Monday, 29 March 2010

Melinda Buttle, Backstage Room, Melbourne Town Hall

One of the best things about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is that it goes someway to redressing the balance with the mostly awful comedy on Australian television. For three-and-a-bit weeks we get to do our own bit of people power programming from a list of acts that we’d otherwise never see; acts like Brisbane’s Melinda Buttle who only emphasise the gap between what we are served on our screens and who’s really out there for us.

Touted as ‘possibly Australia's only juvenile delinquent-teaching, rap-battling gourmand to ever don a vintage frock on the comedy stage’ Mel is performing her show
Sista Got Flow far from any TV cameras, tucked away in the cosy Backstage Room at Melbourne Town Hall. I’m pleased to report Mel is all the things she claims to be, plus one vital ingredient; she can tell a damn good story (though her vintage frock was very nice too). Sista indeed do got flow – neither loudly-cackling late arrivals nor my friend’s phone going off towards the show’s crescendo could knock her off stride.

The evening had three acts; one concerning her nonsensical relationship with her no-nonsense dad, another about taking on teenagers in her charge by channelling her inner Eminem; and the last on the rather delicate matter of her readily available but still allegedly un-popped cherry. True or not this last issue is handled beautifully, including me being reacquainted with the delights of the word ‘fingered’ and Mel’s aw-bless observation that her milkshake has been known to scare away boys who have shown interest in her yard…

Whether commiserating with her attempts to educate her parents on the 21st century, marvelling at her genuinely impressive rhyming skills (though I admit to finding something slightly comical about Aussie hip-hop anyway) or coming over all sisterly at her failed attempts to get boys to touch her naughty bits, watching Melinda Buttle do her thing was a real pleasure – and especially so because she seems like a genuinely nice person. I recommend catching her soon before she gets her wish and someone (or Channel 10) comes along and corrupts her.

Sista Got Flow is showing at the Backstage Room, Melbourne Town Hall (Tue-Sat 9.30pm, Sun 8.30pm) until April 18. Tickets are advertised as $17 but when we booked we were told they were $15 for everyone… Go figure.

Visit Mel’s website
here or her MySpace here

Pretty begonias, irises, freesias, chrysanthem-min-umimuns

Plunging headfirst into Melbourne’s busiest ever weekend I spent a few hours yesterday at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show in Carlton Gardens.

Whilst the Exhibition Buildings were lovely, I learnt my liking for growing vegetables (with deference to
Uncle Monty, I think the carrot infinitely more fascinating than the geranium) was not quite enough to make garden shows interesting. Perhaps in 30 years when my fingers are too chubby to use the internet...

I did buy a bag of posh peanuts, some Russian garlic and a pair of gardening / murderer’s gloves fashioned from black rubber, but otherwise I was a bit bored. Still, I’m glad I went – firstly because I saw this damning verdict on free copies of the Herald Scum given away with the Flower and Garden Show program…

… and secondly because I got the giggles watching a beautifully dressed Japanese woman provide a gentle demonstration of ikebana to a packed conference hall and thinking how much fun it would be to go up on stage next to her with a handkerchief on my head to provide an impromptu guide to Gumby flower arranging…

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Josie Long, Be Honourable, Bosco Tent

As the papers have been reminding us all week, Melbourne is buzzing. This is not just the sound of Formula 1 cars wasting good petrol pointlessly circling Albert Park, the generators powering the floodlights at the MCG for the first round of the AFL, or groups of holidaying bees who've flown in especially for the flower and garden festival. It could just be that I don't get out much, but it does seem the Melbourne International Comedy Festival's opening weekend has brought the city crackling and fizzing to life.

All over the city pubs are trying to cajole unsuspecting wanderers into sitting in the dark to hear people try and make them laugh. The normally deserted Town Hall has been turned into a condensed Las Vegas strip, with strangely attired and over-friendly spruikers stalking anyone who looks slightly unsure of what to do with their evening with coloured bits of comedy-related advertising. Fortunately I know that tonight I want to eat my Lord of the Fries soggy chips as quickly as possible and then run across town so I don't miss any of the lovely Josie Long performing her new show Be Honourable at the Bosco Tent in Swanston Street.

