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Archive of ‘Stand Up Comedy’ category

The Universe is Massive and I’m a Professional Bogan

At home resting after a busy few days and watching some good old Saturday night TV, I saw a guy mention on a talk show something about how small we are compared to all the billions of stars and galaxies and whatever – and the question that popped into my mind was – “so if we are all so small and insignificant, why do all the details of my life feel so big to me?”

I don’t really have an answer to that.

boganThen I got to thinking about what I do with my time, and how I tend to go off on tangents and be all over-extended, doing and starting things that aren’t really part of the “plan”. And how I habitually do things that in some way, even if mostly just imagined, put me in a vulnerable position.

Most people, especially those pushing forty like me (Aggh!) play it safe. They don’t put themselves out there, but I do. That’s what it means to be an artist.

I still gig and while on stage I bare my soul both through my music and through the rambling in-between songs, the jokes and the swearing and ranting and stories and Kramer-esque unsubtle honesty that people love. The saying of the things they play it too safe to say. (I don’t mean that as a criticism – safe makes sense.)

I write blogs like this, instead of just keeping my head down.

Then I do things like I did today. Things that barely make any sense, yet I kind of get off on it.

How I Get Off

Hmmm? get off? Sound interesting?

Well it’s nothing sexy, ok? Unless this photo is your particular cup of bourbon.

This is what I did today that to me is the equivalent of being an adrenalin junkie. I drove one hour to a complete stranger’s hens party in the Melbourne inner-suburb of Brunswick and dressed up as a bogan for money, as you do.

For all overseas readers, a bogan is an Australian thing, kind of equivalent to a trailer-trash redneck in the US but quintessentially Aussie. Refer to the photo – taken today. I am the brunette. Gizz a kiss.

I didn’t just randomly rock up to a party uninvited and dressed up as a bogan, although that would be a funny thing to do.

I was hired as part of an act called Bogan Bingo. And the scary thing was I hadn’t done it before and I only had half an hour’s practice before I did the gig, and I didn’t know the guy I did the gig with (I do now, his name is Josh, a consummate professional), and I had to operate a DJ mixer in tandem with a laptop to play music and cue grabs of songs that formed the punchlines to a set of jokes set up by the MC – and there was a very real chance that I could screw everything right up. It was all very nerve wracking…

…and I loved it.

Why?

That’s where I thrive. I actually thrive on uncertainty. A handy skill in an uncertain world.

That’s why I love playing my music on stage – because no matter how many gigs I do or how many times I have played a song before, every gig is a tight-wire act that could conceivably fall apart at any moment. Every gig is different. A brand new, living, breathing organism that will only exist in time for a single tiny window of time before dissolving back into the ether.

I don’t want to jump out of planes. I don’t need to. I have two ways of getting my kicks, my adrenalin rush. Put myself into a new situation (job, a new type of stage performance, a foreign country) or do yet another gig playing my music. That’s where my buzz lies.

A Funny Thing Happened As I Was Walking the Dog  Today

By the way – it’s an interesting story how I scored this ridiculous gig (which is just a laugh for me really, one that happens to pay), I went to the park with my daughter and my dog. And, this summer being what it is, it started to rain. There was only one other guy there, with his dog. He happened to be pretty friendly, and skilled enough at starting conversation that he got around my usual reluctance to engage in small talk (when sober anyway). Kept asking me about what I did, my work. At the time (how quickly things change) the year had not gotten underway with gusto and I was genuinely wondering if my online marketing business was going to survive or if it was time to find something new.

Then I asked what he did. “Bogan Bingo”, he says, with a shrug.

“Oh yeah, I see your van with the logo painted on the side up the road. “Balls On Fire Tour”, right?”

“Yeah, that’s my business”, he says. Goes on to explain it all and how he employs people to run the shows for him; how it’s a gas.

I go home, do some Googling. It looks like a stupid, silly, idiotic thing for a respectable father-figure type such as I to get involved with.

Perfect. Count me in!

I email the man, Darren is his name, enquire if he needs anyone new. He does. Voila. I’m a professional bogan.

Life is weird, the Universe is massive and I’m a professional Bogan.

