And then life gets in the way. Where were we? Um. Melbourne. Ages ago now. Ten days. The last show was great. Only 18 had booked and I was stoic setting up. Then we had 45 come in and the show took off a bit. People came over the bridge to Newport, some had looked me up in the program or online and taken a chance on ‘something a bit different’. A few old mates made it a top night. People stayed and yarned. Felt like a real gig. Felt like I'd done something. Satisfied.
I hung around to see a bit of the festival. Anthony Morgan, still mad as a cut snake and compelling but in a world that should draw anger more than ever he seemed to have his teeth drawn. Caught some young comics too: Rita Matafeo, a deft Kiwi, gentle gender commentary and classic comic skills; Rhys Nicholson, a kind of queer Letterman type, almost too polished but damn funny. I hope the world offers them more than offers to do tv. The festival left me wondering where I might fit into that world, its market of comedic voices. Perhaps I don’t. Or maybe I’m ‘the comedian's dad’. It’s how I felt watching the kids. Might write a show of 'objectively great comedy' (to quote a review) in that vein. The festival seemed anodyne; a kind of pointless parade of just jokes. The best comedy is always more than that, somehow. Innit?!?
Then life turned into seeing old friends. Caleb and his wife Tiffany out in Majorca. Goldfields country. They live a deliberately improvised life. Timeless and stylish that pair. Building buildings, sustaining a long love. Worth a look these preserved towns in tin and bluestone that make you wonder how so few cleared such a vast land (What lies are told here, still). Maryborough: a railway station with a town attached, Mark Twain reckoned when he visited. Maldon: haunted by Joseph Jenkins, farmer and bardic poet, who swept the sandstone gutters that survive today. He is memorialised by a drinking fountain. Or to be accurate: a bubbler. Wonderful and ridiculous. Murderous and bitter this place. How to live in it? My mate Caleb plays cricket and batted last time of asking in a pith helmet. A sense of the absurd must abide!
Onwards across Victoria past petrol stations turned into homes, grand old Bendigo and a Ned Kelly statue as huge as it was silly. Like the Anzac myth it shows how we struggle to take ourselves seriously. Stopped in Glenrowan for a vanilla slice and felt my nationality beyond question, whatever my doubts and grumbles. And so to Albury and Graham and Chris,and their kids. A great big world of love and usefulness. Criminal lawyers who’ve worked their whole lives literally in service - first in Dubbo with the Aboriginal Legal Service and lately in Albury - wonderful, modest, effective people. Great friends of my son Aubrey; we'd visit Dubbo together often, back in the day.
The show went on in Albury last Friday. We had 21 booked in and I’d written it off. I counted 65 in the end. Result. The local theatre company produced most of the crowd with some friends and clients chipping in. To my surprise the show was even better. Something shifted. I was leaving the script, talking to the audience more and adapting the tale somehow with them, minute by minute. It was sharper and funnier and getting somewhere. Many stayed and chatted about their own adventures and this all seemed more than worthwhile. The show felt like it might have legs beyond a likeminded Radio National listening audience …
Saturday was an early start and the drive to Sydney ended oddly in a swim at Borrallee Pool Botany, before gathering Kathryn and the kids. Got to the Seymour Centre to see no mention of the show. Raced to Officeworks to get posters printed and thrown up around the foyers. Gotta look pro, right?!? And then the folks dribbled in, with plenty of lovely old faces - thank you one and all - but many more new ones. The Sound Lounge is a small space, good for this caper, and with 80-odd it felt full. The show was a little bit better again. Maybe I was trusting myself - this was the eighth outing on this tour and I was getting confident, cutting bits out here and there, connecting with the audience. Great to see Helena and the Good Return people there. Exhausted, the hard core repaired to the Native Rose, scene of many early crimes. Too much fun.
Sunday. Matt Webb lured me into doing the Wedding Cake Island swim. Fantastic. Swam over an electric blue groper, was passed by many old enough to be me mum, but made it. Monday. Had lunch with Ranjit Voola at Sydney Uni Business School and we talked about collaborating on his masters program workshop on microfinance. Pretty exciting that. Then we drove out to see Kim and Dean with my nephews Tom and Cal in town as a bonus. Did a little business too seeing a client and doing a teleconference from Orange in the car outside Spotlight – as you do.
Tuesday took us to Ka's old friends Zenya and Bonnie and their 4 daughters. A mad and vital world, christened Estrogen Manor. Nina relished the conditions as the eldest girl, taking charge. Thibault and I disappeared into Canberra to do an ABC interview, a spot of Questacon and the High Court. Thibault also swam a lazy K with me. Will make him an ocean swimmer yet.
Elsewhere, there was an earthquake in Dhaka last night and my friend Tuhin the tour guide told how he and his mum waited out the tremors on top of their apartment building - he says it gets too crowded at street level and you can be killed in the crush or my falling building bits. Meanwhile Mandy and Ellen are smashing it in Melbourne, filling the venue I played in to the rafters. Gotta say huge thanks to Mandy for her support for this show. A great mentor and friend. And a champion comic.
So here I am in Gundaroo, wondering again whether anyone will turn up tonight, knowing at least the show works, whatever happens from here. Grateful to everyone who's helped me to do this - especially Kathryn - keen to do it again in Sydney soon and Bello festival in July - and ready to do more, learn more. Feels like this is what I should be doing. If it's small rooms and modest crowds, that's fine by me. So, I really am feeling like the comedian's dad - dead keen to write that show and do it later this year. That feels good. Yeah!