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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | July 6, 2020

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Brisbane's Alternative Comedy Roots

Ash Hauenschild

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It’s taken time – measured in false starts, empty seats, and plenty of awkward silence – but Brisbane’s next wave of alternative comedy could be upon us.

We are of course traversing some strange and risky territory with this story, and many of the comedians involved would be uncomfortable with the term, yet here we are.

This is a world removed from both the open mic (with its weekly ritual of nervous people talking about public transport) and community theatre (always risking performance as personal counselling).

Beyond the specifics of style and genre, however, alternative comedy in 2013 is largely a matter of programming – nights organised across formats, bridging the cliques that separate stand-up from improvised comedy, or bizarro-world musical acts from whatever it is Nicholas Watson does.

Jacob Lingard orchestrates one of these events, the Fresh Meat variety night (“for lack of a better term”) at Southside Tea Room.

“I got sick of the comedy in Brisbane, because I like to do a different thing but it’s not really accepted in most rooms.

“There’s not a lot of work in clubs, and people are just doing stranger things.

“As far as art goes, the manager wanted to get a comedy night at Southside Tea Room on the condition that it was weird. That was the thing we both agreed on – it had to be completely different and interesting.”

Local comedians Cameron Watson and Edward Chalmers (aka Da’relle and Chesney) were born for these stages, their recent “Chavprov” performances blending clever, experimental improvisation with plenty of silly voices for the peanut gallery.

“You can’t go changing your approach or your comedy to try and suit a larger audience,” said Da’relle, eloquent as ever in a thick London accent.

“Alternative comedy is about being different and edgy, and trying new things, being at the forefront of humour.”

The act’s inspiration is suitably international – Chicago’s Middle Age Comeback, LA’s Heather and Miles, and an unhealthy fascination with BBC absurdities – but for Australian alternative comedy, Sydney’s anarchic Phuklub looms large.

After the room’s inception way back in 2008, Ben Ellwood helped turn The Imperial Hotel into an underground hub featuring performers from bloke-poet Randall Stephens to this guy eating a light bulb for laughs.

“It started with a bunch of comics that were getting very bored with how staid and safe most comedy nights are. I personally don’t like the alternative label. Alternative to what – alternative to not funny?

“Comedy is like music, and most people are doing beats that have existed for 30 years. It’s time to sing new tunes and see what we can come up with.”

Of course, these nights won’t be to everybody’s taste, and alternative-anything is always a whisper away from highfalutin’ irrelevance – but isn’t it worth the risk?

The details:

What: Fresh Meat Live Improv and Stand Up Comedy

Where: Southside Tea Room, Morningside

When: August 18th, 2013 from 6:30pm

How much: $5

Website: Facebook

 

What: The Underground Comedy Lab

Where: The Joynt, South Brisbane

When: August 7, 2013 from 7:30pm

How much: $5

Website: Facebook

 

Images sourced from Phuklub, Fresh Meat and Chavprov.