The Highs and Lows of Comedy Festival Life


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I’ve been in Melbourne for the last week, away from my  home city of Adelaide, with friends and colleagues Kate and Kehau performing our show Three Stuffed Mums. 

It has been an interesting, enlightening, heartwarming time in many ways – and we still have one week to go. In other ways it has really brought  home for me the absolute value of having capabilities in resilience, in self-knowledge, positive mindset and so many other things I teach people about in their day to day lives.

If you thought the life of a stand up comedian is all laughs, then think again. It probably is for that top two or three per cent in the industry who have agents and managers and publicists etc to do all that other production work for them, but for most comics at the festival we have to do all that plus perform the show itself.

A typical example is the activity of flyering. That’s where you go to hand out flyers in the street to passers by in the hope they will come to the show either that night or some other night. If you were thin-skinned then the amount of people who reject the offer of a flyer, who often won’t even meet your gaze, might cause you to crumble as it could be very disheartening. On the other hand when you realise that how people respond to you is actually mostly about them and not so much about you (unless you’re punching them – then it’s about you!)  it takes the heat off. Ah well, some people just have bad days, and some people aren’t as nice as we would like. On the other hand when you do manage to engage someone in genuine conversation it’s a real joy and lifts the spirits so much.

It’s not uncommon at large comedy or Fringe festivals to have a fairly small audience for performances. They are really not money-making exercises – more a ‘trade show’ kind of thing. A small audience for a theatre production would not have quite as much impact as it would on a comedy performance where the energy and interaction between the performer and the audience actually feeds and fuels the performance to a much greater extent. At times like those with a small group you not only have to lead in as far as it’s you doing the performance regardless of the energy offered by the audience (smaller groups can feel inhibited about being overtly demonstrative with clapping, cheering and laughing), but you also have to lead yourself with a positive and determined mindset while building the rapport with the audience. If you can inject energy, build rapport and make it ok for them to be loud then the energy tends to rise throughout your spot and the audience gets the laughs they came for. It’s like they need that permission from the person on the stage and the rest of the group to laugh out loud.

The third challenge is being away from home. I’m finding that the older I get the more of a  homebody I’m becoming. Two weeks away can seem like a huge chunk of time, but the ability to prioritise, concentrate energy on the task at hand and do the job that I’m here for actually helps to not only make the time pass quickly but also makes it more enjoyable. There’s a certainty in routine that’s satisfying and assists in self-sufficiency – and we all know that the more we get what we need from internal sources rather than external sources then the more resilient, happy and healthy we are – big bonus all round!

We’re enjoying this marvellous opportunity to play at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We’re getting good audience numbers compared to other first time shows and we’re having a ball not only performing but connecting with our audiences and having the opportunity to connect with other comedians. The bottom line – making people laugh is a lot of fun!

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