Failing Gracefully

There’s a lot to be said for a killer opening. Whether it’s an Imperial Star Destroyer hammering the shit out of a Rebel cruiser, or the Nazis biting off a piece of Poland, both got people to sit up, take notice and want to know what comes next, as well as really setting the tone for what was to come.

Despite knowing this, I’m always really lazy with the openings for my solo stand-up shows. I spend nine months writing a show, travel around the world to perform it and then open it by simply turning down the lights, playing my current favourite mash-up and walking onto the stage. There are hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of ways that I could better open my show, but for the sake of simplicity – or as I said earlier: laziness – I do next to nothing and then wonder why it’s so tough to kick-start the momentum.

Last night however, I didn’t even get my bare bones opening right. While the audience were coming into the room, I was backstage having a bit of a dance. I like dancing when the conditions are right. Normally that means a) I’m alone and b) I’m drunk; but before a show I’m stone sober and I really like to kick out the jams in the narrow space between the curtain and the back wall of the venue. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that the floor was riddled with loose mic cables which, as I danced, were wrapping themselves around my ankles like hungry anacondas. When the lights went down and the music came up at the start of the show, I tried my very best to leap onto the stage, but my legs had danced themselves into a cable orgy and I fell over. When the spotlight finally came up, I was face-down on the stage in full view of everyone, desperately hoping that the audience liked a good prat fall. The audience though had seen nothing of the fall (that happened in the darkness) and so just stared at me, wondering why I was starting the show on my hands, knees and face.

The true test of the integrity of a system is in how it works when it doesn’t. All things fail, but the trick is to make them fail gracefully. When a joke dies in front of an audience, many comedians will deploy a pre-prepared line, acknowledging the failure in a self-effacing way that reminds the audience they’re still funny. It’s not the only way, or even the correct way of dealing with a joke that dies, but it’s one way of allowing the joke to fail gracefully in front of a paying crowd. It picks the mood back up and allows the comedian to continue with at least a bit of momentum.

Last night my system failed and it failed with all the grace of a newborn giraffe. As I floundered around on the stage, trying desperately to untangle my feet in front of a confused and disappointed audience, all I could think was “this SHOULD be funny.” It should have been but it just wasn’t. It’s like I’d started Star Wars with a shot of Han Solo on the toilet, or World War Two by marching into Warsaw and doing the Hokey P/Kokey.

I’m doing my show again tonight, and despite the fact that I’ve spent a lot of this morning thinking about how I can fail gracefully, by the time the show rolls around I’ll probably just stand backstage, dancing in the dark, hoping that my tech has finally gaffered all the cables to the floor.

Kiss With a Fist

Last Saturday at 8.30pm, we had Earth Hour and all the lights were turned off. I know this because at the time I was onstage, fifteen minutes into my stand-up show and the stage lights started to fade like we were in a slow-motion black out.

I’d knew that Earth Hour was happening, but I didn’t think that Melbourne was participating given that it was hosting the Grand Prix the same weekend. Apparently Melbourne doesn’t have any problem with the hypocrisy of “We love you Mother Earth, just not as much as Lewis Hamilton. He’s so dreamy.”
It’s hard to pretend that you’re committed to saving the planet when you’re also running an event celebrating the machines that are responsible for most of damage done to the environment in the first place.
“Hey Tommy, you wanna come to this refuge support benefit?”
“I sure do, just give me five minutes to finish torpedoing this boat load of immigrants…”

I like the idea of Earth Hour, environmental awareness is important, but if Mother Nature actually existed I don’t know if she’d appreciate the sentiment, because after Earth Hour is finished we go right back to what we were doing in the first place.

Can you imagine being tied to a table and punched continuously for an entire year? 8759 hours of vindictive fists to the face. PUNCH! PUNCH! PUNCH! PUNCH! But then, for one hour each year, your torturers stop and say “Oh my god, look at the state of you. What’s happened to your face? Who’s done this? You’re quite fragile and beautiful under all this blood and gore aren’t you? We should really stop all this… hang on, time’s up.” PUNCH! PUNCH! PUNCH! PUNCH!

If you’re not going to change your behaviour, then that one hour is just an empty and insulting gesture.

