The Boy with Tape on His Face

 

The Boy With Tape On His Face has gone from strength to strength since his breakout Edinburgh Fringe season four years ago. The New Zealand comic, real name Sam Wills, uses a blend of whimsical visuals, prop gags, and puppetry, along with gentle audience participation to charm his audience. Wills tells me more about his character and his brand new show, which he is currently performing in Adelaide.

“The Boy With The Tape On His Face was a character I developed seven years go. I used to do sort of normal stand up comedy back in New Zealand until I got bored of my own voice and bored of doing the same sorts of tricks and stuff, so I set myself a goal to develop something which had no talking and no tricks, and I wanted to find a way to get the audience to entertain themselves, so the character came from that.” The clincher, though, which created his namesake, came more out of necessity than anything else. “On the first night of the show, I went onstage − and I didn’t have tape originally − I went onstage and ruined it within the first couple of minutes by talking to the audience, out of a general panic of being way out of my comfort zone. And so the next night I was backstage joking with some other comics, and a roll of gaffer tape was around, and one suggestion turned into now a career.”

When talking about influences and how he builds his character, like his show, Wills draws a little bit from everywhere, including his main inspiration, Wile E Coyote. “I love that concept where you can phone in and you get this delivery and it’s this crazy invention. And for me I take that to junk shops − there’s a shop here in Adelaide called the Reject Shop, which is very good, you know the shops that carry bric-a-brac, multivitamins, clothing, hardware, I love them because you can find everyday objects that everyone knows, and for me it’s a challenge just to take that object and make it into something else that people aren’t expecting, and match it with a perfect song to create a whole new thing with it, which is really fun.” Which means he’s over the moon when I tell him we have a Reject Shop in Melbourne. When I mention Arthur Daley’s Clearance House he knows all about it, “Oh I know that one, I remember that one from five years ago and it was freakin’ amazing!”

It’s time to clear up peoples’ fears about the audience participation element of his show, something that could wrongly send punters running. “It’s the nice sort − this is the other thing I’m trying to do one audience at a time is change the perception of audience participation, cause when you say that everyone freaks out… people who have done audience participation have been doing it wrong, where they tend to humiliate the one person onstage… whenever I get someone up on stage I want to celebrate them being there and that they helped out with the show, so that when they leave, they’re leaving the stage a hero! And it’s reached the point now where people are actually wanting to be on stage which is very strange.”

It seems like audiences can expect a thoroughly positive and hilarious experience from The Boy With Tape On His Face. “The last time I was in Melbourne was five years ago at the comedy festival, and that was my first show so the show that’s happening this time is never-before-seen in Melbourne, it’s 100 percent new material… it’s good fun.”

Venue: The Forum, Upstairs – 154 Flinders St, Melbourne

Dates: 27 March – 20 April (not Mondays), Previews 27 – 30 March

Tickets: Thu/Sun Full $30, Conc $25, Tue/Wed All Tix $25, Fri/Sat All Tix $30

Times: 7:30pm Tue-Sat, 6:30pm Sun

Bookings:www.comedyfestival.com.au, www.ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 660 013

 

Published as part of the Beat – Melbourne Comedy Festival Lift Out Guide

Tom Stade (Best of the Edinburgh Fest)

 

I feel charmed but slightly depersonalised when I ask Tom Stade − one third of the Best of the Edinburgh Fest show playing at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and acclaimed Canadian comic − to tell me about his show. “Well Beat − I hope you don’t mind me calling you Beat? I feel kinda of close to you guys now. I am the show… you come to see Tom Stade and not a theme. And Tom Stade has many themes, to focus on just one would not be a true celebratory representation of life. Just buckle in and get ready to relate!” He then apologises for speaking in the third person. Since I am being referred to as Beat I can’t really find the heart to complain.

 

Stade got into comedy the way most seem to − in an extreme moment of clarity and inspiration. “I was elevated out of whatever humdrum existence society had for me before comedy intervened! I was planning to ‘end up’ being an actor until I went down to a comedy club many moons ago and saw a friend who was on, and he pulled some strings and next thing I know I did my first gig and I never looked back.”

