Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Registering My Ups and Downs

With a mere four months until the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival it is time to register. Apart from flyering my show during the festival itself, I find this the hardest part of comedy – organising the gig.

First of all is the decision of whether or not to even do a show, it is a big decision because as much as I love the stage time there are endless hours and amounts of energy that go into the  preparation, writing, editing, rehearsing, self loathing, questioning if people would want to see this show...

I am not famous, I do not have my own television or radio show, I do not have a weekly column in a national periodical and I only have a small group of Melbourne based friends. In my mind this causes an emotionally exhausting dilemma. Why would people pay money to see my show? Would I pay money to see my show? It is the same dilemma when looking for a venue. Am I good enough to use this space, am I good enough that the venue manager wants to offer me the space.

In crude and basic terms the answer to these questions is either “Shit Yes” or “Fuck No”. All questions asked and answered in my own head. The extreme swings can occur quickly and repeatedly. The trick is to get the positive response at a time when you are available to harness the energy to make phone calls, send emails and meet with venues. When the answer is for the negative it can drain all energy very quickly. At its debilitating worst it can result in hours/days of sleep.

With much coaxing from my production manager the decision to definitely pursue a show, subject to the availability of a suitable venue was made. Now the race is on, secure a venue before the registration deadline passes.

With six day before registration closes I had not received even the hint of a venue offer. That is not much time when fighting inner demons and anxieties. The team from the MICF administration team were very helpful in giving me some new leads. With the pressure of time I made a number of phone calls and with in 24hrs had the luxury of 3 venues offering me space for times and dates I wanted. This did a lot to lift my spirits.

I am very excited that I will be performing at Felix Bar, 11 Fitzroy Street St Kilda. If they were writing a blog I am sure that they would declare that they are equally pleased about the booking.

It has been noticed that many comedians throughout history have lived with severe depression, anxiety or other serious mental illnesses. The question is which came first the giggles or the gloom.

Having locked in the venue then comes the challenge of choosing a name for the show, writing a summation and a press release – all of which for a show that is not written.

For me the name of the show is an opportunity to make some good out of my surname. Freak as a name in most circumstances is only a burden. In comedy the name Freak is of value, although most people want to believe it is just a humourous stage name. The teasing I received throughout my 12 years of public schooling  prove that it is no joke. Previous shows have been titled “Welcome to the Freak Show” (my first solo show) and “Freakuent Flyer” (a show loosely connected to my travel experiences).

There is no theme to my current works except that I am expressing my annoyance at annoying trivialities in my every day world. As I plan to vent my gripes I was considering “Venti”, using a variation of the Starbucks logo for my show image but fear retribution from the coffee franchise, or perhaps “Splenectomy” (venting my spleen – the fact I feel need the need to explain this pun is the reason it was rejected – would have been even better if my show was to be held at Spleen). These two option also do not include a pun with my name. The resulting title “DFO: Darren Freaks Out”. (For those residing outside of Melbourne this is a play on a local discount shopping precinct DFO: Direct Factory Outlet)

The blurb and press release was easier in part but I did have to commit to absurdities that annoy me in the hope that I will be able to coble together material about them over the next few weeks. For a higher degree of difficulty I am setting my jokes to music.

Perhaps I should write a song about writing comedy songs and preparing for a major festival. It all sounds very post modern and deconstructive.

For those wanting to lock dates in early they are 27 March – 7 April 2013 (not Mondays) see you there. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Product Place This...


Product placement is increasing to the point of the ridiculous in modern movies and television shows. Sure it is a clever way of financing productions but Skyfall, the latest outing for the world’s most famous spy, is a 2 hour billboard. It makes for a great drinking game. Whenever a product is visible on screen have a drink - Preferably Heineken or a Diet Coke for the ladies, both proud sponsors of the movie. Thankfully he does not get confused with his signature cocktail, because a shaken beer would sure to mess up the OPI manicure of the latest Bond girl, let alone her Swarovski jewelry.

