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Monthly Archives: April 2011

What do Dylan Moran, Arj Barker, Ross Noble and Stephan Amos have in common? They were all fresh-faced comedians introduced to the world at Bulmers Best once upon a time. I pick the brains of this year’s graduates Carl Donnelly, Tom Allen, and Seann Walsh before they realise their talents are well worth $10 per head.

CARL DONNELLY

It says in the press release that you took up stand-up in 2005. What were you doing before that? I worked in an office as an accounts assistant which was the last of a series of dead end jobs I had done since dropping out of university at the age of 19. I was never cut out for the whole 9 to 5 thing. I had the gift of being able to do the bare minimum of work required to not be fired! One of the worst things I used to do was sneak off for naps in the toilets. I would always go to a toilet on a different floor if I was hungover etc and have a 30-minute snooze around 10am. Then when I came back to my desk I’d pretend I had been in a short notice meeting.

What’s the obsession with covering your feet? What’s wrong with them? I have a strange OCD thing where I feel constantly paranoid when not wearing shoes. I’m convinced I am going to stand on something sharp or kick a door etc. I’ve had it since being a child. So for as long as I can remember, I can only be barefoot when in bed (or in swimming pools, anywhere where it is necessary). This fact is on my Wikipedia page but I have no idea how it got on there.

Are you looking forward to performing in front of an Aussie audience? Of course. One of my favourite things about being a comedian is that danger/excitement of going on stage in front of a room full of people that don’t know you and convincing them you are worth listening to. Doing that in another country is even more exciting as you are talking to people that have a totally different way of life with different cultural references. Obviously the danger exists that they won’t have a clue what I’m talking about but I’m willing to risk it!

TOM ALLEN

What would you be doing if you didn’t make it in comedy? I’ve always had a fantasy about opening up a cake shop – somewhere by the sea. I think it’d be a cake shop that also sold other things (like power tools for example) and it’d close on Wednesday at lunchtime so I’d have time to maybe go to a Zumba class. As a comedian you don’t have any kind of comfy routine so I think I’d enjoy having my evenings to cook dinner, maybe paint a wall or even watch a soap.

Who would play you in the movie of your life? The man from Crocodile Dundee or possibly John Malkovich as we have a similar hair line, though he has a much higher voice. I met him once. He was dressed completely in white.

For Aussies here who don’t know anything about you, why should they come see you? I guess because I’m different (eccentric even? maybe at times odd). I’m obsessed with stories, details and the way we interact with each other – like the time I offered to carry a disabled man’s bag down the stairs but then realised I couldn’t lift it off the ground. For me, live comedy is about finding those things, however odd, that we’ve all got in common, and that make us laugh because we go, “Oh I’m not as weird as I thought”. It’s just relief! If you come, we’re going to have one hell of a good time together!

SEANN WALSH

Time Out London’s called you this generation’s Dylan Moran. Your thoughts? I was very flattered when I read that but it is ridiculous. I think it’s just because I can do quite a good impression of a drunk guy.

What has been the proudest moment in your comedic career thus far? Probably the recording of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow (Not the edit! I cried when I watched the edit). All I have ever wanted to do was stand-up on primetime television. Everything in my life starting from school was built towards that moment and it couldn’t have gone any better

Your top five favourite comedians? Charlie Sheen, Charlie Sheen, Charlie Sheen, Charlie Sheen and Charlie Sheen

Have you been to Australia before? What are you looking forward to seeing/doing here? I haven’t. Friends that have been told me there’s a great cafe culture in Australia, which is great for me. My favourite thing to do in life when I’m not drunk is to sit outside a cafe, smoking and drinking black coffee all day. I must stink!

Apr 27 – May 8, The Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Rd, Enmore, $27-$30, 9020 6966, factorytheatre.com.au

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I have a “quirky” habit when I read books. I highlight lines that seem like they are speaking directly and only to me or sentences that are too brilliant not to run over with florescent colours. When I was watching writer/director Paul Gilchrist’s latest play Toy Box at the Tap Gallery last week, my “quirky” habit was verging on OCD as I felt an excessive compulsion to highlight or in this case mentally record every inspired line that was looking me straight in the eye.

