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Thursday, March 21, 2013

A Leaf On The Wind

Last night I went to the Sit Down Comedy Club to watch the Queensland final of Raw Comedy.  It was a wonderful show, but that is another story.

I had heard the tragic news that Network Video at Paddington was closing due to dwindling business as a consequence of the rise of the download.  Another bricks and mortar video shop bites the dust, so soon after Blockbuster closed a bunch of its own stores including my beloved local New Farm store.

So en route to the Paddo to see the comedy, I stopped in one last time.

While I was never a member at this particular store (because I never lived close enough to be a member), going there was always the natural companion piece to going to the comedy club.  It felt like an old school video store.  It felt grounded and felt real.  The staff were the cool, young movie geeks you would expect to find working in a video store; you could imagine them bantering with Quentin Tarantino or Kevin Smith. 

Their range was outstanding.  They were the only store I knew of that stocked region 1 DVDs for titles that weren’t available anywhere else.  They were the only store I knew of that kept VHS copies of movies that were never re-released on DVD.  They were located nearby the comedy club, so they had a special section of stand up comedy DVDs.

The staff welcomed and chatted with everyone who came into the store as if you were one of them.  When I was in last night, the staff gleefully put on enjoyably stupid movies like The Ringer and Bio-Dome (“heads up, everyone:  I’m putting on Bio-Dome”), and those wandering around the store, scavenging the stock that sadly must go, giggled and mocked Knoxville, Shore and Baldwin as they played.

While there, I naturally bought some ex-rentals, mostly stand-up comedy DVDs.  I also bought an ex-rental BluRay of a movie called Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom. 

The movie is infamous. 

Based on the Marquis de Sade’s notorious I-guess-you-could-call-it-a novel, it is an equally disturbing 1970’s Italian movie by Pasolini which contains horrific depictions of sexual fetishes that range from the skipping across crossing a line level of immorality to full sprint past the line into unspeakable torture.  Basically, it’s Patrick Bateman’s bedtime story.

I have never seen it.  There is a very good chance I’ll hate it. 

But here’s the thing.  Salo was banned in Australia for a long time.  It is an artistic work of fiction and is entirely simulated.  It was submitted, rejected, resubmitted, rejected, edited, resubmitted, briefly allowed, appealed against and rejected, and so for almost 40 years.

In 2010, it was passed by the Classification Board on one condition:  that it could only be available on DVD or BluRay with copious supplemental material i.e. bonus features which created context and provided avenue for discussion.   

It can’t be screened in a cinema, it can’t be aired on television, and it can’t be purchased and downloaded.

The physical DVD/BluRay format is the primary reason why this movie now exists.

It’s why I haven’t yet been sold on the idea of downloading movies when I can get a physical copy with all of these immersive extra features for the same price.  It’s something downloading can’t offer (yet, at least).

But I know that with the expanding volume of iTunes and Amazon, I am the minority, which is sad.

I have joined my fourth Blockbuster this week, one with a decent library for a Blockbuster, especially TV series.  It’s no Network Video at Paddington, but it’s what I can get and I’m happy to be a member.

The Paddington store always displayed its cool and humourous persona through its marquee on Given Terrace with an ever-changing rotation of quotes and pop culture references. 

The one before me when I approached this final time conjured, independent of pop culture knowledge, a beautifully poetic image, implying a soft and peaceful resolution like the final shot of Forrest Gump.

But to those who get the reference, it is bittersweet and heartbreakingly appropriate: a final quote from a beloved character in Joss Whedon’s Serenity who, in typical Whedon fashion, is suddenly, unexpectedly and brutally ended.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Seven Minutes Of The Taxpayers' Money

Thanks to the generosity and support of Spencer Howson, I was lucky to make my first performance on the ABC recently.

Now, when I say "first", I'm talking about first appearance with the appreciation of a functioning adult. 

I'm not counting the time I got to pretend to read the news at the ABC stand at the Ekka.

Or the time I boneheaded a live cross to a news report outside a courthouse because I was looking at my phone and almost walked into the reporter.

Or the time in 1992 where I was in a 7.30 Report story about a busload of football fans who took a coach down to Sydney for the Broncos' first grand final and they asked me to retrieve a map I had in my bag and they filmed me showing it to them amd then used a voice-over that implied I was looking at a map the whole way down BUT I WASN'T I NEVER EVEN LOOKED AT IT LIE PEOPLE GET ME MEDIA WATCH.