This was my first time seeing Josie in action, and something I'd been waiting for. I failed to see her last year when I ran out of money, and I was a bit grumpy because I kept hearing how great she was and how she was just my cup of tea and that if you like Daniel Kitson you should definitely see Josie Long, Custard old chap. So anyway, thanks for that timely and salt-rubbing-in-wound advice unhelpful people; here I am 12 months late.

And I'm very happy to be here in this hexagonal (or perhaps octagonal) wooden big top that just about covers the sound of passing trams but doesn't quite cover the clippy-clop of passing horses. Firstly because Josie's show is indeed very much my cup-of-Tetleys, being as it is about making the world a better place by not being dicks to each other, cheering for people who are doing just that and and not just sitting on our bottoms drinking chai-lattes. And secondly because its wonderfully refreshing to know that regardless of my own micro-sleep of sympathy for an old lady last year there are people (yes, Josie again) who will stand up in front of a crowd - a paying crowd at that - and call the Tories cunts. Even in Australia where people don't care. Hooray.

Josie punctuates Be Honourable's other main subjects (trying to befriend a man who posts photographs of his daily breakfast online, intentionally talking to strangers, sweet sweet porridge) with conversations with an A3 sketch book. This is filled with her hand drawn illustrations (some endearingly naff) of people from the show, including 1940's Welsh politician Nye Bevan and folk troubadour/Red Wedger Billy Bragg, both of whom she'd like to be adopted by (though she confesses to already being a bit sick of going on anti-fascist marches with Billy on his parental weekends).

Kitson comparisons may be lazy but they are fair and, I'm assuming, meant as a compliment. He is after all just about the best around. His declared weltanschauung is closely aligned with Josie's search for a team she belongs to - people who at least try and put others first and not succumb to 21st century me me me-ism. However she is a practiced enough performer to bring her own angle to the mission and a unique way of sharing it. It's hard to imagine Daniel wandering the stage in a halo handmade from an aluminium baking tray.

No doubt a great many of you will already be aware that these are Josie's charms, given this is her fourth Melbourne Comedy Festival, and she has been a regular around the UK for half a decade. You'll probably know already that you have to go to the Bosco Tent in the next three weeks. However if you're as slow on the uptake as me and have an hour to spare, I'd heartily recommend heading over to your nearest Town Hall spruiker and asking for one of those little little cards marked Josie Long.

Josie Long's Be Honourable is showing daily (except Mondays) until April 18 at the Bosco at the Corner of Swanston and Collins Streets (where the Melbourne christmas tree lives). Follow her Comedy Festival blog here.

She is also hosting Josie Long's Supper Club Bake-off ('a special pie-based event offering a unique chance to eat, laugh, eat again and maybe even take home a blue ribbon') at the same venue on Saturday 10 April from 3.30pm. Yum.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Rich Fulcher, Victoria Hotel, Melbourne

Watching a befrocked and luxuriantly-wigged Rich Fulcher bump and grind his way across the stage to a pumping strip-club techno beat last night, I realised that there is a third way between funny peculiar and funny ha ha; a “funny huh?” if you will, where you’re laughing your bottom off but you’re not sure why or if you should be. Fulcher's new show, An Evening with Eleanor: the Tour Whore, which opened last night at the Victoria Hotel is almost defiantly funny huh? 'til it hurts.

That Fulcher would be any kind of funny tonight was never really in doubt. His stall was well set out during his first memorable appearance as Bob Fossil in the Mighty Boosh
explaining why he doesn’t like cricket. His Snuffbox partnership with Matt Berry, an equally deranged brandisher of non-sequiturs, did nothing to dissuade that Fulcher is the best kind of loony.

My principle worry was that on paper Eleanor the Tour Whore - damaged buxom serial groupie - is a slightly tired idea. A forty-something man in slap, frock and tights acting out his inner comedy slag is not really new. Eleanor is the American
Pauline Calf, Lily Savage via LA; a foul mouthed, loose-knickered tart with a heart looking to shag every rock star on the bus. Even Joanna Lumley’s best efforts to out-drag every queen on the planet in Ab-Fab couldn’t hide the fact that this is an idea past its prime.