These were not literary quotes you find plastered on ridiculously expensive birthday cards, these were simple stringing of words drenched in an exceptional ability to observe human behavior and thought. This is a story about children seeing their parents as fallible human beings, mothers and those who don’t want to be mothers, siblings with the magic power to incite intense hatred and love within the span of a few minutes, men who will always be boys and women who always carry with them an inexplicable sadness. This play could be staged anywhere in the world and it will resonate with the audience. Paul Gilchrist and Daniela Giorgi (producer) of Subtlenuance Theatre, remember me when you become disgustingly famous. I wanted to highlight you way before everyone else did.

ONLY UNTIL APR 17, TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst. $12-$25. 9361 0440, tapgallery.org.au


Former thrash metal rocker who has been drumming up controversial topics all over Europe the past decade returns home to give Aussies a dose of Conspiracy Realist. Is he metal, mad or a thought machine? Take a deep breath and leap into the mind of Steve Hughes, if you dare…

You observe and joke about everything from politics to sociology. Are you constantly working even when you don’t want to? How do you stop? I don’t stop. This is my job. It’s not really healthy but this is it. I’ve never been a happy person but I’m not miserable and am quite fun to be around but I can be rather intense for people are who are more content than me. I’ve tried to be more chilled out but alas, that is not my path. Nothing has ever helped except art, music, comedy, performing and pot.

Do you reckon Australians recognise local talent only when they’ve made it overseas? That’s a complex question and a very interesting point I have often thought about myself. I think Australians recognise talent and there is a lot of it here but the cultural conditioning of the establishment which will not recognise talent has an affect on all of us. Its pathological promotion of sport, which I find as a creative and intelligent person utterly offensive, is disturbing.


The establishment finds art too risky a business as it requires contemplation and self analysis, an adventure that has never been promoted in Australia as it may embarrass the over compensating attitude of always trying to look good and moral, not only to the world but also to itself. Australia in my opinion, always embarrasses itself in front of the world by trying not to embarrass itself. It’s lack of honesty about its past, formation and true identity makes it a conservative, conformist even childish environment where real art cannot survive and will not be recognised. This is why most Australians have never even heard of, let alone seen the film Wake in Fright.

What do you look forward to about performing in front of an Australian crowd? I like the fact that Australians, if they like it, laugh from their guts. No bullshit. There’s a rawness to it that I like.

Who are your top five local or international comedians? Well that’s a hard one to answer as I like comics for different reasons. I love comics who speak from their heart,  have an opinion and not care about who likes them, like Glenn Wool, Jim Jefferies and Chris Wainhouse. I also like mad eccentric comics like Paul Foot (UK) who is doing his first ever performances in Oz right now. I like Tommy Tiernan who is amazing as is Stuart Lee, who is a master.

Thanks Steve. Thank you for the interview. Hail the Gods.

Apr 27 – 30, Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown, $34-$39, 9550 3666, enmoretheatre.com.au

Cracker Night (CN) kicked off the Sydney Comedy Festival (SCF) proper on Monday, April 14. Cracker Night features ten-minute quickfire stand-up performances by comedians doing full shows at SCF. My partner Dave and I went to the CN at Metro Theatre. The show only started at 8.30pm so we went to a Korean restaurant in the city. A spicy hangover pork rib soup, grilled eel and a few sips of potent soju later, we were ready. The theatre was packed and Tahir the MC kicked off the night like a pro. To be honest, I’ve seen a few minutes here and there of SBS’ Pizza and never liked it. Tahir as a stand-up, however, is a different story. He is spontaneously funny.

This was the line-up: Dead Cat Bounce (IRE), Dave Eastgate, Moshe Kasher (US), Craig Hill (SCT), Tom Allen (UK), Rhys Nicholson, Glen Wool (CAN), Tig Notaro (US), Daniel Sloss (SCT), Gina Yashere (UK) and Steve Hughes in that order.

Here are my favourites that I recommend you go see – Dave Eastgate, Tahir and Steve Hughes. I’ve been with Dave for almost 5 years now and I’ve never heard him laugh as hysterically as he did during Hughes’ closing act. Click here to read my interview with the man.

Special mention goes to Rhys Nicholson (pictured), Tig Notaro and Gina Yashere. I was disappointed with Dead Cat Bounce, Moshe Kasher and Daniel Sloss. To be fair Sloss is only 20 years old and I’ve still got hope for Bounce. I hope this helps with your choices for the festival!

