Speaking to a Man with Glazed Eyes:
Lawrence Mooney and An Indecisive Bag of Donuts

Posted on 07 September 2011

Lawrence Mooney has performed comedy for more than 17 years now. This makes him one of the more seasoned comedians I have interviewed for this blog. He has also won and been nominated for many awards, including Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Moosehead Award. Ostensibly the interview is about Loz’s show An Indecisive Bag of Donuts, which will be a part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. However, I plan on picking his brain about the art of comedy as well.

Lawrence, no doubt if we were doing this interview in RL, we would be sitting in a Krispy Kreme. I’m a tad more partial to Cupcake Family, but if I can have a buttermilk donut, I’m just fine. What’s your favourite donut?

Lawrence: Katherine, I can assure you we wouldn’t be sitting in Krispy Kreme because their donuts aren’t hot. People seem to forget that a donut should be hot.

Has the world GONE CRAZY, HOT DONUTS NOW.

Ok, now that’s off my chest. My favourite donut, the king of donuts, is the cinnamon donut. It’s hot, it has a hole, and the combination of sugar and cinnamon cannot be bettered in the culinary world. It is a deep fried sugary treat that is its own reward, but never eat more than three…unless you have been emotionally devastated, then you can eat them until a carbo coma kicks in.

Your fringe show is about donuts and procrastination. It’s almost a zen selection of topics: I can’t think what to write about, so I’ll just write about what I’m doing now. Is that indeed the genesis of this show?

Lawrence: The show started life as a show about my tendencies. And what I noticed was that the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and write a show. So with an eye on my tendencies, I realised the greatest of them in raw time was procrastination. And you’re right, it is quite zen because the show is about a man trying to write a show. It’s meta-zen, deconstructive, post modernist, verité comedy.

How have you germinated the ideas for other shows? What is your early process of development?

Lawrence: The early process of development is along the lines of, “Hey, write your show in spring so you don’t fuck up the summer with your torturous angst.” So shows I’m conceiving must have a first draft done before Christmas day. Then they act like Venus fly traps, ideas just stick to them.

I often find that “procrastination” time and time in the shower are my most productive for comedy. Sitting in front of a computer can become unbearably sterile. When are your best moments for thinking up comic situations and one-liners?

Lawrence: That is perfectly articulated. I watched myself procrastinate and ultimately it wasn’t procrastination, it was exciting the muse. Comedy doesn’t live in a computer, it lives in the street or the kitchen. And I don’t write, I extrapolate an idea or a scenario. I can do that in my head anywhere. All I need to do is remember what I’ve thought, and that’s where notebooks and voice memos are gold. Pure gold.

Your earliest development as a performer was in straight theatre. I have to admit, the actors I’ve seen trying to do standup often fall flat on their faces. Delivering lines and understanding comic timing are two very different things. You combine the physical confidence of an actor on stage with the warmth and good timing needed for direct interaction with an audience (no fourth wall). How long and how hard was it for you to achieve such a skilled balance?

Lawrence: From acting on the stage to doing standup was the most natural transition for me. A lot of actors would fear no script and flying by the seat of one’s pants, but I love the freedom and the autonomy of it. Acting had given me some fine technique when it came to stagecraft as well, so that caused me to feel truly at home. The only difficulty I had was identity.

Finally saying “I’m a comedian” instead of “I’m an actor and I do comedy.” That was an important moment.

What aspects of theatrical training do you think emerging comedians would find helpful investing a little time and money in learning for themselves?

Lawrence: Voice and body. I mean that sounds obvious and fundamental, but I see a lot of younger comedians learn it by endless experimental increments where as they could get a solid grounding in a couple of years and have it there to call on. And using the stage and an audience to their best advantage would also come naturally.

I love the fact that you’re wearing a pair of pajamas for this show. Do you find having a costume of some sort, even if it’s a ridiculous t-shirt, helps you to quickly slip into your comedy persona?

Lawrence: Yeah, it’s actually quite a powerful tool. Even though I’m playing myself, I put my pyjamas on and my brain says showtime. I want to reassure audiences that the PJs are secured at the front. Many people have had bad experiences with loose PJs.

I’ve noticed many of the more successful comedians, such as yourself, use a scattergun approach toward their gigs. They will tour, do festivals, television, radio, corporate performances, and more. I get the feeling that if you want to remain based in Australia, you have to be based in all of it, and be willing to do some touring overseas. Would that be correct?

Lawrence: Absolutely correct. When asked what have you been up to the answer is interminable. It would be great to have one focus, a touring show or a TV show, but the nature of the beast in Australia is that you have to keep active across a range of platforms. Jesus, that was media speak 101. But yeah, many irons in many fires. Now I’m boring the shit out of myself.

What’s the hardest thing about touring?

Lawrence: Not going to bed next to my wife. I hate being away from her. It fills me with fear and dread.

Having said that I find the road a place of tremendous transformation and road trips incredibly renewing. I love the idea of the road, the potential of travel and nights away.

There is magic in touring. To be torn away from your turgid routines and set free is a wonderful gift. And then to return home with news from the road. Joy

You mention in your MySpace site that you were inspired by Greg Fleet’s exposure of hypocrisy and spouting of truths through humour. Do you feel your comedy has something of a purpose to it?

Lawrence: Wow MySpace. Did you go out to those badlands alone? MySpace is nowhere for a sweet kid like you to be going. If anybody thought that I somehow embodied a little of Fleet’s mastery I would be chuffed. He is a titan of comedy.

Where and when can we see you at the Melbourne Fringe Festival?

Lawrence: I’m in the Ballroom, at The Lithuanian Club, Errol Street, North Melbourne
23 September–08 October 8.00pm Tuesday-Saturday, 7.00pm Sundays.
Tickets at door or from Melbourne Fringe.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights! I look forward to seeing your show.

Lawrence: Thanks Katherine. It’s a show I love and really want to share with your readers.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine


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