Maccentuate the Positive
(or: "Hey, New'd")

Macca Fallon

 

Paul McCartney's cute little sketch from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

 

 

Regarding Macca's snippet of phone conversation, that 'Hey Jude' was a typo and was meant to be 'Hey Dude', note the press surrounding a promo clip he made with Ringo for a handful of Stop & Smell the Roses tracks ('Private Property', 'Sure to Fall' and 'Attention' - of which, Macca wrote a couple and produced and played on all three).  Titled The Cooler, it was a short film that saw Paul in cowboy clobber and fake moustache:

 

Macca hey dude_01

 

Macca hey dude_02

 

(What's that? Why, yes, they are straight out of one of the several Beatles scrap books I compiled as an adolescent during the '80s... well spotted, you!)

 

 

 

Like all Ringo albums, Stop and Smell the Roses featured an all-star cast including whichever other Beatles were available. Unfortunately, John Lennon had died, so he didn't appear. But because Paul and George did, in some countries, the opportunity was taken to market the album as an ersatz reunion. "Mit Paul McCartney und George Harrison," my German Bellaphon pressing proclaims - not on a removable sticker, but actually printed on the cover in writing not quite as big as the title. (The Threetles appearing as part of the Beatles: Anthology project was still a very long way off.)

 

Stop and Smell the Roses

To finish this post regarding Paul McCartney's accent, here's a clip of Macca singing 'Accentuate the Positive', from his last album Kisses on the Bottom (filmed as Live Kisses). 

 

 

It was a collection of old songs (whose copyright, I assume, are all owned by MPL Communications - aka McCartney Productions Limited). His next album, due any minute, is a collection of new songs. Called New. (Which, if I'm to be honest, sounds old; not as old as Kisses on the Bottom, but '60s-feel-good-ballad old.)

 

 

Oh, but, look!

While dipping into stuff around the net to illustrate this post, I found... The Cooler! Enjoy. If you can...

 

 


Mighty cover for Zappa vinyl release

Yes, I did blog about some of this before: about how, while interviewing Noel Fielding over a decade ago now, he drew a Frank Zappa portrait for me.

The interview took place in the hotel room Noel and Julien Barrett - The Mighty Boosh - were sharing in Melbourne during the Comedy Festival. They were performing Autoboosh that year, and their walk-on music - which I recognised as soon as it began - was Frank Zappa's 'Help I'm A Rock' from the very first Mothers of Invention album Freak Out.

By the end of the interview, Noel presented me with the gorgeous hand-drawn portrait of Zappa that he'd executed, in pen, during our conversation.

Doms_Zappa_by_Noel_72dpi

Nearly a decade later, I got to interview Noel again, for an issue of FilmInk. Noel remembered our earlier interview:

NoelFielding Noel 09 06 17compressed by standanddeliver

 

What I didn't know, either time I interviewed Noel, was that the Mighty Boosh had once described their work as "comedy for people who grew up listening to Frank Zappa". In fact, as that interview went on to reveal, I also didn't recognise Zappa's youngest child, daughter Diva, in her cameo in the final episode of the Mighty Boosh.

"How did you not recognise her?" Noel demanded in disbelief. "She looks so much like her dad!"

The Mighty Boosh Band went on to appear in the Zappa Roundhouse Festival in 2010, celebrating what would have been Zappa's 70th birthday - albeit a couple of months early, give-or-take.

The latest Zappa/Boosh crossover is with the Zappa Family Trust release of a 12-inch single - on red vinyl - featuring the Mothers of Invention for Mothers Day. Well, the announcement of the release is in time for Mothers Day. 

The record features 'Help I'm A Rock' and 'It Can't Happen Here' in their original stereo 1966 mixes on side 1. Side 2 features the original mono release and the original basic tracks of 'Who Are The Brain Police?'

The record also features gorgeous cover art by Noel Fielding. Yep. Noel Fielding painting a portrait of Zappa for 'Help I'm A Rock'. Who'dathunkit? I love it when my nerd worlds collide. You can pre-order it here.


ZAPPA_HelpImARock




Mick Foley wrestles with comedy

Mick_Foley_Studio[2]

“I understand comedy wasn’t your first calling,” I begin. It's an understated opening gambit.

“Yes, that’s true,” Mick Foley confirms, equally understated. “I did something else for quite a while."

We're kind of hovering, shifting weight from one foot to the other, swaying from side to side slightly as we square off. Metaphorically, of course, because my interview 'opponent' Mick Foley, happens to be in another continent, talking to me over the phone.

Yes, the Mick Foley: the author, comedian, actor, voice actor and 'colour' commentator (the one that fills in the boring bits with comic relief and levity while also being an expert on the stats, facts and figures of each sporting contestant) who was in fact a champion wrestler first. That in itself is interesting when you first lay eyes on him, all hairy-beardy-weirdy lookin' like Jeff Lynne or the Lyndsay Buckingham of classic ’70s-era Fleetwood Mac. But he's a wrestler. Turned comedian. About to tour Australia with local-comic-who-conquered-the-world Brendon Burns. And, Mick says, "it's still largely a wrestling-oriented comedy show that I do." But it still doesn't make the concept of a wrestler-turned-stand up comic any easier to unpack.

"I loved it!" Foley enthuses of his wrestling. "From the time I was a teenager it just felt like something I wanted to do."

Mick's sense of humour was apparent early on, too:

"You find out, when you're trying to appeal to an audience and trying to do it over a length of time, you have to have a multi-dimensional character. Especially as I got older and more beaten up, I realised it's actually easier to make people laugh than it is to make them wince. So I started incorporating a little humour into my matches."

I hope when Mick's on the comedy stage, it's still easier to make his audiences laugh than to make them wince.

"Oh, they wince every once in a while too, when something doesn't work," Mick says. "I try a lot of new things out, and not everything works. But there's only one way to find out what works and what doesn't and that is to try stuff out. And there is some wincing; there is some wincing occasionally when I'm on stage."

Spoken like a true comedian - one who isn't afraid to break new ground - at least for himself, if not always for his audience. And I guess that bravery comes a little easier if you've had to already front up on stage and win an audience over. While fighting. Mick concurs: wrestling's "another profession where you get judged on what you do, and reactions can be harsh. If you're not performing and giving people their money's worth in wrestling, they'll let you know pretty quickly, and they'll let you know the same comedy. I've had my feelings hurt in both wrestling and comedy. But you get a kind of 'thick skin' to it."

You do if you're gonna last in that industry. In either industry, I guess.

You're probably intrigued as to what would prompt a guy like Mick to make the cross-over, to do it all from a different stage where you're not expected to jump from the ropes onto someone quite as often, just to please a crowd. The transition is in fact quite logical: Mick was given the opportunity to speak at American universities in 2000, and he took it up as a new career, touring educational institutions. But for reasons unknown to him, those speaking engagements dried up in 2007. "I don't know why, but he requests stopped coming." So when a similar opportunity arose, in 2009, to get on stage and do proper stand-up," Mick says, "I jumped on it, man!"

The experience?

"It felt a lot like doing the talks at the colleges, except that I actually had to be funny, not just 'interesting' or humorous'."

That was the challenge: it's easy to be interesting and humorous, funny's harder. More so to an audience actively seeking it. Go to see a sportsman or sportswoman you admire give a talk, they can be funny more easily because you're not expecting it. Under those circumstances, Mick says, "being funny was easier because it was just a 'bonus'. People didn't know what to expect. I'd be addressing the National Librarian's Conference, and out would come this wrestler who'd written a few books. But they're not expecting me to be funny, they're expecting me to be mean because that's their basic understanding of wrestling. And then when I'm kind of charming or humorous, it's all, 'Aah, I like him!' You're not being judged upon how much your making them laugh."

That's the rub: when you've crossed over to being labelled 'comedian', the audience comes expecting you to be funny, and being 'just a bit funny' or 'merely humorous' doesn't cut it. So on the stand-up stage, Mick has to "weed out the 'interesting' and stick to stuff that's funny!" But, he says, "I still don't like being judged on how much I make people laugh. It's more the quality of the laugh, and the way people feel when they leave." And for Mick, that makes it more like wrestling. "I don't judge matches by how much people boo or cheer, but how they feel when they leave and how much they enjoyed the match as a whole. And I intend to do that when I come and visit you guys over there."

I know that sounds like the perfect sign-off, giving you some indication of just how good a public speaker, presenter and performer Mick Foley is. But I'm not finished. He said he 'got an offer' to do stand-up, and I find that interesting. Who saw this former wrestler on the lecture circuit and realised he ought to be on the stand-up stage?

"It was just a guy…" Mick casts his mind back, starting to laugh. "He was called 'Joe Schmoe'. I don't think that was his real last name. I never asked for I.D. But he asked me if I wanted to do the Improv in Hollywood. I said, 'yeah, sure'."

That initial foray was a tester really. Mick paid his own way to LA, and donated his gig income to charity. Small price to pay, given that it opened him up to his new incarnation as a comic. Mick agrees: "It seemed like a good reason to go to Los Angeles, I did have fun, and I decided to pursue it."

More interesting is the connection to Brendon Burns, with whom Mick's touring.

For the criminally uninformed, Brendon Burns is an Aussie comic who left Australia some years ago, somewhat under-appreciated (some would say rightfully so, but they may be wrong) heading to the UK where he made his name as a brilliant stand-up, coming away from Edinburgh Fringe with the top award just a couple of years ago. He returned to Australia triumphant. And was, to a degree, under-appreciated. (Some would still say 'rightfully so', but this time they are definitely wrong!)

