Dr Neal Professor Portenza: Catchy Show Title

Dr Professor Neal Portenza (real name Josh Ladgrove) is in the thick of the Adelaide Fringe when I speak to him. His character, a generous creator of laughs behind a multi-title name, is having its fifth outing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The most important thing for Portenza is that the audience is willing to join in on the comedy. “It’s just an extremely interactive show, I mean the way it was described here in Adelaide the other day was ‘collective comedy’, which is really interesting. So it’s character-based, some people say it was a little bit ‘clowny’, I’m not sure I agree with that but I think that it’s character-based, interactive comedy that’s supposed to be fun, and funny.”

The abstract nature of Catchy Show Title means it’s difficult to pin down what the show is actually about. “The show is never really about anything, which is not a pretentious thing to say, but, you come, some stuff happens, then you leave hopefully smiling. There’s no plot, there’s no story, there’s no arc, it’s just an hour of very different, interactive, fun.”

Interactive can sometimes be a bit of a scary word for audiences, but Portenza is reassuring about his definition of audience interaction. “My number one rule is ‘never make people feel like idiots’, that cheap, crass, kind of interaction does feel awful and does cause a lot of anxiety…one of the comments I get from time to time is ‘I really hate audience interaction but this was great I felt really comfortable’. Really, really early on I try and make the audience feel really, really comfortable.”

Portenza leaves his shows open to the possibilities of the night, but he still turns up with a literal bag of tricks to go with the figurative ones. “I started the Adelaide Fringe with not very much of an idea…but at the end of the festival, and by the time the start of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival comes around, there’s really good structure in place, and so whilst I improvise to get from A to B it’s not like organised improv – it’s certainly not the American style of improv, it’s just very specific to that night’s audience, so no two shows are necessarily the same, how I arrive at those points though varies pretty wildly depending on the audience.”

When listing his influences, it’s good to hear they’re mainly Australian. “I think the main influence is someone like Shaun Micallef and Sam Simmons, but then older things like Graham Kennedy, really was the king of looseness, and that sort of style of just being really with the audience, not just grinding through my material hoping that every audience is going to be the same from night to night, working hard to find what is funny about this specific moment.”

Throwing Lano and Woodley in there as well, Portenza gives big props to American comedian Dr Brown. “Dr Brown has been pretty instrumental in kicking my arse actually.” I ask if that’s personally or on a more metaphysical level. “On a more metaphysical level, letting me have the belief in myself to take the show to places where it couldn’t necessarily get if they were just written sketches.”

MICF is a time to take a bit of a gamble on your comedy, and it’s something that inspires Portenza. “When the audience are up for something a bit different, you can go to some really interesting and special places, and it can be an extremely fun night. It’s for someone who wants to see something a bit different, a bit off the beaten track. It’s a pretty good choice I reckon.”

Venue: Melbourne Town Hall – Backstage Room, Cnr Swanston & Collins St, CBD
Dates: March 26 – April 19 (except Mondays)
Times: 9.30pm (Sundays 8.30pm)
Tickets: $18 – $23

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Jekyll X James: Cactus Blastus

Jekyll x James return to Melbourne with their own unique brand of musical storytelling in Cactus Blastus, a riff on the western genre. I asked Cameron James to fill me in a bit more on the flavour of the show. “Jared and I do music, comedy, sketch comedy and clowning all in one. We play live music – live hip hop and punk songs – and then we loop that music and we do sketches and stupid shit on top of it…last year’s show was horror-themed, this year’s show is cowboy and spaghetti western themed.” They’re covering as much of the genre that they can. “Our show is a live action peyote trip – the audience comes on a psychedelic peyote trip with us through the wild west.”

It’s the perfect excuse to get out the movies that made the genre, to get your teeth into some hardcore research, something that went a little bit awry in Jared and Cameron’s plans. “We’re both movie fans so we’ve seen a whole chunk of westerns in our time. We went to the video shop – I can’t believe they still exist – but we got out 15 westerns, and we started watching one, and then we just sort of stopped watching it and started watching YouTube videos of people being hit in the face or something – we lost interest in the research very quickly, and instead started riffing off the things we already knew, the things we had seen before and whatnot. It’s art.”

The western is a large and varied genre as well, so the pair are trying to stick to the old-school tropes, rather than battle with such groundbreaking films as Wild Wild West. “I’m sure we had a big conversation about [the giant mechanical spider], but we decided that Will Smith already covered it so deftly. We’re more into the spaghetti westerns, the westerns made by Italians and all the westerns made by people who were taking LSD in the ’60s, that’s kind of the stuff that we’re more interested in.”

