From In Search of LOLitanium to Infinity!

Posted on 29 July 2014 | No responses

After this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival I have been re-thinking my blog. Even though I could say more about comedy, I haven’t been certain if I wanted to remain so narrowly focussed here.

I went into the arts because it’s who I am. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t feel 100% dedicated to serving the world through my creativity. One of my earliest memories is of being in a church for an aunty’s wedding. Just staring at the light coming through the stained glass windows stirred feelings so big for such a little girl that I burst into tears. I wasn’t sad or upset, I was in awe. I couldn’t have been more than five and my parents were concerned because they couldn’t figure out what the matter was. My family have loads of humorous stories about how they could always reason with me: that time was beyond them.

I have also been a social and environmental activist since I can remember. I have long felt that the issues we face in this world can only be sustainably addressed when we change people’s attitudes, when we help them to embrace uplifting and life-affirming values. Forcing people to change via legislation only goes so far before people start rebelling. Lecturing at people only really works with those who are willing to listen to a lecture, and often that’s the converted. However, when you engage with people’s feelings and imaginations, they tend to open up more. The arts are not an optional extra, they are crucial to our development as mature human beings.

Charles Dickens’s portrayal of industrial child labour helped to bring about British child labour laws. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy television show helped considerably in improving US attitudes toward the gay population. The Harry Potter series of books by J.K.Rowling brought about the Harry Potter Alliance and a growing movement of youth charitable involvement. Some people will smile patronisingly when I speak about these things, but these are people who want to seem important, not actually do important work.

We cannot use people who are too proud to care. We can use people who are engaged and joyful. We can use people who are accepting and kind. We can use people who are willing to hold out a hand in friendship to others no matter how strange or different they may seem. Comedy is important to me because it is a strong factor in giving people the resilience and will to do good. Comedy is as noble an art form as any.

So, I have decided to make this blog more about arts, values, learning, activism, AND comedy. Comedy will still be here. Hence the name change from In Search of LOLitanium to Bildungorama in 3D! “Bildung” is the word for a German concept about personal maturation. This is achieved through the harmonisation of heart and mind such that an individual can freely add to social wellbeing. It’s part of my collection of cool words like “ubuntu” and “gambatte”.

If you have been reading In Search of LOLitanium, I hope you continue to read as I take this slight change in direction.

Thank you all for your wonderful support through the years.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

London Museum of Comedy

Posted on 3 June 2014 | No responses

The Museum of Comedy has just opened its premises in London. It is located near the British Museum in a historic old house.

Currently, it’s running an exhibition of the photography of Steve Ullathorne, the man responsible for some of modern British comedy’s most iconic portraiture. This space is arranged for performance and comedy workshops as well.

The brainchild of Leicester Square Theatre director Martin Witts, the Museum of Comedy is a brand new, interactive, immersive museum for all the family, featuring iconic props and artefacts from our rich comedic history and housing one of the most comprehensive collections of Comedy memorabilia ever to be amassed in one place.

The museum has been lovingly put together by Martin with his collection of over six thousand artefacts and print from some the most iconic comedians and comedy shows both past and present, amassed during his career spanning over three decades in the comedy industry.

Given how large the Melbourne Comedy Festival is and how much comedy is a part of Australian culture, we really need a space like this in Australia as well. One day someone is going to say, “Katherine, I would very much like to work with you on creating something like that,” then LOOK OUT! Awesomeness will ensue.

In the meantime I know exactly where I’m going during my next holiday stay in London!

Museum of Comedy: http://www.museumofcomedy.com/

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

10 Commandments of Making

Posted on 25 May 2014 | No responses

Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame did a talk about his ten commandments of making. Many of these equally apply to creating a comedy show. The commandments are the first ten minutes of this video. The rest of the video is Savage taking questions from his youthful fans.

Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals: we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you are doing both at once.
~Adam Savage

Adam Savage’s 10 Commandments

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

I’m not a model (I’m a comedian)

Posted on 17 May 2014 | No responses

Sarah Millican talks about her experience attending the BAFTAs. Her dress received more (negative) comment than the quality of her comedy, for which she was attending.

I’m sorry. I thought I had been invited to such an illustrious event because I am good at my job. Putting clothes on is such a small part of my day. They may as well have been criticising me for brushing my teeth differently to them.
Sarah Millican: Twitter was a pin to my excitable Bafta balloon

Read the whole article. It’s worth thinking about. We need to insist that all people are judged by the quality of their character and/or the quality of their work: not by their gender, not by their colour, not by their sexual preferences, not by the money in their bank account, not by the country into which they were born, not by anything that is beyond their control.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Some Comedy Festival Insights

Posted on 12 May 2014 | No responses

Melbourne Comedy Festival comedians reveal what it’s really like behind the scenes

According to the festival director, Susan Provan, only about half of the acts break even. That means that after the 10 per cent who get all the big crowds, the remaining 40 per cent lose money — or, as she calls it — are “investing in their career”.

