So the Brisbane Comedy Festival is now up and running over at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
I've been pondering for a while now whether to go full rant about this damn thing.
To my mind, you see, it's not really a "festival". To me, it's more like a "showcase of national and international stand-up comedians polishing their acts before heading to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, with a couple of Brisbane acts thrown in for localism".
I submitted two show ideas, you see, on behalf of ImproMafia, which is (as I may have mentioned on numerous previous occasions) Brisbane's premiere improvised comedy company. Both were rejected. I wasn't surprised; the call-out for local submissions consisted of eight questions, most of which were "What's your email/phone number?". The entry form didn't really seem to want you to apply, if that makes sense.
And I understand why. It's only the second year of the festival, and there's limited space at the Powerhouse. They obviously want to maximise profits, and let's face it, Adam Hills or Wil Anderson or Josh Thomas is going to be the big drawcard, not a bunch of "unknowns", no matter how clever or funny we are, or what we've achieved on our own.
Brisbane is not Melbourne, and no way close to Edinburgh, where a spirit of adventure and experimentation hits town around festival time. The Powerhouse is the home of big-name stand-up; so it's got a reputation to maintain.
So I can't really rant too much, you see, because I understand their reasoning. All I can hope is that future festivals at the Powerhouse expand to include more Brisbane acts - hopefully because Brisbane audiences enjoy seeing their own up there onstage, and don't just want to wait around for Dave Hughes to grace us with his nasally laconic presence once more. I also hope they realise comedy is broader than just stand-up, and include improvisation, sketch comedy, mime, puppetry, scripted work, one-act plays - making it a true festival.
But the issue of stand-up itself always gets me pent up anyway - particularly around this time of year with the annual Raw Comedy competition underway. That's because every year it reminds me that I still haven't developed the stones to try stand-up comedy.
I've been improvising for 10 years now, and trying to be a funny person for a lot longer. I think I've written before about how much I love making people laugh. I don't drink, or pop pills, or smoke weed - so acclaim via positive vocalised barking is about the closest thing I get to a drug. And yet, and yet, I still haven't worked up the guts and determination to get up in front of a bunch of people for five minutes and tell some goddamned jokes.
The main reason is I don't know how to actually WRITE jokes. I can jape in conversation no problem. I'm constantly amazed by how often people will laugh at dodgy cracks I make during the course of a natter. But then, I often throw in said cracks, or bad puns while doing MC work at impro shows - and they get nothing but groans or dead silence.
I've had the good fortune to meet and chat with a number of successful stand-ups - including my dear friend Deborah Frances White and the impossibly charming Lawrence Leung. They've always been very encouraging, saying my impro background would stand me in good stead to be a stand-up. I get all excited and confident - but then, when I'm by myself, trying to try to think of good joke concepts, or even good one-liners - nothing.
Even if think of a humourous situation, and try to improvise some comedy bits to myself (I talk to myself loudly and often), I wind up rabbling, or thinking I'm a complete wanker. I mean, what do I have to say that means anything to anyone?
The comedians I like are varied, but the ones I most respect are the storytellers (including my friends above; also Eddie Izzard, Craig Ferguson, Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson, and the adorable, marvellous Josie Long). Sometimes I think I could be quite good at telling a story all by myself onstage; then I get the slamming realisation in my brain that I'm just a loud-mouthed show-off with not nearly enough finesse to weave a finely spun comedic tale in front of people. I'd barely manage to spit out a dick joke.
There are stand-up comedy courses you can do; but like most artistic things in life, I have a sneaking suspicion actually showing some cahones and DOING it would be far more instructionally advantageous.I know enough about shelving, the rule of threes and other basic comedy concepts that I would recognise when I was going wrong.
But what to say in the first place?
Damn you, stand-up comedy!