Until May 8, Sydney Comedy Festival, Various Locations, sydneycomedyfestival.com.au

On a 38-degree summer day in Sydney, Danny Bhoy blew into a slightly stifling Gleebooks like a cool breeze when he made a surprise appearance at comedy show Wit Large. He came, joked about Australian animals and left. The audience didn’t know what hit them but they loved every bit of the Scotsman’s lightening speed set. We speak to Australia’s favourite import at this year’s Comedy Festival.

You made an impromptu appearance at Gleebooks earlier this year. Are you warmed up and ready for Messenger (please do not shoot)? Yes, nothing prepares you for a big tour better than a sweltering afternoon gig in the upstairs of a bookshop in Glebe. What’s great about a gig in a bookshop is that you can do comedy and browse the shelves at the same time.

When did you know you wanted to be a comedian? I really stumbled into comedy. I was walking down the Grassmarket in Edinburgh one night when I noticed there was a comedy night on in a pub. I went in to have a look and was hooked. I watched a guy die on stage and thought he was the bravest man I’d ever seen.

You seem to have animated and lengthy conversations with Australian animals. Are they more interesting than the people? I grew up in quite a rural town, so I probably had more animal friends than human friends. I find animals teach us loads of things about the planet which we struggle to understand as humans. My ‘conversations’ with animals are really fantasies of what an animal might say in a given situation if it had a voice. Generally that voice is saying to a human, “Hey, what did you do that for?”

What’s been the highlight of your comedic career thus far? Meeting Billy Connolly was a real highlight. He is such a nice guy and he pretty much invented what we do for a living. He’s my Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Who would star in the movie of your life? What would be the film’s tagline? I think Keanu Reeves would be good, because he would naturally portray how uncomfortable I am in front of a camera. The tagline: How not to use a history degree.

What is the hardest accent for you to attempt? I can do most accents, but I’m not great at the Dutch accent. I always end up sounding a bit like Sean Connery after a stroke.

What haven’t you seen or done in Australia that you’ve really wanted to? I would quite like to do the Bungle Bungles. Just because I really like the name Bungle Bungles.

If comedy hadn’t worked out, what career path would you have taken? I would probably be the funniest bank clerk in Edinburgh.

What did you believe in when you were eighteen, you wish you still believed in today? The right to party.

Until May 7, Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown, $34-$39, 9550 3666, enmoretheatre.com.au

After 21 years together, John Chaplin-Fleming and Rusty Berther have had Enough Already. So it seemed only right to name their farewell show exactly that. We catch up with John, one half of the musical comedy duo before they sing their big goodbye on stage at the Sydney Comedy Festival.

Why say goodbye now? If we stay together any longer, Rusty gets half my assets and anyway, he’s like the movie Sex and the City 2… Something I never want to see ever again.

If comedians can make music, should musicians make jokes? Not always! Kurt Cobain was a notoriously bad stand-up comic. We’ve been practicing for 20 years, so we hope to do better.

There are a lot more musical comedy acts in the local scene than there were when you guys formed in 1990. Do you think you may have led the way for this genre of comedians? We see ourselves as a link in a long chain of music comedy acts. But perhaps we can lay claim to having inspired some of the acts around today. All the good ones.

Any favourites? Oh no it’s like picking a favorite child. No one will admit they have one but everyone does.

What, right now, have you had enough of already? Late nights at the Adelaide Fringe, waiting for aeroplanes, resetting my watch by half an hour.

What’s the plan after your farewell show? Cup of tea, quick lie down, world conquest.

What did you believe in 1990 you wish you could still believed in today? That my parents could bail me out of any financial difficulty I might get into. Everything else, I still believe in.

Apr 17, Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown, $34-$39, 9550 3666, enmoretheatre.com.au

There are a few television shows I am guilty watching reruns of. Friends, Sex and the City and Who’s Line Is It Anyway. Greg, Colin, Ryan and Wayne playing with props, singing the hoedown and making Drew Carey the butt of every joke. Ahh… those were the days. Greg Proops, a stand-up comedian in his own right, talks to us about his days at the show and his other job as the voice of Bob the Builder in a quickfire interview.

Is this your first time in Australia? No, I was there in 1997 and did Melbourne and Sydney. I am so looking forward to the fabulous Thai, Italian, Greek and Indonesian food. The other parts of Oz, Perth and Adelaide and Canberra and Brisbane. I love travel and Australia has groovy people and strange animals.

What can Aussie audience expect from your show here? Tears and bitterness. That is backstage, then I do my show. I am sarcastic and snide as well as lovable and cuddly. Spanking machines and pony rides cost extra.

