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Byron Shire
June 20, 2024

Here & Now #185 Just a stage

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here-now-185-picS Sorrensen

Ballina. Thursday, 8.40pm

The gig is going well. When stand-up is going well it feels great. And I’m not just talking about for the audience; I’m talking about for me.

Yes, folks, it’s me on the stage, microphone in hand, laughter tinkling from the audience, like beer glasses do from the bar. It’s a beautiful sound, people laughing. (As is the tinkle of beer glasses.)

Downstairs, pokie machines peal and chime, ATMs whir and clang, tills jingle and toll, food buzzers buzz, and phones ring, ping and sing, but here, upstairs in comedy heaven, it’s the sound of laughter that fills the room (and that tinkle thing, of course). That makes me feel good. That laughter is the audience and me sharing a moment. We have connected over a silly gag. Yep. I feel good. Alive.

It’s not that I’m desperate for people’s validation. No. I don’t need permission to be a human. (I already showed my licence at the door.) But, getting a laugh when you’re doing comedy is, well, a relief. It’s also what’s expected.

I am many things: writer, teacher, comedian… father, son, lover… hippie, greenie, black belt in karate. (Okay, one of those I made up.) Tonight, I am comedian. (If all goes well, later, I may be lover, but let’s not count our drinks before they’re poured.)

Stand-up is a deadly game. You kill or you die. And if you die, you die a horrible death… alone. There’s no drummer to blame. Just you and a clammy silence that crawls onstage, thrusts its hand into your stomach, rips out your guts and chucks them onto the carpet. (This really happens. Check out the club carpet yourself.)

Stand-up, it’s a bit like life, I guess. You make your entrance alone, and your exit. What you do during your brief time in the light is up to you. If you’re tough, a few people will laugh with you at life’s peculiarities, appreciate your uniqueness and not foul your water… if you’re tough.

If you’re sensitive – wrong planet.

Stand-up is performance stripped down to its essentials. There are no elaborate sets (behind me is only a comedy banner with bad punctuation), no costume (I’m wearing what I always wear: hemp shirt, synthetic pants, deck shoes), no re-takes (this is here and now) and no script (sure, I have ideas and gags, but I’m too lazy to learn stuff).

You just stand up and talk. Simple (but tricky). It’s about connection. We all want to connect. To share our bewilderment at life. To be honest, just for a moment, human to human. Strangely, given the onstage bullshit, it’s all about honesty. Oh, and timing.

Timing. I should say something now. The last joke has faded, and the room is quietening (except for the beery tinkle). I should say something, but… I’m keen to hang onto this moment, because I feel happy. I want to make this feeling last as long as possible; to stretch it into the night, into tomorrow. (The headliner would be pissed off.)

It’s the humanity of stand-up comedy that appeals to me. In an era when friends are made but not met, where conversations are between keyboards, where the complexities of human interaction are gelded to 140 characters, the connection I’m having now with these people in this room by the river, is real. Refreshing. Bombarded by wave after wave of electronic information that’s either vacuous or dire, distracting or destructive, I hardly know what’s real anymore.

This is.

Oh dear. Tension builds in the room. I should say something. I’ve stretched the silent moment to breaking point. I hear it snap. (Snap!) The beer tinkle grows louder. A cough. A ‘come on, mate…’

‘Thank you,’ I say.

‘And goodnight.’


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  1. Sometimes I fantasize!. Other times I think:
    That if I could get up, in front of room filled with 500 persons and just make one of them laugh…..just one….. then perhaps I should not do comedy ever again.

    From a soul full of many failed moments of merriment and mirth xo


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