 

This is Stade’s second Melbourne Comedy Festival, and he’ll be playing with two of the UK’s hottest new comics. “My partners in comedy crime are the super comedy talents of Carl Donnelly and Kai Humphries, I’m proud to be one of their wingmen.” Donnelly has been referred to as “A remarkable talent − a relaxed, easygoing anecdotalist with an eye for funny details.” While Kai Humphries’ style is known as “Happy, original and surreal.” When Stade talks about where he’s at, he’s philisophical about his ambitions. “I think I’m hungrier now for success than I was a couple of years ago. After we signed a DVD deal and recorded the Tom Stade Live DVD it lit a fire under me! I try to stay true to the comedy art form, and would always try to be successful in the comedy biz on my own terms − looks like the biz likes my terms!”

 

What thing, person or idea are you most obsessed with at this time? “That’s easy, first we’ll start with ‘thing’ and that has to be my Kindle Fire HD. ‘Person’? That’s easy the wonderful, challenging, sexy, frustrating, ‘why won’t she just do things my way, yes I’ll listen,’ and smart, the greatest photographer in the world and equal partners in the Stade family business…Trudy Stade! And ‘idea I’m obsessed with at this time’ is why is Scotland the only place if you buy a house you have to bid over the asking price? Messes with my head!”

 

When I ask what else he gets up to in his spare time apart from being depressed about real estate he replies, “I’ve joined a beginners jogging club and I’m up to 5min walk, 15min jog, 5min walk, cool down. Oh and I enjoy gambling all my money away! There’s a horse track in Melbourne right?” Sure is. He’s coy when I ask if he has any other projects in the works right now, but he is at least super enthusiastic about the festival. “I could’ve of done a lot more [Festivals], it’s not like I wasn’t asked constantly, but sadly I have an awesome family so it was hard to get out there without leaving them behind. But the kids are older now, so look out cause the Stades are a-coming!”

 

27th March – 20th April, Tue-Sat 7.30pm
Sun 6.30pm

70 minutes

VENUE: RMIT Capitol Theatre

PRICES

$26 – $34

Published as part of the Beat – Melbourne Comedy Festival Lift Out Guide

Hello My Name Is

“So this is a community centre.” I’m in the same studio space I was in last October, playing table tennis and drinking wine, my thumb on a hand held buzzer that I was to press every time anyone either talked about anything personal or heavy, or made an inappropriate comment. “This is no longer [tapping the tennis table] over there, it’s over here.”

Nicola Gunn is a dazzling theatre maker, relentlessly touring and developing her work here and overseas. Her current project Hello My Name Is is a partly solo work that takes place in a community centre and demands audience interaction on a very particular level. The latest incarnation of the piece happened with her season at the Blue Room in Perth last month.

 

“I really used it as an experiment with audience participation and I really push it and push it to just really make sure that I don’t like it. I don’t want the audience to be left to their own devices. It’s not the kind of show I want to make.”

 

Audience participation is a hard sell, which Gunn knows better than anyone. But rather than forcing the audience into the uncomfortable position of furthering the story, and ‘performing’ the work for her, in many ways they are there to keep her company. “I don’t like audience participation, but I also don’t like solo shows. And the great dilemma is that I am a solo performer. So it’s about using the audience to perform with me, and to acknowledge the fact that I need someone to talk to. And that, unfortunately, will have to be the audience.”

 

Gunn included a slighter level of this audience interaction in her last show At the Sans Hotel, for which she won The Stage’s best solo performer award at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Her shows in the past have included lonely characters in vacated buildings, desperate to reach out to a slightly bewildered, yet bewitched audience. These characters, she is slowly discovering, are part of a broader, more autobiographical work in progress. “I’m discovering this autobiographical thread, along with this sort of gothic sensibility. This is the first show where I’m actually being myself, Nicola Gunn, and not having a mask or a character or a funny accent. So I think every show leading up to this has been this gradual unmasking. And this is the final one where it is actually just me. It’s following this performance art tradition of making the artist the art. It sounds really self indulgent to say that well, I am what I’m making, but it is me.”

