After Tale of Two Men wrapped up I moved to Brisbane in February 1989 and the first thing I wanted to do was stage a sketch comedy show. After all those years of loving Python at school and writing my own sketches, now was finally my chance.
I made some enquiries and booked some time at Metro Arts (then in Edward St) for May. I then set about writing the script – I had my sketch film script Some Obscure Comedy Film and my one act play Cri-tik as a starting point. So I cannibalised bits of SOCF and used Cri-tik (to stabilise it early on, I thought) and then set about writing the rest.
I’d have to check but probably about half of it was written brand new, which I did in about one week at my roll top desk in my new rental in Tarragindi, which I’d just taken out with friends Craig and Nadine.
Even though it was a sketch show I thought it needed some kind of unifying theme or device, so I came up with the idea of a bunch of terrorists over taking the theatre. Yes that’s right (back when terrorism was funny). This included taking an audience member hostage each night, and each of us dressing in black pants, jumpers and balaclavas, which I bought from a nearby army disposals store.
I wrote the script for 3 males and 1 female – and the script was *hand written* – that’s what we had to work off during rehearsals. For the casting I can’t remember how Colin was recommended to me, but we met and he was keen, and I thought he was good. He recommended Danny who was very funny, and Niki I knew from college – she was the year below me, but I knew she was deferring so I drove up to Toowoomba and asked her, and she was just keen too. Late in the rehearsals someone (and I don’t remember who) introduced me to a chap called Michael Page – who was a really nice guy and who operated the lights for us – he also owned his own Telecaster guitar, so we thought he was really cool!
By this stage Craig and I were writing and jamming a lot of songs in our share house. Though he was a really good actor Craig didn’t want to be in the show, but just appear as a musician – so we did one “silly” song and one “serious” song. I kind of shudder about the serious one now – but hey we were young and passionate and off in our own little worlds – and the audience could just deal with it!!
I had no stage manager, but I covered that – fresh with my training from DDIAE – and the set was minimalist, partly by necessity, partly by choice. The stage had two flats down left and down right, behind which the sets and props were stored for each sketch. The Metro Theatre had no wings and the dressing rooms were underneath accessed by a trapdoor.
Rehearsals went well and the whole thing progressed nicely. I got a lot of support from John Harris – the Arts Editor at The Sun (an afternoon newspaper then in Brisbane). John ran a number of articles for us and was very encouraging, sadly he was killed at the end of the year in the terrible Kempsey bus crash, but I’ve never forgotten the kindness he showed me.
I redrew my little black cat that I had used on the cover of the SOCF script – better this time too, and some how he just seemed to suit the whole thing. Everyone liked him and I ended up using him in ads in the Courier Mail and Time Off.
If only everything had gone so well in the run! The opening night was good, and we got great reviews, but no one came on the second. I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anyone about that – it’s just so heart breaking, but it happened. To further complicate things Niki had a health issue which meant we had to cancel some nights when we had bookings.
I’ve still got all the paper work and receipts etc, so I could check but I imagine we only performed for 5 or 6 times – but when it went well, it went really well.
The highlights were the Dead Cat Sketch, which Colin and I did and which always got a great response, and the Two Old Men sketch which Danny and Colin did beautifully.
During the interval the plan was for Colin and I to come on stage, as terrorists, and sit down and play cards whilst the audience filtered in. On the opening night we went up there about 10 minutes before the second act started, only to find not everyone went out during interval, and some came back early (which was a good sign I suppose) – but then they sat and started watching Colin and I as if it were part of the show – which left us with about 10 minutes of improvising to do, and we soon learnt to leave it till right till the last moment before we went out again on the other nights!
Another funny memory I have was on closing night – in each performance towards the end of the second act Craig and I would perform the “silly” song and then the “serious” song – and Danny would come out, pull a gun on us and say “you never perform a serious song in comedy show!” – but on closing night he jumped out and said “you never perform a serious song in comedy show – unless it’s a good one”! Well I was kind of stuck there with my guitar looking down the barrel of his fake gun and not knowing what to say as the audience laughed. Even though I was a tiny bit miffed I could see the humour in it and thought it was pretty funny actually!
We finished with some strong performances but it hardly set the world on fire financially and I’d all but used up the remainder of the money I had inherited from Neil. It was a great experience though and I know it played a part in me getting a job at Crazies Comedy Restaurant. In fact one night an audience member came in at Crazies who had seen SOCS and remembered quite vividly the brick joke in it, which was a lot of fun. I started to write a sequel in 1993 called Snozzlegooberfloobleflairy – which I got about 15 minutes into, and then it made way for working on The Forest of Life (although I was calling it 2045 back then) and my first start at an Anthropology Degree. I eventually dug Snoz out and expanded it around 2012 and it became the sketch feature film Human Interface Parser, which we filmed in 2013
It was a long time between drinks for something I loved and felt a real affinity for ~ but HIP eventually led to forming the Smooth End of the Pineapple with Matt and our debut performance was believe it or not 25 years and 1 day after the first SOCS show. It was actually scheduled for the day before (all by co-incidence by the way) but Matt was sick and we had to cancel that show – which was somehow strangely fitting!
The script in all its glory is now available on Amazon