The worst bit of it is, most of the concessions that we make for Earth Hour could easily be made every other night of the year with little to no impact on our lives; especially the public ones. The day after Earth Hour, the news showed us pictures of Earth Hour around the world, which basically equated to shots of famous monuments with the lights turned out. Why do these monuments even need to be lit at night? People will still travel to look at them, they’ll just do it during the day. I doubt that anyone’s booking their tickets, flying to Egypt, driving out to Giza at night and saying “WHAT?!? I wanted to look at the architectural handiwork of thousands of Jewish slaves the way the Pharaohs intended: under floodlights!”

Unless there’s some massive emo/vampire tourist trade that I don’t know about, then we don’t need to light up the Eiffel Tower just so people know where they are. Just because it’s not lit up doesn’t meant we’re going to forget that it’s there.

If you want to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night, that’s fine, but then don’t participate in Earth Hour, the least that Mother Nature deserves is your consistency. If you’re going to punch her in the face, then don’t pretend that you’re concerned, just put your iron fist to work and know that you’ll be the one cleaning up afterwards.

Make the mo' of it

I’m currently in Melbourne for the comedy festival & it seems to have become infested with moustaches; either that or thousands of hairy caterpillars have gone out in search of food, but instead found themselves resting on the cocaine-dusted upper lips of trendy gents.

I’m not sure how it happened or why it happened, but I do know that it’s got to stop immediately or women are going to stop voluntarily having sex with men.

The moustache has never been our finest invention; that’s an accolade which belongs to the splade (or “spork” if you’re form South Australia). In fact the womb-broom (aka moustache) represents an aspect of humanity, which, like the desire to pay money to see Michael Bolton in concert, should be eradicated before it spreads.

The problem with moustaches is that one their own, they’re incredibly potent (Exhibit A: Tom Selleck), but when diluted by thousands of men in $200 jeans, the power of the mo’ is to weakened to the point where it’s not even useful as a marker for identifying society’s misfits.

There is also the fact that the moustache (sans beard anyway) is very difficult to wear successfully. Moustaches are like racist jokes; unless they’re deployed with a supreme amount of irony, they’re just offensive.

I think that the required action should be led by the women of Melbourne who should refuse any kind of sexual contact with men sporting unnecessary facial hair. Sure, we might lose some beards alone the way, but if that’s the price of eradicating the moustache (or at least culling it down to pre-boom numbers) then so be it.

In fact, let’s just say that there should be a bounty on all moustaches. I’m not sure what you call the act of skinning a moustache off some twat in a flannel shirt, but until we can get this hirsute epidemic under control, then no act is too barbarous.

– Hypocrisy Valentine

First Fablemonger Review

Here’s the first review of Fablemonger at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. It’s from Australian Comedy Review.

Kent Valentine – Fablemonger
26 March 2010
Daniel Sheppard

Playing to a small but appreciative audience in the plush and frosty surrounds of Arthur’s Bar, Kent Valentine’s Fablemonger demonstrates an absolute mastery of long form storytelling comedy.

Kent welcomes the crowd with a couple of fast-paced observations, quickly relaxing the crowd and firmly planting a grin on each and every face before blending seamlessly into his prepared material. Telling tales of SatNav frustration, life in the UK and his newfound role as a father, Kent manages to turn seemingly mundane stories and fascinating tales of wonder and daring-do. Kent’s style has all the depth and ‘whimsy’ that one might want in a storytelling comic, but his fast paced delivery packs each and every tale with joke after joke and his clever and accessabile humour that leaves the audience laughing all the way.

There’s some moments of absolute brilliance that are sure to leave a lasting mark, including his fantastic childhood explanation of how gambling works. The highlight for me on the night (and obviously for Kent too) was a sudden interjection of outside noise that allowed him to break out into a fantasticly spontaneous improv rant that left the audience in stitches and almost threatened to derail Kent as well before he pulled seamlessly back into the show.

Try as I might, I can’t think of one bad thing to say about this show, nor of anybody to whom Kent would not appeal. I’m constantly asked ‘Who should I see at the festival?’, and normally that’s an incredibly hard question to answer without getting a good gauge on what other shows they’ve enjoyed. This show makes that easy – whoever you are, and whatever your tastes, you’re going to enjoy Kent Valentine.