It was a fun and exciting thing to do, doing live breakfast radio and at an outside broadcast with a live audience; rushing and frantic.  I was so out of it, I didn't even recognise Emily Seebohm sitting there in her Olympic tracksuit and gold and silver medals around her neck.  I later thought that it seemed kind of unfair how I wasn't allowed to swear on-air in the song and yet I was immediately followed by a C-bomb...  Boom.  Tish.


In the very brief interview before the song, I plugged two things I've got coming up:

  • Ladies Comedy Night, which is a series of three Sunday nights (September 30, October 7 and October 14) where there is a changing lineup of top female comedians and one token male comic who is there to be a representative of all men ever.  Which is me.  Apparently.  I'm the man.  It.  Me.  Sorry, bros.  I got this one. 

    The women are all top comedy people, including Anne Edmonds, Melinda Buttle, Jenny Wynter, Kat Davidson, Ellen Briggs, Mandy Nolan, etc.  You can get more info from Kat's page or from the Sit Down Comedy Club.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Comedy Sunday Sesh -- 22 July

This is a gig which I am doing next week that's going to be OFF THE HOOK. 
Peter Pan.

My photo is courtesy of Smurphotography.

It's a comedy showcase with some of my absolute favourite local acts - Pete Rosky, Cameron Duggan, Dan Rath, Sam Campbell and Joe Shaffer, with Fred Lang as MC.  I recommend them all.  A thoroughly funny lineup and for a bargain of a price.  REAL GOOD Yeah wow POP.

The tickets are $15.  Buy them through me directly and I will do you a deal.  $15 each but if you buy 2 or more, I'll put them down to $10 each.  (So, 2 for $20, 3 for $30, 10 for $100.)

This is just a deal I'm doing - you can't get it if you book through the club or buy tickets at the door. 

So buy your tickets direct from me, not through the club.  I'm going renegade on these ticket mofos like Louis.  You buy through the club for this one, then you have to pay a booking fee and all that crap.  So nuts to that and just see me about tickets.  I'd rather get you in cheaply and see a great show for less.

If you want tickets - AND YOU DO - get in touch with me somehow. 
  • You can tweet me, send me a FB message, shoot me a message in the comments section (it should work like a private message because I moderate the comments). 
  • I can fix you up with direct debit, Paypal or cash, if you know you're going to see me sometime this week. 
  • Then I can organise to post you the tickets or give them to you on the night.

Okay, sexy cats.  See you there!

James  x


Let's be frank here: I got shit. 

By the way, if you're new to me, hi.  I'm James.  How are you?  You look nice.  I'm a musician and a comedian.  I sometimes put the two together and people seem to enjoy it. 

I don't want to make a bad first impression.  I'm normally very upbeat and my typing speed is above average and I think I'd be an asset to the company.  

You've just caught me in a moment when I'm coming to terms with doubt and anxiety at 2 in the morning.  You picked an odd first one to read.  Basically, Papa's gonna vent.  It's going to get personal and self-loathing and emotional and will probably contain swearing and, more offensively, typos.

And I assure you, the rest of my stuff is mostly not like this.  This one is really for me; about getting stuff off my chest that had been sitting there like a bear that hibernates in summer and has a thing for chests with hair in the shape of the Batman logo.

So, go to my YouTube channel and listen to my pretty songs and watch my silly videos or read some of my older stuff then meet me back here when you've finished.  Actually, leave about six or seven months in between to accurately reflect the passage of time.


Okay, they're gone.

I was just getting into how I let this writing project of mine careen off the rails like a slow-mo train crash and was about to rattle off the usual myriad of excuses.  I was tired I was busy doing worthwhile things I was doing nothing worthwhile I had nothing to say I wasn't inspired Life got in the way I needed to rethink everything about me I furrrrrrgot howw to typp

Some of these were actually true.  WELL, I'VE NOW SNAPPED THE FLIP OUT OF IT.

But before that ...

I did post occasionally but I'll admit that they were rough.  They were just there to be there.  That's how stuff happens.  You think of it and then it's there.  Like this bit.  Some are still on the blog here, I think.

These posts attracted trolls.  One of whom - who posted under a pseudonym several times and whose comments have been removed now - flat out told me I was not funny.  What got me about this commenter was that they and I were obviously "friends" on Facebook, where, like most comedians, I would post jokes, seeking personal validation via digital thumb.  They said these were as terrible as the I posted on Facebook - "funny as a used band-aid" was one of them - before backhandedly complimenting me on my standup before telling me to give up.  Even more hurtful, it was literate and articulate - a rarity in flaming.

The sad fact is 97% of my friends outside of comedy did and do not come and see comedy, even mine, no matter how much I promote it.  They just don't. And I didn't actually start doing stand-up until quite later into my stage time at clubs.  This all led to the conclusion that it was someone from the Brisbane comedy scene.