When I ask Mick how they hooked up, he chuckles at a whole body of reminiscence that I'm sure we'll never be privy to. But the short version is, they have a mutual admiration thing going and after Brendon did some unannounced support slots that pleased Mick's fans no end, he then campaigned to get Mick to the Montreal Just for Laughs festival. Now they're touring together. And, truth be told, Brendon's not shy of a scrape, either. I'm sure he'll bang heads together with the best of 'em when necessary. But he's seen another side to Burns.

"Brendon was mad at me because I was trying out new material in Montreal," Mick says. "He was like, 'Mate, you don't try out new material in Montreal…'. I said, 'why not?'"

The reason is because Montreal is where you do your most 'showbiz' show to hope world tours, film and television deals and other untold riches flow accordingly. It's for your very best, most polished, fail-safe stuff. Not for taking risks with untried material that may not fly, thus making you look less phenomenal than you actually are.

Brendon didn't take the time to explain this to Mick, instead demanding Adam Hills, also present, support him in the position.

"He said, 'Hillsy,  tell him; tell him, don't try out new material!'"

Turns out Hillsy was all, "Why not? Why not just go for it?'"

Mick's take:

"I can't believe Brendon Burns was the conservative guy in the group saying, 'Don't do this, don't do that, it's disrespectful'."

To put it in perspective, Mick explains that he will ensure he only drops one - maybe two at most - "f-bombs" in his show. "Brendon has that in his opening 'hello' to the audience!"

There is one last issue to explore, and I'll raise it as politely as possible.

Like comedy, a lot of work goes into making wrestling look improvised - as if it's being made up on the spot - when really there's a lot of choreography involved.

"It's a lot like comedy," Mick assures me. "There are a lot of styles involved. You will see someone on the stage who will look like his style is completely ad libbed, then you find out he's worked for months to make it look that natural. There are other guys with the one-liners who you can tell have been doing the same thing for a long time. In wrestling, it's the same way. You want it to look natural. How you get to that conclusion is up the the individual to do the best work he can."

Mick Foley wanted to try new stuff in Montreal. I reckon his wrestling is 'more real'. But, he says, it's behind him.

"I'm done. I had a good time exchanging words, but I can't exchange blows anymore."

Wrestling's loss is clearly comedy's gain as Mick himself assures us:

"You will, you will cry, you will kiss some hard-earned money goodbye!"

 

Fine print:

Mick Foley & Brendon Burns tour Australia with Good God Almighty! February 2013. Check out www.livenation.com.au for tix and info.


Tig Notaro's new live 'album'

Artwork
Tig Notaro reclaims the hand bra on the 'cover' of her new 'album'.


Given the choice, I'd always prefer to own the CD or the record instead of the digital file. If you want to make the digital download a bonus for buying the CD or the vinyl, thank you, it'll save me ripping the CD or hooking my turntable up to my computer. But if I'm going to pay for the download, I'd rather pay a couple of dollars more for the CD - than just buy the digital file. Because the physical artifact comes with stuff: there's the artwork on the cover, the sleeve notes, perhaps an inner sleeve with more jokes.

Consider the delicious artwork and bonus inserts that meant that almost every Monty Python album was an extended satirical take on the record industry itself .

Matching Tie Handkerchief
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief


The artwork, for example, that made The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief appear three-dimensional, as if you'd just purchased a matching tie and handkerchief in the box. The actual black polyvinyl chloride disc housed within the 'box' was labelled as a 'Free Album' that came with said tie and handkerchief. And when you removed the inner sleeve from the cover, it turned out the matching tie and handkerchief were on the recently hanged corpse depicted thereon.

Matching Tie Hand Inner
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief inner sleeve.

The other really cool thing about Matching Tie and Handkerchief was that it was 'three-sided': side 2 of the record consisted of two concentric grooves, each with half the material from that album. What you heard when you played side two would depend on where the stylus fell on the record. Confusing, until you worked it out.

Matching Tie Hand Label
The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief free record label.


The Monty Python Instant Record Collection
was a compilation album. So it was an 'instant record collection' because it gave you the best bits of the back catalogue in one go. But it was also an 'instant record collection' because the original cover had extra flaps you could fold and connect so that it resembled a stack of records, the spines of which contained music industry jokes.

Try doing that with digital downloads!

But, some people would argue, it's all about the comedy, not the packaging. Particularly with stand-up: who needs all the frills and overheads? Cut out all the guff, the middlemen, the nonsense, and just bring the funny. Particularly in the digital age.

Louis C.K. makes a fine case for the digital download. For starters, he charges a flat five bucks, via paypal. The download system is simple. In the ten days of his making Live at the Beacon Theatre available, he made a million bucks - about a million bucks more, it would appear, than he was ever paid royalties for previous releases through the usual outlets. Furthermore, he makes the download method straightforward.

Now he's gone and released Tig Notaro's latest set.

I say 'latest set', but it's not the neat, polished show a world-class comedian might deliver after several months of developing material, breaking it in, having exposed it to a broad range of audiences in different cities and/or countries. It's her 'latest set' as delivered by a world-clash comedian, raw and fresh, while big, important events have just happened and she's still dealing with them - still exploring without necessarily having finalised her conclusions. It's happening 'in-the-moment' - or as close to that as live comedy will ever be.

But I'll let Louis tell you in his own words, from the email sent to subscribers earlier today:

Greetings to the people and parts of people that are reading this. Hi. This is Louis. I'm a comedian and you bought a thing from me. Well, I'm writing to tell You that there is a new thing you can buy on my website louisck.com. It's an audio standup set by not me but another comedian named Tig Notaro.  Why am I selling someone else's comedy on my website?   

Well, Tig is a friend of mine and she is very funny. I love her voice on stage. One night I was performing at a club in LA called Largo. Tig was there. She was about to go on stage. I hadn't seen Tig in about a year and I said how are you? She replied "well I found out today that I have cancer in both breasts and that it has likely spread to my lymph nodes. My doctor says it looks real bad." She wasn't kidding. I said "uh. Jesus. Tig. Well. Do you... Have your family... Helping?". She said "well my mom was with me but a few weeks ago she fell down, hit her head and she died". She still wasn't kidding.   

Now, I'm pretty stupid to begin with, and I sure didn't know what to say now. I opened my mouth and this came out. "jeez, Tig. I. Really value you. Highly." She said "I value you highly too, Louie." Then she held up a wad of note-paper in her hand and said "I'm gonna talk about all of it on stage now. It's probably going to be a mess". I said "wow". And with that, she went on stage.   

I stood in the wings behind a leg of curtain, about 8 feet from her, and watched her tell a stunned audience "hi. I have cancer. Just found out today. I'm going to die soon". What followed was one of the greatest standup performances I ever saw. I can't really describe it but I was crying and laughing and listening like never in my life.  Here was this small woman standing alone against death and simply reporting where her mind had been and what had happened and employing her gorgeously acute standup voice to her own death.
 
The show was an amazing example of what comedy can be. A way to visit your worst fears and laugh at them. Tig took us to a scary place and made us laugh there. Not by distracting us from the terror but by looking right at it and just turning to us and saying "wow. Right?". She proved that everything is funny. And has to be. And she could only do this by giving us her own death as an example.  So generous.

After her set, I asked Mark Flanagan, the owner of Largo (great club, by the way) if he recorded the set. Largo is set up for excellent recordings. He said that he did.

A few days later, I wrote Tig and asked her if I could release this set on my site.  I wanted people to hear what I saw.  What we all saw that night.  She agreed.  The show is on sale for the same 5 dollars I charge for my stuff. I'm only keeping 1. She gets the other 4. Tig has decided to give some of that to cancer research.

Tig, by the way, has since undergone a double mastectomy. She is doing well. Her doctors say her chances of survival are excellent. So she went there and came back. Her report from the frontlines of life and death are here for you to... Enjoy.

Please go to my site louisck.com and buy her show.  You can buy it here:

http://buy.louisck.net/purchase/tig-notaro-live

Thank you. Have a terrific afternoon. 

Louis C.K.

The show is available as an MP3 or FLAC. I've bought it. (Both MP3 and FLAC - the latter is a non-lossy format and I'm a nerd; whatever!) It comes with a digital booklet - which isn't the same thing as having cover art to fetish, but it exists. And it's brilliant.

You should buy it.


Comedy Young [g]’uns



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“I graduated on Thursday, so no more school forever!” Nina informs me, which comes as a surprise. Not for the reason you might think.

First time I saw Nina Oyama perform, she was in her school uniform, school bag in tow, evidently having come directly to the gig from school.

“Actually,” she says, “I’d come via work. It was a choice between the work uniform and the school uniform.” The work was Maccas, and Nina had already gigged in the Maccas uniform; clever and dedicated from the beginning, she was keen to see whether the same material got a different response with a different uniform…

Next thing I hear, Nina had dropped out of school. And was hanging out with that Phuklub crowd. Suddenly I’m acting even older than I am, since an old man rant build. Because – not that it was any of my business – to me, that’s clearly a mistake.

Not just ditching school for a life of comedy (cos that’s likely to be extremely lucrative!), but ditching it for a life of comedy where, as a newbie, you’re plunging headlong into the world of alternative-and-not-necessarily-funny comedy. (I’m not having a go; the Phuklub comedians are hilarious and what they’re doing is important – see my write-up.)

I’m just saying: breaking all the rules in comedy is all very well. It’s certainly better than breaking all the rules in school – more advantageous dropping out if that’s the case – but as in all art, in comedy, it’s better to have learnt the rules before you break them, because then you know what you’re doing. Even if you don’t quite know where you’re going, you can have the faith that you’ll come back safely, and the audience are aware of that even if they don’t realise it, so they go with you, and everybody has a fun adventure.

Consider, for example, the discordant notes that Mike Garson plays in David Bowie’s ‘Aladdin Sane’: they work as music despite being all over the place rhythmically, melodically and harmonically because there is form and technique to the mess. As opposed to someone just hitting random notes heavy-handedly. Those years of learning scales and technique pay off.

