Cracker by Damian Christie

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Cracker: LOL

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  • merc,

    You say, you say...

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    I watch as much street performance (jugglers, magicians etc) as I can (unfortunately, almost never in Dunedin). They tend to repeat the actual content of their show (death-defying juggling of three razor sharp knives while on top of the world's largest unicycle! I am the only person in the world stupid enough to do this!).

    However their banter and interaction with the audience changes if they're any good, and the best bits of the show are inevitably when they find some audience member who brings the whole show to life. I watched this (German?) chap in Chch once who was making rolled up bits of toilet paper disappear in front of this kid, by throwing them over his shoulder. For everyone in the audience it was very obvious, but he was distracting the kid to look at his other hand brilliantly, so the kid never saw it. The look on the kids face as things kept 'disappearing' in front of him was wonderful. After going through several (increasingly large) lots of toilet paper, he did it with a whole roll of toilet paper, and then pulled his shoe off to do it again before the kid looked around and realised what where everything had been going. Tremendously entertaining.

    Personally I'd feel a bit ripped if I went to see a comedian do two different shows, with different names, to find out the material is largely the same. If I want to hear comedy repeated, I'll buy the tape. If it's the same material, surely it should have the same name so people know they've seen it before?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6172 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    If I want to hear comedy repeated, I'll buy the tape...

    Or if you're a fan of the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I'll recite it to you for a modest fee. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11989 posts Report Reply

  • Nobody Important,

    Here's a VERY interesting story about how even great comedians "borrow" other peoples stuff. Even people like Robin Williams and Dennis Leary!!

    worth a look

    expat • Since Mar 2007 • 319 posts Report Reply

  • Allan MacLachlan,

    "For someone like Brendhan Lovegrove who i think almost scrapes by on a living from comedy, every time he takes a risk with new material, he risks loosing the next audience. "

    Every time he uses the same material, he does lose the audience that has seen it before. I was at the Gala and had heard the same act from Brendhan some time ago at the Classic Comedy Club. And didn't he also do some of that on Rove Live some time?

    He failed to showcase his act, simple.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    I recall on TV Billy Connelly (I think it was) saying he'd bet this guy he could do two full-legth shows without repeat himself and succeeded. Presumably he would generally throws in whatever of his material seemed appropriate at the time.

    I does seem tragic and dangerous to be doing a new show with old material, but I can imagine how one might decide that not doing your best stuff is insane, expecially with something as pass/fail as standup.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1096 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Apparently the comedy fest isn't the only place he did it. Critic, in its review of M2 magazine, commented on his orientation show being the same as last year (and said some other things about him as well):

    http://www.critic.co.nz/online/view_article.php?issue=Critic2007_10&article=article57

    Since Nov 2006 • 6172 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Thomas,

    Damian, you have spoken for the people.
    Leaving aside the issue of whether jokes are like songs or (even more of a stretch) paintings, what strikes me about stand-up comedy is that the rate of production is just so low.
    Granted, the Rolling Stones are retreading their greatest hits. But at their peak they were releasing a new studio album every, what, year or so? And greatest hits suggests a significant ouevre in the first place. Note the difference between people heading out to hear 3 hours of Stones' classics, and Wheatus trudging around the country to play Teenage Dirtbag to whomever will listen. Hitting a good routine and sticking with it for years strikes me as much more like the latter.
    Sure, it's hard to write comedy. And it's hard to imagine a Russell Brown of laffs who belts out ten minutes of great new material every day before lunch. But surely comedians don't stop being funny people. If you have a comedian who's been doing this for over a decade - you'd think about 10% of his or her funniest stuff would issue from the last year.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 20 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    Ben, I think you make very good points, mostly because they are all in agreement with mine. ;)

    I was thinking about the Stone's productivity actually when I was writing that, and the Beatles too, who produced more than an album each year of their 8 or so years together.

    But of course that's just music, which as those bestowed with the Gift of Comedy would doubtless point out, is nowhere near as hard as writing jokes for the stage... nothing is, apparently.

    And to reiterate, if I thought a comic's material was timeless and classic, it'd be different. Your Wheatus/Stones comparison is bang on. Brendhan's definitely a very funny guy, but after the third time, I wasn't laughing...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • David Cormack,

    "But of course that's just music, which as those bestowed with the Gift of Comedy would doubtless point out, is nowhere near as hard as writing jokes for the stage... nothing is, apparently."

    There are few who claim this, one artform is another is another, HOWEVER, the difficulty with comedy is there is only one acceptable emotional outcome from a joke - humour/mirth. Songs can be sad, happy, moving etc etc meaning that the scope of material is slightly wider.