And I have to be honest: I let it get to me
It just crippled me. 

Yes, I am fucking idiot.

I irrationally found myself unable to trust anyone in comedy, which is incredibly harsh and unfair because I know some of the most kind, beautiful and hilarious souls who get up on that stage and absolutely destroy the room and then come off and are incredibly humble. I feel the worst for ever thinking that of them.

I went through a period of a good few months where I just did not give a shit about comedy.  I was a zombie.  If I did gigs, I was totally spacing through them.  Thought about quitting because I was just getting no enjoyment anymore.

Hecklers don't bother me as much anymore.  Hecklers are temporary.  Hecklers are this comma --> , in the sentence of comedy because, even though it interrupts, you can still finish a sentence to make the comma work to your advantage.  Shrug it off.  It was one idiot who you'll never hear from again.  There's the next gig and it will be amazing.  But in this situation, it was personal.  It was clearly somebody who knew me and I knew them and I would see them at some point in the near future and I wouldn't know who it was.

And then, you know, shit, I got reflective about comedy in general.

I thought about how I fell in love with comedy, about the first time I went to MICF and fell in love with it all, about the coolness yet down-to-earth accessibility of comedians, how they were seen by me as rock stars but they were happy to have a beer with you and have a chat.  Totally my Almost Famous period.

And then I thought whether things had changed in five years.  Was it the attitude of comics or was it me?  Was it because I was now contributing as an act on stage, that I was no longer a punter in their eyes but, if not a peer, then a wannabe?  I mean, I now find it so much harder to go up to comedian of which I am a fan and have a conversation with them with the same kind of openness I had when I was just a punter.  And I questioned whether this was because of my own insecurity as a performer.  Was it that I had nothing to lose before but now I'm trying to impress?


Anyway, I never found out who it was and I don't want to know.  I don't care anymore.  It doesn't matter what they think.  It doesn't matter.  I can't control it and I hate myself for ever letting it get to me as badly as it did.

What I can control is how I feel about it.  I can control how I rationalise it.  This is an anomaly.  It does not reflect the grander scheme of things.  If I have a bad gig one night, I force myself to remember a great gig.  That's what you have to do.  You have to have faith in what you're doing and clearly, at the time, my faith was shaken.

But I'm back.

Since last year, I've done amazing gigs with very talented people in both comedy and music. 
I've got gigs booked.
I love being around good people in comedy.
I've got two shows to work on this year - a musical in August/September and a new Complete First Season show in November.
I want to get back into YouTube.
I want to write more blogs.
I want to write more songs.
I want to write more jokes.

I want.  And it's something I haven't felt in months.

This is Craig Ferguson.  He is profane, he is profound, he is 100% dead right and it took me a painfully long time to realise what he says here.

I am never going to let it happen again.

James   x

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Old Man

Today, I was in the food court.

With a chin being absent-mindedly stroked by my right forefinger and an upward tilt of my head, I looked at the menu of the Indian takeaway. I must have stared at it for at least fifteen seconds before my mind wandered and I was spacing.

A few seconds into my journey into no thought, a distant SNAP and sight of clicking fingers drew me back into the world. An old man - a stranger to me - had his arm raised and was snapping his fingers in my eyeline, creating a distracting obstacle between me and the Indian takeaway menu.

When he saw I was back attention-wise, his arm withdrew and his spine curled back into its apparently normal hunched forward posture.

He stepped towards me, with a stony expression on his face and big black rimmed glasses. He looked to me like one of the Pixar "old man" characters (Geri from Geri's Game/Toy Story 2 or Carl Frederickson from Up) but with a few lone hairs sprouting from the left side of his chin that he'd clearly repeatedly failed to prune.

He spoke, pausing after every few words to catch his breath, as if the walk of two metres had exhausted him.

"Why... did the computer... cross... the road?"

I didn't know and told him so.

"Because it was programmed by the chicken."

I didn't laugh, but I did politely smile. "Okay." His face hardly changed expression - still stony, deadpan with a few straggling hairs - but I sensed he was amused.

"You have to keep that old joke up to date, you know? Someone had to do it."

He'd apparently caught his breath. I jokingly asked...

"Is it a PC or a Mac?"

"... what?"

"The computer. Is it a PC or a Mac? And what operating system does it use?"

The man looked at me, stone faced and hairy chinned, for a few seconds.

"... you don't want the curry from this place."

He turned and walked away, to strap some balloons to his roof or not shave those hairs on the left side of his chin.