To Do for 2012

This is a bit of a’ to do’ and ‘going to do’ list of things for later in the year. I can already feel the cogs of next years festivals turning underneath me, which, means its time to get cracking and squeeze out a brand new hour of gag rich social commentary. Writing new gags is a little bit like sex, you can practice alone in your room all you want but in the end you’ll need an audience to know if your doing it right. So over the next few months I’ll be traipsing around the comedy rooms of Melbourne, Auckland, Christchurch and Adelaide trying some new moves.

Trialing new material can be simultaneously exciting and devastating, one night it can all go brilliantly then the next night you fucking bomb and in the end you still don’t know whether your onto a winner or not. People say that public speaking is one of their number one fears if this is true then most people would prefer death to testing new material.  It’s like sticking your hand in that weird tree stump in ‘Flash Gordon’ you could be stung by the creepy green sting monster or you could triumph and become a man. Either way its a simile that doesn’t get used often because of its obviously sexist connotations and total lack of relativity to anything other than the film Flash Gordon.

When it comes to new stuff I usually go to a gig with a plan, the plan is that in the midst of material I know is funny I’ll slip in new stuff with the hope that its going to rock but with the back up system of having some extra material afterwards as a safety net. However what usually happens is I get excited about the new stuff and launch into it at the start without thinking it through. Then I end up halfway through my spot with no way out of the failing shit maelstrom I’ve sprung on myself like some kind of masochistic hate trap.  Usually when I do something stupid like this I scramble for something related in a 6 degrees kind of a way, fail then find myself uttering that shitty generic perfunctory line, ‘I’ll leave you with this’. Which is kind of like a comic saying, ‘nearly there’. Its also a very handy line for linking two ideas that have nothing in common when your too fucking lazy to come up with a sentence that could join two different ideas together in a cohesive seamless mélange.

So that said, I’ll leave you on this I have some exciting news! I’m going to be starting a new material night in Melbourne this summer with some of my favorite comics from around Melbourne at one of my favorite clubs, Red Bennies. I’ll also be doing a stack of gigs getting material ready for the next show, which looks like being an absolute cracker. I’ve covered ‘homophobia & sex’ “racism & nationalism’ so I think I’ve fulfilled my quota of difficult subject and am now free to roam a little back into the weird and stupid. But don’t fret thee of the good nature and the left leaning persuasion I’ll not stray too far, there always must be socially responsible rhetoric underpinning the cock jokes.

I’ll also be doing a return performance of ‘Matador’, where? I here you ask well the Melbourne Circus Festival of course. Where else would you expect a fairly dense yet humorous discussion of Australian racism to go, Melbourne Uni? I’ll be doing ‘Matador’ as part of the 1st inaugural Melbourne Circus Festival hosted by my old bastard master NICA on the 1st of October at 11pm. So if you missed my show in Melbourne you can catch it before I relegate it to the back catalogue of  ‘door’ based shows. More info can be found on the gigs page.

 

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Edinburgh Fringe Closure

So that’s the Edinburgh Fringe for 2011 done, the wettest and coldest Edinburgh Fringe in 18 years, with the most outdoor entertainment of any Fringe previous. Its been a great Fringe, Matador was an absolute pleasure to unveil upon an intelligent British Public and Comic Strip was a late night titty twirling laugh out loud phenomenon.

I did my best to stay away from good/bad press and keep the green monster at bay. Its hard to stay away from the press, especially when some of your more dickheadish colleagues say things in passing like, ‘shame about that review bro, it read like a 4 star though, chin up’ (actually said to me sheesh) It was great to see so many new friends at the fringe this year, Deanne Smith, Fear of a Brown Planet and Dave Callan all looked to be having great years.

My favourite moment of Matador this year was on the last Saturday night of the fringe. The audience ole’d so loudly I had to ask them to simmer down a bit, as we were all getting Spanish industrial ear damage. The best moment of the fringe was the final Comic Strip show in the beautiful Dans Palais. We had some of my favorite acts on, Zoe Lyons, Mark Winmell, Lada Redstar and Dave Callan. The place was packed the vibe was drunk, jubilant and electric and when Dave Callan closed with single ladies the place went bat shit crazy.