It’s all about hitting your mid-thirties and not just giving up. Back in the 90s all of us Gen X’ers were going to DO something. Something awesome.

OK it wasn’t dressing up as a bogan, but it wasn’t rotting in a dead-end job and slowly dieing of boredom either…

Rediscovering my Inner Cockroach: Dream Nights, Hecklers and Two-Bit Gigs

This year has so far been characterized by my return to the music scene. Not unsurprisingly this momentous occasion has been heralded with the kind of fanfare usually reserved for the delivery of new text books to old fashioned libraries, but nevertheless, I got back on the horse and have been off the couch and gigging consistently since December last year.

This has been a colourful time then as a result.

I’ve gigged enough to have enjoyed some amazingly wonderful dream nights. Nights where the stars have aligned to introduce me to new and (hopefully mutually) beneficial relationships, to seat me in front of lovely audiences who were apparently on the same bizarre wavelength that I transmit on, where every word I uttered or sang was understood and appreciated. Nights where my voice was golden and my fingers just did what they are supposed to do and otherwise left me to it.

On the flipside, I have had some Hell-gigs, although more often (thankfully) just hell-moments. I tried to throw the biggest night of the year so far to end up slightly embarrassed at the smallest ever turn-out of friends and, for that matter, strangers. The same night I got heckled every time I tried to kick back and explore the dubious realm of the humorous monologue. (“Play us a song Mr Piano Man!” … “Yeah, thanks for that, Mr Tattooed Bogan. Give me a sec – I’ll just get the old baby grand out of my bag.”) And I’ve followed the microphone south during the odd song until I was singing bent over almost double, unable to rectify the situation without stopping the song, pleading with my eyes for a friend to hop up and adjust the stand to no avail, wondering if people were smiling ‘with’ me at the funny lyrics or ‘at’ me and my predicament.

And then there were the nights where my hands shook, the nights I played 100% sober.

That sounds really bad so I need to explain that my hands don’t shake in the absence of alcohol normally, just during gigs when nervous energy seems to make my hands go all crazy and, well, with apologies to spastic people everywhere, spastic. One or two drinks really calms them down. But I must repeat that I don’t drink to make my hands stop shaking at any other time … I just drink to get drunk (ha, ha)

So here’s a quick round up of the gigs so far this year:

Tuesday 20th January – Ruby’s Lounge, Belgrave

This venue is local to me, or has been for the last two and a half years, so it was cool to finally play a gig here. I rocked up on time and was pleased to discover that the sound guy was Jeff Springfield, who sound-engineered my CD. My business partner Steve Mills, also a local, came along but apart from that I knew nobody.

I was pretty sober and out of practice. This meant my hands were shaking and also they simply couldn’t remember what they were supposed to do. Also I had done so few gigs in the last couple of years that I found that everything I was doing was too subtle for a noisy bar. I soon pulled out some good songs that I knew would cut through the noise, but I certainly remembered at this gig that an unknown musician needs to forget subtlety when playing in a rowdy pub and just bust on through the wall of indifference with something exciting, humourous, or at least LOUD.

After the gig I hung around and got quite drunk and met several locals. I also met a couple of musicians who were on that night. I gave away a bunch of CDs.

Yes, that’s right, I give CDs away at gigs. Maybe I will explain why in a separate post one day.

Wed 28th January, Empress Hotel, North Fitzroy

A lovely venue to play and only the third or fourth time I had even played here. I organized the gig and got two others, my mate the talented Shane Walters and a friend of his, the equally awesome Faye Blais, to play as well.

I went on first, because my friends are a bit old 😉 and so I figured they would be more likely to come along on a Wednesday if they knew I would be onstage by 8pm or thereabouts.

Turned out to be a fantastic gig, it was incredibly hot (bushfire season here in Victoria, Australia) but not too bad inside the very dark pub. A good little crowd were there and they seemed to dig what I had to offer. It was the first gig where I deliberately told some pre-written comedy material and it went down a treat. It just seemed to come out of my mouth (for the most part) as if it was spontaneous, which I am discovering really makes all the difference. And of course I threw in some off-the-cuff funnies as well; to various degrees of success (the funniest joke of the night always seems to be one of the better spontaneous remarks). You can view some of the songs from this gig here at YouTube.

