2012 Madman Warehouse Comedy Festival:
• Celia Pacquola in Delayed
• Frank Woodley in Bemusement Park

Posted on 16 May 2012

I’ve been to a number of recordings for television shows. In the early 90s I sat in the audience for Hey Hey It’s Saturday. A few years back I was in the audience for Spicks and Specks. Last year and this year I attended recordings for the Madman Warehouse Comedy Festival.

The Warehouse Comedy Festival is my godsend. When I found they were recording two shows I had missed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Celia Pacquola’s Delayed and Frank Woodley’s Bemusement Park, I snatched up tickets immediately.

This “festival” is held in order to record shows by some of Australia’s A-list comedians for DVD sale by Madman. This is a genius move on their part. Up until recently, comedy shows would come and go and never be seen again. A large part of Australian culture was disappearing without a trace. This year I noticed they are also taking punts on a few B-list comedians. I’m overjoyed this included the supremely talented Michael Workman.

The Setup

For those of us in the A-list wannabe category, it’s worth knowing what is done and how to make these DVDs, because nothing says you can’t do the same thing yourselves. If not for a DVD, you really must make a sampler reel of your work for YouTube to interest audiences and producers in your shows.

Hey Hey had a large recording studio with automated fly systems; numerous cameras on cranes, trucks, dollies, and the like; and loads of microphones. In television as with the rest of life, you either spend time or money. With ongoing productions it’s worth spending the money in order to buy more time, since your schedule is tight. Spicks and Specks was similarly outfitted, though with a few cost cuts here and there.

The Warehouse Comedy Festival was on an even tighter budget and barely had a fly system. The recording outcomes have been fine, but from personal experience, I’m certain editing is a longer process for them. This is acceptable, because they aren’t on a tight schedule.

The festival had one low camera on a dolly to the left of the audience, a higher camera on a dolly to the right of the audience, and a hand held camera. They may have had more, but I couldn’t see because my eyes were focused on the performance, which was my job as the audience. They also had a microphone on the audience, a boom mic, and a head mic on the comedian.

Filming with Audience

ABC News frequently gets away with single camera recordings, because they need to capture the moment fast, they are capturing a slice of life and so situations are allowed to be messy, and people are used to cheap quick interviews with post-recorded “noddies” edited in (a way to fake a two-camera effect).

When recording standup comedy, you should always have at least two cameras, since one camera needs to be dedicated to recording audience reactions. The same is true for microphones: at least one for the comedian and one for the audience. I know people deride laugh-tracks, but audiences really do need to hear the laughter of other people to enhance their response. Very few shows use laugh-tracks these days, instead they bring in live audiences whose “laughter levels” they carefully check to make sure their mirthful guffaws are fully captured.

That audience response is so important, every television comedy show I have been to has had an up-and-coming comedian warming up people before the show. Madman was a little stingy in this regard, but Pacquola came out and told a warm-up joke before her show. With Woodley it was hard to tell, since his show was largely about getting things started and messing it up. However, to maintain the energy of the room, whenever Woodley or Pacquola had to wait for technical issues to be sorted, they would start humorously improvising to keep the punters on side.

The Shows

Celia Pacquola’s recording was mostly straightforward. She delivered her show Delayed with delightful aplomb. Despite self-deprecating jokes about awkwardness, Pacquola took the stage with an easy slow grace. Her eyes and her smile were where all the vibrant energy concentrated, making it easy for the cameras to follow her. She re-did only a few jokes. At the end the producer asked for two moments to be repeated: her silly dance routine, which would benefit from inter-cutting various angles, and the appearance of her giant hand prop. We were allowed to leave the building (and I do mean allowed) only five minutes later than estimated.

Frank Woodley’s recording of Bemusement Park was an entirely different story. Woodley doesn’t focus on standup, as such. He is largely a physical comedian, and he repeated much of his antics to get the timing right. Also key to Woodley’s performances is that he enjoys improvising. So, when he started improvising with a little boy in the audience, the film crew had to have the boy repeat some of what he said for the camera. A continuity person actually read back to the boy his own words.

Woodley is an endearing performer and a longtime favourite with the Australian public. Which was useful that night, because he had a lot of goodwill to ride on when he took seventeen takes to get a particular shtick to work. I would not have been so brave. One of the crew asked Woodley, “How many times did you tell us this bit worked?” Woodley sheepishly replied, “One in eight.” We left his show an hour later than estimated. I don’t think anyone begrudged him the extra time, we were all too busy smiling.

If you get the chance to see a live recording, I highly recommend it. The insights it gives you into the television industry are tremendous. It’s also a lot of fun. If you end up buying any of Madman’s DVDs for Sammy J, Celia Pacquola, or Frank Woodley keep your eyes open for a woman in the audience with a big white ribbon in her hair on the back of her head…that would be me.

Peace and kindness,

Katherine

Madman Warehouse Comedy Festival


2 responses to 2012 Madman Warehouse Comedy Festival:
• Celia Pacquola in Delayed
• Frank Woodley in Bemusement Park

  • Melinda says:

    That sounds awsome,where do they film it?

  • Katherine says:

    In one of their warehouses in Collingwood. This will be changing, since they are moving locations.

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