How does a comedian work up new material for their festival show? Every year comedians around the country are busy trying to come up with their latest show, challenged by the fact that very often the first time you get to present your material is the first night of your run. With comedy, it’s the live audience that shapes your work so very often the best show, or the show you are happy with, doesn’t happy until the end.
Wil Anderson, host of the ABC’s Gruen and one of Australia’s finest comedians has a dynamic way of developing his show – he does it with his trial audiences in a show he calls A Work in Progress. He is coming to the Brunswick Picture House for four nights to hone his latest work, offering a unique opportunity to see a world-class comedian in an intimate environment as well as a chance for audiences to observe how he shapes his material.
‘Traditionally I’ve done the Work in Progress shows in Canberra,’ says Wil. ‘I like doing them every night. For me to write a show, I conceive it as a whole piece, doing them night after night, rather than taking a bit and rolling it around the clubs; it gives a better idea of how things are going and I like being in the same space. If it works one night and it doesn’t work the next night because you are in a different venue or place, you don’t know whether it was your material or the change of space.’
As successful and as confident as comedians are, every show is haunted with the shadow of the crash. Of course as time goes on this happens less and less, but it’s something Anderson says that even after 22 years you don’t lose sight of.
‘The analogy I use a lot is surfing: you get to the point when you can surf, and it’s about how you are using the waves – small waves one day, big the other; if you aren’t in sync with that then you are in trouble. As a comedian it’s about being in sync with your conditions and sometimes, like surfing, you just get dumped on your head. It’s part of it, it’s what we signed up to. We are doing something for a living that we have attempted to master and in the end it is something that is unmasterable! There is something about being a comedian, something in us; the reason you pursue it is you are trying to get something right. There are moments when you are onstage when you are as good as anyone.
‘The people who are really good produce that more often than not. For most of us who have been comedians long enough, at some stage, even for a minute or two, you are the best comedian in the world; you can perform the way no-one else on the planet could be at that moment – that is what we chase. The annoying or maybe great thing about comedy is the idea you can get to that idea where it’s perfect.’
In Work In Progress Wil is working up his latest show, his first full-narrative show that focuses on a personal story. The story was in June last year when Anderson was arrested after an ‘incident’ on a flight from Sydney to Wagga Wagga. He was on his way to a gig. He certainly didn’t expect to end up at a police station.
‘It’s an occasion when something funny did literally happen to me on the way to the gig.
‘The funny thing also, and I guess why it has become a show, and I was pretty convinced that literally it had all been a confusion; there had been a series of my actions that they (the flight attendants) had assigned to one group of things – misinterpretation.’
The incident hit the news and the ‘massive misunderstanding’ caused embarrassment for the airline and for Anderson. Stereotypes about comedians being problematic probably fed into the situation and Anderson says, ‘The weird thing is I’m not that person. It came as a surprise to everyone. I flew for an hour, and now I have an hour of material! It literally landed on my lap!’
To hear more about Wil’s ‘disruptive’ flight experience, and to be part of his developing a show about being arrested and escorted from a regional flight, then catch Work in Progress on Wed 10, Thursday 11, Friday 12 and Saturday 13 January at 7pm at the Brunswick Picture House.
For tickets go to brunswickpicturehouse.com
Book early. Will sell out.
‘Eclectic, smart and hilarious…’ Herald Sun
Adult $40 | Concession $35