 

This self-consciousness she is discovering in her own performance, then, might be a reflection of the self-consciousness the audience feels when asked to participate in her show. “In Perth it was really hard because people wanted to act, and pretend they were in a community centre, and I really hated this, the audience acting and breaking the magic, so I had to explain ‘It’s not really a community centre,’ and then we’d have to get into this conversation. So this time there is this narrative of the audience arriving for a workshop called ‘How To Change The World Through Social Transformation,’ so I’m assuming that everyone wants to be here, it’s set up in this very bureaucratic way. Also out of an audience of 50, I only get maybe, 15 people up to do things, so there will always be people watching. So there is still the sense of a show and being watched.”

 

Which at least means the terminally shy have the option of opting out. Although this may also trigger a feeling of regret, or even jealousy that their shyness has inhibited them truly taking part in the piece. “The idea is that if people opt out of doing activities, I want people to leave going, ‘Wow, I wish I did something, I wanted to but I stopped myself,’ and that’s what I want, that’s the feeling that I want.

 

At the Sans Hotel tagged itself as a psychological detective story. The feeling that runs through Nicola Gunn’s work, the feeling that makes it so unlike anything else going on in Melbourne is that her shows, like mysteries, don’t actually have a complete story in them. It’s more that each character has their own fragmentary back-story that the audience investigates. The fragments that are there have a greater resonance.

 

“The show again is playing with that kind of form, because there is no narrative, and people really have to infer their own meaning. I had this eureka moment of actually realising what I was making was a retrospective of Nicola Gunn’s life and work, as if ­– not as if I was dead, but as if I was someone who was really important, because I’m interested in how we value things, and how we value and don’t value people. And that’s kind of when the show started coming together for me. Because I am personally going through a bit of a career crisis of actually just quitting. And so it’s about choices, and why am I doing this? And again, if I were to retire, this is the retrospective of my life and work at the age of 33.”

 

Here’s hoping that that doesn’t happen, because even through Nicola Gunn’s work is never going to be easy to describe, or always participate in, it is always going to be work worth seeing.

See the original article here

What I learned at the Edinburgh Fringe

The best time to philosophise about the pros and cons of travel to an international festival, or specifically Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is when you are in extended transit on your way home. Hungry, smelly, tired, and still yet to buy enough duty free alcohol to kill a Jersey Cow, now is the perfect time to reflect on the whirlwind of the Ed Fringe.

Our show, SNAFU Theatre’s Murder at Warrabah House, ran for approximately sixteen nights from the start of the festival. The beginning was when crowds were still getting into gear and there was a freshness to the whole event. As time wears on, audiences, as well as critics, tend to dig their heels in more. Trends appear. Doors to amazing and innovative ideas open. People get very, very drunk, all day long.

The final weeks of Edinburgh Fringe tend towards the more prestigious acts that have received a lot of buzz from previous success in the Fringe or from critical buzz generated from festivals in other cities, such as London or the Brighton Fringe. An example of this was the Belarus Free Theatre, a company whose leader lives in the UK in political exile and whose members suffer constant threats from the country’s dictatorship. From the outset this was a must-see show, developed in London and premiering only in the final week of the Fringe with heaps of publicity to back it up. The buzz was well deserved and left me needing a quiet sit down afterwards.

But we are already about to delve into the Edinburgh Fringe’s mess of contradictions. The real hit of the festival (or arguably one of them?) was a little show by a bunch of kids vaguely associated with the Bristol Old Vic graduate program called the Wardrobe Ensemble. Their devised musical called Riot! was about a riot that occurred at the opening of an Ikea store six years ago in London. The ensemble of eight talented and annoyingly youthful artists incorporated a thoughtful story with belly laughs, physical theatre, dance, music and simple yet incredibly effective art direction (including a canny use of Ikea lamps as their sole lighting gear) to make a great piece of theatre. The reason I went? Because a friend saw it and told me to. How many people did I tell to see it? Three. How many people did they tell to see it? Who knows. But Riot! got its consistently large audiences from enthusiastic word of mouth, as well as from excellent reviews that they seemed genuinely surprised and delighted to receive. And you know what? I saw them out flyering on the street as well.

