The ego has landed, and I'm gonna need it.
You've gotta love someone who picks you up at the airport and I do. With nothing in it for him but probably a load of trouble Jeff of Green has turned up at kookaburra fart to pick me up. This is before the school run and, after a sincere cuddle we are off to do it. That's right, first thing I do in Australia is hang around a school playground.
The flight I was dreading turned out to be NTB, not too bad. A film where someone bangs on about being a slave and then Dubai. Three hours of Guinness and then drop the magic pill for the next bit of the journey The doctor has given me 14, thats right just 14 of these K.O. pills and they are the first ones that have ever worked. He told me to only take them when I really needed them as they are highly addictive. But then, so is sleep. They never give me the good stuff as I'm sure it says on my record, "watch him" and to be quite honest there would be times in the next four weeks when I might just have necked the lot.
And so to Jeff's house to pick up the kids and say hello to his missus, the lovely Fiona who in a week or so not to put too fine a point on it, nor am I exaggerating when I say, would save my life and a premature visit to the fires of Hell and a well deserved future of eternal damnation.
They all look like little Clint Eastwoods at the school 'cos they have to wear these hats. Boy it's a while since I've been in a school playground without being shouted at.
While the kids line up I get Jeffapaedia'd about Australia. 25 years of being a comedian has made Jeff very knowledgable and generous with that knowledge and lot of what I might impart about the indigenous here may very well have been imparted by him.
Now for my first cup of coffee in Melbourne and fuck me its strong. My scrotum tightens. We are drinking this coffee in St Kilda's in the company of Geoff with a G Boyce, heretoenforafter known as Boycie (the best I can do) and an Aussie comic called Wayne Deakin or Wayne as he's known. Then it's off to my temporary first billet at Dan Willis's house in a place called Ferntree Gully.
"When I first arrived in Australia I stayed for a week at a place called Ferntree Gully, so that was a month."
Ferntree Gully is a place that would make boring seem interesting. If Cook had landed here he'd have returned to the ship and said "turn around me hearties, theres nothing to see here." This would be unfair as there is plenty to see on the A13 just outside Dagenham. There are places near FG that are interesting, even very interesting such as little mountainettes with massive Eucalyptus trees growing out of them which are the largest flowering plants in the world (thanks Greeny) but FG is Neighbours. I mean really, you are either a fern or a tree, you cant be both, not even in Australia.
Dan has just got married to a glorious nutter called Erin and in order to keep her he has swiftly impregnated her. Erin for her part has obtained a rescue ridgeback dog who is the most paranoid thing since Marvin the Paranoid Android. Every time I walk into the room she slinks off with a "Oh not you, why are you here? what do you want? leave us alone, Im very depressed." in a very low monotonous monotone. Now I didn't travel 12000 miles for this. One night I get to stroke her for a while and think yess, we've bonded, the next day we are back to square one. Bitch.
I'm here for about five days while I play myself in at The Comic's lounge North Melbourne. This is a good functional bums on seats venue the type of which I eschew in the mother country but which I am grateful to Dan for having arranged.
My first two nights go well if unspectacularly but on the third night I crash and burn, much I am sure to the delight of the assembled Australian comics. This is not meant as I dig, I get Schadenfreude, in fact I was the first person to import it from Germany. Who wouldn't want to see a flash English comic fuck up. Here come the excuses. I was lagged by a jet, I was trying to see what material needed editing for the Antipodes, and often had to bail as they didn't know what an Opal Fruit was (all my routines rely on a knowledge of Opal Fruits, a late twentieth century confection in the U.K.) and I did 22 in a 15 zone. Minutes that is. I talked off mike. In short I struggled like an amateur, looking for the big laugh that never came. It wasn't a death but it was a wounding.
In England I might have been given a bit of wiggle room but here expectations had been high. Between me and the management we agreed to cancel the following night as I couldn't take the bollocking which was about to ensue even though I admit it was my fault, well me and the shape of the Earth. I become the bloke in the room you would least want to be. This duff gig would have repercussions that would cost me 1200 Aussie dollars, 750 more than I'd made for the Comics Lounge. Ah bollocks, here we go again. Well if you know me, I'm about to fuck off.
I pack me bags and I'm just sneaking out of The little House in Ferntree Gully when Erin spots me and in the nicest way anyone has ever talked me down tells me to stay. I stay, I can always leave tomorrow. (To prove I was serious I can tell you changing my flight would have cost 300 dollars and I'd been on the phone to Qantas waiting for nearly 30 minutes. As an aside I used to hang around the Qantas bar at their ticket office in London, when it was a good airline and when drinking Fosters, Swan and Castlemaine was trendy. They had a beaten copper map of the world on the wall and Australia was facing the wrong way and no one had noticed. At first.)
