Posted on 23 March 2015 | No responses
Hello fans of all things piractical and silly!
My new show has a preview this Friday and is opening on Saturday. Should be a good one. Plenty of Mighty Boosh style fun.
You can pre-purchase tickets here: http://www.trybooking.com/GKXR
Or buy tickets at the door!
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 23 March 2015 | No responses
I may be teaching acting for comedy classes at the Australian Centre of the Performing Arts come this May. As such I am re-examining the basics in order to pass that knowledge on to my students. If you are interested in attending my course, keep an eye out here for further announcements.
A performer is comic in three ways. Often these are combined in a variety of manners, but they can and frequently are worked independently.
1) Saying funny things.
Comedy does not require vocalisation. However, people can be funny by the jokes and stories they tell while standing perfectly still at a microphone. Get a performer like Elliott Goblet or Steven Wright on the stage and people are laughing even with the absence of facial expression.
2) Doing funny things.
Making faces, awkward body movement, strange vocal inflections and noises, pratfalls—basically clown comedy—has always been received well by audiences. Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks is well remembered. Police Academy’s Michael Winslow continues to be a crowd pleaser. Exaggerated reactions, peculiar methods for achieving everyday results, alien behaviour are also well loved. This is the sort of comedy that travels well across cultures. Mr Bean is a favourite all over the world, as is Jacques Tati and even our own Umbilical Brothers.
3) Dropped into a funny situation.
This comes in a number of flavours. You can have funny characters in funny situations: think Austin Powers or Ace Ventura. You can have deeply flawed characters in a funny situation: think Seinfeld. You can have completely normal characters (who are also going to be flawed, but in a less exaggerated manner) tossed into the deep end: think Little Miss Sunshine.
The situations will run from absurd to highly stressful, but not actually disastrous. The humour comes from people trying to cope with their circumstances: how they get it wrong, and the strange and ingenious means by which they may ultimately get it right. An audience will respond either with empathy (I know what that is like) or surprise (that was weird!).
Keeping these three possibilities in mind should make it easier when structuring your comedy. Making conscious choices about the tools you use and how always sharpens the resulting creative work.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 19 March 2015 | No responses
I am tired of sophomoric humour, transgressive humour, the humour of cynicism, pessimism, and hatred. I turn to humour as a place where I can find joy, relief, upliftment, and reflection upon the state of ourselves and the world.
I am tired of blanket judgements, demonisation, and dehumanisation. I am tired of people taking sides, then tearing the other side to shreds with their “humour”. I want to see a world where more kindness, compassion, and friendship is possible.
I want to see more mercy and forgiveness in the world, as well as more genuine social justice. I want more gentleness, grace, and acceptance of our humanity with all its faults and foibles. Tolerance and acceptance are both important skills. Help others to learn rather than alienating them, then have the patience to keep on doing this.
I want to see insightful humour, humour that brings about a more caring community. Not a piece of trivial clowning that is deeply dangerous to audience members both physically and emotionally for those with sexual triggers.
I want comedy to grow up. Because it is possible. Comedy is deeply important to our well-being…when it is done right.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 6 March 2015 | No responses
Every year the Melbourne Comedy Festival includes thousands of performers who are joking away in front of hundreds of thousands of audience members. With these numbers of people gathering together for four weeks, we are living in germ soup. Invariably the majority of comedians I know come down with a cold, the flu, or some other infection.
Given its topicality no doubt people are going to be making jokes about anti-vaxxers. They will be villainised as the most evil stupid people around. Look at how they are exposing MY child to deadly illnesses. It is completely true that these people are playing a dangerous game. They also feel endangered by their culture which has been regularly feeding them toxins tucked in their foods or hiding in ill-regulated pharmaceuticals.
Before judging these people take a look at yourself. Have you as a comedian booked in to take flu shots before the comedy festival? Or have you assumed that you are young and healthy, no need to bother or spend money on flu vaccination.
Every year 250,000-500,000 people die from the influenza virus, mostly children and the elderly. I worked with an accountant who when she was on the dole, her child contracted the flu. Because they lived in the country and didn’t have the means to bring the child into the hospital for a high fever, he suffered from brain-damage—a permanent injury. Who would this child have been if he hadn’t caught the flu during a difficult time in this woman’s life?
During the American Civil War 620,000 people died in the line of duty, that’s more deaths than any other war in US history. During WWI Australia lost around 60,000 people to military deaths and in WWII around 40,000. During WWI the United Kingdom lost around 800,000 people. The Spanish Influenza in 1918, the Asian Influenza in 1958, and the Hong Kong Influenza in 1968 each resulted in a million deaths world wide.
