I typed this introduction – try your luck!)

This interview originally appeared as part of Episode 35 of Radio Ha Ha, a podcast I used to present/produce/edit for a Sydney radio station when they thought that digital radio was going to explode. They jumped the gun, but should have stuck at it, as should have I – now everyon’s podcasting. This stuff was pretty good for its time. Don’t believe me? Listen to the episode – it was co-hosted by Judith Lucy, who was in town for her show of the time, I FAILED! (It’s worth mentioning that she’s about to undertake a return Sydney season of her latest show, Judith Lucy’s Not Getting Any Younger.)

I have, of course, interviewed Wil Anderson before, and since – the more recent one was about The Gruen Transfer, for FilmInk. I may bung it on this blogsite if I find it. Apart from that, I suppose, before we begin, I should offer some new element so that you can walk away with something new. Some new insight. I have nothing insightful – but I do have a ‘cute’ anecdote.

I love watching Wil in action – live on stage, and on the telly, and I’ve been doing it for years. We get on quite well. Wil used to introduce me to people as ‘Australia’s only dedicated comedy journalist’ which at the time was true. He really enjoyed being interviewed by someone who understood how comedy worked, rather than by, say, “the fishing writer” (that is, whoever the newspaper could be bothered sending, because they didn’t consider comedy so ‘important’; read: ‘lucrative’). For a time, his website linked to my blog with this lovely blurb:

“Dom Romeo is the best comedy writer in Australia. He is the perfect combination of fan and critic and his knowledge and honesty is legendary. The one critic I will always pay attention to.”

Thanks Wil. Knowing that Wil was aware of my honesty, early this year I made a little suggestion to him on the quiet, after beginning with a couple of disclaimers along the lines of ‘I was thinking’ and ‘just an idea…’. My idea was, maybe it was time for Wil to try something different in his delivery style. Instead of the break-neck speed, cram every possible gag in, make the audience laugh so hard they risk missing the next gag, perhaps it was time to slow down. I couched it in a cumbersome metaphor: ‘play the audience laughter like an orchestra, instead of like an electric guitar delivering the fastest solo…’.

Wil was very nice about it, respecting my opinion. Did he agree with it? Well, the poster for Wilosophy at the 2009 Melbourne International Comedy Festival carried this blurb:

“A higher laugh-per-minute rate than anyone I've ever seen before...‘Ando’ is a comic gem.” ThreeWeeks (UK)

Clearly, if it ain’t broke, there’s no reason to fix it. There are other outlets for which Wil delivers his comedy differently: radio, print, television… On stage, he’s still ‘Ando the Comedy Commando’. 

ADDENDUM

Saw the show. Hilarious, clever as always, but more mature and measured, it seems to me. And he’s slowed down a bit!

WIL PROMO SHOTS suit_35


Dom Romeo: Wil, your comedy clearly has become edgier since you haven’t been doing radio; some people have described it in terms of being ‘like Rod Quantock, but for a younger demographic’. That you’re still getting the kids in, but actually giving them a message under all the comedy. What do you think of that?

WIL ANDERSON: I like to think that it’s like Rod Quantock, but that you’re talking to people who don‘t already agree with everything that you agree with. I love Rod, and I think Rod could work to any sort of audience, but you go to a Rod Quantock gig, and it’s preaching to the choir. Do you know what I mean? Everyone in there already agrees with everything you’re saying.

I would like to think that someone who voted for John Howard, and to be honest with you, listens to Shannon Noll’s music, could still come to my show and laugh for seventy minutes. I think all the jokes are there. Then I think there's that whole different layer to it, hopefully, that gives people an accessible way to get into things that they would normally tune out for.

Normally if you say the words ‘Australian Wheat Board’, people go, “it’s wheat; I’m bored”. What I try to do is get people interested in things, through comedy, that they wouldn't normally be interested in. And sometimes people go, “oh, you just did an ‘Amanda Vanstone’s fat’ joke”. Yeah well, sometimes you’ve got to do a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down, you know? Occasionally, if you’re talking about immigration or whatever, chuck in another joke to keep it going. I don’t see any shame in that. In fact, I think, as an entertainer, it’s your job to be entertaining, foremost.