Jekyll and James circled each other in their own solo stand up careers before finally deciding to join forces, but the process was organic. “Jared would be onstage and I’d be in the audience and I would heckle him, and then it would become a sketch. We’d bomb each other’s sets and hijack each other’s shows from time to time, and then last year we wrote our first actual show…and that’s how we found our actual style…I think, that I haven’t seen anyone else do a combination of music and clowning.”

Although they’ve been compared to The Mighty Boosh and Flight of the Conchords, it’s hard to pin down the pair’s influences, as they prefer to continue working on their style, “It’s really about coming up with the best stupid idea – we put a high premium on stupidity in our writing.”

After Melbourne the pair are continuing to tour, but are also looking to work in another direction. “We haven’t really discussed this in depth, but we’re also thinking of making this the basis of a web series. I see it moving in that direction beyond being a live show, I see it becoming something new online. I haven’t really discussed this much with Jared.”
I point out that if I put it in the article then it will have to become true. “Exactly! There’s no argument with that.”

Venues: Forum Theatre – Carpet Room & Pizza Room, Cnr Flinders & Russell St, CBD
Dates: March 26 – April 19 (except Mondays)
Times: 9.45pm (Sundays 8.45pm)
Tickets: $15 – $18 

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Rebecca De Unamuno: Is Open To Suggestion

Veteran impro performer Rebecca De Unamuno is making her 40th birthday a year-long celebration, and it all begins at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. “I did Open to Suggestion ten years ago, and it was a Moosehead award-winning show…I turned 30 during that run and in Melbourne on opening night it’s going to be my 40th birthday, so I’ve sort of set up a ‘festival of the 40th’ – for the next 12 months I’m going to do all of the things that I love to do, and I love this show so I’m bringing it back.

Audience suggestions kick off each show, with De Unamuno forming three characters based on offers from the audience. Over the course of the next hour she creates monologues based on her three characters whose lives are somehow intertwined. How that link occurs is different every night. “I never know when that’s going to happen, or when I’m going to think of it or discover it. I had one where one of the characters was a cat owner and the cat had nine lives and had touched all three of their lives. Or somebody was writing a romance novel and then it turns out that one of the male characters that I was playing ended up the lead in the romance novel. It’s just looking for those similar themes or recurring parts of dialogue that end up connecting the characters.”

This way of storytelling relies on a mixture of sources, including her own experiences. “I think audiences can appreciate when a story comes from truth, rather than making it up, and there’s many times in my show when I might be playing a character who has nothing to do with me, but something that’s happened in my day or a song that I’ve heard…might just creep into the show.” This is just one of the ways that De Unamuno’s show differs from those performed by an impro group. “When you’re performing with other people, when you’re improvising, you can rely on them to come up with an offer if you don’t have one, but if you’re on your own you’ve just gotta keep going until something pops up.”

De Unamuno is playing the Adelaide Fringe when I speak to her, and Open for Suggestion is already off to a flying start. “This has been the first chance for me to do the show after ten years and get it back on its feet. You have a love/hate relationship with it until you feel like you’ve hit your stride, I’m loving it again which is great…every show is different, so even if it’s just to prove a point you can come back and see it again. I’ve had a few recurring audience members here in Adelaide, which has been great. I don’t play the same character twice in a run, so that’s the challenge for me as well.”

Although a highlight of De Unamuno’s ‘festival of the 40th’, she’s got some other big plans for the year. “I want to have a party! I’m 40 and I’m single and I figure I’ve been to so many weddings and so many christenings and birthday parties for young people, that I figure that I would like to have a party.”

Why do they get all the fun?! “Yeah! I want to get some presents! And there’s a few places in the world that I’ve never travelled to – I’d love to have a holiday, and just watch all the films that I really enjoy, and read the books I love, that kind of thing!”

Venues: Victoria Hotel – Vic’s Bar, 215 Lt Collins St, CBD & Melbourne Town Hall – Backstage Room, Cnr Swanston & Collins St, CBD (April 13 only)
Dates: March 26 – April 13 (except Mondays, bar April 13)
Times: 7.15pm (Sundays 6.15pm, April 13 6.30pm)
Tickets: $19 – $25

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Jonestown: Guinea Pigs

Nicholas Johnson is one half of Jonestown (the other half is comedian and ventriloquist Sarah Jones), the Moosehead and Golden Gibbo-awarded duo performing at this year’s MICF. Last year’s Pajama Party was a hit, and Johnson is looking forward to their latest installment.  “Guinea Pigs is a narrative-based sketch comedy show about Sarah and I being locked in a box against our will, and forced to perform a series of cruel and unusual psychological experiments. We call it Saw meets RadioLab.”