Before you stand in front of a room full of people do your best to ensure you aren’t spreading a potentially fatal disease. It may be an inconvenience to you, but it could be so much more to someone else in your audience.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 4 March 2015 | No responses
In all of the arts we can be so desperate to “make it” that we not only allow ourselves to be exploited, we exploit ourselves.
Add to this all the people who come to us because they see our field as one of the few remaining places where a rag to riches narrative can come true, and the results are a lot of art that neither moves nor uplifts us in any fashion. People of real talent and dedication are smashed against the rocks of desperate wannabes, who will do all they can to block you in order to ensure their own success.
The wannabes have good reason for wanting. All people should be able to contribute to their community and their culture without fear of want. Ambitions spread out more sensibly when people aren’t terrified of starvation.
The art of digital games…is still infused with the dreams of capital; that you must Sacrifice All; family life…, friends not also in the business, sleep, healthy eating habits, other hobbies, interest in things outside of games; in order to Make It Big. Indie Game The Movie, basically: out of immense financial personal and psychological sacrifice, comes fame, fortune, loved ones, being loved…
Stop exploiting yourselves.
It’s not just destroying you, it’s destroying your capacity to make good work, without the space to be a human, you will burn out, you will make mistakes and never have the time to forgive yourself, you will exhaust ideas, you will never replenish the nutrients you need to make fucking great things.
It’s making people leave making work at all, and it’s stopping a million voices who don’t have the money, time, or narrative framework to access making games. It’s making games worse.
~Hannah Nicklin “(Self) Employment Practices in Games”
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 27 February 2015 | No responses
Last year I arranged a Saturday afternoon where a group of my friends who have a photography club and another group of my friends who do comedy came together for a portrait photography day. The photographer friends wanted some practise taking images of human beings, since up until that point most of their work had been with nature and cityscapes. Getting models who were comic performers seemed like extra fun and more interesting than the usual carefully posed pretty people. The comedy friends could always use more promotional photographs and usually live within a tight budget. It was a win-win day.
Typically photographers hire models. Typically comedians pay for stills. If one group felt more desperate than the other, if one group felt fearful that they wouldn’t get what they needed, then it’s possible that group would have been required to pay money, because honestly it could have gone either way. So, the question that comes to my mind is, why do we pay people? How do we decide when numbers need to be passed around to ensure a fair exchange and how much?
Currently, we don’t have enough paid positions for the number of people in this country and on this planet. The number is going to go up with increasing roboticisation and expert systems taking over human employment. However, I would say there is plenty of work, just not enough flow of resources. We need people doing conservation work, caring for the elderly, developing new technologies, creating art, giving birth to healthy babies, etc. These people can be vulnerable enough that it is easy to ignore and abuse them, while they may still be providing essential services. The person who is fearful has to pay.
I remember once thinking that the problem was one whereby people clever at manipulating numbers were locking up currency in the hands of the few. With a community currency that could not be collected in a meaningful manner this problem would go away. I put together the Eastern Group Local Economic Trading System (EagLETS). After running this for a couple years I found some of the same problems that faced the wider community, we were again facing within our community currency group.
We had people join who were fearful that because of a lack of money they would not be able to do the things they loved. They felt so bogged down with the details of survival that they weren’t finding the time to paint, fish, hold barbecues, whatever. So, those willing to offer dishwashing, babysitting, and lawnmowing were in high demand. They could ask for greater pay in our currency because their time was at a premium. Whereas those who could offer handknitted blankets had to work doubly hard to have access to these services. Technically, they could go into debt and just ask for the services. Nevertheless, since we were keeping track of the trades and the numbers were public, it looked to all the world like the knitters weren’t pulling their weight. This generated resentment: the knitters for being valued so little, the rest of the LETS group because the knitters appeared to be a drag on the system.
I now know of LETS groups who make people apply to get in. If you don’t have a skill which the group needs, they will not accept you. So people with no skills, redundant skills, or are too young, old, or handicapped to contribute are left out. We have just re-invented the system as it is.
Keeping people fearful and needy is a good (bad) way to keep them manipulable. You can give fearful people less and less, and they are often willing to accept it. “Dream jobs” are notorious for this. I used to lecture in storytelling for computer game design. I had students who were desperate for jobs in the gaming industry. The poor wages and long hours they were willing to put up with was scandalous. No matter how awesome the job, a company should be obliged to pay people fairly and work people reasonable hours.