I also performed a cameo in Puppetry of the Penis 3D, which you may view here.

We had a few prickly moments though; my worst moment in Matador was on the last Friday of the fringe where I had invited a big agent to see what was unfortunately my worst show of the fringe, suffice to say that ship sailed. The constant rain made for slim pickings on the street and the constant bickering within the street community made for a fairly awful vibe at the draw each morning, rain and assholes on unicycles don’t go well together. We had our fair share of weird liberal conservatism at Comic Strip. However when one of our comic guests tweeted derogatory things before his spot on one of the best nights of the run it became a bit of twitter spat that resulted in him profusely apologising for being such a dick. He was such a dick, dick.

At the start of the month of August I was interested in the possibility that my Edinburgh Fringe compulsion was killing me slowly.

So here are the stats for my 6th Fringe Festival, which takes me to 6 months spent in Edinburgh.

Performances

  • 38 hours of stand up comedy
  • 19 hours of street shows

Physical Stats

  • Weight- 93kg up from 89kg
  • Height- 180cm down from 186cm
  • Blood Pressure- good no change
  • BFI- Haggisy down from healthy

 

 

 

 

 

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Puritans & filth at the Fringe

Well the Edinburgh Fringe is just over the midway point. As of now I’m very healthy and have taken to sleeping like a small bear (13 hours sometimes) or a frightened cat (usually 5 hours) so health and BFI is fine but the lack of sleep made me hiss at someone last night and try to claw their legs.

All the shows I am participating in are doing very well, Matador is flying along and Comic Strip is fantastic….but for one little thing. The show seems to be attracting conservative tut-tutters who keep using the word ‘exploitation’ in regard to our show. In the first week the Scotsman and the Sun both published stories asking the question, ‘Why are there so many X rated shows in the fringe?’ The simple answer is there are no X rated shows you red top sensationalist idiots, our show is not an even an over 18’s let alone X rated. There are links to the stories below. Within the stories they seemed to be trying to make some kind of point about burlesque being dirty, exploitative and anti feminist. There was however no mention of any of the shows in the fringe that feature male nudity as it seems that women are the only ones who are being exploited and are incapable of making decisions about their own bodies and what they choose to do with them.

This conservatism was then echoed by a comic we had on our night who drunkenly tweeted a few slightly derogatory things about the show while waiting to go on. When he did go on he killed it, seemed to have a great night, shook my hand and ambled off into the night. I didn’t read the tweets; the supporting tweets or retweets until later that night. The Internet chatter seemed to condemn Burlesque as exploitative with people tweeting ‘I agree they should stop it!’ etc etc.  I was so surprised by my fellow colleagues being so frumpish. I’m not a woman so I cant really be a feminist but I thought one of the corner stones of the Women’s movement was the right to choose what to do with your mind and body. I am however only a simple man but simple as I am I still believe that dictating to others what they can and cant do is Parental complex liberal conservatism. If I want to cheer for a semi naked woman with wonderful boobs and a bedazzled C-string with 300 other people of mixed age and gender then I fucking will.

There’s a wonderful irony in the criticism we’ve received. When Gypsy Wood and I came up with the idea for Comic Strip it was based on the New York strip clubs where comedians would go to evade puritanical anti profanity laws enforced by the police and the public in the 50’s. Now over 60 years later it’s not the lawmakers condemning the acts it’s the performers themselves tut tutting at us from the toilet wall that is the Internet.  To anyone who believes that burlesque performers are being exploited you should wake up, take your conservatism and stick it where it belongs. In a nuns habit in the 1950’s.

http://www.edinburgh-festivals.com/viewpreview.aspx?id=2470

http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/scotlandfeatures/3725080/X-rated-shows-at-Edinburgh-Festival.html

http://www.edinburgh-festivals.com/viewnews.aspx?id=2437

 

 

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Edinburgh Fringe 2011 ‘Before’

Tomorrow I go to Kings Cross Station and begin my annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for 2011. This year there are over 2,200 shows in the Fringe, which is an intimidating number and this doesn’t take into account the street shows and some of the free shows and renegade performances around the fringe. As I sit on the threshold of my 5th Edinburgh I’m wondering, why am I doing this and what will happen to me physically and mentally over the month? In short is Edinburgh killing me?