Fortunately there is more to Eleanor than post-modern drag. Several layers of Maybelline can’t hide Fulcher’s innate absurdity which shines through the pan stick even when he’s not saying a word (it’s in the eyes!) And when he does say words they are describing things like teenage mutual masturbation with Susan Boyle and a box of kitchen implements, proudly discovering tuna inside a Frisbee or haranguing audience members for attempted rape.

Boosh fans (and there were many) used to seeing their heroes on the small screen would have enjoyed the television-show feel of the evening. It’s An Audience With … style featured mock satellite feeds, pre-recorded fake adverts and lovely use of the audience in a purposely sabotaged Ask Eleanor Q&A section. Some ideas were undermined by a few first night technical gremlins, but Eleanor’s slightly increasingly drunk and slightly deranged glares (the eyes! the eyes!) and bitchy barracking of Dave the sound guy ensured people didn’t care for long.

Still for all his inspired silliness (listen out for a pearl about Eleanor's sea-fearing father) the joke had run out of steam by the time the hour was up. Whilst there’s clearly a bright and deliciously odd future ahead of Rich Fulcher, it’s hard to see Eleanor having a long shelf life. If you’d like to share the company of her particular pleasure best get yourself in line at the Victoria Hotel quick smart. She’ll be waiting….

Rich Fulcher is performing
An Evening with Eleanor: the Tour Whore in the Banquet Room, Victoria Hotel, 215 Little Collins Street until 25 April. Shows Tue-Sat 9.30pm, Sun 8.30pm

Rich will be a guest on 3RRR's Lime Champions on Monday 29 March

I Wave My Bottom in Your General Direction

As a foot soldier in the early-nineties indie wars - before Dadrock took over Britpop in the same way Stalin took over East Berlin – I couldn’t help but have an interest in the news that skinny bum-slappers Suede have reformed (albeit in their post-Bernard Butler line-up). Ostensibly this was a one-off for the Teenage Cancer Trust but I think we all know how these things pan out if the reunion show goes well, which this one apparently did (see Alex Petridis’ Guardian review of their Albert Hall gig here).

Despite Brett Anderson’s undeniable occasional thumpability I always had a soft spot for Suede. Unconvinced by grunge I was quite taken with their nylon shirts, floppy fringes, fragile cheekbones and Quentin Crisp-posturing. I still vividly recall Brett’s first live mainstream self-flagellation with a microphone at the 1993 Brit Awards where Annie Lennox and Simply Red were the major winners.

Never quite what they should have been due to internal disintegrations I don’t think they ever made a truly classic album. Suede is half-filler and Brett’s voice a little too whiny, Dog Man Star has awesome ambition but even my tone-deaf ears know it’s really badly produced and ripe for a Let It Be-type reworking; and Coming Up was refreshingly POP! though a bit repetitive. Still they were a cracking singles band and their b-sides were pretty good too as the compilations
Singles and Sci-Fi Lullabies can attest.

Anyway, Petridis’ review reminded me of the obituary I wrote about Suede when they spilt in 2003 for a Sydney community radio indie show I used to co-host. Shameless recycling it may be, but for the 6,799,999,998 of you who didn’t hear it at the time here it is again…

It’s hard to imagine the importance of Suede’s appearance on the UK music scene at the arse end of 1992. At a time when indie style meant a choice between long sleeved t-shirts and short trousers or lumberjack shirts and faded jeans, the sight of Brett Anderson poncing around in his mum’s silk blouse, whipping his bottom with his microphone lead and saying “oh-ooooowww” every two minutes was quite refreshing.

Not only that, but they had Bernard Butler who helped Anderson fulfill his David Bowie fantasies by nicking all of the Spiders from Mars’ stompiest bits, feeding them through a Smiths tribute band machine and hammering out the results through a hundred guitar pedals.