I always like to think that good comedy is like a Kinder Surprise: you can just eat the chocolate, and you can enjoy the chocolate. But there’s a little toy in there if you want that as well. I think I’m getting better at that. I’ve always tried to do that, but now that I have the time to think about that, and I’m getting better as a comedian, I’m getting better at making that work together.

Soundbite: A routine that begins with the Corby girls Schapelle and Mercedes, in order to construct an argument as to why bogans should think twice about what they name their kids, likewise, recorded at the Comedy Store

Dom Romeo: What I love is that there are people who are far too young to vote for John Howard, who like Shannon Knoll, who come to your show and laugh.

WIL ANDERSON: Yeah, well, that‘s nice too. I was talking to Andrew Denton about this one day, and I was saying that comedy was most important to me, in opening my eyes to how the world worked, when I was about thirteen or fourteen. When I was growing up in the country, we had two TV stations: we had the ABC, and we had one of those composite TV stations — you know, where they take the worst stuff of every channel, and combine it into one channel. It’s like The Young Divas of television.

So I used to watch the ABC all the time, and I came from a very conservative up-bringing, a very narrow point-of-view. When my world got open to issues, it was through comedy. It was through watching shows like The Big Gig, and watching Andrew Denton do shows like The Money or the Gun and Blah, Blah, Blah and shows like that. And I said, “It‘s really important,” because I was thirteen or fourteen years old, and I was looking at how I would view the world — on social issues, on political issues… you know? And it was comedy that brought me to that. So I love that my comedy goes to people of that age. That‘s really important to me. In fact, I’m much more interesting in appealing to someone who’s starting to make their mind up about things, than people who have already made their mind up about things. So it‘s really exciting to me that the kids are there.

Soundbite: Wil spots a kid in the audience who turns out to be only ten, and warns him that he’ll be encountering new words — and presents him with one pertaining to anatomy. Recorded at the Mic in Hand.

WIL ANDERSON: Andrew Denton said it to me when I was doing Triple J, and I suppose it’s less so now, but his great quote was — and I love this; he goes — “you know, you probably talk to more young people in this country than anyone other than Delta Goodrem” and young people do, in some ways, come to my work. So if they’re coming to you, you have a responsibility to… firstly, to entertain them. I’ve always said this, Dom, and you know this. If you’re a comedian, number one, it’s got to be about the jokes. If you’re doing a seventy-minute show, it’s got to be seventy minutes of laughs. If you ever lose a joke to make a point, then you’re a public speaker, not a comedian.

Dom Romeo: One thing that happened this year that I really loved, I really enjoyed it playing out, was the whole Today Tonight ‘going you’ for your Shannon Noll material.

WIL ANDERSON: Yeah, it was nice, because I always wanted to be on Today Tonight and I thought I was going to have to start a dodgy washing machine repair business to get on there. I actually haven’t seen the report yet, but I do believe the words “when comedy goes to far” were used, which I enjoyed quite a great deal.

Soundbite: Wil makes some observations on the lyricism of Shannon Noll’s speaking voice, recorded at the Comedy Store.

WIL ANDERSON: The joke in question — I did a joke about Shannon Noll’s dad’s name. And it was in the context of a routine I used to do about funny names, like Apple Martin and, you know, I had a girl at my school called Rachel Kuminmeyer and I had a whole routine about kids named after brand names that were all in last year’s show. And in that context, there was also a joke — someone had told me that Shannon Knoll’s father’s name was Noel — so I did a joke about ‘Noel Noll’; I thought it was a funny name. Turns out his name wasn’t Noel Noll; it’s Neal Noll, and we all know there’s nothing funny about that. But I’d been doing the joke for twelve months in my stage show, and I did it at the Melbourne Comedy Festival Gala. I had done this joke everywhere, you know what I mean? I’d even done it in front of Dicko, who’d said to me, “Shannon would think that was funny, blah-blah-blah…”

Soundbite: Wil does the ‘Noel Noll’ joke at the Comedy Store.