So I thought I’d do a before and after blog to chart the emotional ups and downs and physical changes over this most lengthy of months. At the moment I feel simultaneously nervous and excited, a state that most performers can relate to. Comedians describe Edinburgh fringe philosophically in all manner of ways as this helps to assuage the damage it causes them. I’ve heard it described as a marathon, a dance, a race and a feast and it’s all of those things, (see I’m about to get esoteric) but most of all its a month of thrilling highs and lows. Each year I try my best to manage with some kind of mantra. The mantra is to help with ongoing personality malfunctions or bad patterns of behaviour. For instance in the past they have been,

  • Don’t read any press or reviews
  • Read all the press and reviews and get a thicker skin
  • Don’t get jealous of other performers
  • Tell people exactly what you think of them
  • Try not to drag personal shit on stage during the show
  • If there are only three people in the audience give them the best show you can. Etc.

This year my mantra is, don’t self-obsess Basically. It seems achievable, I have a publicist and a producer who can do that for me and absorb any bad criticism of the show. All I have to do is take my iPhone and my computer and smash them with a hammer or alternatively develop an anti solipsism app that prevents one from searching for one self.  I’m going to rate myself as a human comedian using the following process. At the end of the fest I’ll tally the minutes spent seeking consolation, advice and direction and compare them to the minutes spent inquiring persons other than myself and hopefully the result will mean B will be larger than A. If not I’ll have failed as a well-adjusted normal human being and I’ll retire to a cave like that creepy guy in Perfume. I’m also going to monitor my  physical well-being, here are my  stats before the festival, which may change dramatically over the month.

  • Weight- 89kg
  • Height- 186cm
  • Blood Pressure- good
  • BFI- healthy

There is a lot of life packed into August in Scotland and when it comes to philosophical analogies  I prefer Simon Munnery’s, “Its not a race its a dance, a long beautiful dance”

Asher Treleaven 1/8/11 BEFORE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture has no real relevance to the experiment but I just think its hilarious.I’m one week in at the moment and this is what I saw on the way to a meeting today.

I’m so glad I spent all my money on big cock posters.

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Can I have a Volunteer?

Its one of the most terrifying things an audience member can hear, whether you’ll be playing an assistants role in the show or being the butt of its jokes its going to be awkward. I don’t use any volunteers in my comedy shows however I always use a 5-8 year old kid in my street shows. I’ve been a busker for the past 5 years, traveling around the world cracking jokes at people from the top of a stack of bins I balance on, its great what some people do for a living huh?

Working with kid volunteers can be wonderful watching a 5 year old joyously run around the stage pretending to be a plane and shouting ‘I FEEL SO ALIVE!’ (actually happened in Ireland there is a picture below) can turn a crowd of disinterested onlookers into a gooey ball. It can also be catastrophically fucked and result in a 6-year old boy crying on stage while the townspeople boo you and aggressive dads crack their knuckles and grind their teeth.

I’ve started cataloging the more interesting experiences I’ve had on stage with young volunteers. I’ve been punched, abused and inappropriately touched during shows and when it goes bad its goes really fucking bad. So as the saying goes lets have the bad news first, three shows come to mind.

The first was in Covent Garden during the autumn of 2007. I was still an amateur street performer struggling on one of the most difficult pitches (busking stage) in the world. I was performing in the North hall, which is an undercover section of the old Covent Garden market. There were about 25 people watching a fairly dismal show, I asked for a volunteer and a young man raced onto the stage. I went through the sardonic showbiz rigors with him, teaching him to bow and having the crowd clap and cheer disproportionally for him.