    Reuters print the same thing in multiple newspapers, bands play the same songs, actors perform in the same plays for years on end. You deliver the best material you can, to ensure the audience has the best time. Does he cater to you who has seen him 3 times? And thus risk doing material that isn't that funny or does he perform his older stuff which he knows is hilarious, that's up to each comic.

    Suburbia, Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 216 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    I was at the Classic a few years ago. I was on my way to the ladies loo, which involve passing the men's. The door to the men's was open and I looked in that direction and saw Brendhan Lovegrove pissing at a urinal. He saw me looking and gave me a look as if to say, "Jesus! Can't a fellow piss in a toilet with the door open without having people staring at him?!"

    I have incorporated this anecdote into my stand-up comedy routine.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1858 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie,

    I have incorporated this anecdote into my stand-up comedy routine.

    It's a shame he didn't too, could've been 1% less new material to find...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1130 posts Report Reply

  • Lyndon Hood,

    As some who's dabbled in comedy I can also appreciate what a treasure material that you've tried and tried until you've got it right and you actually know it works would be.

    And if you look at it in behavioural terms (laughter reinforces, lack of it punishes) you could train yourself into not trying new stuff quite quickly.

    Plus it's an effort and a cost, especially if you want to draw a line somewhere and suddenly start doing a whole new show (I realise bands do this).

    The idea that's alright looks to me more like an unfortunate meme that has come up in a relatively small industry. Or just ordinary defensiveness.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1096 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    I don't recall having heard Lovegrove re-use material, but I've Ewen Gilmour certainly had a hell of a lot of stock routines. I've seen 2 similar shows over a year apart.

    And I think these sort of experiences have put me off going to stand-up.

    I appreciate new material is hard, but Raybon Kan is someone who I'd single out as writing whole reams of new material. And sometimes it really hasn't been funny. I don't know if he's improved, but I really felt there were times where he could have realised that he was not winning, should have quite and moved on, but didn't. But full credit for writing new material!

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 689 posts Report Reply

  • Finn Higgins,

    Reuters print the same thing in multiple newspapers, bands play the same songs, actors perform in the same plays for years on end. You deliver the best material you can, to ensure the audience has the best time. Does he cater to you who has seen him 3 times? And thus risk doing material that isn't that funny or does he perform his older stuff which he knows is hilarious, that's up to each comic.

    But I'd suggest that comedy differs in an important way from the other forms you mention, in that few of the punters care about the quality of the delivery as much as they do about the immediacy of the joke. Once you've heard a joke more than once or twice then you know what's coming, and the release at the end of the joke is far less likely to result in a laugh. If it's good material people might smile a bit at being reminded of how funny it was the first time, but jokes don't get funnier the more you tell them.

    Comics playing on material they "know to be hilarious"... it's only hilarious if the audience hasn't heard it all before.

    While bands may repeat songs, songs frequently grow greater in the listener's ear with more familiarity with the details, and that familiarity can breed greater appreciation of a really amazing performance than somebody watching it cold would feel. So in other words, repeat listening gives some actual return. I don't think that's the case in comedy.

    I went to see a recording of Goodness Gracious Me while I was in London, which was an interesting exercise in repetition of comedy material - the laugh tracks are real, from an audience. So either by design or by improvisation, each take was notably different on every single sketch that was recorded live in front of the audience. My assumption is that this was for the very obvious reason that if you keep repeating shit, the audience stops laughing... should be pretty obvious for a comic, no?

    Wellington • Since Apr 2007 • 209 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Austin,

    Actually Kan was one of the comics that I found repeating material, or at least so it seemed to me on the second and third time I saw him (in Dunedin back in the day). Haven't heard him since, mainly because I didn't want to risk hearing the material again.

    London • Since Nov 2006 • 889 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    Interesting. I heard Kan multiple times in Dunedin. They were themed shows, and they always seemed to be on the theme.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 689 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I've been to a couple of Lovegrove's shows. Exactly the same ones as everyone else, it would seem. I just can't stand the same material being used time and time again. In the UK, with a large audience, where a comedian travelling around would play all sorts of places, fair enough. Not in Auckland, where the comedy scene is so small. There are exellent comedians here in NZ, and the best ones don't practice on their festival audiences - Jan Maree floats my boat, as does Penny Ashton (who can make a dirty ditty out of any situation). I don't write comedy and I would imagine it's very hard yakka, but really, if you're genuinely funny, and Lovegrove is, I don't think you need to repeat yourself. Do you?

