The Highs and Lows of Comedy Festival Life

Melbourne FB cover

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!

Stuffed Mums Strike Again!

 

How do I describe the afternoon I’ve just experienced?

Along with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues Kate and Kehau I spent the afternoon at Goolwa, a small town south of Adelaide at the mouth of the mighty river Murray, and had the biggest amount of fun. We were there to perform a Three Stuffed Mums show as part of ‘Just Add Water’ – the Country Arts SA Regional Centre for Culture festival that takes the arts to the regions and for a year settles in and works with the people who live locally. A main part of the festival is that projects there should leave a lasting legacy for the community.

Three Stuffed Mums project was to perform our show there and then over a period of a few weeks teach and coach local mums in standup or other ways of telling their own stories with humour. Then at the end we’ll present a showcase with the women performing their work. Today was the show and we’ll conduct the course from May to July.

It had become plain to us that women these days can feel isolated in bringing up children, and that they might not realise we all go through the same challenges. We had women coming to our shows the past two years and saying to us afterwards “Thanks! Now I feel normal!”

As far as stand up goes, this show today has to be one of the highlights of my ten year comedic career. The feeling of over 200 people cacking themselves with laughter at you is rather heady, and even more so that they were mostly women  and they knew exactly what I was talking about.

I had a ball and so did everyone else. And now we have the opportunity to pay so much forward with the course – can’t wait!

Have a great week!

Still Standing

It would seem that once again life is showing me that it conspires to provide everything needed for progress – whatever you define that progress to be.

Since my last post around about the middle of February ( I think) I’ve undergone some pretty massive changes in my life. We had the Three Stuffed Mums season at the Adelaide Fringe that went until mid-March. At the same time, at the beginning of March I left my job at a place I felt very much at home and in an occupation that I’ve been undertaking for the past 24 or so years and took up a new post in a new organisation. It has been a challenging move and yet one that I’m amazed that I feel so comfortable with. I’m learning loads about myself, about my passions and about the job. In short, I’m having fun!

The show’s season went well and part of the reason that I haven’t been blogging here is because, with our marketing budget of zero I decided to try to get the word out about the show by blogging almost daily on the Talkfringe website. While I’d love to give you a rundown of the season, maybe its best if I just repost my final blog there that sums up everything the season meant to us. So, here it is below:

GOODNIGHT AND GOODBYE

The Three Stuffed Mums – myself, Kate Burr and Kehau Jackson -took our traditional last night of the Fringe off and repaired to the excellent dining facilities of The Maid for a lovely dinner with Candace, our sound person, Mike Pitman, our musical director and our partners Steven and Glynn. Unfortunately Jeff, Kate’s husband, was home with a poorly toddler Lily (get well soon little Lil!).
It was a fitting end to an arduous season. Along with all the other Fringe acts we coped with boiling temperatures, flooding rains, the whine of the V8s and the competition from the Festival, Womad, Clipsal and the extra 180 or so shows who were all competing for the punters’ money.
But we did it, we got here. 17 shows over four weeks, dodgy reviews, good reviews, audiences who were quiet, raucous, drunk, sober – you name it. We were refining our standup from the first performance to the last, we were punching the air when we came in on time and professing to do better on the odd occasion we over ran by a few minutes. We saw the birth of a new comedy duo – Ajit Daliwahl and Amy Manuel as Ajitating Amy – and celebrated the legacy of now-passed but forever with us comedy legend Dave Grant.
This Fringe helped us to live life to the full for four glorious weeks, to put ourselves and our skills on the line, to spread laughs and for a short while to help others forget their worries. I can’t think of any higher calling than that of the jester, the comic, the (hopefully) wise fool. We hold a mirror to our selves and to our world, and in laughing at the hard stuff, the bad stuff, we remove its power over us.
Goodnight and goodbye Adelaide Fringe 2012. Seeya next time.
Maggie x

 

The Meaning of Life

The Meaning of Life

It’s been a while since my last post, life seems to have sped up.

Work is busy as always, plus getting a new job that I start in a few weeks time. Add to that preparation for the Adelaide Fringe including production and publicity work as well as actually writing and rehearsing with my Three Stuffed Mums buddies Kate and Kehau, it seems my time has flown.

In between it all was a sojourn to Sydney to see no.1 son off on his travels once again with the Navy. It was great to spend time with him and very sad to wave him off. The up part being that it will be only six months and he will be home again.

And in between all of this action trying to observe, to stay true to myself and my path, to learn about what’s transpiring and to simply enjoy life.