Make sure if you are doing comedy, you genuinely love it. If you make it about fame and fortune, you will break your heart.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Take The Leap Now

Posted on 12 May 2014 | No responses

I’m currently finalising sign-ups for an arts festival. I know a few people who have talked up a good game about participating, but when push comes to shove, are unlikely to do it.

I know of one fellow who asked to help on one of my shows as crew. He said he wanted to learn, so he could eventually do his own show. When I invited him on board, he disappeared. He was terrified he would mess things up, and he wasn’t even going to be on stage.

So many like to think that if they were given a chance, they would be a public superstar of some sort. You become a “superstar” by being willing stand up to the task.

A few things I have learned:

  • If I wait for things to be just right before I do something, I may never do it.
  • If I wait until I’m not scared to do something, I may never do it.
  • If I wait until all my friends approve, I may never do things.
  • If I wait until my parents approve, I definitely will never do things.
  • If I wait until I’m certain I won’t fail, I will never do things.
  • If I wait for other people to do things for me, I will never do things.
  • If I blame other people for my not doing things, I will not do them.
  • If I think I am a failure, I might do a thing, but I am much more likely to sabotage it to prove that I am a failure.

The only way to do a thing is to just do it, and be open to whatever happens. As an artist, you have absolutely no wasted experience. You learn, you gain insight into life and humanity, and you have material to make your next artistic creation. In the arts there really is no such thing as failure. You might be disappointed in an outcome, but it can always be a step toward becoming a better artist.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Monday 12 May 2014—Protect Your Freedom of Speech
George Carlin Memorial Freedom of Comic Speech Day!

Posted on 5 May 2014 | No responses

Your freedom of speech is being threatened in many countries. In Victoria Australia where the third largest comedy festival in the world is held, comedians should know that it is in fact unlawful to swear in public or hold public demonstrations or protests.

This is why on Good Friday many protestors were using church property in the city of Melbourne as a location to hold signs and express anger over the treatment of refugees. We aren’t the only ones facing governmental abridgements of freedom.

If this concerns you, if you feel strongly that a fair society with a hearty democracy requires its freedoms, then please join us in celebrating the George Carlin Memorial Freedom of Comic Speech Day!

Find a comedy venue with an open mic next Monday and read out George Carlin’s “The Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”. I have a copyright free version you can download here. Though, I would suggest getting a transcript of the version found on Carlin’s album Class Clown.

You can read more about George Carlin and the Freedom of Comic Speech Day in my earlier post about this event.

Happy birthday George!

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

31 Questions—A Few Answers

Posted on 23 April 2014 | 1 response

For the most part I like staying focused on live performance. So much movie and television comedy is in the world, and many people are already reviewing it. The areas that don’t get as much love are comedy radio shows, podcasts, vodcasts, and community television. These are sometimes seen as lesser forms to their larger budget cousins. When they are considered, it’s usually as a stepping stone into film and tv.

When you care about being a full-time artist, it’s easy to dismiss grassroots media, because it’s so hard to make a living there. Nevertheless, their existence is vital to a healthy culture and a healthy democracy. Large media conglomerates narrow people’s tastes and present them with a self-serving view of the world. We need artists creating exciting new media that goes right off the edge of mainstream productions. We need creators exposing the populace to hidden realities and asking tough questions. Not everything has to be dark and/or political, but experimentation and exploration are a must.

Writer and producer Dean Watson had been prodding me for some time to take a peek at 31 Questions, a tv show on community television Channel 31. I finally had a spare moment last week and was provided a ticket to see the last show of the season. It was a nice moment to be with the 31 Questions cast and crew. It was their thirty-first show and may well have been their finale. The celebratory atmosphere as the studio audience packed out all the seating space to wish the show a fond farewell was a delight.

After seeing that night’s show I hope they go on. They were doing some very interesting things with the genre.

Ostensibly 31 Questions is a trivia show. They have two contestants from the public, several rounds of questions, a host, a scorekeeper, and a moderator. But they didn’t leave things there. Comedy and storytelling were clearly important to all those who collaborated in putting the show together. So the regular performers don’t simply have roles, they also have characters. These characters are developed through scripted interactions and continuing storylines throughout the seasons. It’s a simple enough concept, and we’ve had tastes of this sort of show in television sketch programs like That Mitchell and Webb Look. Dedicating an entire show to the idea gives some room to creatively reconnoitre.

