Trends will always be apparent in comedy, especially within the work of comics who are socially (and otherwise) close. I can remember a time when a handful of comics – Charlie Pickering and others who shared management, peer groups and a love of hiphop – were constantly 'fer shizzling' their 'nizzle'. They also seemed to make frequent references to Weekend at Bernie's.
I'd never heard the term 'wooji booj' (sp?) until Gatesy and Scod from Tripod bestowed it as an attribute – and name – upon the newly born son of Yon from Tripod. Soon after I recall Corinne Grant referred to someone's 'wooji booji cheeks' on The Glasshouse.
No surprises really: you expect it from a close-knit community with much in common, particularly when the friendships are fostered over hours spent travelling to and from gigs.
But it also happens among comics with less in common.
Daniel Townes sagely pointed it out to me once: no matter what original idea you come up with, once you've come up with it, someone else will have an angle on it. Nobody's done material about Lego (I think was his example) and suddenly lots of people have a bit on Lego. (Or 'lay-go' if they're from Adelaide.) And Townes knows a thing or two about comedy and comedians.
It's as though someone's brought something to the foreground and you notice it, even if you don't notice you've noticed it. And of course, there are times when it's more calculated: you do notice you've noticed, but you know you have a different experience of it that resonates more strongly - your own joke about that topic. And sometimes it's just a coincidence.
For example, Axis of Awesome's 'Ode to KFC' refers to the 'dirty bird' as 'Kentucky Frizzle Chizzle'. Clearly a result of the hiphop stylings the trio uses in the song, rather than inspiration and influence of Pickering and co from half a decade ago. However, when I make use of the 'izzle' device in a routine of mine (about my gangsta nephew who's the son of a god-botherer, therefore having to get down on his knizzles to praise Jizzle Chrizzle every Sunday), I know I'm ripping off paying homage to Axis's 'Ode…'.
A related topic would be the whole issue of 'hacky' topics. You know, 'the difference between cats and dogs', 'the difference between men and women'… Just as there are no hacky topics, only hacky comics, there are no novel topics, just novel approaches. And something called 'side-writing', when someone else's bit inspires you to write your own version of that bit. The side-writing hopefully leads to awesome, original material. It does if you're an awesome, original comic. But this isn't the point I set out to make.
Really, this is about how you notice trends at Festival time. You see more comedy than you normally see in a short period of time, and suddenly you notice interesting and unusual coincidences.
There was a Melbourne International Comedy Festival many years ago where monkeys kept cropping up. Ross Noble had a bit; Wil Anderson had a bit. More recently, there was a festival when a lot of comics were using a 'Thingy McThingThing' line: someone was "coming over 'all Judgy McJudgeJudge'; someone else was 'all Bitchy McBitchFace'. (The memory's less clear, but I can just about make out Daniel Moore and Andrew McLelland as the respective comics – perhaps Alison Bice was Moore's 'Bitchy McBitchFace'; not sure.)
Another year, Arj Barker told of the workplace meeting of the heavenly bodies where Pluto, failing to pull its weight in the solar system, was being down-graded: it was no longer a planet. That same year Dave Thornton had a similar workplace meeting bit, this time of the months of the year (or maybe it was the days of the week – it was a few years ago now) ganging up on the one that wasn't pulling its weight. An interesting coincidence.
More interesting was the coincidence of 'cum guzzling sluts' at the 2008 Melbourne Comedy Festival. (No, wait, don't go - hear me out...). Geraldine Hickey's show, Miss Guided, about the Girl Guides, included a puppet show in which one sock puppet accused another of being said 'cum guzzling slut'.
It happened to be the same year that Sammy J, lost in his Forest Of Dreams, ended up also consorting with a losely moraled puppet tarred with the same epithet. (I have not censored 'cum guzzling sluts' in order to ensure Googling perves end up here by accident!)
Though a blog post for later, it's worth noting a phenomenon that is not so much a comedic trend as a rite of passage: the comic posing with a globe. Because you haven't really done enough festival shows until one of them has involved you posing with the earth in your hands. Wil Anderson. Adam Hills. Mat Kenneally. Ben Darsow. Jacques Barrett. And the rest whose images I have yet to locate…
The reason I bring it up is because I was recently browsing the website of the the 2012 Melbourne Inernational Comedy Festival and couldn't help noticing comics in checkered shirts. Work your way through all 500-odd shows on the website and you'll start noticing. Them. ALL.
There's Seamus McAlary, making his MICF debut with Eponymous. It’ll be a great show, no doubt; a pity he didn't call it 'Ubiquitous', however, as there'd be an easy gag to make here about the ubiquity of the comedian's checkered shirt.
Anthony Salame with his show Straight Up, opting for a stylish blue number that is more the traditional flanno. But these guys really are just the tip of the iceberg. An iceberg from which a huge section seems to have broken off and floated into the 'comedians called Dave in red' section.
