Comedy Festival

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Comedy Festival

Tonight, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival begins. 

 

What this means is:

 

The streets are made of paper. There are flyers and posters plastered across every surface from Brunswick to South Melbourne. You can tell what month it is in Melbourne by what colour the walls of The Vegie Bar are. If you see muted blues, dark reds, purples and blacks in your peripheral vision, it's Arts Festival time. Bright colours? The Comedy festival is upon us. If there's a big heap of pastel and everything is bordered by a vine, there's a music festival on somewhere a couple of hours out of town.

 

'Convenience stores' in Swanston Street are about to become restaurants. You know those festering hot dogs and sausage rolls teenagers eat as a dare in exchange for a hundred bucks? Comedians eat those. Deliberately. For dinner. As the healthy option. It's that or a Mars Bar.

 

Evenings are about to get dark earlier. It happens over the course of the festival. At the start, you can't believe shows start as early as six. It's still light at six! By the end, time has taken on a new dimension and you start thinking things like WOW, TIME IS AMAZING. WHY ISN'T THERE AN EXPRESSION IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE FOR THE FEELING OF TIME PASSING QUICKLY AND ALSO SLOWLY? MAYBE I WILL WRITE A THESIS ABOUT IT! YEAH! A THESIS! (Did I mention sleep deprivation has an effect on mental processing?) 

 

The other thing? From a hardened cynic like myself? The other thing is: it's so exciting. Walking through the autumnal streets - that little bit chilly but with the sun on your face - you don't know what you're walking towards. Good comedy is so fun to watch. Great comedy transforms you. Discovering good or great comedy before everyone else does? Delicious.

 

I'm hoping for some delicious.

 

Aren't we all?

Something feels weird

 

 

Up until this year, the Standing There Productions development and production timeline went a little something like this:

 

January/February - Writer (erhem, me) finishes writing script for comedy festival MOMENTS before leaving the house to conduct auditions. Printer breaks mid-print-run, writer's head explodes. Producer (Stew) fixes printer while other producer (Rita) calls from venue to say she has already printed double copies of everything.

Unpaid assistant (read: hoodwinked friend) runs auditions while director and producers audition hundreds of people. At end of day, producers and director hold marriage ceremony whereby they express their undying love for aforementioned unpaid assistant, who at this point no longer cares whether she lives or dies, due to exhaustion.

All attend huge meeting in a cheap, loud Thai restaurant in Sydney Road, consume wine, debate casting choices, almost reach decision, reconsider from another perspective, everyone's heads explode, order more wine, make decision, cast show, start rehearsals.

March - continue rehearsals, push publicity, go on radio, sound like idiot of unsurpassed depth and girth, get photo taken for paper (look like tool with crazy eyes/ smug grin/ wind in hair/ unfortunately large head) and read misquotes in article with utter disbelief. Get posters printed. Notice mistake/s on poster. Kill self. Bump into theatre.

April - Comedy festival (perform, swan about in foyer, eat own bodyweight in only food available: spinach and ricotta parcels, easter eggs, and, quite often, props such as jellybeans, ham sandwiches, bic biros). Producer has birthday party which, in order to attend, his friends must pay for tickets to.

May - Finish show, get flu, run away to Sydney Writers' Festival to sit in sun and listen to smart people talk about books that have nothing to do with what you've been thinking about for months.

June - Work like slaves at day jobs, receive largest amount of money available in entire year: tax return. Purchase car registration. Wonder what to spend remaining $2.80 on.

July - Finish circling desired events in Melbourne International Arts Festival guide, realise festival is over, close festival guide, admire new biceps, purchase tickets to Melbourne International Film Festival.

August - Attend Melbourne Fim Festival, contract scurvy.

September - Consider attending Sydney Arts Festival, wonder how far it would be to walk.

October - Register for Comedy Festival again.

November - Submit summary of as yet unwritten festival show and photographs of so far non-existent cast to comedy festival, for program.

December - Start writing festival show. Sometimes witness persons outside in what appears to be sunshine having what appears to be fun. Run away.

 

 

Repeat.

 

 

This year, we haven't done this. We've been doing something else. It feels weird. It's not a bad weird. It's just a weird. This week, Stew and I are going to Sydney again to have some meetings and hang out with Rita. Apparently the comedy festival will be happening without us. Believe that when I see it. Which I will. From the AUDIENCE.

 

*head explodes*

This time last year

 

I just did something totally mental. I checked my email for this time last year, when I was directing our most recent comedy festival show. I say this is mental due to the stark relief it puts my current state of existence into.