WIL ANDERSON: So I’ve done it at the Gala, which happened to coincide with the week that Shannon was releasing his single dedicated to his dad, and so it all blew up in the media. I should have got the name right; I’m always big on, if you’re going to talk about something, you should get it right. So I apologised and I said I should have got it right, I hoped the family weren’t offended by it and I kicked in some money to charity to show that I was genuine about that. But now he wants to punch me in the head. So now I have ten minutes in my show all about that. So it’s had the opposite effect. You know, he was on the TV saying he’d like to challenge me to a game of Scrabble just to get me in the same room, and I was like, “I’d like to play Shannon Knoll at Scrabble, seeing that none of the words he uses have vowels.” This is a man who named his album Lift. It’s lift music. Surely he has a sense of humour! What’s his next album going to be called? Mobile Phone Ring Tones?

I enjoyed it being played out in the media because it was kind of funny. I mean, I never intentionally go out there — and you’ve known me for years, Dom, you know this to be true — I never intentionally go out there to really hurt somebody. I like to rough things up, make some trouble, make sure people are still alive, keep it all fun-and-games, say something I should say — that sort of stuff. Because I think that’s fun. I think that’s what comedy should be about. But sometimes in comedy you know where the line is only when you look back over your shoulder and go, “Oops! It was back there. I should have stopped.” So, you know, I wouldn’t make any jokes about Shannon Knoll’s dead dad in the future; that was probably a mistake. But, will I make jokes about Shannon Knoll? Bloody oath I will!

Dom Romeo: Wil, thank you very much.

WIL ANDERSON: No worries, Dom, always a pleasure.


Got It Covered


As a rule, I don't enjoy cover versions. Oh, okay, I like cover versions of songs I like, by artists I like. John Lennon’s version of ‘Stand by Me’, for example. I’d argue it improves upon the original because it’s a song about insecurity and need. At the point in his life when he recorded it, Lennon was estranged from Yoko Ono on his extended so-called ‘lost weekend’. He certainly knew about insecurity and need.

Perhaps Ben E. King, who made the original famous, did too. But he sings it with an altogether more majestic and secure vibe. He’s not a lost, thiry-something-year-old trying to recapture the happiest part of his life.

But I still haven’t seen Zappa Plays Zappa live. Even though Frank’s son Dweezil leads the band,  it will never be Frank on that stage – even if he is on the screen, accompanying them through a few numbers. But I do have to admit, having heard recordings and seen clips – they are some of the best cover versions of Frank Zappa’s music I’ve ever heard. But it ain’t Frank.

But don’t start me on cover versions of Beatle’s songs. There’s a couple I’ll tolerate – some of the ones on the I Am Sam soundtrack, for example – but on the whole, I don’t want to know about them.

Then there’s this excellent version of ‘Hey Jude’. It’s brilliant. I thank Andrew Vallentine for pointing me toward it.

I like it almost as much as Hugh Laurie’s version, many years before House, from A Bit of Fry and Laurie.

I also quite like a version Missy Higgins does of the Skyhooks song ‘You Just Like Me ’CosI’m Good In Bed’ but I think my attitude mostly dates back to that ‘is she or isn’t she?’ early stage of her career. Sorry, I can’t find a clip of Missy playing it. Here’s a live version of the Skyhooks, with an embarrassingly long and no longer quite funny cross-over from Hey, Hey It’s Saturday.



Big bright Green pleasure machine


Comedystore_html_02

I first saw Jeff Green at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in 2000, and though I remember laughing a lot, I also remember coming out of the gig able to remember very little of what I laughed at. Apart from that he was a kind of foppish, good-looking guy in a suit and tie, with a nice accent (he’s from Chester), a pleasant manner and – it subsequently turned out – more often than not a room full of swooning female fans, I knew very little. I still felt that way after I interviewed him not long after.

I didn’t realise Jeff had been coming to Australia since the mid-90s. Or that he specialised in relationship material, although this particular factoid did become apparent over time. Jeff has a gentler manner – he’s not a shouty, sweary kind of comic – which means, when he keeps it in character, he can actually get away with some pretty outrageous stuff amongst his material, but it never actually offends. The result of this is that he’s perceived – incorrectly, much as Adam Hills is – as somehow less funny. Not an opinion held by the multitude of fans that constitute these comedians’s respective audiences, mind; in fact, usually an opinion held by someone who doesn’t see much live comedy. See Jeff live. Among all the laughter you hear, you will often discern that loud laughter of shocked disbelief. What you never hear is silence.