Aladdin sane excerpt

I’d say the same is essentially true in comedy.

Except, perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps learning stagecraft while being polite and predictable is less valuable than learning how to fly blind, to jump and hope the net will appear.

But there’s no need to deploy the old man rant. Not just because Nina has been sensible enough to spend as much time in more traditional comedy rooms as she has in experimental variety, honing her craft to a great degree for such a short time at it. Also because, as she puts it, she “went back to school, tail between my legs, and completed Year 12 successfully”. Oh, she’s still got to sit the Higher School Certificate examinations, rest assured. Which means buckling down and studying almost immediately. But not before one spectacular ‘last hurrah’. Which is why we’re talking. Before she hits the books with a vengence, Nina’s performing in a show she put together for the Sydney Fringe Festival, featuring a bunch of fellow kid comedians.

“It’s called Barely Legal – The Best Young Comedians,” Nina says, and it consists of some of the NSW-based shining lights of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Class Clowns program. (Class Clowns brings stand-up comedy to schools and some of the people it has unearthed include wunderkind Jack Druce, a Brisbane dancer-cum-comic called Sarah McCreanor, currently dancing around the world as a castmember of How To Train Your Dragon, and of course, everybody’s favourite comedian, Josh Thomas.)

“I wanted to do a Fringe show but I didn’t think I was able to do it by myself,” Nina reckons. Having made the Class Clowns final this year, she figured, “man, there is just so much talent and people who are young have so much cred,” so she put a show together around some of her Class Clown peers.

Well, I say ‘peers’; at the ripe old age of 19, Nina is the senior member of the group. They’re already being noticed by people who matter in the industry, but what’s most important is that they’re funny. I’ll let them speak for themselves through their own press bios.

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Neel Kolhatkar (18) – With titles under his belt such as Winner of Class Clowns 2009 and a performance at the Melbourne International Teen Gala 2011, Neel is definitely one to watch. A master of impressions, reviewers have described his stand up as warm, casual and current. Neel’s other passion is gangster rap, which he writes and performs. Neel has never been to jail but considers his tight knit Indian family a ‘gang’.

Jordan Sharp (16) – Student, skater and self-confessed serial masturbator, Jordan’s stand up encompasses what it truly means to be a teenager. Based in the Central Coast of NSW, Jordan’s laid back storytelling style lead him to become one of the youngest Class Clowns National Finalists in 2012.

Nina Oyama (19) – When she was seven, Nina ate bugs as a dare and secretly liked it. Ten years later, she tried stand up comedy as a dare and secretly liked that too. Finding it easier to make people laugh, Nina gave up her dream of becoming a professional bug eater. A Class Clowns State Finalist 2012, her act combines both music and traditional stand up. Nina has entertained both locally and interstate. She was recently selected to perform at The Sydney Comedy Store as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival Showcase. She also writes for the Australian comedy website BonVivant.com.au. (I'd link to this, but it defaults to the 'Gourmet Explorer' homepage - Dom)

Aaron Chen (17) – Breathing heavily and pacing nervously across the stage, Aaron doesn’t feel comfortable until he knows what toothpaste the audience uses. At the precocious young age of 16, Aaron became one of the youngest paid performers in Sydney. Aaron’s killer punch lines and savage wit have earned him the accolades of Class Clowns State Finalist 2011, Winner of Class Clowns 2012 and Quest for the Best Finalist 2011. Most recently Aaron was given the opportunity to perform at The Sydney Comedy Store in the Best in Live Comedy Winter Showcase.

Madeleine Stewart (18) – Despite growing up in the notoriously rough outer suburbs, Madeleine is one classy young lady, complete with a sharp dress sense and a penchant for opera singing. Her clean-cut one-liners and political stylings have had her talked about everywhere, most notably on Wil Anderson’s podcast, TOFOP. Madeleine was a Class Clowns National Finalist in 2011 and State Finalist in 2012. She also only has one arm; her mother was forced to keep her because the hospital had a ‘you break it, you bought it’ policy.

 

  Large_Nina_Poster


Fine print:

Barely Legal is playing Thurs 27 to Saturday 29 September from 18.30 to 19.30 at the Laugh Garage Comedy Club, Cnr of Park and Elizabeth Street Sydney 2000 (Ph 9264 1161).

Registration for Class Clowns 2013 opens October 5.

Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story

It would appear that Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story is about to be or just has been broadcast on TV in the UK (and certainly will be again) because the blog's getting hits. I interviewed filmmaker Sarah Townsend for FilmInk back when it was released on DVD. I reckon you can have the whole thing here now.


Eddie Izzard Believe

Photo credit: Eddie Izzard, courtesy of Getty Images/ Kevork Djansezian/

 

"Documentary," Sarah Townsend says, "is a very difficult form, especially if it's not your natural bent. It's like trying to learn to do math if you're a writer." And she should know. Townsend directed Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story, a fine doco - one that didn't so much begin life as a different documentary but almost ended up as one.

If you've seen Believe, you'll know Townsend from her ‘cameo'; part of the reason she ended up making the film - and has produced a number of Izzard's live performance DVDs - is because she's known Eddie since he began his career, when they were in a relationship. "Eddie's stuff was not political or cutting edge," she recalls. "Other people were much more obvious frontrunners. As time went on that very factor meant his comedy continued to be of interest." As demonstrated, in fine detail, in Believe.

It begins with the comedy process. The point of departure is a ridiculous UK tabloid beat-up of Eddie ‘conning' the public because his tour, promoted as an ‘all new show' by one venue, consisted of material the comic had already toured with in the US.

"It was bullshit, nothing to worry about," Townsend says, "but it got to Eddie because he's the guy who'd roll over his material faster than anybody. So the whole tour was about him trying to re-establish himself in his own head as the person he thought he was."

Presented parallel to Izzard's triumphant presentation, from scratch, of a totally new show, is his life story from infancy to worldwide success. But combining the strands of story was difficult. Sarah knew, dramatically, how it should be told but was stymied by editors insisting it was impossible.

"I'd think, ‘I bow to your greater technical knowledge' and end up with something that just wasn't going to work. So I'd be back to the drawing board yet again!" Eventually, the perfect collaborator, an "absolutely amazing editor" Angie Vargos appeared at the right time. "They always say ‘it takes years to find your team' with film. I went through something like eight editors before I found the right one for me."

They had their work cut out: despite amassing many hours of excellent material, some of it was in tiny fragments. "So much technical work went into making ten seconds here and there seem like a two-minute piece of footage. It was like making a jigsaw with only two pieces." Through it all, one essential piece of puzzle proved elusive.

According to Townsend, all documentary consists of manipulating material in order to create a "greater truth" from bits that, "strictly speaking, might not be true." But, sooner or later, you need to have the subject of the documentary acknowledge that truth, either admit or realise or "have the reality hit them in that moment." Without that element, there's "no proper journey."

Surprisingly - because they're old mates, and also because he seems so forthcoming in interviews - Eddie doesn't give much away. "On film, you can really tell when someone's not getting to the root of anything," Sarah says. "We did interviews for four years before we got anything that was genuinely truthful. There was no genuine revelation of the self in it, and ultimately, that's what we really want."

It was at the point where they were ready to relegate Believe to the ‘one-hour television special' that Eddie came through. "Suddenly we got the interviews that were the most revealing and formed the backbone at the end of the story."

The revelation? The truth Eddie reveals - as much to himself as to filmmakers and the audience - is that his entire career is predicated on his yearning for the approval and presence of his mother, who died when he was very young.

"That was an amazing moment," Sarah says. "A complete shock. We never thought we'd get there. We'd absolutely given up. And it was so real, so extraordinary. I remember us sitting in the room staring at each other afterwards not speaking, going ‘Oh my god!' That's the bit that made us able to turn it into a feature." Thus, Believe was equally a journey for Sarah.

"It was very interesting for me to discover, structurally, what we as humans require from a film in order to connect with it and believe in it and not feel that it's just something superficial."

Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story is available on DVD now (and showing on television in the UK some time).

 


Sarah_townsend


Sydney Hing Festival
or
The History of Everything that Ever Happened to Michael Hing. Ever.

Ray Gun

“Will this end with me beind date raped?” Michael Hing responds to my initial offer of an interview over a home-cooked meal. Instead, I make him the Mafia compromise: a meal he can’t refuse in a public place where neither of us has the clear advantage. Although I have slightly more, since it’s a pizza place in the shopping strip where I work. But as no firearm has, to our knowledge, been strapped behind the cistern, and neither of us comes out of the john with just our dick in our hand, it’s still clearly the right decision. (I’ll see your Gen Y ironic rape gag with a Gen X pop cultural reference, Hingers!)

“I’m a filthy vegetarian,” Michael warns, avoiding the option to share an entrée or split a family vegie supreme. “I don’t mind separate pizzas, whatever’s easiest for you. I don’t want to cause any trouble…” No trouble at all. Hing’s exquisite taste and tiny appetite means I get the best of both worlds. And our long conversation ensures I’ll need it.

Although it seems like he’s been around for a relatively short period of time, Michael Hing’s been involved in various modes of comedy for ages; he’s done just about everything, his disproportionate hunger for comedy seemingly outweighing any other need or desire in life. If there’s any interesting new movement or trend happening in comedy, chances are Michael will be somewhere close to the centre of it, since most if not all roads lead back to Hing. Particulary at this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival where Hingers seems to be producing or appearing in some 20-odd shows, making it very much a Sydney Hing Festival.