Steve Coogan made a name for himself sending up news shows and talk show hosts as Alan Partridge using a similar format to 31 Questions. I like the fact this is more of an ensemble work. David M. Green plays a self-absorbed, egotistical nitwit and game presenter. Anthony McCormack (of The Naughty Rude Show) plays a jovial curmudgeon. Sophie Loughran plays a put-upon scorekeeper. I enjoyed seeing them send up the sexual politics of the usual gameshow format. Their timing was good and their performances engaging.

31 Questions only touched on the possibility of more nuanced social commentary and overt stories. Their sense of fun was spot on. I would really like to see them do another season, only give themselves the space to go nuts with their own structure. Go ahead and fill out the characters and let us know about their lives as they intersect with the show. If they do not continue with 31 Questions, congratulations everyone on a terrific show! I would be interested to know about your future endeavours.

See episodes: www.youtube.com/user/31questions

31-questions-blog

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

2014 Melbourne Comedy Festival:
• Liam Ryan—The Hedge

Posted on 17 April 2014 | No responses

One of my great pleasures in reviewing over the years is watching certain comedians grow as performers. My first glimpse of Liam Ryan was a year and a half ago at Melbourne Fringe. He split the stage time with another younger comedian and gave us a thirty minutes of what he could do. It was a promising glimpse.

This year at the comedy festival he is performing a solo show, The Hedge. It’s a little bit about his hedge of curly hair, but mostly it’s about how he hedges his bets and is indecisive. This is the sort of material that plays very well in animated cartoons. He tells us about being mugged in Paris, he reads his many opening lines for novels that will never get written, he delves into the drama that is Trubloff: the mouse who wanted to play the balalaika. These stories are made delicious with his all too human inability to act. Hamlet and Ryan would get along like a house on fire.

Ryan’s performance is effortless. He leaves himself room to interact with the audience. He combines intelligent and witty humour with a sympathetic and accessible persona. You really don’t have to play down to your audience. You do need to find your common humanity, because that’s from where great comedy comes. Ryan is a sophisticated performer who is more cuddly than edgy, and I like that.

Ryan is playing at The Duke of Wellington Pub which has recently had a facelift. I say this because if you are put off by remembering what the place used to be like, don’t. It’s very swish these days. It does ensure you can have a delightful evening out with a meal, a drink, and a charming show. Definitely worthwhile!

Tickets: www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/the-hedge-liam-ryan

2014-liam-ryan

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

2014 Melbourne Comedy Festival:
• Michael Workman—War

Posted on 16 April 2014 | No responses

Michael Workman is an artist and a comedian. Snobs may like some artists, but that doesn’t mean those artists are snobs. Workman has a magical ability to create vivid and intricate worlds with his words, drawings, and music. These worlds are rich in human emotion and compassion. If you enjoy being moved, as I do, you go to a Workman show. I also enjoy a laugh, because laughter is an important part of being human. If you enjoy a laugh, it’s also worth going to a Workman show. Snobs aren’t good at recognising that joy has value too.

Workman’s shows Humans Are Beautiful, Mercy, and Ave Loretta were all deeply poignant. Creating intense works isn’t as easy as just watching them for an hour or two. Artists have to live with the pain of their characters for however long it takes to create and perform them. That’s hard work. This year Workman chose to perform a show called War, which could have potentially been his darkest outing yet.

War is about a morphine addicted journalist who is reporting on a very strange war without obvious victims. A bomb has gone off which obliterated everyone’s dreams. While Workman is weaving this story he meanders into a number of asides about his life. Despite the heavy concept, this is one of Workman’s lighter shows. He reminds us that he is indeed a standup comic as well, and is a deft hand at absurd humour.

We don’t get as much character development in War. Nevertheless, Workman is hammering home some very good points about how atomised we have become, how we no longer trust one another, and how we let others do our dreaming for us. There’s a difference between sadness and despair, and the subjects he covers could easily lend themselves to despair. As such I believe he was right in choosing a light touch.

I would have liked a little more story to back up the journalist’s adventures. This was still a wonderful evening. I was pleased to see more of Michael Workman’s creative explorations. I really wish our government had a national treasure award, where certain people are just given a living wage in gratitude for their contributions and thereby make more of their art possible. Michael Workman would be one of the people deserving of this award.

Tickets: www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/war-michael-workman

2014-michael-workman

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

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