Whereas Green always plays to big, full rooms in Melbourne, I caught him midweek at Sydney’s Comedy Store. He’d just completed a leg of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow – taking the funny across Australia – and had pretty much sold out his week at the Store apart from the night I went. It was still a corker of a show. Surprisingly, there were some punters who didn’t quite know who he was when they arrived. They left talking about him, better able to quote his stuff than I was when I first saw him.

I was pleased that Jeff was happy to hang around for a chat after the gig – and he didn’t seem to mind my comedy nerd questions.

Jeffgreencomedystoreinvite

Dom Romeo: I find you’re a gentler observational comic. You don’t scare an audience, you don’t threaten an audience, you almost make them laugh surreptitiously. We’re never made to feel ‘on edge’ as we may with other comics. You have a very ‘gentle’ manner about you. How did that style develop?

JEFF GREEN:
It didn’t develop in any kind of conceived, concocted way; it’s just part of who I am. I’ve tried to be edgy, and I’ve tried to be angry, and I’ve tried to be shouty, but audiences just don’t like it from me. They prefer it when it’s more ‘in receivership’; when I’m the butt of the joke, rather than making fun of other people or attacking other people. So it sort evolved through audience editing and realising that’s who I am, that’s how our relationship is, and so that’s how I better write the joke otherwise they’re not interested.

Dom Romeo: You say that, but it’s interesting: if you have some rowdy hecklers you can still shut them down, still being that persona that isn’t the shouty guy. You’re in total control all the time. Even though you say it’s the audiences that helped edit and direct where you go, you’re still clearly in full control at all times.

JEFF GREEN:
Well, you ‘ve got to be. The audience don’t want to run the ship. They’re like children insomuch as if you don’t know where you’re going, they get a bit anxious. So you’ve got to be in control. That’s what they’ve paid for.

I don’t get many hecklers, but when you do, you’ve got to pretty much tread on them. And there’s a difference between ‘heckling’ and ‘banter’. Heckling, when it’s aggressive and negative and unpleasant, you tread on that straight away. But if they’re responding and feeding off what you said – like tonight, I had a woman talking back to me about how these particular shorts were cut in such a way that they exposed a man’s scrotum, when he was working on construction, and it was off something I said about going to the gym – that’s actually fun. But when it’s ‘get off, you’re shit’, there’s no place for that. Not in comedy.

There’s no place for that in life, actually. You wouldn’t speak to a plumber like that who had come to fix your drains. You wouldn’t speak to anybody. Why are you entitled to speak to anyone like that?

Dom Romeo:
What I get from you as a performer is that you’re a gentleman. The first time I saw you, you were in a suit, you spoke to us politely. You were still hilarious, but you came across as one of the ‘gentlemen of comedy’, was my feeling.

JEFF GREEN:
Well, I got into it because I wanted to make people laugh. I didn’t get into it as an ego thing. I did get into it to get laid, obviously; everybody does.  But it was never really about dominating people, and I was never bullied, so I wasn’t working off any of my own insecurities. Everybody’s creative in some way: crocheting, cooking, building model aircraft, reading books, collecting records, and mine was writing jokes and writing routines. And I love routines. That was why I wanted to get on stage and explore stand-up comedy, which is why I’ve been doing it for 20 years without taking a break.

As for ‘being gentle’ – audiences paid a lot of money so I’m not really there to shout at them and tell them off. And it makes me cringe when I see comedians do it so I’m not really gonna do that myself. Whether that’s held me back or not, I don’t know. People have said, ‘Jeff’s funny but he’s never gonna be a barnstormer’. Maybe that’s why I’m at the level I’m at. But I really think people are at the level they want to be. After 20 years, this is who I am.

Dom Romeo: But that’s deceptive because even though you’re gentle, you can still shock – and you do: the routine about watching your child being born has some elements that make an audience go, ‘hang on, that’s funny, but, it’s also a bit…’ disconcerting, I guess. There are elements of discomfort and outrage – shock, perhaps, that those words are coming out of your mouth. But the bottom line is, it is funny.

JEFF GREEN:
And it’s only there to be funny. It’s only there because I find it has a genuine quality, something that I want to say to an audience night after night. So yeah, I shock the audience. But I don’t like the audience ‘tutting’ at me. I don’t like the audience going ‘oooooh!’ Because that’s not really the furrow I want to plough. But I love banging out strong punchlines: I love talking about children with big ears; I love talking about people tapping things out with their nose on a special keyboard. It’s gritty and it gets big laughs and that’s the kind of comedy you always want.