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    It's not just Brendan It's most of them. it seems. I bought a DVD of Eddie Izzard a while back and every time I watch it it is the same stuff, word for word. I once came across Brendan at the old Chill Bar in Ponsonby and asked him to tell me a joke, he said "naff off, I do this for a living, you'll have to pay me first" hardly new material, I'd heard him say this to some other chap not ten minutes earlier.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4860 posts Report Reply

  • Nobody Important,

    I stopped going to Church when they started repeating the material. Same old same old almost every week: Jesus Is Lord, Christ Will Rise Again, Repent Your Sins, Be Nice To Others .... sheesh, and would a few new hymns hurt???

    expat • Since Mar 2007 • 319 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Elwood,

    When you end up in a heated argument with comedians, is that ironic?

    Not really, we're more than happy to wade in....
    This whole discussion has been fascinating, and in my opinion, worth having. The issue of new material, or the lack therof, is one that we comics doubtlessly discuss more than anyone else.
    There are a couple of points brought up by various writers I'd like to comment on.
    The writer who says that "if I see a comedian do two festival shows with different titles, I expect them to be different shows" - fair enough. I think that during the festival, billing is certainly an issue. It's worth pointing out that we have to come up with the publicity blurbs for our shows in early December, whilst the shows themselves don't happen until May. This can, and does, often result in shows that bear little resemblance to the advertised "theme", particularly for comedians whose work is, by definition, topical. Things change, so do the shows. Having said that, I often feel that this is an excuse for us to put in more new material, rather than less. As a rule of thumb, I feel that if a show is titled and/or publicised as being on a theme and "brand new", then punters have a reasonable right to be let down if much of the material is repeated from other shows. If however, the show is simply an hour of stand up from any particular act, then older material can be justified, if it happens to fit in with whatever new material it is being presented alongside.

    In regards to the comparison between stand up and any other form of writing, there really isn't one. Songs, even comedy songs, are stand alone pieces of work. They exist individually. Take something like "Pinball Wizard" for example - sure, it was part of a rock opera and concept album, but it is still a stand alone piece of work. Stand up shows are a collection of pieces of material that, in practice, have to collectively find some form of coherance. Therefore the same material that works one week may not work the next, but a piece of material from two weeks ago just might fit.
    Also, as opposed to the written word, stand up must work immediately, night after night. That's why older jokes have a tendency to evolve, and delivery of them to get better with time.

    In terms of wether or not NZ comedians have a higher or lower turnover rate of material than those overseas, the truth is that ours is, through necessity, much, much higher. The "new material" that international acts bring here at festival time is, in many cases, material that has been performed hundreds of times, just not in front of you, the New Zealand audience. There have been visiting acts in the past whose Gala sets, for example, I happen to know are at least 10 years old. The problem here, for both comics and audiences, is that we perform at the same few venues, in many cases to a lot of the same people, with greater frequency than our overseas counterparts have to. As a result, frequent attendees will hear material that may, in fact, be much newer than you realise. Once we find a good line, we really like to use it!

    In the end, I'm actually pleased that this discussion has generated so many replies, as it shows that we're now getting an audience that pays enough attention to call us on material that we should retire, or at the least that we need to be a little more selective about which gigs we use to showcase new or "tested" bits.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Sure, it's hard to write comedy. And it's hard to imagine a Russell Brown of laffs who belts out ten minutes of great new material every day before lunch. But surely comedians don't stop being funny people. If you have a comedian who's been doing this for over a decade - you'd think about 10% of his or her funniest stuff would issue from the last year.

    Heh. But if you've heard me make more than a couple of public speeches, you'll have noticed that there are a few greatest hits that get incorporated into whatever I'm doing at the time, before being eventually retired.

    OTOH, I've never been able to bring myself to have a stock presentation (with PowerPoint!) that I roll out every time. That's just too dull.

    True fact though: I tried stand-up a couple of times back in the day, as a means of trying to share the stage experience of my muso buddies whilst having no talent for music.

    The first time really came off quite well. The second didn't, in part because I didn't know you were allowed to use the same material twice (and also because I didn't know about having "heckle lines").

    I do find that there are some comedians who are able to brilliantly extemporise or at least (Jermaine from the Conchords) make whatever they say sound very funny, and I learned a lot from working with comedians on Off the Wire: it really is all about timing.

    But has Brendhan been suffering writer's block? Wasn't there some controversy about the provenance of the material he did on Rove?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18877 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    Yeah but RB, didn't you use to do that Friday morning slot on B..."Good morning mediafiles... and all the way to...Righto! basically without a script?

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    Now, see Jeremy, I've seen you perform several times, perhaps at gigs a year apart and a few times at the Comedy Club, and I really have never heard you do the same material.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Riddley Walker,

    yeah that was a classic m, i miss that - and i'm one of the most pathologically anostaligic people alive.

    Russell, can we have some of paul, bill and bill's Dad's Tips recordings on ourtube, just for old times?

    i still can't pass through Rangiriri without insisting to nobody in particular... "__Straight through__ Rangiriri!"

    AKL • Since Feb 2007 • 890 posts Report Reply

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