For a while they were ace – they sang songs about car parks and maybe being gay, and cigarettes, and taxis, and tower blocks, and smoking, and dogs and pigs and heroin and smoking cigarettes in taxis… Brett appeared on the front cover of Select magazine in 1993 with a Union Jack backdrop with the anti-grunge headline ‘Yanks Go Home’ and, for better or worse, Britpop was born.

But then they released the sublimely ridiculous dark pomp-rock album Dog Man Star and Bernard walked out in a huff over the production. Rumours abounded that Brett was addicted to heroin and that maybe Simon the drummer didn’t like smoking and their next album was definitely gonna be dark and more importantly, crap.

To replace Bernard they brought in Richard Oakes, who was about 13½ and had to leave school to join the band. Even weirder they recruited Neil Codling, a man whose job seemed to be to sit behind a big keyboard looking bored and - bless - a bit tired whilst distracted girls and a few boys lusted after him.

And their next album wasn’t crap – 1996’s Coming Up was a pefect pop record of shimmering sexy, glittery and not-dark-at-all songs about, well, cigarettes and taxis and car parks, but also bangles and hair dye. Songs like Beautiful Ones, Lazy and Trash still bring out a spot of arse slapping in discos across the land.

In truth it’s been downhill since then – Headmusic and A New Morning had some good songs but by then Brett had a big belly, Codling had fallen asleep once too often and left and in a post Britpop world people just didn’t care enough about Suede anymore.

Except their fans. And there are lots of them. So, for those who shed a silent tear with the news of their split this week, or for anyone who has ever worn their mum’s blouse, slapped their own bottom, or indeed smoked a cigarette in a taxi outside a council estate – here’s Suede.…

That Brit Awards performance… note Phil Oakey fringe and charity shop blouse. Oh so 1993…

Thursday, 25 March 2010

MICF: Interview with Russell McGilton

Russell McGilton is a Melbourne-based comedian, author and cyclist appearing at the MICF for the second time. His first show was Bombay to Beijing on a Bicycle based on his (mostly) true adventures on two wheels riding across Asia which also spawned a book and a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

He’s back with more tales of travel in his 2010 show Accidents are Prohibited on this Road which includes tales of machete wielding maniacs, African cougars (of the older lady variety) and cultural cringe. Russell kindly took time out from preparing for his first show to answer some of my questions...

Hi Russell – thanks for talking to Mint Custard. Where are you right now? I’m sitting in front of ‘Tim’ my MacBook.

You’ve got almost a full month of shows ahead - have you been doing any Team America-style training montages to prepare? Ah, now there’s an idea. I’ve mostly been practicing the vomiting scene, though I do yoga everyday.

What in a word is your show about? Stories

What in a foreign word is your show about? Recorrido! [Travel]

Is your backstage area anything like Wayne’s World 2 with lots of alcohol, exotic fruit, mysterious hangers-on and Alice Cooper pontificating about North American native culture? The backstage is actually…well [non-existent]. I have to duck behind a pool table and introduce myself. Quite professional really. It’s good for your quads though. You have to think of these things as a man over 40.

Do you have any good luck charms or pre-show superstitious rituals? I used to slaughter a goat outside but now I just get slaughtered afterwards… No, I just make sure I get a good night’s sleep, have no coffee, run through the show at home. Then I play with my five-month old daughter which reminds me that all of this doesn’t matter.

Did you really travel from Bombay to Beijing on a bicycle? You know that there are aeroplanes and things for that? I didn’t cycle all the way…I cheated! I did take a plane…and buses…trains. Hmmm…. maybe I should’ve it called it something else and made a movie about it. Oh, that’s right Steve Martin and John Candy have already done that.

Did you deliberately choose Bombay and Beijing because of nice alliteration possibilities? Have you thought of going from Fitzroy to Footscray on foot? Bentleigh to Bayswater by bicycle was one idea and Peking to Paris by pogo stick. Actually I read about another cyclist called Dervla Murphy who went from Dublin to Delhi in 1963. I was inspired by that really.

I heard that you rode your bike naked through the streets of Edinburgh to promote your Fringe show there. Any similar plans for Accidents are Prohibited on this Road? I might try and throw myself in front of a bus with my pants down…comedians will do anything for a laff.