My thoughts are that we must stop thinking in terms of exchange. We need to stop thinking about whether someone has earned or deserves a living. We must start with the premise that everyone has a right to their existence. We will do all we can to ensure everyone has what they need. We need to learn how to share resources, then create broad inter-connected systems that make this possible. We also need to learn how to conserve resources, so that they continue to be available for future generations. This would be part of learning how to cooperate.
Cooperation will help us to get beyond just tending to our needs. We would then be able to allocate resources for education, arts, new technologies, and more. Work must become democratised. We are governed as much by our places of employment as we are by a country’s political systems.
When it comes to fairness it’s not exchange that makes what happens among people in a community fair, it’s participation. So long as everyone is participating and everyone is doing their best to ensure the community is surviving and then thriving, it is enough. The expectation of participation should then extend to inclusion…helping all members to contribute without obligation. And that is key: once we fall into obligation and punishment to make this new system work, we are back to more of the old system. We have to eliminate fear from our dealings.
The best way to change our current state of affairs is to learn to care about one another and the planet, then act without fear. Think to yourself, if I didn’t feel frightened or desperate then what would I do? Take that action. It’s the right one.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 25 February 2015 | No responses
The more thoughtful comedians will regularly ask themselves with certain jokes, have I gone too far? Have I gone beyond the realms of both good taste and ethics? Am I now part of the problem and not the solution?
Over the last few years we have seen storms flash over rape jokes, racist politcal cartoons, gamer and intellegentsia misogyny. It would be far too easy for people to say that comedy encourages bad behaviour. But comedy is just a tool. You can use a hammer to build a house or to bash someone in the head. Upon each occasion of bad behaviour, regardless of the tool, we need to ask ourselves: how was the tool used and why?
If the tool was used to manipulate, dominate, punish, or control, then we have a big problem.
Emotions are an important part of how we navigate our environment, form relationships, and survive. Anger is part of the emotional tool set. Anger is not a problem, what a person does with it is. Anger is part of our fight or flight response and helps us to act forcefully in the moment to ensure our survival. A person can get angry that a company is endangering our environment by dumping chemical waste, then choose petitions and peaceful protest to see that it stops. A person can also get angry on this occasion, then choose to firebomb a factory, killing workers and stopping the production of those chemicals.
These are very different choices. I would say the second one is wrong. The first method enlists people’s cooperation and provides an ongoing process where further changes can be made. The second method denies the humanity of others and relies on domination and punishment to get its way. Sadly, people of all political persuasions feel it is necessary to use these methods now and again.
Other tools that get used include sex, money, and positions of power. No one should have to feel ashamed of their sexuality, but when sex is used to manipulate, dominate, and worst of all punish…all of a sudden it is very dangerous. The same is true of money and power. People will resort to abusing these tools when they don’t feel safe for some reason: they need emotional validation, they are frightened that their survival is at risk, they feel someone wishes to harm them. This can cause an over-inflated need to control.
If we do not understand why a person has harmfully used a certain tool, if they do not understand why they have wrongly used a tool, we take away the tool and they will just find another one and continue their destructive behaviour. If we punish them without understanding, we are likely to cause a person to feel more insecure and not cure a thing. It has to stop somewhere. It stops with insight and compassion.
As comedians, simply mocking people isn’t going to change the world. We have to look deeper and take aim at the core of each issue. This starts with having better awareness of our own motives and that of our culture, then seeing how that fits into the world picture. Keep questioning yourself, it will make you a more interesting and relevant comedian—someone people will remember and respect.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 17 February 2015 | No responses
I’m launching a new variety show! Club Voltaire gave me the space once a month to gather together talented people of all sorts to shine like the stars they are. It’s meant to be something like The Muppet Show meets Prairie Home Companion.
To kick off we are doing a show about what life was like in 1915 with the proceeds going to the ANZAC Peace Coalition. We will have storyteller Roz Quinn and comedian Anthony Jeannot performing and more!
When: 7pm Saturday 28 February
Where: Club Voltaire, 14 Raglan Street, North Melbourne
Posted on 17 February 2015 | No responses
I have hit a difficult time. Currently, neither my partner nor I have a regular income. We had sufficient savings to keep us going for six months, and now we are running out and about to miss a mortgage payment.
I have a new job putting together workshops for a makers cooperative. However, I will see no money until the workshops are happening and attracting funds. And let’s be honest, I’m in the arts. I’m unlikely to ever make a living wage.
I am currently getting around 160,000 unique hits a month for “Bildung-o-rama in 3D”. I gave up on advertising on either my website or my blog, because advertising usually makes very little money and clutters the site.