Stand-out elements of Michael’s comedy include his need to outline an informed socio-political position. He’ll rant, but the rant will be backed up by facts. On a personal level, however, he specialises in a line of self-conscious, nerdy absurdist self-deprecation – but the self-deprecation is never racially based. That, he eschews with an almost Richard Dawkins-like fervour. Which is where I most often want to take issue, because even if the so-called ‘wog comedy’ and Asian permutations thereof are unsophisticated, they still serve a purpose. Unsophisticated people deserve to enjoy a laugh, too. But we’ll get to that, and just about everything else, in good time.

  Hinger's Dreads

 

Raw Comedy

My first memory of Michael Hing was of that self-conscious Sydney Uni kid with the dreadlocks, giving Raw Comedy a go. Twice. Within weeks of each other. First as a solo stand-up, then as part of a kind-of-‘sketch’ double act with another Sydney Uni kid called Neal Downward. The double act was more memorable than the solo stand-up since it cleverly – perhaps too cleverly – deconstructed performance itself. Metacomedy. Earning Hing and his partner, Neal Downward, a bit of coverage in MX when they made the state semis. Next thing I know, Hing and Downward are producing a sketch troupe consisting of a whole mess of Sydney Uni kids, called ‘The Delusionists’, in their self-titled show for Sydney’s Big Laugh Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

 

The Delusionists, (l-r when they first appear): Ben Jenkins, Alex Lee, Steen Raskopoulos, Benita de Wit, Paul Michael Ayre

 

“That was all within the same six month period,” Michael acknowledges: “a pretty quick turn-around!”

What happened was, a year earlier Ben Jenkins – who would become one of the Delusionists – made it through to the Raw Comedy National Finals. Hing’s housemate, a high school buddy, was friends with Ben, so Hingers ended up seeing Jenkins in action and thought “I could probably do that” and gave it a go.

“I didn’t have the drive, performance ability, talent and experience Ben had,” Michael recalls. “And I was really, really new and Raw might have been the second time I’d done comedy.”

The result?

“I forgot most of my set that night, and stood in silence in the light.”

What was interesting was the night’s feature act – the professional comic who entertains the loyal audience as a kind of reward for having sat through a dozen newbie amateurs – was Nick Sun. And he more-or-less “did exactly the same thing, which is, come on into the light and be silent and not know his jokes.”

The difference?

“When Nick Sun did it, it was hilarious because it seemed like it was deliberate. When I did it, it was like, ‘what are you doing…?’”

 

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Delusionists

The rise and rise of Michael Hing began with a couple of improv classes towards the end of 2005 – which makes complete sense since Theatresports and the tradition of improvised comedy have been strong at Sydney Uni just about forever. Peripheral involvement with that year’s Arts Faculty Revue whetted his appetite; Hing directed the Architecture Revue the following year. “I didn’t perform, but I wrote a lot for it,” he says, admitting that his early attempts at comedy are a little embarrassing now. “It was terrible. I was consciously trying to do stuff that was different to everybody else, but it was a case of ‘you have to learn all the rules before you can break them’.”

Hingers did try to be different: whereas the first commandment of University Revue seems to be ‘Thou Shalt Taketh the Piss Out of Other Faculties’, under Michael’s watch, rather than take on Engineering, Education, Science and Arts, the Architecture Revue sought to be “‘different’ and ‘crazy’ and ‘out there’ and ‘whoooooaaaah!’” Without sufficient experience the result, according to Michael, was “this weird mess of ideas” where, of the 90-minute show, “maybe 40 jokes were funny and 50 million jokes were terrible”.

To be fair, every sketch show is hit-and-miss unless it’s put together some five years into the participants’ careers, where they can draw from the best of everything they’ve done thus far. And even then, the best sketch shows are the British ones where there’ve been several series on Radio 4 before the best bits thus far are chosen for the debut television series. You don’t know that when you see that television series; it just looks like someone amazing has come out of nowhere to work comedy magic.

Be that as it may, John Pinder – Aussie comedy pioneer who’d helped found the Melbourne International Comedy Festival way back when and was still consulting for television producers and heading up one of Sydney’s numerous and disparate festivals (The Big Laugh Festival at the time) – happened to see the show.

“I don’t really understand what was going on,” Hingers says, “but for some reason, he liked it and gave me a bit of money to put together a sketch crew to be a part of that year’s Big Laugh Festival, and from that, do the Melbourne Comedy Festival’.”

Thus, The Delusionists came into being.

Remember, by this time Pinder and producer Chris McDonald had created a ‘best of the university revues’ live show called The Third Degree, which eventually became the Ronnie Johns television show.

The Third Degree already had a format, so we came in at a time when the exact theatre that they were in – the Kaleide Theatre at RMIT – was free, and there was what John described as ‘a gap in the market’, which we filled,” Hing recalls. “People had heard of The Third Degree and wanted to be a part of that experience in terms of sketch and discovering new comedy, so in our first year, we had a lot of ticket sales that we didn’t really deserve.”

Undeserved perhaps, but definitely earned. When you go down to Melbourne with a sketch show, you have a mass of performers as well as crew – a small army that can cover all the bases when flyering  punters on the street in the hope they’ll come see your show. And it did seem they knew what they were doing, even if it was mostly front and bluster. But Hingers comes clean:

“That was mostly copied from the model these guys were running. They had all these rules and tips that they gave us, so we weren’t going down completely ‘fresh faced’, although, to all the people who didn’t know us, it was like, ‘who are these kids who have come down and sold 200 tickets?!’”

It’s not like they hadn’t done it before, really. They’d flyered strangers for their uni revue, and the had the likes of Dan Ilic and Jordan Raskopoulos – Third Degree and Ronnie Johns veterans – teaching them stuff. The result? A good first show that earned a three-and-a-half star review in The Age. They were overjoyed. “The Age! The paper! It came and saw our show!” Michael recalls.

At this stage of his not-quite-career, despite an initial foray into Raw Comedy, Michael Hing is sticking to writing and directing rather than performing. And having cool dreadlocks, I suggest. “Yeah, and just being a real weird dude,” he adds.

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Return Season

The following year, of course, the Delusionists return to Melbourne with The History of Everything that Ever Happened. Ever and sell out some 23 of their 25 shows, despite being on at a ridiculously early timeslot. There are suggestions that TV is interested, though nothing immediately comes of it. Although, the major difference this time is “we get a two-star review from The Age, and they call us homophobic and racist and the rest.” According to Hing, “that really hurt” because they were all “crazy, left-wing, politically correct people” with “totally innocuous jokes” that “weren’t even about race or gender”. Indeed, Michael stresses, indignant, “it really hurt to be called homophobic when we’re the type of people who go on marches for this kind of stuff. We’re Sydney Uni students. Don’t you understand? We vote for the Greens!”

Ah yes. A half-decade or so earlier, they’d be rich kids who could afford, in time, to be ‘chardonnay socialists’. Understood loud and clear. But that doesn’t make them any less funny. Or politically incorrect necessarily (although, I resist pointing out, this interview did begin with a date rape gag, ‘ironic’ and/or ‘absurd’ as it may be). If the Delusionists were guilty of anything, it was of being a bit too clever-clever.

Still, it served as a lesson to Michael Hing in his formative years.

 “That’s when I first started thinking about how careful you have to be with your comedy in terms of what you’re saying and what you’re doing. The onus isn’t on the audience to interpret it. The onus is on you to give them a message that they couldn’t possibly misinterpret. You dictate how they interpret you. It’s all on you.”

After that year, Hing quit the group to concentrate on solo comedy.

“I was too insecure to work in a group,” he says. “I’m not performing, so I’m thinking, I’m not the funny one; they’re getting all the laughs, I’m just writing jokes.” By this stage, the Delusionists were a strong troupe of performers, and as such, pretty much directed themselves. “I’m like, ‘you know what, I really want to do my own thing now. I want to go back to Uni and do drama and some other stuff, maybe finish my degree, I don’t know.’”

 

 

 

Back to Uni

That’s an interesting diversion at this point. What exactly was Michael studying? The plan out of high school was to follow Mama and Papa Hing into medicine, because Michael was a pretty smart kid.

“But then it turns out I’m not smart enough to do that,” Michael says, “so after six months of that I move to teaching for about three years.”

After teaching, Hingers tried his hand at counselling. “I go on a school counselling prac and I expect it to be ‘oh like, hey, talk about your feelings and stuff’ and on the first day it was, ‘my mum’s an alcoholic, my dad’s a heroin addict, what have you got for me?’ I was like, ‘this is out of my league!’ so I ditched that because there was no way that I could really help these kids.”

Six months of architecture ensued. And then an attempt at a philosophy degree.

“The point is,” Hing says, “I never graduated.”

Hang on, Hingers. You’re an Asian kid. You have an intellect. Both your folks are high achieving doctors. How do they feel that you need to be a clown?

“They are amazingly supportive of this unmitigated bullshit,” Michael says. Although his routine is littered with jokes about his parents disapproving of his life choices, “in reality,” he insists, “they are just amazing. For example…”

Before he launches into his example, Hingers falters and has a second thought.But then says, “Yeah, I’ll talk about this,” and carries on.

“I had an opportunity two years ago to audition for a television show which never got made. It was a sitcom. I got asked to audition for the part of this Asian character who spoke in a weird accent and did a lot of Asian jokes…”

If you know Michael Hing at all, or have seen him on stage, you will almost certainly know that this is anathema to him – playing the self-deprecating, comic-relief, cheap-laugh Asian. And yet – sitcom. Television work. Income. Perhaps fame.

“I was kind of not sure about what I wanted to do or whether I should do it, and my dad was like, ‘Michael, you didn’t do uni because you don’t want to have a real job; if you start doing stuff like this that you’re not passionate about and don’t believe in, that’s like having a real job. You need to do what you want in the way you want to do it.’”

Cool dad, huh!