Dom Romeo: Well, what I’m saying is, there is an edge to it. It’s not always apparent on the surface, but if you listen to the material there is an edge to it. It’s almost deceptive because of the manner in which you present yourself, but those edges are there. They’re not all bubble-wrapped!

JEFF GREEN:
No, no. It’s not squeaky clean. I’m filthy! I wasn’t even particularly filthy tonight – okay I was a little – but I can get really, really filthy. But people go, ‘oh no, but you’re not really, because it’s not what you do.’ Mike Willmott is a very good friend of mine, and he’s wonderful, but he says, ‘really, you’re not filthy’, and I go, ‘yeah I am’ and says, ‘no you’re not; I am. I’m really filthy’. And I go, ‘Yeah, you are! But I am, too.’ But anyway, that’s how my mind works. I can’t do a squeaky clean, clever set. It’s not who I am.

Dom Romeo: You mention in your routine, the kind of child who is a ‘blinker’ – you toss a ball at him, and as it hurtles towards him, he stares at it blinking, hoping it’ll disappear. Were you ‘the blinker’ as a kid?

JEFF GREEN:
I was one up from ‘the blinker’. That was my level of sporting prowess: I wasn’t so rubbish that I was sent off to craft, but I was the kid that wasn’t much better. I was third last to be picked; then there’s the kid in the wheelchair after me; and then there was the blind kid after him.

Dom Romeo: That’s why you’re the comic; the kid in the wheelchair and the blind kid aren’t necessarily the comics.

JEFF GREEN:
No. I love sports, but I’m just not very good at it. My son’s three and he can’t catch a ball. I go, ‘oh, he’s like his dad!’ I’m left-handed, but I must have been one of those left-handed people who was crap at sports as well, instead of being majestic. Is that one of your favourite bits?

Dom Romeo: Yes, for a couple of reasons – your impersation of the blinker is hilarious; and I really identify with the the routine.

JEFF GREEN:
Were you the blinker?

Dom Romeo: No, but I was one of the ones picked last, and I was always made the scorekeeper as well.

JEFF GREEN:
Some things I talk about only in Australia because you’ve got a sporting culture. I don’t necessarily try and write jokes about Australia, but I do try to think about what might float your boat. It’s got to float my boat, too, but it’s about where you’re at as a culture.

Dom Romeo: You’re good at telling us about ourselves. Do you go back to England and tell them about us too, in your material?

JEFF GREEN:
I do. I take the piss out of Australia and I take the piss out of England but I make sure that I do those jokes in England and I make sure I do them in Australia because it’s important to me not to be doing it behind anybody’s back. So I go, ‘Could I do this joke in Melbourne? Yes. So then I’m entitled to do it in London.’ I had a joke about Australians – I might have done it this year, or maybe I did it last year – it went, ‘Everyone says, when Australians come to England, they always get a job behind a bar; I go, “yeah, they were behind bars when they left the country; they come back, they’re behind bars again”.’ It gets a bit of a laugh in London, as you can imagine. But then I went, ‘right, I’ve got to do it in Melbourne,’ because I always do the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. You’ve got to find a way of doing it, and if you can’t do it, then you’re not allowed to do it behind their back. It worked; it got a ‘boo’, and I took the boo, but it was important to me that it work in Australia if I’m to do it in England.

Dom Romeo: I’ve just remembered a bit of routine I saw you do back in 2000, that I’m sure I heard someone refer to recently – about madmen and hands-free mobile phones…?

JEFF GREEN:
It’s on my DVD, Back from the Bewilderness: ‘I hate those hands-free mobile phone kits because they make the real nutters so hard to spot’. Those jokes occur to you seeing someone walking down the street talking and going, ‘he looks a bit odd’ and you realise, ‘if I think he’s a bit odd, everyone else in that room is going to think he’s a bit odd’, and then I just float it out on stage and they go, ‘we’ve all spotted it and you’ve just articulated it’. And that’s really what observational comedy is about: it’s about not filtering out stuff; it’s about observing everything and not taking anything for granted that you see out on the street, or that you feel. And it’s quite difficult because very often we operate and we tend to let things happen in the background. Whereas it’s my job to raise the background noise to ‘loud enough’ and then take it out on stage.