Songwriters in the Round, Vibe On Smith, Friday 20th January

This was an unexpected gig (and a pleasure) that came my way via a recommendation from Frank and Robin who organize the Empress Hotel’s open mike night, which I played at in December last year.

I had no idea what the night was going to be like but it turned out to be fantastic. The ‘songwriters in the round‘ is a really interesting concept. What it is three solo acts ‘in the round‘ onstage (well, on chairs in the middle of the room) at the same time, taking turns
to play, with chairs and couches all around the songwriters. Sounds odd but it really works. Lots of funny repartee, and in fact this was the first time I gave some extended and several short comedy bits a go in between songs and realised that I was ‘home’, that this is the missing element from shows. I had known I’d wanted to do this for ages, but it took me a long time to actually do it, but so worth it. Mind you, it wasn’t and still isn’t easy, as the following tales will outline, but this night it went smoothly and I got lots of laughs plus the songs went over well also.

Sat March 7th – Brunswick Hotel, Sydney Road, Brunswick

This was kind of my Hell gig. In actual fact there were several good things about the gig, one being that I got paid for once but as a whole the night was a stinker.

For starters I really put a lot of effort into promoting it as a CD launch to my friends, but weirdly, less of them showed up on this night than the usual smattering of random friends. This sounds so sad but it is in fact a sign of the age that my friends are at now – when you are twenty and you throw a CD launch, everyone comes, when you are 35, nobody really cares. Sad but true.

And the fact is, I don’t care either. What I mean is, I don’t care about getting my friends to come to gigs. What I care about is developing an audience of people who are interested in what I do enough to come and see it.

So I tried my best to be Zen about the no show factor and enjoy hanging out with the few people that did some along. I had to stay sober to drive home too, which in fact exaggerated my down mood, because not drinking when I am in a pub is frankly, depressing for me. I don’t know how people who abstain can even stand going into pubs at all, but that’s just me.

So yeah my hands were shaking because of non-calmed-down-by-beer nerves and then to really make it fun, some bogan up the back heckled me severely when I was trying on a comedy routine and I discovered that I need a little practice at dealing with that. I wasn’t upset, I just forgot where I was and the bit was ruined. Thankfully, unlike most regular comedians, I have cool songs that I can launch into and hide behind.

Friday March 13th – Vibe On Smith, Songwriters in the Round

In direct contrast to the last gig, my second go at Songwriters in the Round was a fantastic and nearly perfect gig. It just all went so smoothly, the songs, the comedy, and the guys I was onstage with were awesome too. I just want to replay that gig every night for the rest of my life.

Wednesday March 18th Ruby’s Lounge and Scarab Bar

Back to my local area, I started this gig to a massive crowd of Jeff the sound guy, the bartender and my best mate from when we were teenagers, Peter (who just suddenly appeared in my life again).

Thankfully by halfway through the set a few people did arrive who were keen enough and so I ended up extending my set to play the songs they had missed earlier. The music went well, but the comedy on this night went down like a lead balloon, except for the spontaneous comments.

Two girls gave me a piece of paper with some lyrics for me to sing. They were certainly very talented at songwriting I must say, and this was probably the best song of the night *cough*. Was a good laugh though.

After the set I hung out with the people who had been listening to my set and gave them all CDs. Then we went across the road to the Scarab Bar, a tiny bar that stays open late. I was relieved to discover that despite the way I had carried on there the other week (like a mad, hairy Irish boozehound) my arrival didn’t raise any eyebrows amongst the staff. I guess it’s just that kind of joint.

I got speaking to the band, and they asked me to get up and do a set, so being quite sober still (but not hand-shakingly so) I got up and did a nice little set and in fact the sound was lovely. It seemed to go down quite well, although again my comedy bits were off.

I then proceeded to hang around and get utterly smashed seeing as I was just up the hill from my house and all.

In the morning this excuse didn’t seem as convincing as it had the night before, causing me to write this song lyric:

An Interesting Life

It’s one thirty AM,

I’m at the Scarab Bar again,

Drinking and carousing with my new friends.