Checking the time on his limited edition Planet Ocean Skyfall Omega watch he realizes he barely has time to don his Orlebar swim shorts, kill the master villain (being careful not to ruin his Belstaff designer clothes) before driving off in his Aston Martin.

As I sit at my latest edition Macbook Pro with retina screen technology I am appalled at the blatant advertising that is “integrated” in to our visual entertainment.

Some product must be easier for writers and directors to integrate than others, clothing, computers, vehicles, food and drink. Others must be much more difficult.

Did the producers of Sex In the City miss a golden opportunity to integrate a line of sanitary products into their two cinematic releases. Could Magic Mike worked in a diuretic into its storyline as a means of achieving the lean, fat free, ripped torsos.

Unfortunately for manufacturers of toilet tissue no one in movies or television ever seems to go to the toilet expect to have sex, take drugs or murder someone All of these activities do often create a need for cleaning up but not necessarily one to which Sorbent would want to be integrated. “The three ply with Gripple Effect technology guaranteeing better grip and better cleaning makes it perfect for cleaning up blood and wiping down surfaces to remove unsightly fingerprints and miscellaneous DNA evidence. Now 25% stronger.”

Seinfeld season 7did have the one episode “The Stall” in which Elaine did use the bathroom in a cinema. Famously there was no paper and the woman (Seinfeld’s girlfriend Jane) in the stall next to her could not spare a square, she did not have a square to spare.

No product seemed to be willing to align itself with the 1998 smash hit Something About Mary despite the depiction of hair products guaranteed to work all day.

No one wants to pay $18 ($45 if you want a box of popcorn to watch stars integrate adult nappies, or back waxing (for men or women).  That said 2006 Australian film Kenny did provide an unexpected opportunity for porta-potties to have their 15 minutes of celluloid fame.

Pharmaceuticals although easy to integrate the products themselves into so many theatrical moments, even if the prescribing doctor does have to hold it up close to his or her face in the delicate grip of a well manicured hand, the legal requirements in many countries to list all of the possible negative side effects, response to suspected overdose or poisoning and what to do if symptoms persist would make this type of product placement somewhat cumbersome.

Oh look, my Tag Heuer Aquaracer Chronograph tells me that my Nespresso Rosabaya coffee will be perfectly brewed so it is time to sit at my Toledo patio furniture with a select piece of L├Ąderach Suisse chocolate and watch the world past me by. (not that I am expecting payments or delivery of free products, I am however able to pick any items up from an Australian based distributer in my Audi R8).

A good thing too, because otherwise I would start on how modern media integrates product launch commercials into headline news articles.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How a restaurant got it all kwong
Visiting Billy Kwong restaurant on Sunday 4 November, with misguided excitement. Kylie Kwong, head chef is apparently a celebrity chef. I know her from adverts promoting her appearances on Masterchef. I expected quality food and excellent dinging experience. How kwong was I.

Jamie Oliver is famous for his heavy-handed use of olive oil in his cooking. Each meal starting with a good splash of olive oil in the pan, extra oil added during the cooking and finally a drizzle of olive oil over the food after he has plated up. By the taste Kylie Kwong uses a similar formula for the use of vinegar. She could appear on the upcoming remake of Prisoner and play the part of Vinegar Tits.

I had vegetarian vinegar dumplings followed by vinegar noodles with vinegar vegetables and vinegar wantons. I declined the offer of dessert a pear dish with what I can only assume was a vinegar sauce.

This meant that differed in appearance and texture but were identical in flavor.
As I said I did not see any episodes of Masterchef. When she was guest presenter/mentor/judge, did the mystery box only contain vinegar?

According to the menu, the extensive use of vinegar is not the only unexpected ingredient. She favours the use of salt bush, wherever other chefs may use spinach or rocket. The saltiness compliments the bitterness of the vinegar.

Strike one.

In addition to the taste of the food, my dining experience was worsened by the dining room itself. First thing you notice in entering the restaurant is that there is no separation between the kitchen and the dining room which means it is noisy. The second is that both areas are small and over crowded, which only increases the noise.