I would deeply appreciate it if my dedicated readers pressed the donate button on the right hand side of the page under the “search” field. Even a little bit would help with the groceries. If people would be interested in purchasing a compilation of my articles into a book on comedy, let me know. That might be another good place for grocery money.
Thank you so much for your support and interest over the years.
Peace and kindness,
Posted on 3 February 2015 | 1 response
Our culture is keen on building up competitiveness, status-seeking, and individualism. These qualities are useful for easily encouraging people to consume. What we need now more than ever is for people to learn how to cooperate and to share. These skills will help us to live in a more balanced, peaceful, and sustainable manner.
Successfully forming and maintaining a group is also a skill. Simply turning up, banging around, then disappearing when things don’t instantly go your way is a recipe for disaster. You have to give yourself time to learn. Then you have to learn things such as flexibility, listening skills, creative problem solving, empathy, resilience, and humility.
At some level we all want to get our way and be the important one. At a more mature level we understand that the final goal and the means by which we get there are more important. Every group needs to be clear on its purpose, values, and goals, then remain focussed.
Because of the nature of our culture people have a hard time being forthright and thoughtful. Some people are motivated to use different tactics to manipulatively control a group, rather than collaborating. Understanding the tactics can help to reduce some people unconsciously slipping into these behaviours. They may even take them to a positive place instead.
Some people will not want to learn, because they feel insecure being in anything less than a controlling position. You will want to recognise what they are up to, see if they can be convinced to learn, and if not, drop them. No matter how high-minded you are, keeping some people on board will destroy a group. It’s okay to let people go upon occasion, we seek freedom as well as community.
Too many generals (not enough soldiers)
We do need considered opinions. We do need the voice of experience. We don’t need people who tell the toilet cleaners how to do their job when they aren’t willing and haven’t cleaned those toilets themselves. Those who do the work need to make the rules about how the work is done.
Entourage vs cheer leaders
We need cheer leaders who are good at bringing in new members. Go team! We do not need people who bring in the numbers (their entourage) just to use them as a way to gain personal power.
Working their way to the top
Some people are very good workers and we need that. Some people take on jobs and take on jobs, until their presence is indispensable. They may then hold the group hostage to their desires.
The bountiful parent
We want people who are warm and generous. It’s what we are all aiming to become. Some people will wrap you in their arms and give you things in order to get you to relinquish your responsibilities/power to them and oblige you to abide by their wishes.
Poor pity me
We do need to be there to the best of our abilities when someone is in trouble. We need to recognise when people regularly create trouble or rely on trouble as a way to function on an ongoing basis. These people need professional help. We need to recognise when this is used by people to be treated in a privileged manner.
Late comers and early leavers
Life is messy and we are all late comers and early leavers upon occasion. We need to be aware when this is being used as a form of passive resistance. Why do some people feel the need to protest in this manner? Is it indicative of a problem the group needs to address? Is it a power play?
We need people who deeply care and have the strength to stand for a better world. We need to be careful of people with dominating personalities who silence others and take over agendas.
Sometimes it’s worth dealing with people in a gentle and sensitive manner. However some people will not speak up about their wishes. They can cause people to hop around trying to figure out what they want. They can undercut people through looks and body language, creating an unwelcoming atmosphere. We need to create a space where everyone feels safe to be forthright about their wants and needs, and then be forthright. It’s unfair making people guess.
Is someone simply being difficult, or are they symptomatic of a larger problem? Dysfunctional families classically point to the member who is struggling to free themselves from dysfunction as “the problem”. However, sometimes a person does have a problem with anti-social behaviour. We need systems in place to ensure they are treated justly, but are not allowed to disrupt the group.
Groups and power
Groups are important. We do not live on this planet alone. We cannot survive on our own. A group is more powerful than one person, of course. The larger the group, the larger the potential power. To quote Voltaire and Spiderman: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Positions of power attract people whose sole interest are positions of power. Such people may support your cause, and are likely to do so effectively, but they are more dedicated to power and therefore will not always represent your best interests.
Even on the small scale we all seek validation. We can become entangled in our own pet desires and side track ourselves from our own highest vision.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”
We will have to remain vigilant of our own behaviour to ensure we are a nexus of compassion. Ask Mohandas Gandhi: compassion is not for wimps. We must withstand bullying that can come from within as well as without. Fear and paranoia are not the answer. Wisdom and discernment are called for. Patience and strength are a must. We must treat one another fairly and with kindness. We must also trust in our ability to face contention and controversy. Together we can change the world.
Peace and kindness,