Comedy culture and the GC

It all started with a phone call. “Hey man, you keen to go see some stand up?” I squealed like a school girl, went to put on my best underwear and was cruising toward the Arts Centre within minutes.

The whole drive was spent sharing anecdotes from our all time favourite comedy acts. Eddie Murphy, Bill Hicks and Louis C.K. were all celebrated with poor impressions. We were ready to laugh.

We strode confidently up to the door to be greeted by a most friendly host. “Did you guys book seats?” Oh shit. The sting in the side was brutal. We looked to each other. Panic, disappointment and self-loathing. We are so stupid. The stunned silence lasted just seconds. Tracey reassures us, “a table for four hasn’t shown up yet.  Actually you know what? We’ve probably got some standing room. Follow me.”

We walk apprehensively down the dark stairs into The Basement complex. Once in the doors we are blasted by an atmosphere that makes all senses tingle. It is so sexy! The lighting, the banter and OMG, the people! Everybody is done up to the nines. Where are we?

Tracey makes a big fuss over us. No standing room wedged uncomfortably at the bar for us. She has swooped on some spare bar stools. She does everything but offer to shine our shoes. I think she has mistaken us for gentlemen.

A period of shocked silence follows. Wtf just happned? I turn to my friend. He is grinning like a Cheshire cat. We are in. We are in and there is magic in the air. The first and most obvious question… “Why have we waited so long to do this?”

Fast forward to this morning.  I sit content with the steps I’ve undertaken to research Gold Coast comedy culture. I love comedy and with Blank I intend to share this love. Let’s start with the science.

An online article in the NY Times makes mention of research carried out by Dr Robin Dunbar: an evolutionary psychologist working from Oxford.  “The physical act of laughing. The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar ha, ha, ha, trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.”

If I keep my nerd hat on long enough, I can fill the rest of this magazine with the science of giggles. A quick search in Google “why does laughing feel good?’’ and an endless stream of articles lie waiting. An act we all take for granted has a deeply rooted history in our evolution. The stand-up comic, in essence, is there to trigger your primal responses and make you feel good.

I’m sure that before being aware such scientific evidence existed, you already revelled in the joy associated with laughter. Why then, with professionals circulating our coastal clubs are you not attending? How did a night in watching Biggest Loser become the activity to be boasted about at the water cooler? I posed this question to Lindsay Webb. A headline performer from our night at the Arts Centre. His response, “It is easier to enjoy what we are told is good”. Hmm. I hope you’re paying attention you reality TV junkies.

The research must go on. The Arts Centre gig was a demonstration of many professional hands at work. An experienced history of hosting professional comedians was noticeable in every corner of the event. A superb, sophisticated night out. But where does it all begin? Like the local rock band at their first handful of performances. It’s not, strum, drum and off to the Entertainment Centre. First the local pub needs to welcome you for a night of experience. Where is this happening for the comedians? Off to The Loft, Chevron Island.

Chris Begg of Touch Of Red Entertainment is the man responsible for keeping the comedy warm on Chevron. We have corresponded in advance and I’m pumped for open mic night.

The clouds roll in this night and the rain flows freely. I am concerned for I know Gold Coast locals are allergic to anything but sunny clear skies. However, just before the MC takes the mic, an intimate crowd of die-hards has created the foundation for atmosphere. The show will certainly go on.

My first observation is the contrast of mood to that at the Arts Centre. This truly is where the grass roots are sprouting. There is anxiety, fear, excitement and hope all churning powerfully together. It is f*cking brilliant.

Chris has informed me that all performers have had at least a handful of turns with mic in hand. A few have even graced the stages periodically over years. It’s a bit clumsier but it’s raw.  There are a few comics who I think are going to buckle. My stomach churns under the pressure I can feel for them. Every single performer dashes to the end of their skit and I am enthralled by this. I can’t help imagining myself in this exact predicament. Cowering like a baby, running from the stage with soggy soiled pants.

I am sold. This is even more than I bargained for. Bargain being an understatement, five bucks at the door! It surely can’t be the entrance fees which are turning away your average Joe. I ask Chris during the half time break about his thoughts on this phenomena. “There is a lack of publicity. Stand Up Comedy isn’t being promoted like music and other arts”.

I am also deadly curious as to how somebody ever attempts this style of performance. Alone and vulnerable to judgement and attack on stage. How does the funny guy graduate to on-stage funny? Chris suggests “hit the open mic nights. There are courses but they are not essential. Wait for that first laugh, you will be hooked”. That moment we agree can be likened to the surfer who stands on his first wave. It takes some balls to paddle out, get knocked around but that buzz will have you back.

So where to from here for GC Comedy? There are other venues, including The Casino, Courthouse and Vault in Southport to explore. If you’re feeling particularly inspired, hit up your local pub/tavern manager. “Why aren’t we hosting any comedy?”  Sure the cover bands are keeping a predictable and consistent atmosphere. Why not risk, even once a month, the next thriving stand-up night in your local venue?

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