This business can be brutal, because of our hours and in this case, time difference there's often no one to talk to when you really need it, something that has led me to make some rash decisions which have probably ruined my life. Erin is responsible for the rest of this chapter good or bad and at the very least I owe her a cock spot. Dan will know what I mean. I mean the only male performer in her show "Here come the Girls"
The next night, when I could have been on the plane home and should have been earning 150 dollars in the second best club in Melbourne I am at an open spot night in Buttfucktigo, 12th on the bill. Seriously. This has been arranged by Erin as a confidence booster. If only I could get to stroke the dog again.
I love Erin and I suppose here I have to mention my first day in FG. Having landed at 6 in the morning, Dan and I are out on an almighty bender where he not only pays for the lot, he teaches me the difference between a pot, a schooner, an imperial pint and some other pint. Several times. I for my part end up pissing in his kitchen sink in front of his wife, or so I'm told. That'll teach him.
Monday finds me checking into my more permanent abode at the Exford Hotel, centre of Melbourne, centre of China Town and centre of my universe for the next few weeks.
The room is clean enough but it has no telly and no wash basin in to which to piss. You have to use a key card to go to the toilet or the shower which are in separate rooms, and then use key card to get back into your room. In short you have to stick the keycard up the slot of your arse. And guess what? Boycie is in the next room, I can hear him blinking. I ring up Qantas again. Internet is rationed, which is a shame because I intend to do a lot of wanking, admittedly, very quiet wanking, believe me, you don't want Boycie knocking on your door mid wank. We get around these problems by, 1) fiddling the internet, 2) getting a tupperware Guzunder (noun, a piss pot so called because it goes under the bed) and 3) me and Boycie agree that what happens in the Exford, stays in the Exford.
If not the greatest hotel of all time, The Exford turns out to be one of the greatest bars of all time, if a little bit pricey. It's run by Leon who lets me bang nails in the wall, probably as a crafty way of shoring up the walls at no extra cost. We can and did drink there, nearly all night, were allowed to be obnoxious occasionally, (Boycie, not me) and we got a slight discount for being cunts. Almost every night you could see me and Boycie, deep in conversation slagging off anyone who was doing better than us. Everyone. The chief barman we get to know is an ex gay submariner, you know what I mean, well over 6 foot who liked it rough and one morning I come across him naked in the kitchen. Hang on, what happens in the Exford.......
Next stop is to go and have a look at the venue. Oh dear.
I'm at a place called The Joint back to back with Boycie which is both a blessing and a curse but probably more of a blessing.
A joint could be something you smoke, eat on Sundays or a means by which you can articulate. This is none of those things. This is a curtained off corner of a restaurant, the like of which I said I would never do. I do lots of things in Australia I said I'd never do.
The owner wants to be all things to all people as in expecting people to eat in a restaurant which has a mysterious curtained off bit into which people disappear, a commotion then ensues and people re emerge looking shocked and disgusted. I don't think he sold a lot of puddings.
It has teething problems. In the same way as Shane McGowan has teething problems. I wont articulate them here but suffice it to say this is never gonna work. Well not for me anyway.
1st Night No one turns up cancelled
2nd night Press are in so its all hands to the mast and I do a show in front of about 12 almost all of whom free.
3rd night 2 payers,gig cancelled. Who were they anyway?
4th night Scrape together about 8 victims, I mean audience members. To date this is the lowest audience I have ever played to but the festival is young.
5th night cancelled
6th night cancelled
7th night cancelled a pattern emerges.
8th night, Not scheduled to do a gig which would have been cancelled in any case and tonight feels a lot like a cancelled gig night anyway
9th night another 8 audience on a 2 4 1, which is now my new paradigm i.e. minimum I will play in front of.
10th night cancelled
May I just interject at this juncture and say that every night two or three (dunno what the third person was up to?) people a night have got the babysitters in, told their mates they are going to see this great comedian and yeah, I feel terrible but whaddayagonnado? However when my second Saturday has no one, NOT ONE person booked for it, I'm looking in the wardrobe for a dramatic exit and I don't mean Narnia.
11th night cancelled
12the night cancelled and so I employ an old friend to do an extra two hours leafleting for me, which isn't as shit as it sounds since he knows me well and should do a better job than just "Wanna see a comedy show. No? Well heres a leaflet anyway." This gets me an extra two punters whom I am therefore subsidising to watch me perform to the tune of 15 dollars each. Even to me that seems a bit desperate. A full house could cost me a fortune. My ego is now the size of an Australian 2 dollar coin. (You'd have to be here).
"Fuck it off" said Amy Misbehave, my sword swallowing friend who has been around the block as in the world. "Have a holiday."
"But Jamie's fronting this and I can't let him down." Says I.
Now let me introduce Jamie McCarney.