“That is one of the biggest influences on what I am trying to do,” Hingers acknowledges. “My parents are super, super supportive. Ridiculously so. To the point where it is almost irresponsible. Now I’m doing fine and don’t need support, but if I ever did, I think they would help me out.”

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Project 52

Moving on from The Delusionists while remaining friends with the cast and crew, Michael began to concentrate on his own comedy. He took another stab at Raw, making it to the state final. “That was when I realised stand-up was the thing I’m not terrible at,” he says. Still, his career trajectory was somewhat bound to the sketch comedy troupe.

“All the shows we’d done down in Melbourne, they were partially funded by the University of Sydney Union,” Hingers explains. For the uninitiated, the Union is the body that administers much of the cultural life of the student body, and one way in which it does so is by funding cultural undertakings. However, Michael says, after two years of financing a small army’s interstate incursion, the Union woke up to itself.

“They were kind of like, ‘Hey, you’re going down to Melbourne with thousands of our dollars and we’re not getting anything out of that’. So for 2009 when we wanted to do it, we said, ‘You know what, to prove to you that we’re doing something for culture on campus, we’ll start a comedy room on campus that’ll do a show every week and we’ll mix between doing stand-up and sketch and improv and story telling and musical comedy and plays and everything and we’ll literally do a different show every week’.”

And so, out of the need to fund a final Festival foray in 2009, Project 52 was born. “We didn’t realise that what would become Project 52 would be the greatest thing we’ve ever done and one of the coolest things that we’ve ever been involved in,” Michael says, quickly pointing out that he’s “not the only person” behind it. “I do a lot of the boring admin work for it, but it certainly is a five-way group who run it.” The team includes Ben Jenkins, Carlo Ritchie, Steen Raskopolous and Tom Walker. “Carlo and Tom are the people who probably make me laugh more than anyone else in the world. I understand their minds, and they still make me laugh all the time.”

It wasn’t an instant success, of course: some nights were packed out. Other nights the comics outnumbered the audience. “There were some grim times for us,” Hing acknowledges. “There’d be eleven people in the room, and ten comics, and it’s going to go forever and it’s gonna be terrible and I’ve got to tell some first year I’m really sorry, he can’t go on because there are too many comics. But by the end of the first year, a small crowd for us became 60 people.”

It certainly helped Michael develop as a comic, having to front up each week, often in front of largely the same group of punters. He had to have new material each time.

“It’s perfect when you’re young and you have a million ideas and you have to write them all down,” Michael reckons. “I say like I’m some old guy now…”

I am some old guy now, and I can say the one night I got to perform there, it was chockers. Admittedly, everyone apart from Hing – and me – was some undergraduate doing material about Star Wars, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, but it was a great night. And then I couldn’t get another go, because word got out that it was the coolest room in Sydney and visiting international acts were climbing over each other to get some stage time. Although Michael has a far more touching story about Project 52’s growth in prominence.

 

In Memoriam, Jordan McClellan

Some time into the room’s second year, on the night of Sydney University’s Theathresports Grand Final, a student called Jordan McClellan, who “did a lot of improv stuff” with Hing and co, was tragically hit  and killed by a taxi on his way home. “It was really serious and really, really sad,” Michael recalls. “That affected a lot of people and changed the way we did comedy. It really changed a lot of stuff.”

One change was the renaming of the Theatsports Trophy. Steen Raskopoulos and Tom Walker, who run the Theatresports program, renamed it The Jordan McClellan Cup. But one of the “more offbeat things” to come out of it, according to Michael, occurred as a result of them googling Jordan McClellan’s name, to see how his death had been reported.

“We found this blog by someone called Sidney Critic who had been writing about us for 18 months. We had no idea. He reviewed all our shows. So there was this great memory of our friend who had passed away. That was really cool.”

Sidney Critic went on to name Project 52 the best comedy room in Sydney. “I think other comics must have read that blog or something, because when we started up in the second year, the people who wanted to get on weren’t just open mikers and friends, it was proper comedian people.”

But that’s just the stand-up night; there is far more to Project 52 than stand-up, which takes place on night a month. Steen Raskopoulos runs ‘The Impro Den’. “It is – and I say this  having watched a lot of impro – by several standard deviations the best improvised comedy you’ll see in Australia” – Michael insists.

‘Story Club’ is the story-telling night run by Ben Jenkins. “It’s part of a new trend that’s been happening for a couple of years,” Michael says, acknowledging story-telling rooms run by the likes of Kathryn Bendall (‘Tell Me A Story’) and Michael Brown (‘Campfire Collective’). The point of difference for Story Club, Hingers explains, is that people literally type a story and read it out of a giant book. “So there’s no performance element to it the way you would tell a stand-up story. It’s more of a writing and performing process, and they’re on a theme. It’s as really good way to break in, when people don’t feel confident in performing, they can just read.”

And, finally, there is a sketch night called Make Way For Ducklings. “It’s probably the funnest thing to ever do,” Michael insists.

In addition, Project 52 runs other themed nights where the comedy is about a specific – often nerdy – thing. “Like our Game of Thrones night. Recently we did a ‘would you rather’ discussion. It’s license to do whatever we want. We’re not locked into doing stand-up every week, like other rooms are.”

Makes me want to run away and join Michael Hing’s circus. They have the most supportive milieu. “It’s not even just students,” Michael insists. “It’s a specific kind of student.” The room has a capacity of 130-odd. “We don’t like turning people away,” he says, “but there are nights when we say, ‘There are people who shouldn’t be here, could they leave…’.” Such people, according to Michael, aren’t going to “get into the spirit” of the room’s comedy. He reckons they’re people “who want rape jokes and ‘edgy’ comedy” (said the man who suggested dinner-and-interview might serve as the prelude to unwanted foreplay. And afterplay).

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Going Solo

 2012 was the first year Michael Hing took his own hour-long show, An Open Letter to Rich White People Concerning Their Role in the Downfall of Civilisation, to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival “because that’s how the Australian comedy industry works,” he acknowledges. Whereas in America you develop five minutes of material, building it to 10 and then 15 and then twenty, on your way to an hour, in Australia you “do comedy for a bit and then you do an hour-long show at a Festival”. Though not necessarily ‘ready’ to take on the solo show, there were indications that it was time – “a bunch of weird things” starting to happen from the beginning of the year.

“I broke up with a girl who I had been dating for years. I started working at a university as an adult instead of as a student lay-about.” It was, he says, part of that coupla-year cycle where h panics a little and thinks he has to decide whether he should persevere with comedy or pack it all in and try to get a real job.

“I gave myself to the end of the year to decide,” he explains: “If I’m just doing one or two spots a week and only a couple of gigs a month are paid, then I’m going to focus on my career and do stand-up as a hobby. But if by the end of the year I’m doing stuff that I really like and I’m really proud of what I’m doing, then comedy is the thing I’m going to do.”

Focus on your ‘career’, Hingers? What, pray, tell, was the ‘career’ if it wasn’t comedy, midway through 2011?

“At the time I was booking bands and the Roundhouse, at the University of New South Wales,” Michael says. “I was like, ‘I can be a booker. And do comedy as a hobby’.” Of course, Michael gave that all away, and his non-comedy employment nowadays consists of teaching digital marketing and media at said university part time, “even thought I don’t have a degree and I’m not qualified at all”.

Aiding the transition from part time amateur comic to full time professional were the collaborative shows Michael had been creating for earlier Sydney Comedy Festivals with Patrick Magee. A founding member and stalwart of Comicide, the other sketch comedy troupe operating around the same time as The Delusionists, Magee was in many ways Hing’s perfect foil.

Their first show, 2010’s Illustrious Physicians of Romance, set out “to teach you everything you need to know about love in an hour”. A sample routine involved grabbing a punter from the audience and calling up their ex-girlfriend in order to try and win them back over the phone. The show arose out of Hing and Magee’s respective obsessions with women at the time. (What? And your long term relationship faltered, Michael? How? Why?)

Their second show, the following year’s Orientalism was a sustained “rallying cry against ethnic comedy” – one of Hing’s bugbears. Although Michael is still adamantly opposed to ethnic comedy, he can at least acknowledge that “60 minutes is a long time to be preachy about something”.

These shows weren’t necessarily good prep for Hing’s one-man show. “They were mostly improvised and they were more sketch than stand-up,” Michael explains. “They changed every night because Pat Magee has an inability to maintain focus on stuff, which is what makes him super funny a lot of the time. It also makes him highly emotionally volatile a lot of the time, as well. He is seriously one of the smartest, funniest, cleverest people I’ve ever met and worked with. If he ever bothered to commit to doing comedy forever, he’d be great.”

Given that Patrick’s currently in the UK pursuing comedy, chances are he’s well on his way to achieving that greatness. As for Michael, the process made him realise he had a number of stories he wanted to tell, and so it was time to do his own show. Its first incarnation was I’m Only Doing This Because They Won’t Let Me Be A Rapper at the 2011 Sydney Fringe Festival.

Orientalism

Sydney Fringe

 

Unqualified Success

Half a year on from the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Michael’s attitude to his season is telling.

“I came back from Melbourne with a good amount of money from doing comedy,” he says, “which felt really, really cool.”

So comedy as career instead of hobby, then. No need to get qualified to teach digital media and marketing after all.

“At the same time, there was stuff in my comedy that I didn’t feel very proud of. I was doing some jokes that I thought were lazy, and some easy gags. I felt a little bit guilty because I was using easy tricks – in about three or four parts of my show – to get laughs.”

Oh, Hingers, ever the purist. He sometimes got laughs not by telling a joke, but by using “just the rhythm of a joke, and the word ‘f*ck’.” What comic has never been guilty of that? Your job is to make them laugh. Did you make them laugh? Good. No problem. Unless you’re competing in a [Raw] comedy competition, in which case, be concerned that the jokes are below your judges’ standards, rather than your audiences’. But even then, it doesn’t matter: the point of doing comedy is to make the audience laugh, not to win competitions. And the point of doing comedy competitions is to make the audience laugh, not to win competitions.