Sometime during this warm up section he whacked me on the butt and giggled, I played along feigning indignation. Then he touched me lightly on the crotch and said ‘penis’ and I freaked out, ‘ HANDS ON HIPS HANDS ON HIPS’ I shouted. The crowd went totally silent, the embarrassment quickly filling the space like the stink of a dead pet. The young volunteer began to cry and somehow I came out of this situation looking like a dirty Uncle, when it was I who was the victim. Suffice to say that audience walked on.

The next show that comes to mind was in my hometown of Melbourne. In my show I ask my volunteer throw a machete up to me, stupid I know but that’s the point really. I asked for a volunteer from the crowd and there was only one kid. A bolshy young bogan  in moto cross gear. He was doing great he was a little monosyllabic but at least he was smiling. We came to the machete throwing part of the show and at this stage I’m about 2 meters off the ground balanced precariously on a coffee tin. I began explaining the process of how to throw the machete. He gave me a wry look and suddenly pitched it at me over arm like a tomahawk. It hit me in the leg and glanced off onto the ground, half the audience roared with laughter the other 5 looked aghast.

He took the laughter as encouragement and pitched another I caught this one and the next. I laughed it off, the show must go on but the machetes weigh around 1kg each, have a stainless steel stage blade (blunt) and hurt like fuck if a hopped ADHD dickhead throws one into your leg. I was furious but I finished the show, at the end the parents of the kid came up tears in their eyes and said it was the funniest thing they had ever seen and paid me a lobster ($20 note) for the show  

The worst situation I have ever been in on stage was during a show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2009. The show was a monster, I think around 800 people were watching me on West Parliament Square. I was having a cracking show, big laughs and great energy from the crowd. I called out for my volunteer and young scot bounced onto stage, everything was going wonderfully, he was full of joy and the audience cheered him like a champion.

I was standing on the second last tin and informing the crowd that it was my volunteer’s big moment. I turned to my young friend to ask for his help throwing up the machetes and the unthinkable happened. A small dark patch began to spread across his shorts; it quickly grew until urine was streaming out of his shorts onto the cobbles. I almost died on the spot, how in gods green fucking world could I get out of this without seriously damaging this kids forever. My mind was racing, the crowd was deathly silent and he stood there looking sweetly up at me, piss everywhere.

If I could have pissed myself to match him I would have, I asked him if he was here with a guardian or parent, he said he was here with his sister, she waved from the crowd maybe 10 years old. I asked her if her folks were here, she said she was here with her Nan and her Nan was off down the way. I asked for the Nan’s name, Pamela. I called in vain for Pamela for a minute or so but she did not appear. So I had a conundrum, do I send him back to the audience to sit in piss soaked pants and watch the rest of the show? Or do I finish the show with him and have him leave a piss pants hero, I decided on the latter and very carefully lead him through the end of the show.

It was the most difficult balancing act I ever performed, at any second I thought the audience would turn on me and an outraged parent would rush onto stage to clean the boy up and save him from this public humiliation. What if the boy became inconsolable and begins to cry with only his sister to go to and no real guardian he would simply stand in front of the massive crowd crying until everyone slunk away in reflected shame. Turns out he simply plowed on, finished the show and left a piss pants hero, the crowd roared when he finished his final trick and as I stood clearing up my stuff after the show his sister approached and thanked me for.

It was the most difficult and precarious situation I have ever been on stage in, not because there was any danger to my person but because there was the chance I could seriously damage this little dude. I imagined that in the future he might piss his pants unconsciously in high-pressure situations like job interviews or first dates. However I did give him a fiver at the end so lets hope cold hard cash can help to bury the psychological damage caused by weeing yourself in front of an 800 strong crowd.

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Professional Mascot

In 2001 I decided to try a more unusual job so I answered an ad and became a professional mascot. Mascot work would usually involve me dressing up in a lime green unitard with floppy shoes and a big helmet and going to dystopian shit holes like Westfield shopping centre to entertain fat pig eyed people and their bovine ADD children. The job is awful and demoralising however the worst thing about being a mascot is the de-humanisation process that occurs when you put on the suit. When children see you, they don’t see a human being they just see a giant punching bag that they can attack while their parents gently coo to them from the doughnut stand.