Jamie is my go to guy on this trip and I must state he has been great, most promoters at this stage would have held the wardrobe door open, then shut it and put a chair across the door. He is just a mifftyfied as I am. I can tell the lovely front of house girls are getting worried about my health and sanity and too be quite honest I cant take many more sympathetic mumsy looks from the lot of them. A pity fuck? well that would be a different matter.
We have a meeting first thing Sunday morning. Its the day the clocks go back, daylight saving time so I even fuck this up, but I'm not sleeping anyway except for when I drop the emergency airline pills. Jamie's a lovely bloke who says to me "Cogs, I'm going to give the option of pulling your show, just do The Best of British and treat this as a working holiday"That, is the nicest thing any one has ever said to me.
THE BEST OF BRITISH
This show is keeping the show on the road (terrible repetition but what can I do?) It sells out every night and is compered by Dan and has now settled down into this format.
Jen Brister or Gordon Southern
Geoff with a G Boyce
and to my mind that is the correct running order and I'll tell you why in a second. Meanwhile here is a review to save me explaining, it's a good one of course, I could show you others.
THIS annual showcase of great Brits has become a festival favourite, a guarantee of class acts punching out the puns in a packed 60 minutes.
Hosted by the always on-song Dan Willis, this particular night’s line-up featured Tom Binns, Geoff Boyz, Gordon Southern and Ian Cognito. Binns slipped into one of his most popular disguises – hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury, whose inappropriate patter and song selection hit the right note with the audience. A perfect opener.
Physical comedy is very much a part of Scotsman Boyz’s act and he was soon bouncing around the stage. It has to be said his opening gags were better than some closing lines that missed the mark. But as he even said, they were funny lines that deserved better appreciation. Southern’s festival show is called Your New Favourite Comedian. And on this effort, it’s no idle boast.
This likeable performer’s ad libs were quick and clever, covering a range of topics and never really missing a beat. Foreign interpretation of our indigenous football code has been fertile yet predictable ground for comedians for years. Yet Southern’s take on footy at the ’G made it sound fresh again.
The night was rounded out by the Cockney Cognito, who is not a performer for the faint-hearted. Aggressive, confrontational, loud and deliberatively offensive may not sound like a fun time and many people were shifting uncomfortably in their seats. But amid it all there were plenty of great lines.
His style is a real challenge. You have been warned.
The performers use this showcase as a teaser to lure people to their solo shows. Going by the Gordon Southern flyers that were, um, flying off the table, it’s likely his upcoming shows might have just got a whole lot busier.
Now here's what I know.
Binnsy is writing his Edinburgh show so he's happy on first and he is quite simply great, as you will know if you've seen him, if you haven't, fuck off back to your cave you know nothing cunt cos you probably wont know who I am either.I've been changed from headliner to the much coveted second slot and I'm all right with that. I am writing new stuff all the time and trying things out to keep me sane and convince myself that I am a comedian. Some of the stuff is good, as in brilliant and I should go home with about 15 minutes of new stuff including 4 or 5 of those jokes that will live on after I'm dead. Believe me this is a good hit rate. However I am taking risks and therefore risky so best put in the girly slot and Dan is happy with the way I'm playing it. I think.
Jen Brister. She alternates the spot with Gordon cos he's often doing something else. OMFG! What revelation! Gotta be careful here cos she's a feisty bird but she's one of the best stand ups I've seen in many a long while. And I haven't even prefaced that by saying female That's what I mean by being careful. She mixes and matches and though she always bangs in great routines I'm miffed when she doesn't do my other favourite ones. Fuck me she's good.
Gordon's got this Melbourne lark sussed, or susseder than the rest of us, he works hard and in the words of someone famous "the harder I work the better I get" He's doing a set of mainly Australian stuff and takes risks. He puts the cock in cocky.
Boycie. The Headliner. Well, you can't say he takes risks. But let me put it this way, when Dan says to me, "I need another Boycie for next year" neither of us could come close to thinking of one. He is rock solid, he's honed his act and is all the better for it. He will do the business. I fucking love dis guy.
This show is more or less paying for everything.
Meanwhile, back in the real world what I've settled down to is this.
Fuck about most of the day maybe write a joke or two in a cafe drinking ridiculously strong coffee which although they bang on about it isn't particularly good. It's bitter and it all tastes the same. Strong and bitter, like me only I'm not strong. During the day I try not do do anything improving like seeing a sight, other than me in the mirror although I have been to The Melbourne Museum.