Still, Michael makes a convincing argument:

“For the first three weeks, where I’m selling out some nights and getting great reviews, it feels great.”

Why wouldn’t it? That’s every Melbourne Comedy Festival debutante – and veteran – comic’s dream.

“And then Chortle comes to see my show.”

Uh-oh. Chortle is the über-comedy critic, the comedy critic sine qua non. And Hing confirms that Chortle essentially said, “‘Hey, dickhead, you’re a mad, lazy writer who should be trying harder, cos you’re cheap’.” Hing’s paraphrasing, of course; Chortle is far more articulate than that.

“I read that and I think, ‘He sees through everything, and it’s true’. And the reality is, any other achievement that I feel proud of, is meaningless. So I come back from Melbourne with money that I’m not uncomfortable to have, but think I should put it towards something cool.”

 Good man, Hingers. I think I speak for almost everyone when I say I’m never uncomfortable to have money, and I always think I should put it towards something cool. But I’m never as cool as Michael, who has put his money to the best possible use, producing fringe festival shows of several of his comedy peers.

But that’s the obvious, immediate penance – putting potentially ‘ill-gotten gains’ toward a greater good. Michael’s taking other initiatives as well:

“I don’t have a lot of strengths, but one thing I’m quite good at is learning. I flatter myself to think I can learn quite well, so if someone I respect, whose reviews I’ve read, says to me ‘this is a two-star show and you need to work harder and not be lazy’, then I can click onto that being a real thing.”

And so for Hingers, it’s once more into the fray: among the multitude of shows he’s involved with is the new hour of material, in development for the 2013 festival season.

Gen Fricker brekky

 

 All roads lead to Hingers

While ‘coasting comedian’s guilt’ goes some way to explaining why so many roads lead to Hing – the ‘Sydney Hing Festival’ part of it, anyway – there are still all the other undertakings he is and has been involved in.

For example, a couple of years ago one of the new hot young things of comedy was a svelte Sydney chanteuse called Gen Fricker whose sinister world view with conveyed via punk ballads sugar coated with a thin veneer of faux-naivete  bookended with some of the most hilarious off-the-cuff banter you’ll ever have served up at you. Another one of the many to arise out of the Sydney Uni milieu, Gen is clearly a world-class talent in her formative years. Suddenly, Hingers was hosting the breakfast shift with her on Radio FBi.

A couple of years previous, Jack Druce was the youngest Raw finalist ever (dubbed ‘an embryo’ at the time by one slightly older – and possibly slightly jealous comic). Now Hing is co-hosting one of the better comedian-fronted podcasts with him.

Cale Bain hosts an brilliant impro night on Tuesdays at the Roxbury Hotel (the second best in the known universe, according to Hingers – but he has a vested interest in the Impro Den, so it’s hard to call) and Hing is one of the regulars.

A bunch of brash alternate comics have a weekly package of performance anarchy called Phuklub – of which I’ve written at length. Guess who’s now a regular there, too…

And virtually any cool newbie you see who is or was at one time a student at Sydney University, rest assured, is a friend, was groomed by, appeared in a revue with, or let’s face it, will one day regret never having embarked upon a meaningful physical relationship with, Michael Hing.

There’s a reason why this is.

“If I want this to be my job,” Hing explains, “if I talk to my friends, most of whom are comics, and they’re doing a cool thing, I want to be a part of it. And I feel like I have a disparate amount of experience now that I can go into any place and try and fit in with what they’re doing.”

And, more than wanting the constant challenge of trying to apply his worldview and talents to each new comedic undertaking, there’s a far more fundamental and obvious reason.

“There’s no shortage of talented people in any comedy scene,” Hing says. “All that separates me or anyone from anyone else is the amount of work that you do. If I think I’m good and I’m gonna coast this out, there are any number of more naturally talented people who can take my place.”

One of the forces guiding Michael, particularly in the way he helps administer comedy to university campuses and beyond, taking newbies under his wing as he investigates new avenues for himself and others, is to provide the means of access that didn’t exist when he first hit the scene.

“When I was at uni and had a dream of doing stand-up, there was no way that I knew how to go to the Mic in Hand on a Thursday night. If you’re a student studying a science degree or whatever, you go, ‘oh, there are people at my uni putting a show on every Wednesday night, and they’ve done shows in Melbourne, and they’re doing gigs at the Comedy Store. If I hang around with them maybe I can learn how to do this – how to get it done’. That’s a really attractive thing to be able to offer young people. When I was in high school and at university I didn’t know how to be a comedian. Now, if I can offer anyone anything, it’s this: here is a night where you can get on and you can do comedy, and if you like comedy, I can tell you who to talk to and who can help you out. And now we get the people who run the Comedy Store coming by and checking out our night. That’s really cool for me.”

Thus, Michael is producing 20-odd shows at this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival because when he was at Uni he didn’t know how to do comedy, and now he has a bit of an idea. Not just of how to approach it, but of the different approaches you might choose to take. Indeed, Michael has several approaches of his own that he’s putting into practice all at once –  in a handful of shows.

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One of them is a sketch show with Ben Jenkins, called Ben and Hing Do Sketches At You for the Better Part of an Hour. But don’t think, for an instant, that it’s another ‘Michael Hing and Patrick Magee’ show with Jenkins playing the role of Magee, even though Hing works as well with Ben as he does with Pat.

“Ben and I have been writing together for six years now, so we have a catalogue of 100 sketches. We’re gonna pick out 10 or 15 of them to call them a show.”

And of course, there’s the solo show, Occupy White People, that’ll be the prototype of his 2013 festival show.

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But the most political and personal one, by far, is A Series of Young Asian Comedians not doing Asian Jokes, which features Jen Wong, Ronny Chieng (joint Best Newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year), Alex Lee, Jonathan Lee and Aaron Chen along with Hingers. “We all do 10 minutes each and no one mention race, no one mentions racism, no one mentions immigration, no one mentions being Asian, no one mentions stereotypes… nothing. It’s us doing jokes that have nothing to do with that.”

 

The stereotyped kid

Michael and I don’t quite agree on the ‘wog comedy’ issue. Being slightly older, and remembering what an amazing phenomenon Wogs Out Of Work was, I appreciate that self-deprecating humour was the first opportunity certain audiences – consisting of huge cross-sections of Australian society – got to see characters they could identify with on stage. Performers were talking to them about their particular experiences in ways that Ango Austalian comics and other stage and screen characters couldn’t. Furthermore, these non-Anglo Australian stereotypes weren’t merely the ‘low’ characters, the comic relief, the butt of the Anglo Australians’ jokes. They played the gamut of characters, and where they were the butt of the jokes, they were the butt of their own jokes: the humour was self-deprecating, so it wasn’t hurtful. Decades on, yes, that kind of humour is clearly less sophisticated; society has changed enough (we hope) that it’s unnecessary. We see non-Anglo Australians in the media representing more than the mere fact that they happen to be people of foreign extraction. But in less enlightened times, self-deprecating wog comedy was empowering.

“Yeah,” Hing replies, “but if the only way ethnic people can identify with a character on television in the 1980s is through Con the Fruiterer, that’s a damning indictment of television. It’s so rare, for example, to see a Chinese person on TV where their defining role isn’t merely being Chinese. It’s only now that you’re seeing hot Asian girls who are actually just ‘hot girls’, rather than ‘hot Asian girls’.”

Somewhere, a Gen X woman – who probably reviews for The Age – is reading this and being annoyed at the objectification of ‘hot’ and ‘girls’ when Hing clearly meant ‘women’; is it a bigger faux pas when special attention is being paid to the avoidance of racial generalisations? His point stands, however: if the person of a certain race appears in popular culture merely as a stereotypical representation of that race, there is a tendency for kids engaging with that culture to define themselves and others primarily by ethnicity. “And it is divisive,” Hing insists, “because, growing up, you are no longer the kid who happens to be Chinese or the kid who happens to be Italian. You are ‘the Chinese kid’. Or ‘the Italian kid’. And for some people that’s a really positive point of difference, but there is no reason that they have to be that. Why not ‘you are the smart kid’ or ‘you are the fast kid’?”

So then what happens, it seems, is ‘the Ethnic kid’ (feel free to insert the ethnicity you are most familiar with) who is funny and talented enough to take to the stage, becomes ‘the Ethnic comic’ and has to roll out all of the Ethnic clichés. If you’ve heard them all before, they stop being funny. For Hing, they can be downright offensive. Like when a comedian makes fun of his or her parents’ accents.

“A lot of Asian comedians do it: ‘My dad gets his Ls and his Rs mixed up. What’s up with that?’” Hing says, outlining why this line of humour fails.

“You’re making fun of your dad’s accent. Number one: it’s very well-trodden ground. You should be above that. If you’re holding a microphone, you should hold yourself to be above that. Number two: if your parents have a thick accent, chances are, they’re first generation emigrants. They probably made huge sacrifices to bring you here and bring you up in a country with opportunities where they can give you the best life possible. And you’re gonna get on stage and make fun of them because they don’t speak English properly and they have a funny accent? Go f*ck yourself. That f*cken annoys me. It enrages me.”

The rage has its origins during Hing’s own childhood.

“Growing up in the mid-90s in Australia, watching a comedian on television who looks like me,” he recalls, “I get excited, and then he says, ‘spring rolls… boogadah boogadah boogadah, what’s up with that…?” (The ‘boogadah boogadah boogadah’ is shorthand not unlike the Yiddish ‘yaddah yaddah yaddah’, serving here to dismiss facile observations.) “Everyone goes, ‘That’s amazing’ and they grow up thinking that’s okay to do, and you think that’s what you have to do as a Chinese guy doing comedy. I just want to prove to people that you don’t have to do that.”