 

This time last year I had hundreds of emails in my inbox, many of which used some or all of the words "quite urgent actually".

 

One of them was an email from Rita asking if Stew and she could turn up to rehearsal on Thursday to discuss work cover, contracts, props, stage management issues and upcoming photo shoots for local media. One of them was an email regarding prize winners from Melbourne University who had won tickets to the show - one of whom I used to work with. One of them was about the fact that I had to squeeze in a radio interview and two school visits before the weekend, and one of them was from the Red Cross asking if I could donate blood next Tuesday. The Red Cross - I don't know if anyone else has noticed this - has excellent comic timing.

 

Anyway. So that was this time last year. Today? I called a man from the Horsham RSL and sent a fax to a gallery.

 

This "concentrating on development rather than production" certainly has a different pace to it, doesn't it.

 

(Exit stage left to get coffee in sunshine and contemplate what to do over Easter break - BREAK, YOU SAY???)

Opting Out

As you may have noticed, I spent a lot of time during my law degree being more fascinated by the language of law than the content. Hence some of my favourite phrases from law. Including the concept of "a cooling off period" and an "opt out" clause.

 

If only those existed in real life situations.

 

Well, here's a little announcement: Standing There Productions is opting out of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year, in so far as writing, producing, directing, designing, auditioning, rehearsing, organising, financing and performing a show of our own goes.

 

We have so many projects we're working on at the moment that one large-scale project involving such an enormous amount of work in the middle of April is actually distracting from our (sometimes painfully) long-term goals.

 

It's a bittersweet feeling: no scurvy, but on the other hand no exciting opening night frenzy of excitement. No 2pm breakfasts and 1am dinners, but on the other hand no sitting in the audience as it fills up. No 70-people-in-a-day auditions that last all day in forty degree heat, but on the other hand no hilarious auditions with brilliant people we've never heard of. None of that school camp feeling of we're all in this together, but on the other hand no alcohol poisoning and accidentally offending people in the foyer. It means I don't have to submit an entirely fictional "summary of show" to the festival when I haven't written the show, and it means I don't have to edit together a photograph for the program guide when there aren't any actors yet. It also means I won't be doing the part I love the most: watching other people turn my writing into something far more interesting, merely by moving their faces.

 

For me, it means I have to knuckle down and write, to make it worth missing out on the festival. It means I will see April in daylight, but not much. It means Stew will celebrate his birthday somewhere other than Trades Hall bar, but I will have to get up earlier in the morning to deserve that piece of cake. It's less terrifying, but more grown-up.

 

In this way, it is a metaphor. Discuss.

 

Comedy Festival Flu

So... the post comedy festival bug has hit those of us not sensible enough to take an immediate holiday.

I am currently imbibing chicken noodle soup and harry potter. Also, I dropped Tim Winton in the bath.

Any other major developments will be brought to you immediately, as I imagine you desire to know all this and more. The action simply never stops.

 

Things You Want To Do, Things You Do

 

 

10 things you just know you will do when your theatre season at the comedy festival is over:

1. Gallop into a headwind on a beach somewhere.

2. Fill your days with physical activity and cultural richness, going home only to sleep the sleep of the just. Legs tired, brain tingling, face beaten by the wind.

3. Eat healthy, tasty, colourful, fresh, ludicrously cheap food from the market presented gorgeously on a wooden table, possibly by a fire. There is warm bread. Someone is laughing in another room.

4. Spend long nights delving into matters you never thought to put into words with friends you should see more of.

5. Pay your bills.

6. Read books, rather than building tall cities of them around your bed until they form a teetering metropolis oppressing you even as you sleep.

7. Call your grandparents, who are ancient and who deserve more from persons for whom they built cubbyhouses.

8. Dedicate yourself anew to tasks such as cleaning your car, your house, organising your health insurance, finding out whether you even have a superannuation account, and redirecting the ten kilograms of incorrectly addressed mail that forms a pile in your living room.

9. Purchase new shoes.

10. See more theatre.

 

 

Things you actually do when your theatre season at the festival is over:

1. Realise immediately that you have no money with which to take time off to go to the beach/enjoy fantasy life of bread and laughing/ pay bills. Amend this by working for everyone at once, including on weekends. Call failure to go to gym/ be in any way physical "listening to your body". Only cheating self etc.

2. Fill all your spare time involuntarily with a twitchy, dream-addled, drool-inducing, neck-hurty sleep. Awake unsatisfied, grumpy, and frustrated.

3. Instead of eating well and having time to purchase nice food, eat expensively and often, due to lack of preparation as a result of use of spare time (see point 2). When at home, eat stale crackers and cans of tuna. Spoil self with black tea. Weep. Repeat.

