A new year brings another comedy festival season. Bon Vivant will be speaking to comedians and performers about their careers, their brains, and their upcoming shows. In doing so we’re hoping to shine a spotlight on some up-and-coming comics and promote some excellent shows. Today Ben Vernel speaks with Lady Melville.
Lady Melville, joke teller and laugh-maker. What particular cocktail of neuroses and ambition drove you to onto a stage to speak into a microphone?
I studied drama for years so being on stage was never a big deal. I was scared-off stand up in 2002 after I did a 3 minute set at uni as part of a course with Ian McFadyen of The Comedy Company fame. Although I always loved doing comedy it was a terrifying experience and I vowed never to do stand up again! (Although I was awarded a distinction for that subject!) Years later, 9 to be exact, I had been thinking about starting to perform again and enrolled in some short writing and performance courses. The magnificent Tim Ferguson’s RMIT Comedy Writing Course is a great way for aspiring comedians to get their heads around the concept of joke writing and comedy in general.
In 2002 I was 20 years young and didn’t have as much perspective on things as I think I do now. Stand up for me now is a combination of wanting to give an audience a great night out and being able to tell my story, which in shows to come will happen.
How long have you been doing comedy? Can you recall your first ever spot?
I did my first spot at Blah Blah Comedy Club in Moonee Ponds in May 2011. I stood up again and thankfully it felt a lot nicer than the first time. The room was very supportive of new comics, I had a great night and couldn’t wait to do it again.
Who are some comedians you look up to and cite as influences?
Locally we have some amazing comedians right here in Melbourne – Lawrence Mooney, Fiona O’Loughlin Dave Callan – who are always brilliant to watch because of how easy they make everything look, when of course that’s never the case. These people work really hard and have excellent work ethic. My boyfriend Dan Willis has been doing the festival circuit and international scene for over ten years and really pushes himself to give 100% every time, which motivates me to get better. He’s also very encouraging and most importantly honest. I would turn gay for Ellen de Generes (I’ve been offered a night-pass by my boyfriend but am not allowed to stay for breakfast) and love Lisa Lampanelli who is an insult comic from the U.S. It’s hard to just name a few.
Who are some other up-and-coming names people should look out for?
There are more than is space to mention. Doing the open mic circuit I have seen a few people who I think have loads of potential. I give my friend Dilruk Jayasinha a hard time, but I think he’s great and in the past several months I’ve seen his comedy evolving if that makes sense. The people who are constantly critiquing and evaluating their work seem to be the ones who are getting better. It’s hard to do but it seems to be helping me. Comics tend to become a little deluded sometimes.
The wonderful pussy posse – Morven Smith, Lauren Bok, Hayley Brennan, Eliza Grounds, Louise Joy McCrae, Kate Jobling, Victoria Healy, Yvonne Malik, Mayumi Nobitsu, Dawn Schary, Nadine Clarke, Tegan Higginbotham, Bobby Macumber, Hayman Kent, Lisa Fineberg, Sonia Di Iorio, Natalie Britton, Jenni Townsend, Rebecca Douglas, Julia Clarke, Sarah Ridgeway, Lindi Jane and the mesmerising Linda Beatty. And plenty of other girls who will feature in my show Here Come the Girls.
Having been to the Edinburgh Festival, I was lucky to see some great acts who are coming to Melbourne this year. Obie is the most Scottish man you’ll ever meet. His show ‘Hilarious Mind Control’ will be a hoot. Dickie Daventry’s ‘The Right Dishonourable Dickie Daventry’ is something you can’t afford to miss.
You’re putting together a showcase for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival entitled Here Come The Girls. Tell me about it!
Usually gigs will only have one or two ladies, on some nights none, yet Melbourne (and the comedy world) is full of great girls who give just as good, if not better than the boys. So we’re turning it around a bit to have a changing line up of ladies and one guy per night. It’s not about excluding the boys, I love male comedy. Quite frankly though, I think any man should feel privileged to be surrounded by so much oestrogen! We will have special guest and a few surprises in store for audiences, no two shows will be the same.
Here Come the Girls is also showing support towards the charity White Ribbon which raises male awareness of domestic violence issues. It’s a topic that I feel very strongly about and hope that people agree with me. The current campaign asks men to ‘Swear’ against domestic violence and has featured some very high profile names. www.whiteribbon.org .
Featuring one male comedian each night, we’re getting blokes to show that they support the cause and female comedy. Essentially it’s about empowering women to be whatever it is that they want to be. You want to be a comedian, be a comedian.
Where can people book tickets?
You can book tickets through www.tixnofee.com, which does what it says on the tin, or through Ticketmaster. There will also be tickets available on the door at Roxanne Parlour, 2 Coverlid Place, Melbourne CBD 3000.
Any last words?
Come and see the show, support a good cause and have a laugh. ‘A showcase of the finest female comedy talent and not a period joke in sight’*
*NB. May contain slight traces of period jokes as the festival does run for almost a month.