"Some things I know and I know this. Never ever ever go to Melbourne Museum during the school holidays. Cos kids are cunts"
A quick word about cunts. It's the usual boring thing about the c word and I am only typing it that way to illustrate the mealy mouthed, prissy immature mind set that sometimes we have to deal with as comedians. In short, in general they don't like it. The trouble is I like setting out my stall and one laugh you can get which you cant get any other way is to drop it in very early on as in Sadowitz's "Nelson Mandela, what a cunt" opening. Well I tried doing a cunt opener (Oooh err missus) a few times and whereas it gets a laugh and an intake of breath I'm pretty sure I lose a few audience members at this point i.e. a minute into my set. Normally those people can just fuck off cos we ain't gonna get on anyway. However here I am responsible to other people and although I still cunt it up, I leave it 'till they might just possibly maybe, slightly like me before I bomb them. Not a big problem but something you have to learn and make a call on. Here at least. In short although there are things I would like to do for my dignity and self belief I am not doing them. I am running in forth gear and I have a fifth and maybe even overdrive (do they still have that?) Slightly annoying. As one of the Aussie comedians, Dave Tulke said to me. "We haven't seen anything like you here."
I'm typing this four days before the end of the festival;. I'll get back to you and let you know if I get into overdrive. Maybe on the last night.
It's now Easter. Last night was the anniversary of the Last Supper. Last night I danced on the bar of the Exford. Last night I finally did a gig at The Athenaeum, the biggest and oldest club in Melbourne. Today is Good Friday and my show is not listed in the programme for some reason that no one can fathom. I am writing this in a pub.
We'd decided I was going to do three shows at the end of the festival coinciding with the Easter weekend but here I am on Good Friday with no tickets sold cos I'M NOT IN THE FUCKING BROCHURE. You've gotta laugh 'aintcha? Well, not if you're a punter in The Athenaeum watching a rather rude English comic you don't.
The Athenaeum has been a bit of a saga. Both Binnsy and Boycie have done a week there and originally I was scheduled this final week but after my balls up at the Comics Lounge and a bit of a whispering campaign it has been whittled down to one night and that's how I lost 1200 dollars.
It was definitely a very Maundy Thursday.
If I'd made a mistake I would acknowledge it but I can honestly say I wouldn't play it any differently, they just didn't go with it. Sure big laughs every now and then, even blokes spitting their pints back up but no roll. Here's my luck. When I asked a front bird what was written on my sock (I always ask a bird cos blokes sometimes try to be clever) she answered in Spanish trying to be clever which meant I had to take the piss out of her and that set the tone.
When I went into the dressing room after.
"So how do you think that went Ian?"
Well we all know what that means.
I'll say that for Tula, the boss of the Athenaeum, she took a flyer on me and it didn't come off. She knows her audience. My opinion is they are a about ten years behind us but then I would say that wooden eye. Once again the Best of British saved my bacon because I went back there and did a spectacular show.
So as it winds up and I think thank God that's over what was it all about Alfredo? It was going to be the trip that saved my life and it damn near ended up killing me.
Basically I have spent a month wandering aimlessly around a city trying to stay out of the pub and getting hardly any sleep. About ten days ago I was having a cup of coffee with Jeff and Fiona when blood started gushing out of my nose, I had burst a blood vessel and my high blood pressure meant it wouldn't stop. I ended up in St Vincent's hospital. While you are in the Ambulance they are taking details for who they send the invoice to. Well as usual I said my next of kin, Mr Jeff Green of St Kilda. He should be used to this by now. ($1,015.17 for a ten minute ride. Scream if you're going to die.) This should be good for a bit of material, I thought, but the doctor turned out to be German so that was that fucked.
My analysis? I feel they are scared of anarchy.It's a very ordered society out here. They wait for the green light before crossing. There can be fuck all on the road for miles in either direction but they stand there like bovines. Then the green light comes on a rattling sound comes form the post and they charge across, a tsunami of people meeting in the middle like Braveheart, only not so brave. Everywhere you go you hear that rattling noise. I hate it.
There are signs everywhere threatening to fine you for everything. I can see one at this pub table "Please ensure you are seated all times when consuming food and drink." I mean fuck me what next? "This bag is not a toy."
Ned Kelly is turning in his grave. Not least because of all the dickheads here that are trying to look like him. There is a bloke at my venue who has pissed in my pocket several times (a good thing apparently) but I can't stand him because of his stupid beard, it's obviously the most interesting thing about him.
There's a busker outside my window he's of the Asian persuasion and he knows three songs, which he plays, every night, over and over and over again on a violin, plaintively. And yet no one kills him! I look wistfully at the wardrobe.
It has not been a career move, not that anything I do is but now I shall be going to Sydney and onto Uluru in a couple of days with two of my best friends. Ah the company of old men. With a bit of luck I shouldn't be out of pocket, which is full of piss as we speak, although let's not speak too soon.
I feel it may be my last festival, I'm too old for this game and can't give enough of a fuck. With just one show on Saturday to go I don't think there's going to be a fairy tale ending. Four weeks is too long to be "on" and I can't do the same thing two nights on the trot let alone twenty five.
Melbourne, I have to say, I got here but you didn't get me.