I had a gig performing at a small county fair in Bangalow on the north coast of NSW. I was working with 2 other mascots; one was a giant sunflower the other a circus clown. The sunflower wore a similar lurid green unitard to mine with leaves hanging off it and large latex petals around her painted face. She was a passive aggressive hippy in her late 40’s who most likely drove a light blue Datsun 120E with “the goddess is dancing” on the bumper. Her bit was dancing around vigorously swinging her be-petaled head to lure children to her. As she danced and flailed around in the centre of the field she attracted a small group of children, most walked away after a brief interaction except for a pudgy wranger (ginger haired child). He stood looking quizzically up at her while slowly eating something on stick.  He threw the snack onto the grass and did what so many other bored kids do, he hit her, she wagged a finger at him and moved away. He liked this new game and he shuffling after her poking and kicking, but she quickly escaped into the more crowded market. Eventually the sunflower made her way back to the field and when she did the kid was waiting for her with an accomplice. The boys set upon her quickly encircling her and attacking her with surprising savagery, she tried to escape, but she was tired and she didn’t get far before they caught her again.

It all happened quite quickly but I always play it back in slow motion. The two boys were giggling with glee while taking turns at kicking her in the ass, all the adults were watching from the shady stalls totally ambivalent and then in one smooth movement she tore the floppy head off her costume, grabbed one of the boys, lifted him off the ground by his stained shirt and screamed, FUCK OFF! The entire fair stopped, all eyes turned to her, mouths agape in shock. She looked shocked herself as she held him aloft her mouth opening and closing silently like a fish out of water. She dropped the kid onto the ground and bolted off shrieking, her sunflower mask bouncing around behind her like a severed head.

I was watching all this from the backstage area and it was my shift next. I exhaled heavily and sat down. “You know what she should have done,” said a voice in the dressing cubicle. “What?” I asked, a wiry man with salt and pepper chest hair emerged from the change cubicle half dressed in a clown outfit, “What she should have done is this, you lean down at the child’s head height and you say” (he leaned down to me and put on a soft voice) “Hi, do you know what, I’m wearing a mask, and you don’t know what I look like, but I, I know what you look like, now I’m going to go and take off this mask and then I’m going to come back and I’m going to find you…….that sorts them out,” he said continuing to applying eggshell makeup to his face. It was one of the most disturbing things I ever heard and I promptly decided to leave the mascot profession for fear of becoming a victim like the Sunflower or a psychotic like the Clown.

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Airplane Safety Guniea Pig

In 2001 I changed towns and professions, moving from Byron Bay to Melbourne and took up a casual position in product testing. Usually this would involve eating prototype biscuits and explaining how the texture of a cookie made me ‘feel’ on a sliding scale of 1 to 10 it was drab work, mindless and uninspiring. I decided to try medical testing for a while as the pay was marginally higher and I thought it would be more exciting however a friend of a friends arm was blackened up to the left elbow during a diabetes drug test and I stopped.  I returned to the usual food testing circuit and found it more boring than ever so I took to spicing things up by responding to general questions in unorthodox ways, “How does the biscuit make you feel?” “This is a good biscuit, I like it but it smells like a new born baby” (frenzied scribbling from the biscuit evaluation employee)

The final product-testing scenario I ever took part in was for the civil aviation authority of Australia, CAAA. I signed up for ‘evacuation procedural testing’ . I got up in the morning and made my way to Federation Square in Melbourne and boarded a bus with about 50 others en-route to Tullamarine airport. Once there the busload was ferried to a large plane hanger on the outskirts of the airport. Inside the hanger was a large simulation Boeing Jet, the jet had no cockpit, no tail and no engines it was a mock plane built specifically for the testing procedure. We were assigned a seat inside the plane and then told to go inside. Once inside we watched a short video which explained where the exits were on that particular day and which exits we were to use, it was very important to watch the video to know how to get out. After the film there was a simulation take off and then a calm female voice came over the loud speaker, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the plane has now crashed please make your way to the nearest exit thank you’

We all rose and made our way to the front of the plane, the forward exit is easy to operate you simply pull the exit handle up, the door swings open and a large inflatable yellow slide pops out. Its a wonderful piece of safety planning, because if you have just smashed into the ground at 900 miles an hour and your all desperately trying to escape the cabin before the fuselage explodes and incinerates everyone, you want a moment of ‘weeeeeeeee’ Those slides cost $150,000 to repack after they have been employed, so its an expensive ride.

