So last night was lovely – it was so funny to observe the similar dynamics between the in-group of writers, as is present when hanging with comics. All in all, the event went really well. I must admit, I was a little nervous just beforehand, seeing as this is my first gig since leaving Oz some six weeks ago.
As I was readying myself, I got an unexpected boost from my 5-year-old.
Ella: “Where are you going?”
Me: “I’ve got a gig.”
(Bear in mind back in Oz when I was in the midst of gig craziness every single week, this would usually be met with a reaction of ‘Oh, not again! I don’t want you to go!’)
Ella: “Have you really Mum? That’s GREAT!”
So I set off with a smile. The words of advice I received a few months back from Brissie comedy legend Fred Lange rang in my ear – “When you’re MCing, you don’t even have to be funny at all. It’s not about you. It’s about keeping things rolling, making sure it all ties together…and if you’re funny, well, that’s a bonus.”
Joel Thomas Hynes, ignoring the cool air (well, it was cool to me) with cigarette in hand, was the first writer I met immediately upon rocking up to the Banff Centre. Dubbed the ‘bad boy’ of Canadian literature, my first impression of him was that he reminded me of a young Russell Crowe. Not in looks, but more the attitude. Cool, aloof and you suspected, brilliant.
Me: “Hi, I’m Jenny.”
Joel: “Jenny. That’s my girlfriend’s name.”
Me: “Oh good, well it’ll be easy to remember then. And this is Kelly.” (the lovely lass who chauffeured me about all evening).
Joel: “Kelly. That’s my girlfriend’s name.”
Next I met Ray Robertson, author of the truly excellent What Happened Next, the story of what happened after Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and I can honestly say I’m hooked on it, only six chapters in. We had more of a chat at the end of the night when we were chauffeured together back to our respective abodes, talking about writing, ‘big breaks’ versus ‘the snowballing effect’, Toronto and the decision to have (or not have) kids. A really talented and friendly man.
Finally there was my fellow Aussie-in-crime at the event, Morganics. Man oh man. Not only is he one of the most approachable, down-to-earth fellas you’re likely to meet, but he is UNBELIEVABLY talented. I must confess, I’ve never been a huge hip-hop fan, but last night really changed something. He performed some pieces without backing – really allowing the poetry of the work to ring through – then pieces with his recording-on-the-spot device (the Loopstation, one of which I want so badly I’d almost fight a grizzly for it) and performed over the top of that. But it was his improvised (or freestyle, as is the hip-hop term) pieces at the end which blew my mind. Taking suggestions from the audience, he rapped at the pace of a steroid-pumped Olympian, rhyming, chiming and otherwise climbing (that’s my attempt, there you go) the heights of hip-hop off the top of his head. Just amazing. I do hope I get to catch up with him again before the end of the festival and pick his brain on his technique!
So the Mountain Bistro at Banff was our setting, nicely full without being overcrowded, plenty of wine flowing and suitably writers-festish lighting (let your imagination do with that what you will). Judging by the audience reaction, everybody enjoyed themselves. The readings were great, it flowed smoothly, people paid attention until the end and there was suitable mingling afterward.
Then just as I was about to pat myself on the back for conquering the first Canadian gig hurdle, Joel Thomas Hynes gave me a nudge: “Uh, just so you know, ‘Newfie’ is not a particularly desirable term.”
Let me explain. Joel is from Newfoundland – and so I, having heard that the colloquial term for someone from Newfoundland (one of Canada’s states, but not always so) is a ‘Newfie’, I immediately thought ‘how great!’ and thought I’d chuck it in my introduction! My first gig here and I’ll show ’em how I really care enough about Canadian culture to do my homework! Uh…except not.
Me: “Oh?! Really?”
Me: “Oh. I thought it just meant Newfoundlander.”
Him: “Well, it does, but it’s not something that people necessarily like to be called. It’s okay, I know you didn’t realise what you were saying could be taken badly.”
Me: “No I didn’t, thanks.”
Me: “So um, it’s not like as bad as saying ‘nigger’ or something, is it?”
*my heart sinking into the pit of my lower intestine*
So let’s hope like hell this isn’t a sign of things to come. My first gig in Canada and I just used a semi racial expletive to introduce a famous author. Thank heavens he was nice about it. As for the rest of the audience, I’m just waiting for the rumours to spread throughout Banff about the ignoramus racist ho from Down Under who nobody should ever hire lest she introduce the guest speaker onstage as a member of the Third Reich.
Let this be a lesson to y’all – if you’re gonna do your homework, make sure you double-check it!!!
Go Comic Mummy.
Give me a ‘C’!