Dom Romeo: You’ve married an Aussie, and you talk about the wedding and family in the material…

JEFF GREEN:
Did I talk a lot about that tonight? There was a big, long bit about kids…

Dom Romeo: We’ll get to that. There was stuff you did tonight that I didn’t see in Melbourne – newer stuff, I felt, about kids.

JEFF GREEN:
Or old stuff that you hadn’t seen before!

Dom Romeo: The party stuff, I thought was new.

JEFF GREEN:
The party stuff was… not new.

Dom Romeo: I shouldn’t be so naïve! Anyway – the point I wanted to make is that you’ve always done relationship material as part of what you do, and the fact that you’ve married an Aussie brings it closer to home for us. I think we’re more aware of it because of that. Was it important, because that was a big life event for you, or was it just a matter of you being a comedian and finding the funny side of it as a part of every-day life?

JEFF GREEN:
The latter. You’re always looking for stuff, and you don’t know where you’re best jokes are coming from. You think it’s gonna come from your wedding because it’s a big, important event, but sometimes the best jokes come out of seemingly small observations. I’ve had comedians crack me up talking about their cutlery drawer. Just because they’re big topics, doesn’t mean it’s gonna be the funniest material that you come up with. But part and parcel of the stuff that I’ve done over the years, which is autobiographical, is relationship stuff – and so the wedding was always going to get mentioned. And now I’ve done it, and so I’ll have to go and think of something else to talk about it.

Dom Romeo: Okay. So the party stuff, that I thought was new that you tell me is old…

JEFF GREEN:
It’s not that old! I mean, I know comedians that are doing their jokes from 15 years ago. I don’t know how they do it – I’d be going out of my mind! My oldest kid is only three, so that material might be about 13 months old, but to me it’s old.

Dom Romeo: Could you have written that material before you had kids?

JEFF GREEN:
No. But I don’t want to tell you any more about my material; I don’t want to show you where the rabbits are hidden.

Dom Romeo: Nor should you! People should just come and laugh.

JEFF GREEN:
Yeah. I love the craft of comedy. I’d be happy to talk about how I write and how routines come about and how they’re honed and how an audience plays a part in taking a routine from an idea to a finished bit, but maybe that’s for a different time. I don’t want you to come to the show and know how it all came about. But equally, I understand why you would be curious about that. And one day, I’d love to tell it. I’m not a great writer. I work hard. A lot of it’s perspiration. I don’t find it easy, writing stand-up; I find it very difficult. And I write in binges: I don’t write every day – I’ll write for six months. I wish I could write every day. But I’ll write for a point – like if I’ve got a new show to do.  But I’ll bring stuff back, the same as other comics. I see Rich Hall or Mike Wilmott or Billy Connolly and they bring stuff back. You know, it’s like, ‘I saw that ten years ago… maybe he doesn’t think I saw him ten years ago.’ I’m sure there’s people like yourself, going, ‘I saw that bit he did this year from ten years ago…’ but that’s just us trying to keep it fresh. And we run out of ideas sometimes.

Dom Romeo: Also, the context changes. That joke that I brought up earlier that I saw ten years ago was in a different context and it fit just as well in this show and probably had more meaning because of where it came in this show this year.

JEFF GREEN:
Yeah. Part of my problem as a stand-up who was writing a lot about relationships is that when I started doing relationship jokes, there was nobody doing them. It was just me. It was good – I had it all to myself. And now, unfortunately, if I’m on a bill, the compere talks about marriage and ‘how long have you been going out?’ and girlfriends and I’m like, ‘this is all the stuff I was going to do…’ Now I’m boxed into a corner: I have to talk about other stuff because there’s very little left when I go on stage and I have to make my jokes better than everybody else’s when I go onstage. I can’t be lame. They do keep me on my toes. But I do love talking about women; always have, and probably always will.

Dom Romeo: I’ve observed that women love to hear you talking about them, too.