Have a look:
Is the first one Dave Gorman? That's pretty exciting. I remember seeing him first in Are You Dave Gorman?, a show that involved a trek around the world located people with the same name as him. His next show was called Googlewhack Adventure - another journey round the world, based on locating people through Googlewhacks. A Googlewhack occurs when you google two words – without inverted commas – and only one page comes up as a result. I'm no poindexter – well, I am, but the wrong kind – but I suspect googlewhacks are impossible nowadays. I can't tell you the science – or marketing – behind it though.
Dave's back with a show about powerpoint - which comes as no surprise, really. He started out a high-falutin' mathematics dude. The first time I saw him live was in a Gala, in which he talked about 'friendly' numbers. Afterwards, I suggested he should team up with the other high-falutin' mathematics dude in comedy, Adam Spencer, and call their show Numb and Number. I also told Adam, who eventually used the title for a live show he did with Dr Karl Kruszelnicki. (Credit where it's due, though, the idea actually came via Adam, albeit indirectly. Some years previous, he'd told me the most cryptic of cryptic crossword clues that had stumped him was 'a number of men'. I'd offered every possible word that might describe a bunch of guys, including 'band', 'troop', 'troupe', 'decade' etc etc. Turned out the answer was 'anaesthetist'!)
[Power]Point is, if anyone can make powerpoint presentations funny, Dave Gorman will. I'll be surprised if the format didn't require round-the-world travel, however.
And if Dave ever reads this, he'll be disappointed that I didn't include a Venn Diagram of where the Daves, not-Daves, checkered shirts and red shirts all intersect. And a graph that shows Daves versus red checks over time.
But speaking of Dave being back, Dave Hughes is presenting his Comeback Tour. The 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival was the first one bereft of Hughesie since 1996. There are no more details than that. Nor should you need them, really. It's Hughesie. He's had a year off from the festival. You can bet he's got a couple of years' worth of stuff to talk about, despite being funny on air virtually every day of his life.
Finally, Dave O'Neil's got a show about fatherhood and comedy called You Don't Really Have A Job Do You Dad? I'm a big fan of Dave's, having enjoyed him live in earlier festivals and especially as Matt Hardy's sidekick back in the day on The Big Schmooze, a regular - and hilarious - guest on Spicks and Specks. Which no doubt led to his being the 'roving reporter' dude on Hillsy's In Gordon Street Tonight.
But if these red chequered Daves aren't enough for you (and they shouldn't be; it's a festival – you should be seeing a lot more than just three shows, and I'm not just setting this up to plug my own show, Stand-Up Sit-Down…) you might start by considering Daniel Connell.
Cos 'Daniel' is almost 'Dave', having three of the same letters.
Though not as much as 'Damian' is almos 'Dave'. And 'Callinan' can almost be 'Callan'. Which seems irrelevent, but there was a time when two different Dave Callans and Damian Callinan enabled utter confusion to reign. Admittedly, mostly among people who didn't quite know much about local comedy and some of us (me) resorted to distinguishing between 'Hairy' Dave Callan and Dave Callan. Dave Callan (ie not-'Hairy' Dave Callan) understands the confusion and plays the game well. His Facebook page lists him as David Callan. And the address of his Facebook page declares him 'the one and only David Callan'. But still.
More than 'Daniel' being almost 'Dave', though: Daniel Connell is wearing another red chequered shirt. You should check him out. He was in Comedy Zone last year – the showcase of the best up-and-comers. You'll probably like him. He's likeable. Well, Likeable Enough.
Before I leave you to browse the 2012 MICF website in your own time, I'd just like to point out that if you took a close look at Charlie Pickering's photo on the page for his show One Giant Leap, you'd note he's almost certainly wearing a checkered shirt.
While neither of them have wooji booji (sp?) cheeks, note that in the arty, stylised, photo with Gatesy with Bob Franklin, Steven Gates is indeed wearing a checkered shirt. Their show happens to also feature a throw-back to festivals past. It's called Stubborn Monkey Disorder.
What's thatGeraldine Hickey's wearing in the photo for her show, Turns Out I Do Like Sun Dried Tomatoes? Wouldn't you just know it... turns out she is wearing a checkered shirt.
And what's that Daniel Townes is wearing in his photo?
Turns out… it's not a checkered shirt. Even more unlikely: a suit. Which is weird. But before you come over all Judgey McJudge-Judge (or Bitchy McBitchFace) be aware, his show is called Judge Me Schmudge Me.
Okay, that's it for now. Except, let me tell you, I'm also doing a show this year: Stand-Up Sit-Down: Comics in Conversation. And I'm wearing the t-shirt from David Bowie's 2003 'Reality' world tour (speaking of which, see what Bowie was wearing at the Sydney press conference for said 'Reality' tour…). Meanwhile, I've yet to purchase a checkered shirt. Or a globe. Or change my name to Dave.