Throwing jokes from the fringe
Sydney Morning Herald, February 15, 2007
Sydney is about to see new comedians at a new venue, writes Benito Di Fonzo.
WHILE big names such as Weird Al Yankovic, Danny Bhoy, Ross Noble and the show Puppetry of The Penis will be packing crowds in at the Enmore Theatre, the spiritual home of the Cracker Comedy Festival, there are hopes that the festival's new venue, the Factory Theatre, at the bottom of Enmore Road, will nurture the next generation of stand-up superstars.
Cracker hopes to give these fresh faces a crack through initiatives such as its MySpace site (www.myspace.com/crackercomedy) where wannabes can upload a set in the hope of being given a showcase on April Fool's Day. The festival is also offering a series of cheap ($17) one-hour shows by rising stars such as Sam Bowring, Dave Jory and Daniel Townes, similar to the Sydney Festival's successful About An Hour series.
“There's obviously fringe arts,” says Bowring, 27, “but in terms of comedy there hasn't been a festival to provide an umbrella for a lot of fringe acts.”
Bowring hopes the exposure of burgeoning talent during the festival will mean more Sydneysiders take a chance on the lesser-known names that grace regular open-mic sessions such as the one he and Kent Valentine, who is also appearing at the Factory, run at the Friend In Hand Hotel in Glebe.
"That's part of the festival experience, really: not to just go and see the same people you could see on TV," says Bowring, whose show Small Animals I Have Known examines the nature of mercy in terms of the swarms of small insects that seem attracted to him.
"I woke up and there were 50 live bees in my room that weren't there the night before, and another time baby huntsman spiders, then caterpillars, centipedes. I think God is sending his plagues against me."
Townes, who has just returned from a stint in Britain and is a winner of FHM magazine's "Search For Australia's Funniest Man", is tight-lipped about the show he will share with Raw Comedy-winner Nick Sun.
"You got to come and see the show. I went to see a counsellor about something, and she judged me, so it's something I've never talked to anyone about, and an audience is going to get it all," says Townes, 26.
Jory, the elder of the group at 33, is a Triple-J regular who came to stand-up after his book I Know Everything was favourably reviewed by Hustler magazine but otherwise unread.
"It was a precursor to doing stand-up because it came out and no one bought it so I needed a new outlet," says Jory.
For Cracker he will be focusing on that comic staple, the battle of the sexes. "I've decided that there is no battle of the sexes, that it was won long ago. Women won it and men are just hanging in there hoping it's still going," he says.
All three agree Sydney is a great training ground for comedians.
"In Sydney you've got to be really quick," says Townes.
Bowring says: "It's gladiator school. Melbourne audiences are quite forgiving, [but] the more forgiving an audience is, the less you learn."
Jory adds: "You see it when Melbourne comics come up here. They freak out because they see that the old tricks aren't going to work, they have to think on their feet a lot quicker."
The three believe Sydneysiders will take a punt on this fresh generation.
"All the acts that are playing at the Enmore, they all started where we did," says Bowring.
Townes adds: "The difference between them and us is 10 years."
Bowring says that if people take a chance, they will enjoy themselves. "Just because they don't know who we are it doesn't mean it's not a good show."
Jory adds: "Being the first one to find something is always more exciting than jumping on a boat that people already are on." And Townes reckons older acts will be taking note.
"Profile people take jokes all the time," Townes says. "They go shopping at open-mic nights. In the industry we call it 'side-writing'. People watch what works and then take that idea and run with it."
Jory says: "If you hear a pen scratching away you've got to home in on that."
"The trick is to get them in first," says Townes.
The Cracker Comedy Festival runs from March 7 to April 1. Details at www.crackercomedy.com.
Sam Bowring's Small Animals I Have Known is on March 30 and 31, Dave Jory Is Polished is on March 14-17 and Nick Sun and Daniel Townes are on March 28 and 29, at the Factory Theatre, Enmore.