Both of these shows ran in the early afternoon. A trend that we did not know about before, but have learned now, is that theatre is generally on from the early afternoon until around 6pm, after which the stand up comedy kicks in. The rationale in many audiences’ minds is that they can see theatre and bawl their eyes out during the day, and then cheer themselves up and get drunk at stand up that night.

For us Australians living a 26 hour flight then a five hour train ride away from the excitement and fun of an Edinburgh Fringe it’s easy to forget that there are a lot of people who choose the Edinburgh Fringe as the vehicle to mount their production simply because they live two hours away. Not everyone is sinking thousands of dollars and jet lag into appearing there. As well as the companies like Belarus and Wardrobe, there are also high school groups bringing up their plays, lots and lots and lots of sketch comedy; there’s buskers and puppeteers participating in the free fringe, and so many other types of performer. The quality and verve with which participants are involving themselves varies massively.

I will definitely participate in the Edinburgh Fringe again. However, thought needs to be given, perhaps, to the merits of Australian artists continuing to participate, or seeing the pinnacle of exposure within the confines of the Edinburgh Festival.

One of the things I found surprising during my time in Scotland was that those that ran the Fringe, as well as the audiences hitting the streets, were genuinely pleased and enthusiastic that anyone had turned up at all. Then there was the receptiveness and curiousity of the audiences. People bought tickets to whatever tickled their fancy, whether they knew the performers or not. There were certainly ‘hot tickets’, but the overriding idea was that everyone has their own tastes, their own ideas of what they would like to see. People saw shows because they could, not because they should; a motivation that I sometimes feel the Australian arts scene needs to work on.

The Edinburgh Fringe, like so many other Fringe and art festivals reflects that old phrase: If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own; that refreshing new hit, or special discovery is out there, you just have to take the chance and go out and find it.

Link to the original article http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/opinions/arts/what-i-learned-at-the-edinburgh-fringe-185610

How to put on an Edinburgh Fringe Show

Firstly I have a few questions: are you into the arts? Do you have a sense of adventure? Are you relatively unafraid of ending up massively in debt? Do you like Sixteenth century architecture? Then the Edinburgh Fringe festival is for you.

The brief for this article was to tell the story of SNAFU Theatre’s journey to the warm rainy cockles of the Scottish heart of the Fringe, in the hope of encouraging and advising others to follow suit. But the only thing I know from running a theatre company with my friend May Jasper, who acts as our producer and playwright, and the many talented and dedicated theatre nerds we have met on our way, is that each person’s purpose and experiences behind upping sticks and getting a show on the road, whether it be to Edinburgh or Northcote, is different. And well it should be too.

The main thing about ‘getting yourself in’ to the Edinburgh Fringe, or to any Fringe festival for that matter, is that the big papery programmes that are printed each year are not releasing the names of the artists most meritorious of putting themselves under the banner of the festival. Every act, every show of the Edinburgh, of the Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe festivals, simply pays a registration fee and are therefore in the programme. From Simon Callow to North Carolina High, the initial registration fee, in relation to the rest of the costs you incur later in the show, is really a blip on the horizon.

Which leads to the advantage of launching your new piece in a Fringe environment; an idyll in the seemingly competitive field of the performing arts (competing for funding, reviewers, and often, as an afterthought, audiences).

Most audiences who ‘do’ the fringe see at least two shows a day, more often four or five, so by day three they consider themselves to be festival connoisseurs. To put it another way, punters may walk out of your show after five seconds if it doesn’t take their fancy, but it won’t be down to bitchiness or hard feelings, rather the incessant need for every footpath-hitting show-goer to see as much as humanly possible within the confines of August. Not that anyone has walked out of our show – that would be terrible.

May puts it much better than I, so I’ll paraphrase: If you have a show, an idea of a show, and you’re willing to do the work, and you have some semblance of an ability at fundraising (you’d be surprised how far selling boxes of Freddo Frogs goes), then there is nothing stopping you from putting on your own Fringe show. On top of that, the only way that you’re going to learn how to edit, produce, direct and act in a show well is by doing the work and being crap at the start. To paraphrase May again: making art is like making pancakes. The first one is always going to be soggy and inedible but when you get into the rhythm of it, you’re making a whole stack of perfect pancakes with bacon and maple syrup on the side.