Although the world of psychological experiments is relatively new to Jonestown, stories heard in podcasts about the old, less-regulated days of scientific research really captured the pair’s imagination. “I’ve always been interested in that sort of podcast, you know that sort of This American Life: ‘Did you hear about that pop psychology thing they did in the ’70s?’ Like the Stamford Prison Experiment where they locked students up and pretended they were in prison, and then they all went slowly insane. Where the ordinary, mundane scientific experiment suddenly just becomes a weird off-the-rails kind of explosion.”

The most outrageous, and memorable of these experiments was too intense to be completely included in the show. “Harry Harlow did the ‘Wire Mother’ experiments on monkeys, where he asked: ‘I wonder what would happen if we put a monkey in a box with no light and no contact with anyone for months.’ And the monkey would go insane, and he would say, ‘Ah! Interesting.’ But now, rather than do it on a monkey, we do it on a pair of middle class comedians.”

Long-time friends, the pair developed their writing partnership by accident. “We’re both anti-social, so we would enjoy sitting in cafés [working and] not talking to each other, which was a very good writing partnership. We would just shoot ideas back and forth across the table at each other, until we realised that we were writing together, and writing sketches and other bits and pieces, and finally we put together our first show, last year, which was Pajama Party…it was a little like we’d made home brew in our basements and then found out that people actually enjoyed drinking it.”

They’ve also come up with an unusual way to market the show, by turning their Twitter account (@jonestowncomedy) into an story reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure series. “It’s an extension of the show. People can go online and play – they can be locked in a room with us and try to escape.”

The first choice for followers is whether you are going to follow Nicholas or Sarah. Who’s getting more hits? “Definitely Sarah, it’s always something to do with her. We find in our shows if any sort of choice is involved people will choose Sarah.” Which he is totally cool with? “Absolutely! We’re both quite antisocial so the idea of not being chosen is pleasant. It’s been really interesting working with someone else, how audiences interact with different performers and how people feel much safer coming up and talking to us after the show, that sort of stuff. It’s interesting.”

The pair are looking at taking the show to all the major festivals, as well as some regional shows. “I think we prefer to take the path less travelled, and we don’t always do the same thing as other people…at the moment Sarah’s doing shows on cruise ships in the South Pacific somewhere. So we always have things going on that are different from what other comedians might do.”

Venue: Portland Hotel – Gold Room, Cnr Russell & Lt Collins St, CBD
Dates: March 26 – April 19 (except Mondays)
Times: 7.15pm (Sundays 6.15pm)
Tickets: $20 – $25

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Dates: March 26 – April 19 (except Mondays)
Times: 7.15pm (Sundays 6.15pm)
Tickets: $20 – $25

Freeway: The Chet Baker Journey

Chet Baker was the ultimate screw up – with film star looks, the softest voice and crooning trumpet, he was meant to take over the world, but instead ended up defenestrated before he was sixty.  In Freeway cabaret star Tim Draxl has created a retrospective work, channeling Baker in every way except for the chaotic and destructive persona that crept behind him his whole life, the ultimate example in modern society’s struggle to look at the ongoing feud between genius and disaster.

And Chet Baker was a disaster, churning his way through addictions, prisons and women, leaving his figure at the age of 58 ravaged and ancient.  It’s understandable how hard it was for Draxl, with a stellar cabaret background and astounding four piece ensemble, to cover the whole story to a sympathetic and knowledgeable audience.  The addictions and fast cars (and the emphasis by Draxl, whether it is to make him more palatable or not, is on the fast cars) shapes the Chet Baker legacy. To me the problem of Baker is finding a way to reconcile the smoothness, the coolness of his jazz with his troubled life behind the scenes.

Which makes Draxl’s position so difficult; his performance is engaging and flawless, and that’s just the point.  When the lights change and he becomes Chet narrating his life, you can see that he, a seasoned cabaret performer, understands, connects, with so many parts of his life.  But when he is narrating Baker’s life to the audience, and sometimes even when he is singing, when Draxl is singing Baker almost note and sultry-perfect, when he is scored along with is amazing, seasoned backing band, even though you are enjoying yourself, part of you nostalgic for why you connected with Baker in the first place.  Though Draxl and his ensemble give a remarkable performance, and the recounting of his life is informative without being overwhelming, when watching Freeway, you do find yourself searching for the more definitive cracks, that made the light get in.