All travellers seem to take pride in having embarrassingly awkward or difficult poos. You must have had a few in your time? It’s too early for that kind of conversation.

What international act would you bring out to perform at the Melbourne Comedy Festival if you had the chance? Dylan Moran…but that would be scary because he’d probably bite me to pieces with his acerbic wit. The man is a genius.

Are there any shows that you’d recommend at this year’s festival or ones that you’re looking forward to seeing? To be honest I haven’t even had a look through the program! That’s fatherhood for you. Maybe Reginald [D Hunter] who I saw eating at a restaurant in Hardware Lane; I believe he’s very funny. And of course Rich Hall…if he’s out here this year? [Mint Custard’s note: he’s not…]

You’ve travelled a fair bit in your time. Is Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz right when she says there no place like home? Let’s not forget that Dorothy was high on poppies. There’s many places that you can make home with the right drugs. Besides, who can accept aphorisms from a woman whose career is now dependent on The Wiggles?

Russell McGilton’s Accidents are Prohibited on this Road is showing at the Softbelly Bar, 367 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne – 7pm Sunday to Thursday from 24 March to 18 April 2010.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Some Animals are More Equal Than Others

Snapshot of a sign at the entrance of a Melbourne store. Nice waste of sixteen letters and a comma, store dude.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Feeling Peaky

I hate it when I start writing something for this site and then read an article in a newspaper somewhere about the same thing. Bloody paid journalists… haven’t they, um, got something better to do? Still when it concerns Twin Peaks I’m happy to read anything and if you would too then feel free to have a read of this article in the Guardian today including interviews with some of the principal actors.

For those who don’t care about such things you might not have realised that its twenty years this month since Laura Palmer – high school beauty queen and secret drug-sniffing skank – was found dead, wrapped in plastic, her lips a beautiful Avatar-blue. Riding into town to her posthumous rescue was FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (‘Diane, I'm holding in my hands a small box of chocolate bunnies’) and television was never quite the same again.

Twin Peaks was mismanaged and axed after just two seasons but it left an indelible mark on me and television programming in general. Northern Exposure, the X-Files, Carnivale, Life on Mars, Deadwood, Lost (especially Lost) and any program that assumed a modicum of intelligence from its audience all flowed in Peaks’ slipstream. It also set the standard for the now common practice of internet fandom with conventions, fanzines and theory discussion all taking place in a pre-world wide web universe. Even now there are some excellent websites covering just about every aspect of Twin Peaks (the most comprehensive being
Glastonberry Grove which is well worth a few hours of your internet time).

As a (slightly obsessive) fan it’s always nice to hear the actors’ perspectives on the show but what all devoted Peakies want to know about is will there ever be any more? (Spoiler alert) The television series ended with a Bob-possessed Dale Cooper banging his bleeding forehead against a broken bathroom mirror in his hotel room; evil seemingly triumphant over good with the real Cooper trapped in the Black Lodge. Hopes that this might be resolved by the 1992 feature film Fire Walk With Me were not to be, the film receiving a critical mauling from those desperate for answers.

All nostalgists hang for more of their favourite shows, bands and movies but Twin Peaks has a curious get-in card that it can play anytime between now and 2015. The one shard of hope that all is not over in lies in something said in the third episode, during Cooper’s infamous dream sequence (you know the one: red curtained room, black and white floor, dancing dwarf talking backwards?) In the scene a greying and prosthetically aged Cooper sits in an armchair whilst someone who appears to be Laura says to him “I’ll see you in 25 years…meanwhile..

The implication is that our beloved Special Agent will remain trapped in the Black Lodge for a quarter of a century, at which point something will happen. The mythology around the Lodge implies that time has no meaning in there and I’m not delusional enough to believe that Mark Frost and David Lynch intended to pick up where they left off 25 years on, but it’s still an exciting and quite plausible loophole to kick things off again.