Due to the overcrowding many of the tables are very small. I was sat at a table about the size of an A3 piece of paper. With drinks, cutlery and small eating bowls there was no real room for the actual food, thus creating a difficult Tetris-like challenge for waiters and customers alike.

As if to prove the difficulty of this puzzle a waiter spilt a wine on the table next to me when trying to squeeze three plates of food onto the table. I am not sure if the restaurant has pets or if it is just a building up of cooking odors in the carpet from the kitchen that is in the dining room but when the wine soaked into the carpet it released a smell. A smell that I can only describe as “wet dog”. The pooch lingered in the air for the rest of my meal.

The close proximity of tables also provided challenges. After replacing their wine, the waiter tried to befriend the customers by having an in depth discussion with them about the farming of salt bush and the unique flavor it adds to the Asian cuisine when marinated in vinegar. Lovely…for them.

The waiter’s arse, having nowhere to go, rested on the edge of my table for 5 minutes.
A small restaurant must also create storage issues. This may explain why the area under the window bench on which I sat was also the maintenance shed. The bench was, however as deep as the items it attempted to store. This left me wrapping one leg around a mop bucket and the other foot resting on a tool box.

Strike two.

Part way through my meal my waiter disappeared, along with any more service to my table. Tony Abbot would blame this on the carbon tax. For 30 minutes I was not approached with an offer of a drink or desert or the bill. I was tempted to get out the tool box and try and join the tables together so that they could fit food AND beverages.

To be fair I did now have enough room on my table for everything that I was being served.

Credit must be given to given to the only male waiter at the restaurant this night. Firstly he stayed for the duration of the meal service, secondly knowing that the menu and room were not going to help him at all worked hard to keep everyone relaxed and comfortable. One waiter does not make good service.

Strike three. You’re out.

Definitely no immunity pin for Kylie Kwong, in fact you will now have to face an elimination challenge.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Sport of Kings

It is the race that stops the nation. For 3 minutes, albeit that many people will use this as an excuse to stop work for about an hour. Organising the sweep, setting up the office TV, afternoon tea (with champagne) prior to the race and then following the race their will be the gloating by the sweep winner and the complaining by the losers. Of course the TV and afternoon tea all need to be cleaned away.

Horse racing is called the sport of kings. Probably because only those with the wealth of kings can afford to own and train winning race horses. Let’s face it kings are more likely to watch than actually participate in the sport, like the vast majority of the population.

This might go a long way to explain why we dress up in all of our finery to attend horse races – the one day we can pretend to be royalty. Looking at the state of many punters at the end of the day we are all emulating Prince Harry and Princess Margaret more than their higher ranking siblings.

The House of Winsor have of course taken their affinity with horses when Charles, Prince of Wales married Camilla. She must cause so much confusion for the royal stable hands. Saddling up the consort is more than a mere faux pas.

Much credit is given to the riders. Why? They are just little people hanging on for dear life as ¾ of a tonne of equine muscle run around in a circle. This seems so politically incorrect in our enlightened age. We are no longer allowed to throw little people in bars and pubs so why are we allowed to throw them onto a thoroughbred. This might be another throwback to the royal courts.

Their Royal Highnesses ordering their court jesters, imps and dwarfs to entertain them – and what is more amusing than watching them being thrown off the backs of royal stable of mares and stallions. This theory evidenced by the brightly coloured silks still worn by modern day jockeys. Only the hats have changed exchanging the bells for the more practical protective aspects of the helmet.

The HBO series would not be anywhere suspenseful or entertaining if they all participated in the sport of kings instead of the Game of Thrones. Not nearly enough deaths – unless they included steeplechase. Conversely I do not want to see Gai Waterhouse or Bart Cummings having sexual relations, either with each other or anyone else for that matter.

If horse racing is the sport of kings, does that make glue the adhesive of kings, perukes the wigs of kings and Purina the pet food of kings.