What it feels like, I offer, is that Michael saw Hung Le on television, and irrespective of how funny or clever Hung’s observations were, later on at school narrow minded people repeated them, seeking to tease Hing. “Definitely,” he admits. “But this is what I’m talking about. People take away the message they want. It’s your job as a comedian to ensure that nobody leaves your show going, ‘I’m going to find the guy who that applies to and make him feel like sh*t’. You start a ripple effect where you’ve hurt some guy you don’t even know.”

I’m not sold on the argument. Part of me feels that Hing’s ‘bunging it on’ more than he actually feels it, in order to create the context for his particular brand of intellectually outraged stand-up to work. And mostly, it seems, it’s for the edification of less privileged ‘outsiders’. I mean, the open letter to rich white people has a different meaning coming from a rich non-white person, than it does from a poor non-white person. There’s nothing wrong with taking that position, it just takes more effort and more experience to make it feel less ‘bunged on’ and more relevant and sincere.

“I don’t feel disenfranchised,” Hing confirms. “I’m the Asian son of two doctors who grew up fine. I was bullied a little bit at school, but there are people who cop it much worse. But racial injustice angers me. And when I talk about racist stuff in my comedy, it’s because I genuinely think there is something funny to be said about it.”

But, Michael continues, the reason he finds “the vast majority of ethnic comedy” loathsome is because “when you’re in a position of power – and I think we can agree that having the microphone is being in that position of power” your target – the butt of the joke, and the level at which you pitch your jokes – has to be above your own level. This because, if you don’t, “if you’ve got a microphone and you’re screaming about someone who has less power than you and you’re aiming your anger and ridicule downwards, you’re just bullying someone. Whereas if you’re aiming it upwards –taking on the prime minister or people who are muscular and rascist or people who are smart and rich – they can defend themselves; they have a right of reply in a cultural capital.”

I agree with this philosophy. And I can see why it is such an interesting comedic path that Michael Hing treads. Coming from that privileged background, there aren’t many targets above him. And the bullying can’t have been so full-on from fellow privileged lads.

“I went to the local public primary school, but because it was in a reasonable area –Illawong, in the Shire – it wasn’t a rough school,” Michael confirms. “I was ‘the Chinese kid’. It totally influences my position. I hated being defined as ‘the Chinese kid’ because everyone else is pointing and laughing.” Perhaps, Michael considers, that’s where the comedy-as-defence-mechanism began because, he says, “I grabbed the mic at talent quests and stuff.”

 

Talking out of school

After primary school, Hingers wasn’t so keen to attend the local selective public high school. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so my parents sent me to Trinity Grammar. I got involved in some dicey stuff. I joined a gang.”

Dicey gang stuff at Trinity…? Apple in the chapel, I enquire, getting my posh private school scandals muddled.

“No, Trinity was ‘The Anaconda’,” Hingers reminds me, adding, “and no, a proper gang”.

This was the key story of Hing’s Open Letter and since he’s performed it on stage, he doesn’t mind relating it to me now. “Through a series of events,” says Michael, he “ended up being friends with this guy whose older brother was in a gang at Cabramatta.” Lonely and in need of friends – often a characteristic looming early in a comedian’s life – Hingers ended up “doing jobs” for these people that included picking up packages from the guy’s place and delivering them to addresses in China Town.

“It’s hundreds of dollars every time that I do it, and I pretend I don’t know what’s going on, but I know: it’s drugs and weapons and stolen goods in my school bag.”

Dressing like the über-nerd he is – “top button done up, tie done up, socks pulled up even though I’m wearing long pants” – Michael is the perfect mule.

“I do this for between 12 and 18 months. Eventually my friend gets moved to Hong Kong, to live with a disciplinarian uncle. I eventually quit, and because I’m a nerd and they know I’m a coward, they don’t hurt me. They let me go.”

This is around 2000 when the ‘anaconda’ sex scandal took place, and suddenly the school’s systematically searching every student’s locker. “A lot of people I’m associated with are called to the principal’s office,” Hing reports. “Eventually, I’m called. I’m sitting there, crying and stuff. They tell me I’m not going to go to that school next year, and I think, ‘I’m f*cked!’ but it turns out that the reason I’m at the principal’s office isn’t because of that stuff; it’s because about 6 months earlier, being a super nerd, I made a website about my friend David calling him ‘gay’ because I was 14 and that’s what I found funny. They were like, ‘that’s unacceptible’ and I was like, ‘you’re right, it is, I need to leave the school; goodbye’.”

Hing ended up at Carringbah High, the selective high school he had been trying to avoid, where he met all his nerdy friends, was mocked, got angry, got to uni got into comedy and eventually ended up opposite me in a pizza place in Manly Vale, where I ate most of his vegie selection after finishing my own marinara, and after I swallow his last piece, I have to know: how the hell were the doctors Mama and Papa Hing about all this?

Again, just stupidly supportive of everything,” Michael says. “That also contextualises what I’m doing now: sure, I’m not finishing my degree or getting a job, but I’m also not in a gang, which is a thing I came very close to doing for the rest of my life. It makes the choice of being a stand-up comic much, much easier.”

 


Comedy on the Edge - The Podcast

One day last month I headed to 'Comedy on the Edge HQ' - (the house of Mark Williamson, who runs Comedy on the Edge) - for a taping of episodes of Comedy on Edge - The Podcast. Mark hosted Episode 1, which featured Peter Meisel and Daniel Townes. Josh Cohenand I helped out with technical stuff. And I coughed a lot. I managed to edit out most of my coughing. (Actually, I'm quite adept at sound editing - as you can hear for yourself. Just saying. Y'know - if you ever needed to pay someone to edit your sounds together...)

So anyway, here's the podcast. If episode one has a title, I reckon it should be 'Knew Amsterdam'.

There's a whole other meta-thing going on with the musical accompaniment that I'll blog about later - but tell you what: if you can list all the tracks and explain their significance, you'll win a brief cessation of my perpetual disdain.

And if you like it, subscribe to the feed by cutting and pasting  this: http://comedyonedge.libsyn.com/rss


Just Another Misfit:
Cam Knight gets back on the horse

Cam Knight Misfit

If you were a comedy lover digging the local scene around five years ago, give-or-take, you know Cam Knight very well – and, in addition, virtually every other Aussie stand-up gigging during that period – because of the time Cam spent fronting Stand Up Australia for the Comedy Channel. “That’s where just about everyone in Australia got a good show reel!” Cam insists, because there were 120-odd hour-long episodes, each featuring four comedians. But stand-up is not all that Cam’s known for: he’s also an actor. Which is why, on the eve of the taping of his first comedy DVD at Sydney’s original Comedy Store, it’s worth asking Cam which came first – the acting or the comedy?

“I was always the smart-arse in class,” Cam says, “but I guess you could say the acting came first because I was studying acting before I got into comedy.” Yeah, but only just, it turns out. Still, the comedy was kind of inevitable, since the young Cam was “always drawn to it” – his parents buying him a copy of Monty Python’s Life of Brian on video when he was 12. “They were pretty much setting me up for comedy,” he reckons. They must have had a sense of humour; they gave their 12-year-old the most Christianity-lambasting of absurdist satires – before going on to send Cam to a Lutheran boarding school for his high school education. But more of that later…

Cam went straight into acting classes after school, and that’s when the comedy bug bit. One of his classmates, Dave Williams, was already doing comedy, and Dave’s ‘boss’, Dave Flanagan – from Adelaide’s Comix Comedy Cellar – went to see a first year play both Dave and Cam were in, after which, Cam says, “he offered us all jobs”. Although it was mostly ‘pre-show entertainment’ – “while people were eating their meals, you do some sort of cabaret bullshit; I played a chef who thought he was Elvis and sang Elvis songs!” – Cam and Dave were soon doing improv. But it wasn’t until they’d relocated to Melbourne that Cam did actual stand-up comedy. “Dave booked a gig behind my back and said, ‘You’ve got to go do some stand-up now’. We walked to the gig that night and I did it, and that was it: it just sort of stuck.”

 

  L


Stand-Up Australia

You wouldn’t guess, from so casual start to his career, that Cam would host such a seminal show as Stand-Up Australia. But he did. And it was seminal – people you wouldn’t expect to have any knowledge of bona fide gigging comedians got to see them in action. How it all happened was, Cam auditioned for the hosting role of a Fox 8 show called Chain Reaction, and got it. “After I shot that, I went home and didn’t think anything of it,” he says.

But three months later Cam was offered another hosting gig, this time for a Comedy Channel ‘gong show’ called We’ll Call You. “Of course: I’m young and I’m broke, so I say yes. It’s a ‘gong show’, so it’s not an amazing piece of work… but it’s work! So I went and did that.”

And then Cam was offered fulltime employment at the Comedy Channel, “because apparently they liked what I did”. This led to further hosting duties, including taking over from Adam Spencer for the second season of Hit & Run, in which comedians were inserted into ‘fish-out-of-water’ situations and made to write material about it.

“Then,” says Cam, “I just got told, ‘we want to do a stand-up show, it’s gonna be called Stand-Up Australia, it’ll be on five nights a week and you’ll front it’. I was like, ‘Okay’ and that was it. That’s how it came about.”

Suddenly comics had an ideal opportunity to showcase their work, and while it was “a good platform for a lot of people”, it was hard work for Cam: he was a relatively new comic still finding his voice, having to come up a heap of new material on a regular basis. “I got Dave to help write for me most of the time,” Cam says. “There were a couple of other helpers: Michael Chamberlin and Sam Bowring helped me, and I think Fox Klein submitted some stuff. But we had to write 8 to 10 minutes of material a week and we weren’t getting to test it out anywhere. So if it failed, it really failed cos it went to air.”

