Comic capers and calamities on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe Festival

Eric with “Tales of the Sea” - and now Adelaide

Two days ago, I got an e-mail from Bob Slayer – the day before his comedy show opened at the Adelaide Fringe:

__________

I am in Adelaide stopping at the house of a man called Matthew who I met on couchsurfing.org.

I have stopped at many random people’s homes in my life but never one I met through an online service that did not involve the prospect of sex. I once topped-and-tailed with singer-songwriter Beth Ditto – the big girl in The Gossip – in Portland, Oregon, when they supported Japanese band Electric Eel Shock, which I was managing. Did I tell you this recently? I also have an early demo I was sent by a band called the Arctic Monkeys who were, at the time, looking for a manager… Anyway I digress…

Matthew seems cool. He took me straight to the bottle shop and we bought beers. Jimbo came around to introduce Gary the Goat.

Oh! How I have missed Gary the Goat in the last few days!

Jimbo and he stayed in Port Kenny on the Eyre Peninsula with a girl while I went to visit an old tour manager friend of mine in McLaren Vale and ended up shoveling grapes and making wine for a couple of days. They paid me in my weight in wine.

I have lots of new things to talk about in tomorrow’s gigs like killing and eating the Australian national emblem but I might also pop into the hospital and see if I can visit strangers just to add their story to the mix.

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I got that e-mail from Bob two days ago. Then, yesterday, I received this e-mail from comedian Eric about his (Eric’s) show on the first day of the Adelaide Fringe.

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As last year, I am doing my show at the Tuxedo Cat venue. Last year it was ‘Adelaide Fringe venue of the year’. It is run by super cool Cass & Bryan who, every year, take over a derelict building and make it into something wonderful.

As with all refurbishment projects, it takes time to complete and, as Bryan & Cass are presented with just a shell every year, the build is coming from a long way back. Time is the old enemy and, when I ask about doing a technical rehearsal on the day of my first show, I am somewhat taken aback to be told that my room has not been built yet – but a blitz is about to take place that will turn three walls and a pile of old pallets into a performance space in time for my first show at 6.00pm.

I discover that there is no projector either. Last year I borrowed Dan Willis’ projector, so I drop him a quick text. He tells he now lives in Melbourne but has left his magic lantern with a mutual friend who lives in Adelaide. Our mutual friend Alex is at work and cannot leave. I go to his place of work (30 minute drive), pick up his keys, drive to his house (20 minute drive) pick up the projector, drive back to my house (20 minute drive) pick up my family (wife Helen and baby ‘Little E’), drive back to his place of work (30 minute drive) drop his keys back to him, then drive to the venue (30 minute drive).

I eventually emerge triumphant with projector and family at the venue. We park outside and unload everything we need for the show, which now includes pram, change bag, bottles and assorted toys.

I discover that the Blue Room where I am due to perform in an hour’s time is nowhere near ready and my heart sinks. Fifty minutes later, little has changed. There is no lighting, no sound, we have done no tech rehearsal at all. There seems little or no prospect of putting on a show. And the room is now filling with punters clutching their tickets.

I inform them that the room is not ready and invite them to return to the bar. No sooner have these people vacated than another wave of punters arrive. I give these people the same advice and, as the third wave arrive, I decide this is hopeless and locate the ushers and tell them the room is not ready and ask them to hold the audience in the bar until we are ready. I obtain the customary Australian “No worries, mate” response, return to the room and do what I can.

Five minutes later, there appears to have been a shift change with the ushers as the room again starts to fill with punters.

We finally kick off nearly half an hour late. I ask if any of the audience need to be anywhere before 7:30 and offer anyone who does their money back – No-one moves and we crack on with the show.

Ten minutes into the show, we lose all power. The light that we belatedly got onto the stage extinguishes. The projector’s whirring fan falls eerily silent and we lose both sound and picture, like a faulty TV.

Then the audience, who have been so tolerant up to now, really come into their own. Many of them take out their mobile phones and light the room up with their screens. It is a joy to behold… almost literally ‘people power’.

As we have gone completely off-piste and are unable to continue with the show, we just spend the next ten minutes chatting. Cass dashes about in the shadows trying to fix the problem which, as expected, she does and we finally get on with the show – a show that, to be fair, I have actually enjoyed… And so, it seems, have the audience. Much of the credit must go to them. I resolve to have all of them come to all of my gigs.

Comic Juliet Meyers is doing the show following mine and she is none too pleased that she is starting over half an hour late (and to be honest neither am I). I tell her the only upside is that she now gets to see me change out of my seafaring show garb and into my civvies.

As I drop my trousers, she tells me that my buttocks are “surprisingly pert”. I am not entirely sure how I should take this information but eventually conclude that the only explanation is that Ms Meyers has been imagining my buttocks for some time and now – faced with the actuality of my derrière – has found them to be more pert than she had imagined…

I then go off to find the family.

As usual, Little E is found feeding on her mum and, after I get myself and Helen some of the fabulous Vietnamese salad with dumplings from the food counter, we sit and eat in quiet contemplation, until a queue unexpectedly forms beside us.

Unbeknown to us, the ‘quiet’ corner that Helen had positioned herself in to feed Little E was in fact right next to the entrance to the Yellow Room venue and, for the next five minutes, we become a living exhibit entitled ‘Feeding the Family’ for the entertainment of the waiting crowd….

I then dash across to the Austral venue to perform in Nik Coppin’s show Shaggers.

On arrival, I see Bob Slayer making his way from the bar with four jugs of beer, two in each hand.

“Oh” I innocently think, “He is getting a big round in… He must be with a large group of people.”

Then I see him go and sit at a table alone and conclude he must actually be continuing his mission to outdrink Australia and, having done battle with Perth, it is now Adelaide’s turn…

The crowd at Shaggers are also lovely and everyone has a lovely time talking filth with them.

I am second on and, as I finish my stint onstage, I get a text to say Little E has finally fallen asleep and Helen has come to the venue collect me but there is a fight in progress outside the Austral and she is sheltering around the corner.

With the time approaching midnight and the car park I abandoned our car in closing at midnight, I have no choice but to brave the crowd and the fight and collect my girls. We all go home, having had one very long day.

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…That was a heavily shortened version of what happened in Eric’s hectic day. And that was only Day One of the Adelaide Fringe.

I feel we may hear more anarchic tales from Down Under.

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Filed under Australia, Comedy

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