4. Grumpy semi-murderous mood, overworking and odd hours due to use of spare time (see point 2) mean no contact with friends except for random encounters in the street. When greeted by friends in the street, it is usual to turn bright red, stutter something about the state of one's tracksuit pants, completely fail to make sense, and scurry away like a frightened guinea pig.

5. Pay your bills.

6. Attempt to read books. Enact point 2.

7. Call your grandparents. Forget that grandparents are on strict timetables mostly consisting of eating at the few times of the day during which you are either working or enacting point 2. Apologise. Enact point 2.

8. Completely fail to do any of the menial tasks you have been looking forward do, although the shambolic collection of unfinished tasks is - much like the book towers in your bedroom - a metaphor and you know it and everyone else knows it and you are a living cliche. You might as well take up smoking and become Russian.

9. Hate shoe shopping at the best of times. This time, look at shoes in shop windows. Consider trying them on. Feel pain of current shoes jabbing you with their nasty pointy little shoe fingers. Thought of trying on shoes oppresses you physically. Fail to purchase shoes. See metaphor above.

10. Note thriving theatrical pulsing heart of Melbourne. Repeat point 2.

 

 

... Nothing if not consistent.

Also, because I want you to know there is hope: I am going away with work tomorrow and will back on Wednesday in order to see a Hayloft theatre show - something I am really looking forward to.

 

After that, I might even have a break. Huzzah!

 

* repeats point 2 *

 

Hysterically

When I was 16, our school went on a ten day hike through the bush. We carried all our food, clothes and tents on our backs. We cooked all our food ourselves. We crossed flooding rivers. It was a hard slog. On the way back, in the bus, we had conversations about what we'd do first. Hot showers, hot meals, kilometres of chocolate, clean fingernails, clean sheets, warm socks.

 

Half way back to Melbourne, someone found something that had been left on the bus. It was a jar of a powdered orange flavouring used to make pretend orange juice. It's a product that still exists. It's called Tang. Shocked at the new discovery, the kid who discovered the Tang stood in shock for a moment and then held the Tang aloft. "TAAAANG!" he bellowed. Pandemonium broke out. The jar was emptied in moments. People dug at it with spoons, fingers, sticks, turned it upside down and devoured the sticky bits at the bottom. They vacuumed little piles of it off the palms of their hands. They argued over who was more deserving, more hungry, more needy of the hideous orange powder.

 

Later, at school, it was very hard to look those other people in the eye. Bonded though we were, the desperate shame of our sordid tangy secret ensured we kept our heads bowed when we passed in the hallway.

 

I was reminded of it last night. The hysterical exhaustion, the hunger, the ability to completely regress.

 

The following conversation took place between myself and Rita last night at the final night of the comedy festival at Trades Hall, after a month-long comedy festival season and a fairly massive Saturday night:

 

Rita: Want a drink?

Lorin: Oof.

Rita: We could though. We could have a drink and push on through. I'm going to give it try. Want one?

Lorin: Water would be good.

Rita: (leaves to get water).


Nine hours elapse.

 

Rita: (handing over water) Here you go.

 

Another nine hours elapse.

 

Lorin: You know what I'm going to do first?

Rita: What?

Lorin: I'm going to have a bath.


Another nine hours elapse.

 

Rita: Hmmm. Bath.

 

Another nine hours elapse.

Lorin: Are those two people fighting or are they about to pash?

Rita: Fighting. No. Wait. Pash. No... Who are they anyway?

 

Another nine hours elapse.

Rita: I'm having a spinach and cheese roll thing. Want one?

Lorin: No thanks. I've already had an iced chocolate, a hot chocolate, a massive bowl of pasta, a Coke Zero, three spring rolls and a month worth of restaurant dinners.

Rita: Cool. I'll be back.

 

Rita leaves. Another nine hours elapse. Person sidles up to Lorin.

 

Person Standing Next To Lorin: You involved in this?

Lorin: Sorry? With what?

PSNTL: The festival.

Lorin: Oh. Yep.

PSNTL: You involved in a show?

Lorin: Yup.

PSNTL: A comedy show?

Lorin: Yup.

PSNTL: What was it?

Lorin: That one. (Points at poster).

PSNTL: Right. Gough Whitlam.

Lorin: Yep.

PSNTL: Looks hilarious.

Lorin: Total riot. Start to finish. Honestly.

 

Person Standing Next To Lorin edges away.

Nine hours elapse.

Rita Returns.

 

Rita: Let's get out of here.

Lorin: I thought you'd never ask. I think there's some Tang in the car.