Legends,

One and all,

None of whom I will recall,

Tomorrow,

When I’m writhing ‘round in pain.

It’s the cost,

It’s the price,

Of an interesting life.

You take off into the air,

Just like a plane.

You climb higher,

And higher,

Until your wings catch on fire,

Then you plummet,

Back to the planet,

Once again…


Bushfires, Stand Up Comedy and Making Your Own Luck

Well this last week or two have been bloody hectic and challenging to say the least. For starters the deadly bushfires have been raging here in Victoria, Australia and seeing as me and my little family live about 40Ks from the action, and are ourselves in an extreme bush fire danger zone (we basically live in a suburb that is also a forest), it has been playing on our minds to say the least. It’s not just that we are feeling cautious for our own safety but our hearts have also been moved by the tragedies our less fortunate fellow Victorians have been going through.

The Monday after the worst fires had started was a weird day in Melbourne, and I was not sure what to do with myself. We’d given money but it felt like we should get in the car and go help, but when we called around a couple of organisations to ask if they needed help they told us that all they really needed was money. This left me with little choice but to go to work as per usual. 

Now according to my public goals challenge for 2009, I am supposed to be working on three things, and I have to say I have been doing so but to varying degrees of application. Namely, I have been working on the music goal extensively, the speaking French goal sporadically and the losing weight goal abysmally!

BUT the year is young!

In the last two weeks I have lined up some more gigs for myself and have also been working very hard at improving my act by building on the humourous spoken word element of the show. Namely, in order to really get my head around making the bits between songs as entertaining as the songs themselves, I have started moonlighting in the foolhardy realm of … stand up comedy … that’s right my friends, call me insane but last night I did my first 5 minute stand up comedy routine in front of a pretty damn hefty crowd at the Evelyn Hotel in Fitzroy, Melbourne. I think I am going to write about this experience separately and in more detail so I will leave it at that for now but for to say that it was a freakin’ trip my friends, a freakin weird and wacky trip.

Meanwhile, in a classic case of what is probably the closest I get to woo-woo Law of Attraction type beliefs, traditionally called creating your own luck*, I got a call the other day from a guy about doing a pretty cool sounding gig this Friday night, once again in Fitzroy. This chap, who’s name (I kid you not) is Ziggy, invited me to an “artists in the round” gig which is apparently a thing where three singer songwriters sit in a semi-circle (a triangle?) and take turns to play songs. The opportunity for exposure to new audiences and a bit of fun abounds so I am really looking forward to this gig this Friday 20th at Vibe on Smith, 123 Smith St, Fitzroy. The really cool thing is that Peter my old musical comrade and best mate, will be in town that night so he doesn’t know it yet but I am going to pull him up on stage with me for a guest spot. You can see a Youtube video of me and him gigging together here.

After that I have a belated CD launch for the Dogs May Bark disc which is at the Brunswick Hotel on Saturday 7th March. This is going to be an awesome night, but I will write more about this soon. 

So yeah, really gung-ho about the music but need to apply myself a little harder to the French lessons and the weight watching. Not that I haven’t been doing anything about them, just not enough. I will report back soon, oh ye breathless masses and ye will be able to sleepeth at night for knowing all about my progress on these vital fronts! 

*The reason I say this, about making your own luck, is because I got the call about the gig when a bloke I met recently recommended me to somebody else. What happened was a few weeks ago I drove all the way into town (a 45 minute drive minimum) to do a fifteen minute gig. This was hard to do, as in it seemed a bit of a big effort to drive all that way just to play three songs and also I went alone and this is never easy (I get nervous and fidgety out-and-about on my own and tend to avoid it) BUT I want to get my music happening again so bad I did it. What happened was the night was fantastic, well worth the drive, the people who ran it were lovely, and they helped me to get the “real” gig I got at the Empress Hotel happening (well they told me who to ring) and then this bloke calls me because the organisers of the initial 15 minute (open mic) gig passed my name on. This is what I (and others) call making your own luck and frankly, I don’t reckon ANY amount of Law of Attraction style New Age Twaddle makes up for the “luck” that ACTION and HARD WORK and BALLS brings you.