Freeway played played in the Fairfax Studio at The Arts Centre.

See the original article here

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.

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DeAnne Smith – Livin’ The Sweet Life

DeAnne Smith pitched her entertaining show Livin’ the Sweet Life last Saturday night to a full house at Trades Hall.  Canadian and slightly left of centre, her stand up, in particular her story telling, is engaging and funny, with a lot of surprising and dirty thoughts coming out of her self-described adorable mouth.

The title of the show, Livin’ the Sweet Life, refers, by the narrowest of margins, to Smith reflecting on her attempts to live her life as a good, socially conscious (read vegan, doesn’t own a car) life, and how the smallest of luxuries now cause her to go into a stupor of hedonistic delight.  What might snap her out of this idea is going on a ten day silent meditation retreat, where, she discovers, actually trying to have a good time and, you know, talking to people, is, in fact, living that sweet life she never thought obtainable.This kind of neuroticism is the bread and butter of the stand up.  Their experiments into self improvement and self regard is the cornerstone of many a stand up pitch.  That Smith comes at the same battle for self knowledge, but with a different background to many of the stand ups you encounter, is refreshing, and her disarming manner opens doors to a lot of silliness and the aforementioned dirtiness.The best part of the night, however, goes to the story she tells in the middle of her show that involves a woman she went home with, a case of one-upmanship, and, in the end, a night in emergency.  Her knack for telling about her own skewed logic, a joke getting out of hand, and the open-endedness of the story was utterly engaging, leaving you half wondering what was going to happen next, and half how she was going to tell us about it.DeAnne Smith holds a lot of strong cards and deserved the very busy house she had on Saturday night, and her stand up was best when she was not so much trying to figure out what sort of person she was, but when she was telling us about the kind of things she does.

See the original post with media at: http://www.beat.com.au/comedy-festival/deanne-smith-livin-sweet-life

Helen

Helen is an American woman who has the perfect life. Musical, a mother, married to a rich lawyer husband, she has no reason to quickly slip into a suicidal depression that tears her family apart, which is exactly what she does. She befriends a younger, yet equally troubled cellist and slowly finds her way towards some form of happiness through electro convulsive therapy.
It’s hard to comment on a film such as this, because you can see the good intentions seeping through the cracks of nonsense and white, upper middle class presumption that present themselves as part of the universal. Let’s put aside Helen’s plight descending from a privileged state which means that her subsequent medical treatment is swift and highly personalised. The thing that baffles me most about American movies is the presumption that the standing husband/wife unit have no friends or support structure outside of family whatsoever. Towards the beginning of the film we meet a bunch of people that the pair sit laughing around a dinner table with, but the only other time we see a ‘friend’ is when she is attempting to seduce the husband now that she’s found out Helen has debilitating depression.
The film commands us to see the big D as an entirely medical problem that comes out of nowhere. But you only have to see the figure of Helen, who is entirely obsessed with her husband and daughter to see where there may be a problem. Any time she focuses on anything outside of that family unit (her piano playing, her new friend Matilda) it is seen as a symptom of her depression. Her husband at one point is even violent towards Matilda, but is forgiven because he is ‘frustrated’ that Helen wont go home with him, to the isolation that probably contributed to her depression in the first place. But no, the only thing that can fix her is drugs, ECT, and going back to the family unit. No other options are explored. At one point, Helen talks about her depression as if she is an addict: I’m terrified I’mgoing to relapse. Take these two pills, and if it’s not working in the morning, then take two more pills.
Judd is very good in the role of Helen. Her portrayal of Helen’s uncommunicativeness, her inability to express her pain except through messy tears is commendable. My main problem with the film was what it was trying to say, as it lay somewhere in-between an in depth study of depression and a redemption story. If it was a study of depression, it was clinical and over-medicalised: of the two mentally ill characters, only the one without previous life problems could be saved. If it was a story of redemption, its quasi-scientific use of mental illness as its ‘trial’ was overly simplistic.

See the original article posted here: http://www.beat.com.au/arts/2011/04/8/helen/american-middle-class-depression-electro-colvulsive-therapyit-family-unit-helen-helen-helen-s-uncomm

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

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