JEFF GREEN:
Yeah, and I don’t think it’s because of what I’m saying – they probably feed off my fascination. I don’t find it hard to get into that mindset because I do find them incredibly interesting to understand. I’ve got four sisters and my mother, who brought me up, so I was brought up pretty much in an all-female household. And I’ve also had three fathers through my mum’s marriages, but I was brought up for long periods just by my mum on my own, and my sisters, so I’m a bit wary of men. I always have been a bit wary of blokes. I find them a bit scary.

I’ve got two sons, which is a big head-fuck – I thought I would have been better off with daughters, but they’re actually forcing me to be a man in a way that I never had to. So I’ve never been a fan of big groups of blokes. I just don’t like them. So I always find talking about women more of a comfort for me than talking about men but I’m coming out of it now. I talk about going to the gym, I talk about… there’s a lot more ‘man’ stuff – being a man. It’s a bit less feminine, my show now, possibly. And that’s part of having boys in my life, as opposed to all girls.

Dom Romeo: Yes, early on when I’d see you, there would be more women in the audience than men. You are a good-looking man. You look very dashing in a suit.

JEFF GREEN:
The suit’s gone!

Dom Romeo: The suit has gone, but I do remember you as the best dressed comic for a long time.

JEFF GREEN:
Yeah, and then you have to evolve. You do have to evolve. I don’t know why, but I just thought, I want to wear something different now, that feels more ‘me’, as people change. Billy Connolly’s not wearing the big banana boots anymore – you just don’t need it anymore. It’s not part of the crutch.

Dom Romeo:
You speak very knowingly about your experiences in Australia. There’s stuff that I’ve learnt about this country from seeing you live. Is that part of the comic’s job? Is it almost part of your ‘duty’ to ‘report back’?

JEFF GREEN:
No, I don’t feel an obligation to be a ‘travelogue’. It’s your country; I’m seeing it through very fresh eyes. I feel it’s something that I’ve got to address. I can’t just do the act that I’d do in England. I’m an Englishman in Australia and I’ve got an obligation to talk about what I’m doing here, and what I’m seeing. And people want to hear about themselves. If you live in Lismore, you want to hear about that bloody shop down the street selling crap things… I’m in Australia so I’m going to acknowledge where I am and get as many jokes in as I possibly can.

Dom Romeo: Not to give any jokes away, your analysis of how Sydney is, is pretty accurate. When you make some comments about observing Sydney, they are valid observations. They’re also very funny – that’s the bottom line.

JEFF GREEN:
I didn’t even do any Sydney jokes, did I?

Dom Romeo: You did! And I’m not going to repeat them because people should come and see you do them and laugh, without having already heard the punchline.

JEFF GREEN:
Oh, yes! All right. Thank you.

Dom Romeo: Jeff Green, thank you very much.

JEFF GREEN:
Thank you.


Found the Fish(es)

A friend had recommended a John Fante book to me, and so, with some hours to kill, I took a walk from the CBD to Glebe to check some of my favourite book shops. The book I was after had a title that was something like Fellowship of the Grape or Brotherhood of the Grape (or perhaps Lord of the Grape or The Grapemarillion) but all anyone seemed to stock was the one that had been turned into a film a couple of years ago, Ask the Dust. Well, that’s the big, new release bookstores I encountered: Dymocks in the Broadway Shopping Centre, a messy, less well-organised, certainly less well-stocked store than it used to be when it was a Collins bookstore; and Gleebooks, a far more pleasant shopping experience (though invariably more expensive), but strangely more cluttered and yet less extensively stocked by books or staff than I remember it in my student days, skipping lectures and wandering over from Sydney Uni.

Eventually I came to The Cornstalk Bookshop; I knew I wouldn’t find what I was looking for, but it’s always a pleasure to get lost amongst their piles of stuff. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this hardcover little number – an old humorous novel of yesteryear, by Madge S. Smith.


FishesAllAlive  

A bit of googling reveals an author who wrote a lot of children’s books, mostly around the middle of last century – but not a lot more. Do you suppose some of her work may have sat on bookshelves within the households of Messrs Chapman, Cleese, Idle, Jones and Palin? (Not likely that Terry Gilliam would have owned any, being the American of the group….) It’s just that it does seem very similar to that scene that opens Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life:

Here’s some detail of the artwork from the back cover of the soundtrack album, inspired by that opening scene:

Meaningoflife