Because when it all comes down to it, I think that’s the crux, the meaning of all of this life stuff; living it and creating joy, however you find the expression of that to be.

Some people write, some perform, others love to cook, or make things, or ice cakes or climb mountains or talk to people or any other of a million things. And if they express and engender joy through that activity, if it results in you and others feeling uplifted by it and benefitting from it, there isn’t that much more to aim for, is there?

We Three Stuffed Mums have been talking a lot this week about what our comedy means for us, about what we’re trying to do with it, and we all agree that it’s about the following:

-Do no harm

-Uplift ourselves and others

-Have people leave the show feeling better than when they came in

Sounds good to me!

Have a great week!

M 🙂

Trusting the Tao

Trusting the Tao

73

The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan.

Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn’t let a thing slip through.

From Steven Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching

The words above have been a very real, very practical lesson for me recently.

We’re getting ready for another great Adelaide Fringe, and I’m writing a new show with my Three Stuffed Mums colleagues called Still Stuffed. Its a brand new show, with all new stand up comedy and songs, following on from the great success we had last year.

The songs are fine, they’re all written and being arranged right now. All new stand up – that’s another story. I don’t know how other writers operate but I cannot just sit at a computer and write funny – especially when the funny is for spoken delivery.

For me, that means it has to come from spoken origins. And its not a linear process either. Ideas, or phrases or sentences pop up, that generate further ideas that progress out from that original trigger like the ripples on a pond. The most important thing then is the idea, and the next important things are the words that convey that idea. The words can be swapped around like the idea trying on different outfits, but as long as the idea is intact and still inhabits my mind in its original form, there’s that leeway to play with. And then after a few days of musing (or weeks) it gets commited to screen via the keyboard. The words, if you’re not careful, have a way of pegging the idea down like the guy ropes of a flyaway tent. Done properly they neatly package and deliver the idea concisely, precisely and with punch. Done badly they bog it down and kill it. So you can see where I’m starting from.

So, all of this is to say that you cannot force the process. At the same time you have a deadline called ‘opening night’ looming ahead that tends to focus the mind and has the capacity to instill panic. So, what to do?

Me, I have learned to pick up my copy of the Tao Te Ching to remind myself to chill out and that all will be fine. That calms me enough to trust again that what I need will be delivered as long as I do my part in the process. And when I do, its a kind of self fulfilling prophecy, the ideas flow more freely, the mind is more open to receiving new ideas, not tense with panic, and things start to shake up in good time. And I have to say, things are coming together very nicely re the stand up, much better than I anticipated, actually. Adelaide Fringe 2012, I cannot wait for opening night!

If you’re in the vicinity you should pop down and see our show at The Maid, which also has some great comedy shows not featuring us. Our senior Stuffed Mum, Kehau, runs the venue with an aim to helping new comics put on their first Fringe shows without going into bankruptcy to do it. She and her husband Glynn work their butts off to make sure this happens so they deserve support for that alone, I reckon.

Whatever you do, and wherever you are please support your local artists, take part in your local culture and entertainment, and most of all, have fun!

Have a great week!

Maggie 🙂

NB: When looking for the correct stanzas to illustrate my point about trusting the flow in the writing process, I went to the internet version of the translation and blindly clicked on a chapter number. It turned out to be precisely the best chapter to describe what I was trying to say. Bravo Tao!

Bucket List Quest

Hey y’all, it’s been a while!

Bit of a newsy one this time.

July was very busy with theatre and comedy. Son was working as crew on Avenue Q for the month and so needed the mum/dad taxi service, meanwhile I was gigging every weekend for the OOTS Comedy Galahs around town.

That itself was a wonderful experience. We’d turn up and there would be 19 other comics all ready to go on and do their bit. I don’t know what the comedy scene is like in other cities, but in Adelaide we’re blessed to have a great one. The comics are all friendly and supportive of each other and take a real pleasure in seeing each other succeed with audiences. It fair warmed the cockles of my heart.

Also, one of the greatest pleasures was to see almost all of the female comics there too. We weren’t a token one or two on the bill, neither were we the total lineup which can also be tokenistic if you’re not careful. We were all just part of it, and great fun it was.

I congratulated the producer (and comic/David Tennant lookalike) Mark Trenwith on his great gender mix lineup and like the lovely guy he is he was genuinely dumbfounded. “I just hire people because they’re funny,” he said. Love that guy!