Next day we return, board the plane as before, sit and wait for the exit instructions, today it’s an over-wing exit through. The plane takes off then the prosaic voice is heard, ‘Ladies and gentlemen the plane has now crashed please make your way to the nearest exit…..the first person to exit the plane today will receive a return ticket to the city of their choice’ Everyone stalled in their seats and looked around the plane quizzically, no one had mentioned anything about this ‘prize’ and most of us thought it was some kind of prank. We all rose slowly and made our way to the exit rows. The exit row is problematic because it is impossible to get more than one line of people into that space; also the doors weigh about 17 kilos, which makes them difficult to open. On the left side there was an elderly woman who could not open her door, on the right a young women who opened hers. We slowly snaked out of the plane down onto the tarmac, when we were all out a safety attendant came forward brandishing an envelope. He opened the envelope fanned out the tickets, showing everyone and then handed the envelope to the young woman, he then clapped her and we all joined in

The next day we returned, boarded the plane and waited for the instructions. Today was a forward exit and after the simulation take off the voice came over the loudspeakers to let us know that the plane had again crashed and we should make our way to the forward exit. Then the voice instructed us that the first person to exit the plane would receive $250. Now most of us with any self-respect didn’t bolt for the exit it was mostly youngish men who wanted to get their ‘cash money’ in the Hip Hop sense. So three or four of them bolted for the door and the rest of us made our way out after them. When we were all finally out of the plane the safety warden appeared, took out another envelope fanned out the money showed everyone, then handed it to the young man, no one clapped.

The next day things felt different, during the long ride out to the airport there was tense and uncomfortable. The tension increased as we approached the plane and by the time we boarded and took our seats the atmosphere was fucking electric. Everyone on board was anxious and prone like animals waiting to spring, all around me were people tightly gripping the arm rests of their seats while others surreptitiously unclipped their safety belts to make it seem like they were still clipped in. The man next to me was warming up physically and cracking his knuckles. The safety film came on and instructed us to leave through the forward door, then there was the simulated take off and we waited, everyone around me was inclined forward ready to bolt. Then the female voice, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen the plane has now crashed, please make your way to the nearest exit, the first person to exit the plane today will receive $5,000’

The cabin erupted; everyone leaped up and crashed into the center aisle.  People began pulling and screaming at each other; the center aisle became an instant roadblock of humans all trying to get forward. I watched a woman on the opposite side window try to run on all fours across the top of the seats like some kind of Gollum creature, she got about 4 seats along before a fat guy stood up and knocked her into the overhead locker, she then fell down in to the seats head first with her little legs kicking away. The melee of people was incredible, once you got into the line of people trying to get to the front it was like a hateful conga line, hands scratching at you, people screaming and shouting. The controllers then began to pump smoke into the cabin which caused a mass panic as we had not encountered smoke before and we believed there may actually be something going terribly wrong. Eventually when I arrived at the front exit, there was a swarming mass of people grabbing, pushing and trying to get their hands onto the exit handle. People would find the handle and then be smacked away by someone bigger, more smoke poured into the cabin and by now it was getting very difficult to see. Finally someone got the handle and the door sprang open, I think I saw a man fall out of the cabin before the slide inflated. The rest of us didn’t slide out we were expelled out rolling down in a hideous people ball. As we lay at the bottom of the slide I looked around at everyone, people had clumps of hair missing, everyone was crying and coughing, smoke was billowing from the cabin behind us. It was then that I realised that the only way that the civil aviation authority could test a real evacuation procedure was to dangle that $5,000 carrot. I looked at everyone, at the shame on their faces and I knew the all had come to the same conclusion, and I thought what is the point of this test,

“Why would you want to save these people?”

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