When I first started doing stand-up comedy in the 1920’s there was a Monday night room at the Armadale Hotel run by Lou Stomm and the late Matthew Sharp and the great crew at C31 Melbourne and Geelong They would do a TV show called Champagne Comedy The MC would bring the headliner on to start the show with a 20min set, which is the only night I’ve ever seen a headliner on at the start, then 2 x 10 min TV spots were recorded which would air later in the week, I remember doing a few TV spots and comics would buy a VHS tape of it to keep, mine probably got taped over with the X-Files or something. The other option was to sit around the telly to watch late at night if you could get Ch.31 that is! Reception wasn’t always the best outside the 3km radius of the studio. I even got recognised by some people in public because of it, which felt pretty cool at the time. After the TV spots were filmed there was a break and then the notorious open mic section. A cattle-call of wannabees and hopefuls and working comics trying out new stuff. I’d be still living in Wonthaggi or San Remo when I started out and would happily drive 1.5-2hrs each way to do a 5minute unpaid spot and would get on stage anywhere between 10pm and midnight on a Monday night, sometimes later into the wee hours of Tuesday and then drive home again or crash on a mates futon in the city and drink too many pots. I now understand why the headliner would go on early, because the less experienced acts were willing to wait around all night to perform, but as the hours went by the crowd got thinner as each act came on stage, friends of comedians who often made up the audience would leave with the act they’d come to see, and by the time the last act was on they’d sometimes be on stage telling jokes to 3 or 4 people who were fast asleep in the comfy couches in the front rows. It was a great room and I miss it. The venue has probably shut down now and made into apartments. I was digging through some old photos last night and found these pictures of me as The Easter Bunny. Taken on a disposable camera – hence the poor quality. I recall that I’d done a TV spot or one of the earlier open mic slots, and had requested to go on a second time to try a character. It was just before Bad Santa the movie came out so I like to think someone from Hollywood was in the audience that night and took my idea. But probably not. I was drinking beer and smoking a cigarette and brought some props on stage in a stolen woolworths shopping basket and had written some foul mouth jokes about Easter. I can’t remember what the material was or how it went, obviously not well enough for me to pursue the character, but it must have been at Easter time. I remember Bradford Emlyn Oakes being there, he might have been the MC and maybe even taken these pictures. I had lots of ideas for characters but wasn’t brave enough to try a lot of them. I do remember how fun it was doing this though and the freedom to get on stage and talk nonsense and be silly.
I watched a lot of great comedians who I learnt a lot from, many who are now doing TV or radio or touring internationally and gone on to bigger things started out there, many who are still doing the clubs and even more who slipped away or as I like to think, made the healthier decision and got out of comedy.
I made some great friends there too.
It was fun to have spaces like this to get up, work on ideas, characters or have an opinion or trying out material without going home to find comments or blogs and nasty hatred written about it online. Dare I say it, the good old days.
And as the comedy festival is on, as much as I want you to come see my show and also to go see the famous person off the telly, I want you to not only take the time to read the guide and go for something that sparks your interest, but to stop and talk to a comedian who is handing out their own flyers, try out something that seems unusual, see a sketch show, a weird concept, character or musical comedy. You may be pleasantly surprised. Or you may fall asleep. But most importantly, please remember that the comedy festival isn’t the only time to see live comedy, there are lots of venues just like the Armadale was that exist all year round where amazing people are creating some great things. Comedy, poetry, open mic music, storytelling, theatre. Reality TV is vile garbage in my opinion. If you are lucky enough to be able to get away from the idiot box, do yourself a favour and go see something live.
Don’t be afraid to give it a go yourself.
The Easter Bunny
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