To be slightly more practical
To be slightly more practical with this article, and to deal specifically with Edinburgh:

– Book accommodation early because it will fall through and by the time you find somewhere else to stay you’ll be so desperate you won’t mind paying to live in a closet for a thousand pounds a month.

– Don’t rehearse in your living room because it’s distracting and you’ll end up having to do twice the work for the same result.

– Look for a venue for a show early; those that run them will think you’re well organised and much more responsible than you really are, and in terms of Edinburgh’s geography with its winding stairways and bridges, the two points on the map that look close to each other may not be as close as you think.

– And finally when it comes to marketing, listen to everyone and no one’s advice, because there is no winning formula.

Don’t forget to delegate
Also, there is a lot of work on the producing side of the show, so don’t be a megalomaniac and think ‘the piece will speak for itself’. Delegate tasks as much as humanly possible, and respect the people who are putting together marketing and publicity materials. They are the ones who may well just find the right audience for you.

My follow up article might have a more philosophical wrap up once our Fringe run is over and I’ve had some sleep, but right now I’ve got to go to this show that’s starting soon and then I’ve got to go to this site specific thing that this random person told me was awesome. It’s at this vault and….

Murder at Warrabah House
SNAFU Theatre
TheSpaces @ Surgeons Hall (Venue 53)
Time: 22.35 (55m), until 20th August (except 14th).
www.snafutheatre.com/

Read the article where it was originally published here:

http://www.artshub.com.au/au/news-article/opinions/arts/how-to-put-on-an-edinburgh-fringe-show-185180?sc=1

Paul Foot performs Ash In The Attic

Paul Foot falls in with the past decade’s refreshing crowd of high surrealist comedians which, on this side of the world, is instantly associated with French duke darlings The Mighty Boosh.

In fact, the pedigree isn’t just a vague association, as Boosh-style guru Noel Fielding directed (in the broadest sense of the word) Foot’s current comedy show Ash In The Attic.

Despite being seen as the man who speaks a comic language from a galaxy far, far away (with a heavy dose of Shire horse-based humour on the side), Foot sees things otherwise: “My style of comedy is quite simple, I tell a few jokes, and then go home. Although they’re not really jokes, more like disturbances. I have characters too, such as Skeleton Johnson, Inspector Foot and Penny. Penny likes Australia; Penny is bi; Penny likes to take things to the next level.” Are Foot and Penny going to get up to much when he’s in Melbourne? “I’m going to make an effort to get out a bit more in Australia and maybe go on a rampage smashing beach huts with a golf club. I’ve been offered free surfing lessons but I’m not interested unless they can provide me with waterproof sudokus.” Fair enough.

Skeleton Johnson and co. all come up regularly on Foot’s website, a spidery rambling extension of his brain. “Originally Jemima Lozenge was my web editor, but she was so awful at hosting a website that I had to sack her. She couldn’t even host a small cocktail party in the suburbs of Southhampton. I currently edit my own website; it’s a nice way to relax after a week in the casino. Live by the slots, die by the slots, that was my Great Aunt’s motto before she died.” One section even categorises every joke Foot has ever told in a stand-up show, including how it went with the audience, and whether he is considering reviving it again. Maybe it’s an indication of the inner workings of a mind that completed a mathematics degree in Oxford before moving on to comedy?

But really the mainstay of the website is for it to act as a haven for Paul Foot’s ‘connoisseurs’, the exclusive name he gives to his ever loyal fans, rewarding them with secret gigs and much more: “Every year I hold the Annual Paul Foot Art Competition in which connoisseurs of my comedy draw me and the winner receives a hamper of objects from my house. You can see a video of me judging this year’s on Youtube.”

There really is something admirable about cultivating a following. “My connoisseurs are my lifeblood. Unlike other organisations, such as the Flansham Whist and Chatterbox Society, everybody is equal within the Guild Of Paul Foot Connoisseurs. The members are not fans of me; they are appreciators of my humour. They have no particular interest in me as a person and wouldn’t be bothered if I were run over by a bus, other than the fact that my comedy would end (after some brief laughs about the bus).”