Who is funnier, Ryan Stiles or Colin Mochirie? Why? Ryan is the funniest improviser in the world. Is Colin the older fellow?

What were your days at Whose Line Is It Anyway like? I was on for 14 years so, brief. I loved it. We shot in the UK and Hollywood and the casts are still all my good friends. It changed my life.

What do you and Bob the Builder have in common? We are both animated.

What would you be if you weren’t a comedian? Petty criminal or baseball historian.

Do you prefer stand-up or improvisational comedy? Improv is a group activity. You must give yourself to the will of the mob. Stand-up is my personal revenge on comedy.

What was your worst job? I worked as a schmendrick in a law office. Law can really bring you down.

What did you believe in when you were eighteen, you wish you still believed in today? Sadly, I believe the same things. That the world would be better if rich white guys didn’t run everything.

Apr 16, Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown, $30, 9550 3666, enmoretheatre.com.au

A call to the end of a scene, a snip at the barber’s, slicing of a cake or detailed incisions that result in a row of paper men. The list goes on with what the title of this one-woman show could mean. With playwright Duncan Graham’s words and Anita Hegh’s acting chops, director Sarah John explains the mystery behind the fantastical psychological thriller, Cut.

Why the title Cut? The title Cut is a reference to Atropos the third and most fearsome of the three Fates who was responsible for cutting an individual’s ‘thread of life’. The central character in Cut finds a kinship with Atropos as she attempts to wrestle down and take control of her own fate.

Would it be correct to call this play a one-woman psychological thriller? In one respect, yes. It’s a kind of mindscape made up of a series of reflections and refractions of a woman attempting to hunt down her true self and a mysterious thread of impulses and instincts that she is experiencing.

Could a man play this role? If he could fit into an airhostess outfit maybe… But I’m quite happy with Anita!

You’ve worked with Duncan before. What about him impressed you? What is it like working with him? Duncan and I studied together and have since collaborated together on a number of occasions. He’s an excellent writer and is extremely open to work with, encouraging intense interrogation of his texts. Actors and other collaborators are often surprised at his lack of preciousness and willingness to try suggested changes and cuts.


How are rehearsals going? Have there been any surprises? Rehearsals are on track. I get quite nervous talking about it at this stage in case I ‘jinx’ things but we’re working really hard and we all feel quite excited as to how it’s taking shape. I am constantly surprised by Anita Hegh. She is an incredible actor who makes the most courageous choices and finds the most beautiful nuances, so that a text that I have read countless times still feels alive and surprising.

You were trained as an actor but work primarily as a director. Why? I enjoy (and crave) the challenge and thrill of making theatre. As an actor, I found that I often felt frustrated by the lack of creative involvement I had in projects and ended up with little investment and belief in them. As a director, I was more easily able to instigate projects that excited me.

Incidentally, my first real (but unofficial) teacher in directing was Peter Evans who I worked as assistant director to on a production called Yellow Wallpaper – a one-woman show staring Anita Hegh.

What about theatre never fails to excite you? Someone once told me a story about the Stradivarius violin. Apparently, they are so finely tuned that if you place two of them in opposite corners of a room and pluck a note on one of them, the other violin will ‘hum’ in tune. This is a wonderful analogy for the experience of theatre. I never tire of attempting to tune each moment after moment in the hope that a good hum might be created between the work and the audience.

Why should people see Cut? It’s an awesome new piece of writing. It stars one of the finest actors around. It’s a very dark, strange little piece in the spirit of David Lynch. It’s only 50 minutes and you never know, it could be quite good.

Apr 7 – May 1, Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills, $32-$42, 9699 3444, belvoir.com.au

I’d like to think I have the power to predict the stars of tomorrow. Seriously. Case #1 Jennifer Love Hewitt when she was a wee little girl in Party of Five with big… erm talent. Case #2: Jessica Biel as a tomboy in Seventh Heaven. I knew they’d be big. Call me, Ari Gold. This time, I’ve got my money on Kristen Wiig. I’m a huge fan of hers from Saturday Night Live. This girl is hilarious. And she’s been trying to make the transition to the big screen where her full potential has never and probably will never be realised. Case in point – I Love You Man, where she played a small, forgettable role as the protagonist’s girlfriend, the kind of roles she’d been stuck with if not for Paul.  She plays a staunch Christian who becomes a Darwin believer thanks to Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan) the alien.