In reality a number of the key players have passed away since 1992, including Bob, Major Garland and (one of my personal favourites) Senor Droolcup, the aged waiter who is never far from the ring-stealing Giant (I know this sounds mad if you’ve never seen Twin Peaks). Still there are enough of the main cast still around, and with Frost and Lynch at the helm, some new characters and a whole lot of well-thought out retro-fitting I reckon there could be a huge hit waiting to happen for a brave network. With Lost winding up and Flash Forward stalling on its heels there will be plenty of room for a bit of intelligent clue-dropping on our screens. Over to you Mr Lynch… time to save television all over again.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Withnail and I (and I)

Bittersweet delights at the Astor Theatre in St Kilda last night for a special screening of Bruce Robinson’s masterpiece, Withnail and I. A first big screen viewing of one of my favourite films would have been enough to make me part with my cash, but the added bonus of a Q&A with principal actor Paul McGann ('I') was too much to miss.

Surprisingly handsome for his 50 years, McGann is refreshingly cognisant of the affection people have for Withnail, and is rightly proud of his association with it. Even from within the fug of his jetlag McGann’s (presumably oft-repeated) anecdotes were funny, interesting and insightful and certainly added to the experience of watching the film yet again (though clearly some in attendance had watched at least a thousand times more than I). Certainly Uncle Monty’s predatory stalking of young Marwood (‘I mean to have you, boy, even if it must be burglary!') has a new flavour when you know a young Robinson was similarly advanced upon by Italian director
Franco Zeffirelli.

I’m rarely backwards coming forwards with superlatives but Withnail and I is truly one of the finest British movies ever made; a unique and hugely entertaining piece with pathos, wonderful performances across the board and more one-liners than an entire series of Blackadder. Indeed – Tarantino aside - it’s hard to think of many comparable films with so many distinct and iconic set pieces; with every scene offering something quotable. That it was made for pittance by George Harrison’s Handmade Films in the same year as 9 ½ weeks, Karate Kid II and Pretty in Pink makes it even more remarkable. The observation by McGann's son that Withnail was as out of time in 1986 as an album by The Smiths is perhaps most profound of the night.

With regards to McGann, there is no escaping the evening’s sub-plot that it is rather a shame he should be reduced to giving such presentations. His marvellous performance in Withnail hardly suggested a film career summed up with difficulty by the MC as roles in Alien 3, Empire of the Sun and the recent Lesbian Vampire Killers. Even the timing of his mid-nineties appointment as the eighth Doctor Who seems slightly tragic given that show’s status in 2010.

Consequently the event was slightly tarnished by a sci-fi convention approach that over-emphasised the money-making nature of such special screenings. Perhaps the mania encountered at such conventions has led McGann to the conclusion that fans of all genres can be easily parted from their money, but selling autographs at $25 a pop, he seemed relatively untroubled at his signing table throughout the night. And this despite a frustrating and overlong intermission designed to drum up trade. Perhaps Withnail and I enthusiasts are cut from a different cloth. With sympathy for McGann’s situation (though to be honest he’s never really been short of work) it’s hard not to recall Withnail’s self-pitying admission: ‘I'm a fully trained actor reduced to the status of a bum’.

Still, McGann's presence was welcome and a rare opportunity for people like me to show appreciation of a fine film. With this in mind treat yourself to a few minutes to enjoy the two scenes that created the biggest stirs tonight. Firstly Marwood and Withnail’s gleeful
tea room
stop-off, which left the whole room to crying with laughter …

… and the film’s final scene – Withnail’s tragic
soliloquy from Hamlet – which somehow elevates an already magnificent film even higher in just 100 seconds. What a piece of work is a man…

Interview with Bruce Robinson

Post script: the Astor's reputation for the best
choc-tops in Melbourne is not fully merited. Whilst the chocolate and ice cream were of a high quality, no self-regarding choc-top should be served without a waffle cone. To highlight the danger of wafer cones, Mrs Custard's choc-top imploded revealing an ice-cream free hollow centre which nearly brought a premature end to the evening...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

MICF: Interview with Josh Earl

Has it really only been a year? After what seems forever the 2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival finally kicks off proper next week. Here at Mint Custard we’ll be trying to bring you a bit of a taste of what’s happening at the festival, as well as sharing our twopenceworth on shows to see and how to see them.

