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Byron Shire
September 19, 2021

Interview with Paul McDermott & Gatesy

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Paul McDermott & Gatesy at the Brunswick Picture House

Paul McDermott & Gatesy

Brunswick Picture House  |  Saturday 19 October  |  $40

When two blokes from Australia’s most loved comedy threesome team up, shit is going to happen.

Paul McDermott from Doug Anthony Allstars and Steven Gates, aka Gatesy, from Tripod are going solo… well, together. So it’s kind of a duo. But if you’ve been in a threesome, being in a twosome probably feels like you’re solo. This is getting confusing.

Being a solo stand-up comic is easy – you pretty well develop your own relationship with the crowd, but as a two-hander, you have to develop your relationship with the crowd AND with each other. You don’t want to duplicate attitude or responses… so how do Gatesy and Paul express their mojo?

‘Paul’s voice is the same,’ says Gatesy. ‘He’s still aggressive with the audience, and I find my role being the sort of space between him and the audience, where he can have a rant that goes for 5 minutes, or I can come in at the end and put a button on it or take him down. That’s fun, he’s very generous!’

With decades of onstage experience between them, these two know how to surf the wave. They’re a long way from the days of having to script every single on-stage moment. In fact, what happens is as much a surprise to them as it is to the audience!

‘A lot of the stuff isn’t written, and you have to listen a lot, and find spaces to talk and interact in a duo, to fill the spaces between the songs. We go on the fly in-between. We have to – because we can’t really rehearse. Paul lives in Sydney, I live in Mebourne, and we write and collaborate over Skype to mull it over – its the only way we would be able to do it!’

When Gatesy and McDermott take to the stage the audience knows they have the chops.

‘You get heckled from time to time – often it’s when someone wants to contribute, or they want to have a chat. Paul’s first port of call is to attack straight up – which is like, if you make a small sound when he walks out – I’m like wow, standing on the side, waiting for the cycle of abuse to end. I enjoy being the voice of the audience and telling him when he’s gone too far. I was never that in Tripod. I was the Himbo!’

It’s the loose and organic way these two work that makes the show so exciting.

‘You just have to be present on stage’ says Gatesy. ‘The whole time you are on stage with Paul you have to listen, because he’s unpredictable. He is a sensitive, polite, softly spoken artiste off stage, but put him in front of an audience and for some reason it turns ugly! In a good way!’

Paul and Gatesy came together through a mutual friend.

‘The reason we got together was because of Nerija, a friend of ours who died at 31, about 10 years ago. Paul had written a song about her a few years later and I joined him to play it. We had to fill a 15 minute spot. It was a really pretty song. He said let’s take this seriously and see if we can get a show together for the Ballarat Cabaret Festival, which we ended up touring in 2017.’

When creating a song Gatesy likes to fuck with expectations.

‘I like the audience to think it’s a funny song but we take them in a different direction. I want them to sit on the edge of their seat expecting a laugh and then end up somewhere else. That’s the best.’

Tripod have been one of the most enduring comedy acts on the Australian circuit. The warm embrace of many generations of comedy lovers still surprises Gatesy.

‘We were dumb nerdy boys talking about Star Wars, and then you hit your 30s and you have relationships and kids and the spotlight turned on ourselves. You start reflecting on your life. You have to evolve otherwise it’s like watching an old bloke wear clothes meant for young fellas. I used to swan about in my 20s in these vintage 70s suits. Now when I put them on – I just look creepy!’

Paul McDermott and Gatesy play the Brunswick Picture House on Saturday 19 October.
Tix are $40 from brunswickpicturehouse.com

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