Most comics take a few years to ‘find their voice’, but get to do it more-or-less anonymously, on the open mic stand-up circuit. You only start seeing them on the telly when they’re good enough to be considered worthy of that opportunity. (And, let’s face it, Cam’s employers knew Cam was worthy – even if his peers and detractors felt otherwise.) However, rather than his lesser gigs being seen by a mere handful of people in the back room of a pub, Cam had to do it in front of a dedicated viewership. This baptism of fire was, for Cam, as stressful as it was exciting: “I was very young. I’m still cutting my teeth and finding out what I want to do, which way I want to go, what I want to say, and we were just sitting down and going, ‘right… what’s funny?’ By the end of it, you don’t know anymore.”

Having to create so much material produced “a good work ethic”, but, Cam reckons, it didn’t necessarily make him a better comedian. “It made me self-conscious for a long time. I felt like I had more to prove,” he says. “What made me a better comedian was when I left the Comedy Channel and forced myself to work and gig my arse off.”

Although, I reckon a well-paying gig early on makes having to fail publicly a better proposition. Doesn’t it?

“It’s kind of nice to have that security – but it’s still humiliating when you’re out there,” Cam says. “You do kind of cop it. You go out and people come up to you and go, ‘you suck!’ You don’t want to suck. You want to go out and you want to get better. And just because I’ve made a lot of money doesn’t make that go away. It doesn’t make anybody’s opinion change; it might actually make it worse.”

Indeed, Cam argues, the money doesn’t make you good; if anything, it probably makes you worse. “You need to actually need it. You need to crave it and you need to want to get better and challenge yourself. Money can sometimes make you complacent.”

If complacency was ever a threat, it was a while ago: Cam’s challenged himself. Constantly. As well you’d know, if you’ve seen him live over the last five years. He’s just kept getting better and better. All the hard work has paid off. So much so that it’s hard to believe that, save for Just Another Misfit – the hilarious show he did at Sydney this year – it’s been so long since Cam’s taken a show to any of the country’s comedy festivals. But it’s all down to timing, he says.

“It just didn’t work out this year. I was all set to go to Melbourne and Adelaide but I just had a bad feeling; my wife and I were trying to have a kid, I’d travelled so much last year… I probably should have hit Melbourne and smashed that out, but it just didn’t sit right. I felt like I should stay here with my wife and respect what she wanted”.

It’s hard to fault a relatively new husband – who’s had a successful career thus far – choosing to put his family first. But at this point, I’ve got to – sheepishly – ask an obvious question or two. And here are the answers: no, they didn’t have a baby. But it’s not a ‘touchy’ subject, or a sad story.

“It’s fine,” Cam says. “It’s just annoying. I wish I could say ‘yes’.”

Oh, but, Cam, here’s the perfect scheme: you want a kid? I can guarantee you’ll have one. Here’s how: start planning next year’s festival circuit. Once you’ve locked in firm seasons in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney, you and your missus will almost certainly be expecting. And it’s July now – the baby will be due just in time for you to have to cancel all those festival seasons again.

“Yeah, you’re absolutely right,” Cam laughs. “I will. I’ll do that. I need to do it again. But the timing has to be right.”

Truth is, Cam’s pretty much ready to go:

“I’ve just been working really hard, even with the old stuff, making those routines stretch out into bigger pieces. I don’t just do ‘joke’ jokes; I’m quite physical, I move around a lot. There’s going to be a lot more improvisation that’s gonna make them bigger…”

Yes, that’s all part of what marks Cam Knight as being at the top of his game. And again, it reminds me of some of the cr*p he would have had to face early on. Along with the ‘successful too early’ resentments of a seemingly less proficient comic landing an awesome gig, there’s the intolerance of the ‘actor doing comedy’ that seems to divide open mic-ers in particular. Which is a cute irony that – should the comic persevere as Cam has – results in a nice poetic justice: the acting that appears to be a handicap to a comic early on makes them so much better down the track when they are so adept at ‘showing us’ rather than merely ‘telling us’ the joke.

“I find that taboo so hypocritical,” Cam agrees. “You’re not allowed to be an actor going into being a comedian, but you can be any other profession, and it doesn’t matter. You can be a lawyer, right – a f*cking lawyer! – and turn into a comedian. But an actor? No way!”

The taboo seems virtually non-existent in the United States, Cam rightfully points out. All the good comics head towards sitcom and feature film, remember? “They want you to be a triple threat. They want you to be good. They want you to be talented. They wanna work with you. They want to find someone who can do all those things…”

 

  Knight Rider

Knight Rider

Rest assured, Cam Knight does other things apart from comedy and acting. You may be aware that he pedaled 1600km from Brisbane to Cairns in 10 days, a little while back, with Tour de Cure, helping raise a million dollars for cancer research in the process.

“I did that very close to leaving the Comedy Channel,” Cam says. “I wanted to do something that made me feel good. I wanted to put my money into something else that wasn’t for me. My mum had breast cancer and I just felt like that was something that I needed to do and get out of my system.”

Again, I ask the delicate question. Cam’s mum’s fine. “She’s a survivor!” he says. She beat breast cancer back when he was in high school. Boarding. At a strict Lutheran school. And again, more of that later; back to the bike ride…

“I had very little training before we went into it,” Cam says. “I guess I was trying to train; I gave up smoking about four months before I started training, so I wasn’t very good at it…”

Although the Tour de Cure continues to take place annually, Cam has not been involved in subsequent rides. “I just wised up after the first one and went, ‘I don’t think I could do it ever, ever again’,” he says. He kept his bike, but has ridden it all of twice since then. “I jog. I just can’t get on the bike anymore. I’ve put it in the shed now, cos it just kept looking at me, making me feel guilty.” One day he’ll do something “of a similar ilk” in terms of the personal challenge, for charity, he says. But it’s not likely to involve cycling!

So back to Cam’s mum: she was diagnosed with breast cancer when Cam was 14 and away at boarding school. “I thought my mum was gonna die and I just wanted to go home,” Cam says. “So I got expelled from boarding school. On her birthday. While she was going through chemo…”

That’s quite noble, acting up to get expelled in order to be home with his mum during her illness. But Cam corrects me: he didn’t actually decide, “right, I’ve got to get booted out of here’; rather, it happened subconsciously. “When I look back on it now, I think ‘you misbehaved a lot, mate!’ I think I was just worried that my mum was gonna die.”

There was a lot of misbehaviour and Cam used to get into a lot of fights, but the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’, Cam explains, isn’t actually that bad. Well, not nearly as bad as the stories that made it back from the school to his home town fast than he did.

“The rumour was, I threw a chair at a teacher and it went through a second storey window, crashing through the windshield of another teachers’ car below. Which sounds awesome, and Breakfast Clubesque, right?”

What really happened was, after dinner one evening, all the boarders had to return to the school block to do homework and study, as they did every evening. “There was a guy giving me a whole bunch of sh*t, and I just screamed at him to f*ck off, and went ape sh*t at him. But I didn’t realise there was a Parents & Friends meeting going on in the AV Room and I was pretty much right outside it. So the principal was there and all the Lutheran mums and dads were there and they were like, ‘that’s not very good Lutheran behaviour’ and blah blah blah.”

Though not officially ‘expelled’ as such, Cam’s dad was called and recommended that he pull Cam out of the school. They won’t have to put ‘expulsion’ down on his official school record, but he still got kicked out.

“Doesn’t sound too hardcore. I wish I threw a chair at the teacher. It would have been so much cooler!”

True. You know what would also be cool? Cam Knight doing a festival show around Australia next year. Does he reckon it’ll happen?

“I don’t know mate. I’d love to say yes, but I just don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing. I need to make a decision about it really soon.”

 

Certified male


Certified Male

One of the deciding factors is the current season of the stage play Certified Male, which Cam’s about to be appearing in. Glynn Nicholas, who created the show, did it years ago with Pete Rowsthorn. This time round, Cam’s in it with Mike McLeish, Dave Callan (the beardless, Sydney-living Dave Callan who excels at improv, as opposed to ‘hairy’ Dave Callan, from Melbourne) and, in some cities, Glynn Nicholas himself. In other cities, Glynn will be replaced by Barry Crocker. So next year’s festivals won’t even be a consideration until Certified Male is over.

Meanwhile, Cam’s set to record his current show, Just Another Misfit – which he describes as his “favourite” – at the Comedy Store. “I feel it’s the tightest. I feel like it’s a good, solid hour, and this is the one I want to record.” Cam’s taken time developing the material, and been very careful about ensuring nothing from it is already up on youtube. “I’ve made a conscious decision not to put any clips up,” he says. “I wanted to wait. I’m a big guy about biding my time for some reason.”

For some reason? I’ll tell you the reason you’ve made a point of not having stand-up footage out there, Cam Knight: because you got some big breaks before you were quite ready for them; you jumped in a little fresh, copped more criticism than you deserved, and you are cautious never to be in that position ever again.

“You’re absolutely right, I jumped in fresh and I’m very conscious about what’s out there. But I feel very good about this show, and we’re gonna shoot it. Hopefully we’ll have a full house on Saturday night and it’ll look great.”


Blake: A True Visionary
(Mitchell, not William…)

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I profiled Blake Mitchell - along with Ash Jattan and the comedy rooms they're involved with - not too long ago.

Blake's exploits continue to be interesting and entertaining, and I know I'll have more to say about this later. For now, rest assured, he is a true visionary. Enjoy this clip fellow comic Joel White put together. Joel - who podcasts with Luke Walding as Waldo & Whitey - has had the genius idea to have his mum read a selection of Blake's recent tweets.

Photos (in the clip) are by Jeremy Belinfante.