Even so, Foot’s popularity has grown to such an extent that he now needs to hold “secret secret shows” for the old guard cream of his connoisseur crop.

Paul Foot performs Ash In The Attic at Melbourne Town Hall’s Cloak Room from March 31 – April 24. It’s at 9.30pm Tuesday – Saturday and 8.30pm on Sundays. Tickets are $23 – $29.50 and available from Ticketmaster online, 1300 660 013 and at the door.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/2011/03/30/paul-foot-performs-ash-attic/julian-barratt-noel-fielding-paul-foot-mighty-boosh

Headliners

Headliners showcases the best in up-and-coming talent coming out of the America’s gruelling comedy circuit.  There’s a wide range of comedians on offer, playing on a rotating bill throughout the festival. This all goes down at the Hi-Fi bar with acts including Moshe Kasher, Tom Segura, Sean Patton, Matt Braunger, Hannibal Buress, Marina Franklin and Garfunkel & Oates.


Out of the swathe of
Headliners acts I spoke to Moshe Kasher, the Californian comedian who was named Best New Comic of the Year by iTunes for his album Everyone You Know Is Going To Die And Then You Are. I asked if he had plans for Australia: “I’ve been here before. Both in actuality and in my imagination via the movies Australia and Crocodile Dundee so I knew exactly what Australia was like before I got here. While here I plan on going into the ‘outback’ on ‘walkabout’  and going ‘croc hunting’. Also I will be playing ‘didgeridoo’ whilst eating a ‘vegimite sandwich’. Also I will be snorting ‘cocaine’ off of a ‘stripper’s tits’.” Indeed.


His particular brand of hipster vitriol was named Best Of The Festival at Montreal’s Just For Laughs, Jamie Foxx’s Laffapalooza and the Aspen’s Rooftop Comedy Festival. Asked to describe his comedic background, Kasher replies obliquely: “I am a trained ninja assassin. That’s all I’m willing to say,” but when pressed goes on to add: “I am an angry effeminate Jew who likes girls.” Definitely angry. In fact, when asked about this anger and his propensity towards the offensive in his comedy, he replies simply: “Suck my dick.” This is going well.


On to safer territory, Kasher gives his picks for the festival: “You have so many stand-outs… Arj [Barker] is an old friend but you guys seem to have heard of him already. Marc Maron, Paul F. Tompkins and Maria Bamford are amazing Americans. I mean each one is a unique genius. Greg Proops is a master.”


Moving on to the lineup as part of Headliners, Moshe reels them off: “Of the younger bucks, Tom Segura, Hannibal Burress, Matt Braunger, Garfunkel & Oates, Sean Patton and the impeccable gentleman, Bo Burnham are all unmissable.”


Twee musical comedy-folk duo Garfunkel & Oates have definitely made a splash over the past couple of years, appealing to the indie crowd with their Youtube releases such as Fuck You (featured on US sitcom Scrubs), Sex With Ducks, and a personal favourite, Pregnant Women Are Smug (lyrics include: You’re just giving birth now/You’re not Mother Earth now), showing themselves to have equal stakes in the cutesy folk song and the potty-mouthed ballad.


Kasher isn’t the cleanest comedian either, as he has hinted at before. His tagline is a close indication of this: Comedian. Jew. Jew Comedian. OBGYN.


OBGYN? “Well I never got my official OBGYN paperwork so at this point, I’d say I’m more of an amateur enthusiast.”
And finally the big question, would you rather not wash your towel for three months, or your bedsheets for three months?Trick question, as I use towels as sheets and curtains as underwear. I smoke crack.”

Moshe Kasher, Sean Patton, Hannibal Buress, Tom Segura, Matt Braunger, Marina Franklin and Garfunkel & Oates perform Headliners at The Hi-Fi from March 31 – April 3 and at Melbourne Town Hall from April 5 – April 24. Tickets are $23.50 – $31.50 and available through Ticketmaster online, 1300 660 013 and at the door.

View the original article here: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/2011/03/30/headliners/america-s-gruelling-comedy-angry-effeminate-jew-aspen-s-rooftop-comedy-comedian-comedy-cen