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  • Writer's pictureJenny Wynter

Lessons from Arj Barker, Daniel Kitson & Tom Gleeson

So the payoff to the cliffhanger of the last blog-post (I can just imagine the billions of you reading this going ‘ooh, ahh, the festival club…did she end up going? Ooooh, I can hardly WAIT to find out!!!!’) is that yes, I ended up going. In fact, ended up wasting over an hour of time and a quarter of a tank of petrol trying to find a damn park in the city – luckily for me I finally found one before my 12.30 deadline and turned into some unspecified vegetable.

The up-side of this was that by the time I finally made it to the Hi-Fi Bar, the street-long queue was gone and I just cruised on in, just in time to see Daniel Kitson take the stage as the evening’s compere.

Oh boy – it was so awesome just to sit back and watch some of the best comedians do their thing. You see, my hubby and I have an agreement that I will limit the number of nights I’m out of the house to three a week and that’s absolute MAX. It’s usually more like two. Which is fair enough; I mean, it is pretty stressful being left to do the night-time routine with the kids flying solo (as my crazy week thus far seems to prove). So usually my priority is actually performing at gigs, rather than just going out to see them, in terms of filling up my weekly quota. Gees, I hope hubby’s not coming across as some psychotic ‘sleeping with the enemy’ style spouse here. He’s certainly not. I mean, sure, the dog collar was kinda weird at first, but now I just think of it as post-modern goth.

Anyway, so to actually go SEE a show without any pressure to do my own thing was fabulous – and oh, what a bunch. Here’s what I learned:

Daniel Kitson – hardly seeming to perform any actual ‘bits’, Kitson just let his personality carry him through. He really inspired me to just put more of myself into my comedy and not pretend to be anybody. Also just to take the mickey out of yourself, speak the truth of your situation (as my impro coach and dear friend Anne always encourages) e.g. to a poor member of the audience he was picking upon, he said ‘see, I don’t mean to be mean, but here I am standing in front of a group of strangers wanting them to love me, so I’ll happily pick on another stranger, so that the other strangers will love me.” Worded much funnier, of course, but that was the gist.

Arj Barker – uses some traditional comedy techniques of course, but then just goes beyond that to just do what he thinks is funny. You feel as though you’ve just sat in a room at a fairly stoned party with him going off on a bong-fuelled rant. Also, what really stood out was just his confidence. The man has tude, he knows he’s funny and he just tells you to laugh. And you do. His delivery is his best asset (I guess some girls would argue with me there) – I was particularly struck by his mic technique. He varies his volume a lot, in fact even yelling parts of his routine and adjusting the mic accordingly. It occurred to me how impeccable this technique is: he even brings the mic in basically to make contact with his mouth to deliver some punch-lines. It comes across as raw as if it’s just rolled off his tongue, yet I suspect he’s much more polished than that. Or it could be he’s just so damn good now that it comes naturally.

Tom Gleeson – I’d seen Tom do his stuff before, so it was cool seeing it a second time to really just analyse what he was doing. I really like the way he tells a whole long story, rather than just a series of smaller gags – I read an article this week where Demetri Martin said that ‘jokes are like bricks that you build with’ and I really saw this in action with Tom. Not that his style of comedy is especially my taste, but I could really see how well crafted his longer story was.

Overall, I left feeling tired (yes, I am a broken record: I’m getting a new ID that says so) but really invigorated if not slightly daunted by the notion of how far I have to go. I just feel like I have SO MUCH WORK to do this year in terms of becoming a better comedian. I’m really only on my training wheels, I’m doing okay, but if I really put my mind to it this year I think I could become ten times better by the time the next Melbourne fest swings around. I’ve already begun writing some new stuff, which I’m feeling very excited about, plus again, I want to focus much more on my musical comedy – in my mind, my biggest strength. I feel like thus far my material is just me writing what I THINK my comedy should be, rather than just writing what comes naturally and what I think is funny and what is just ME.

Cos I guess that’s what struck me most about Dan and Arj in particular – their comedy is just ‘this is me’ – and I think people really respond to that, because by the end of the night, you feel as though you’re their friend.

My slogan has been to this point ‘turning friends and family into audience members’ – now I just need to work on the vice versa part.

(Moreso for the friends than the family, as I suspect the latter could have serious legal implications. Then again, all publicity is good publicity.)

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