Simon Pegg & Nick Frost above, Kristen Wigg below as Bjork on SNL

Along for the ride are the usual suspects, best friends in real life Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz). Two British guys go to America for the Comic-Con convention and then take a road trip see all important extraterrestrial sites. They run into Paul who is running away from the government to get back “home”. I am so happy to say that this movie unlike so many others, has a trailer that does not do it justice – probably because Wiig is not in it. There are plenty of sci-fi movie references to keep event the nerdiest entertained. This is no Superbad (this film is directed by the same guy, Greg Mottola) in big, aching laughs but it is consistent, satisfying and predictable in a good way. Also, you don’t want to miss Sigourney Weaver getting punched in the face by Blythe Danner and Simon Pegg!

In cinemas Apr 14.

 

“I’m no harm to anybody but to myself. And if this is harmful, bring on the hurt please.” 67-year-old Aboriginal actor Jack Charles speaks like a poem and the harm he’s talking about is his former relationship with heroin. We saw his story about drugs, burglary, prison time and theatre in the documentary Bastardy. Now, he is seducing the nation on stage with a one-man show at the Belvoir. I speak to Australian legend, Uncle Jack.

What can we expect from Jack Charles v the Crown that wasn’t revealed in Bastardy? We honour Bastardy as the foundation of the person I’ve become. We’ve got images screening behind me. Since Bastardy, my life’s turned around. I’ve been able to jump off the methadone and start living like a beacon for others in my community. I also found the power of writing my own material.

We do backdrops from Bastardy but the new photos that have come from the heritage mob and the blokes from Box Hill Boy’s Home, my siblings if you will, have remembered me once they saw Bastardy on ABC nationwide. They wrote in and sent me photographs. And we’ve added these into the show. It’s a revelation. It follows from the documentary.

I’d also hooked up with Bunjilaka Melbourne and in essence they brought me home with so much information on the Bringing Them Home program. So much information about my forbearers. My great great greats, where my mother came from. On the opening night, during Christmas time last year, I found who my father was.

Wow. Yea, they weren’t married so therefore a bastard I’ll still remain, thank god (laughs).

How does it feel to be back on stage? Oh it’s great. Being up there is where I’ve always felt comfortable. It’s good being up there, just me alone with three band members on the side. I’ve always felt that every performer, in their lives, should try to do a one-man show.

How do you actually feel when you are on stage? 10 foot tall. I really do ya’ know. I get a realisation that we are getting full houses. Melbourne and Sydney audiences were being treated to light performance from this particular little black duck. I’m being honoured for that and I feel, like I said, 10 feet tall. The performance is more genuine too. Remember that I haven’t trod the boards for over a decade and a bit. When I did the Melbourne Festival, it was a hesitant performance but I whizzed through it and I was so proud to have done it. And now we are ready to take it up to Belvoir.

It’s easy for the rest of us to see your life as an extraordinary one. Do you feel you’ve lived an extraordinary life? I do realise that now. It’s a fair comment to say now. My life’s embedded in the National Archives even. I mean very few people get that opportunity. Very few black fellas get that opportunity. There are more stories to come now. It’s given me the power, as my memories come on with a clarity that I never thought I could ever get. The eagles must be flying over me, protecting me. And I suppose that’s the reason why I’m still here at 67.

What scares you? Not being taken seriously.

What’s your best memory? The memory of former CIU (Criminal Investigations Unit) inspectors, retired, coming to see Bastardy, twice to see JC v The Crown. This is heartening for me. Even people I’ve robbed have come up to me after the show and said “Oh my Charles, we lived in a large house up in Melbourne many years ago and we were robbed and we were wondering…” (laughs). These are good memories for me, connecting with these people. Knowing that they are there in the audience and they enjoyed the show.

What’s your biggest regret? That it took me till I was over 60 to get on the methadone program. I’m the kind of guy that I told myself once I got on the program, I will never use the needle again and I hadn’t so it’s been great staying clean the past seven years.

Would you agree with the saying youth is wasted on the young? Oh my word. Yes, yes, yes. I have been reborn. Not a reborn Christian, religion scares the bejesus out of me.

Uncle Jack, it’s been an honour talking to you. Thank you very much. Thanks mate.

Until Apr 17, Belvoir St Downstairs Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills, 9699 3444, belvoir.com.au