In other news, the Three Stuffed Mums have embarked on a project to compile a book of funny mum stories ‘from the trenches’. We’re asking mums to write in with their story that might not have seemed funny at the time, but you decided to keep it for their 21st, to be included in the Mum Book. The scheme was originated and masterminded by our more business-minded mum Kate, so if you’re interested, log on to http://www.themumbook.com.au and tell us your story.

My exciting news on a more personal level is that Fringe registrations opened this week for the Adelaide Fringe 2012. So, in the interests of crossing another thing off my ‘Bucket List’, I’m embarking at 50 years of age on my first solo Fringe show! It’s called “Sold!” and it will be a mixture of stories, songs and comedy.

Just this week I’ve received from my Musical Director Extraordinaire, Le Monsieur Mike Pitman, the backing tracks and scoring of two of the songs wot I wrote. They sound great, and now all I have to do is rack my singing voice up a notch or three to match the great quality of the arrangements.

The concept of “Sold!” is around those things we get sold on – whether its ideas, things, people. We have to be sold on them in order to justify our investment in them with our time, energy and loyalty. Sometimes we get swindled, but sometimes it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us. How do you get ‘Sold!’ on something? Tell me by going to the Facebook page for the show – Just click the badge to the right of this blog entry or search for me on Facebook under ‘Maggie Wood – Sold’. Oh and please click ‘Like’ on the page if you’d like to be kept up to date with my progress with the show.

And that’s probably me for this epistle. The weekend lies ahead as open as the prairies of Oregon (if they still have prairies there), for R&R and general navel gazing before the work week kicks off again on Monday.

To all of you out there, have a lovely weekend and a great week, and remember to look after each other. We’re all we’ve got!

M :o)

Fire and Attitude

Hellooooo! I’m back in blogland! Its been a while but its been such a busy while that even if my body had been still enought to write then my mind wouldn’t have been.

Its been a whirl of overseas visitors, comedy, work, more comedy and good friends (like a venn diagram, a lot of these groups overlap into each other).

I’ve had a bit of an epiphany, a bit of an arse kicking (self administered) and I’m shaping up a bit sharper in a whole lot of ways than I was before. All is good.

First off, update on the nightmares. There have been no more. There was one dream post-blog and post lovely emails and phone calls from concerned loved ones.

In the dream I didn’t shout or rant or anything, I just quietly explained that that particular fear mechanism was no longer useful and it should take its leave. And it did. end of. Lovely. Thanks for all your messages on that, I really felt loved.

Next, doing Three Stuffed Mums got me back into standup and now I seem to have a voracious appetite for writing and performing again. Haud me back!Currently have gigs booked for May, June and July, either with the mums or solo, so going not too bad so far.

I’ve got a website being built and getting myself organised to be able to offer all of my out of office hours skills for market. More anon.

Then, we had a visit from the wonderful Brenda and Pip, extended family members who are out here on hols from UK. Had a great time taking them round the Adelaide Hills and to a comedy show. They loved both. Also got to see them a couple of times at family gatherings which was great – they’re fantastic company and I’ll miss them. They’ve now departed for some time in Melbourne before heading back to blighty.

One fantastic surprise was an email from a very old pal (not that she’s very old, but that we’ve known each other since forever) who informed me that she’d be in town in a few days, all the way from Scotland. We had two great days to catch up and talk incessantly. It was so brilliant. I hadn’t seen Roona in nearly 20 years (or it seems like that) but when we met in town it was like nothing had changed and we just picked up where we left off, filling in all the details of the time in between then and now.

Seeing her was another episode in a series I seem to be having now of meeting people who remind me of parts of myself I’d forgotten. I think its probably a symptom of moving countries and fitting into your new one, then dissolving a marriage, then losing my dad – all things that in their own ways severed connections with who I used to be and also those parts of me that lie in hibernation.

Seeing Roona and seeing my bestie Linda in the UK last year woke up parts of that, just like seeing the lovely Janey Godley here during Fringe and speaking with her recalled to me with such clarity the fantastic heritage we have as Glasgow women. Its a proud, strong heritage and I’m so glad I’ve rediscovered that part of me.

It also reminded me of all these great women I have in my life right now who aren’t afraid to speak up, wherever they’re from and the great respect I have for them – thinking here straight away of people like my cousin Kathleen who’s so strong and yet so full of compassion for the young people she works with, and her mum (who in some ways is my other mum) June.

Memories too of my mum Meg McGinty, who could be a fearsome opponent in full flight. I’ve seen taxi drivers, government officials and some of my cocky young male teachers tremble in her presence. I hope I’ve got even just a wee bit of that fire and attitude. Seems to me its the right recipe for growing old disgracefully.

Have a fantastic Easter!

M