To kick off the coverage I’m chuffed to bits to be able to share with you an interview with Mr Josh Earl, one quarter of 3RRR’s top light entertainment comedy troupe, the Lime Champions. Josh is performing solo at this year’s festival with his new show
Josh Earl vs. the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book. I’ll leave it up to Josh to tell you what it’s about. Here’s what he had to say...

Hi Josh – thanks for talking to Mint Custard. Where are you right now? I’m currently at home looking at a big pile washing up to do but procrastinating and watching American College basketball. It is ridiculous.

You’ve got almost a full month of shows ahead - have you been doing any Rocky/Team America-style training montages to prepare? Totally, I’ve been punching dead animal carcasses with a marionette, but this isn’t any different to how I normally roll. Seriously though I have just performed the show at the Adelaide Fringe and the Brisbane Comedy Festival so Melbourne should be a lot less nerve-wracking than normal as the show is already tested and complete.

What in a word is your show about? Cakes

What in a foreign word is your show about? Le Cakes

How many people are involved in putting on your show each night? Well I’m the only one performing it, but the festival provide me with a tech and a front of house person, I don’t know who these people are though yet.

I’ve always wanted to be a guest on the Muppet Show. I like the way they come to your dressing room to talk about issues in their lives or tell you there’s ‘five minutes to stage’. Is that what it’s like for you backstage before shows? Backstage for me is usually a curtain covering a brick wall in which I hide behind, with no toilet for a pre show wee. Last year I had to wee into a bottle backstage and I was convinced that the audience could smell it for the entire show

Do you have any good luck charms or superstitions? Not to piss into bottles before a show. And to take everything out of my pockets.

As a dessert-based blog your show caught our eye. What’s the best cake anyone ever made for you? My mum made me the dump truck from the Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book, which is full of lollies - but she also added a trailer to the back with even more lollies. This was good until we realised that a dump truck would never have a trailer on the back. What a bogan.

What is
fairy bread about? Fairy bread is wrong, and the name doesn’t even make sense. At least cut the bread into wings or something. It should be called pixelated bread because that’s what it looks like.

Do real men eat cupcakes? Yes, it’s fake men who don’t eat cup cakes because they are mannequins.

Why don’t you see Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver making cakes in the shape of trains or football fields? Surely that’s what the public really want to see. It would be good to see a challenge on Masterchef where they have to make the swimming pool cake. That would be interesting to watch, if only for George [Calombaris] to eat it really quick and get jelly and cake all over him.

As a comedian and musician you must dream of doing a rock opera one day. Who do you think is ripe for a Jesus Christ Superstar-type tribute? I think the beer poet that stands outside of the
Rose Street Market would be a good person to pay homage to in a Rock Opera, and he would probably help promote the show by handing out flyers for it.

Both you and Justin have your own separate shows at the festival this year. Have you thought about combining your powers like the magic rocks in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and bringing a Lime Champions spectacular to the stage? We were talking about it but I already had this show idea, Justin was too busy with his writing, and Eva and Damien are both really busy with something they call ‘real life’ - but hopefully one day. Maybe at the Fringe? But we do have an idea to do a show at the
Northcote Plaza on the stage they have set up during school holidays...

Can you ever see a version of Lime Champions making it to TV? Maybe. That’s something that would hopefully work, but I don’t think any commercial network would really go for it. I’d love to see
our ‘slug-sex’ sketch animated. That would be brilliant.

What international act would you bring out to perform at the Melbourne Comedy Festival if you had the chance? Steven Wright came out a few years ago but was on at the same time as me so I couldn’t see him, so maybe him again but in a timeslot that suited me... and I’d love to see
the League of Gentlemen live.

Are there any shows that you’d recommend at this year’s festival or ones that you’re looking forward to seeing? Yes, I think Melinda Buttle’s show
Sista Got Flow is really funny. I saw it in Adelaide and can recommend that one. Tim Key is amazing and I can’t wait for his show, Slutcracker. And I really want to see Tig Ontario at the Hi-Fi Bar. Rich Fulcher should also be good – and he’ll be a guest on Lime Champions too on the 29th of March.

Sorry to admit this but I don’t like cake – will I still like your show? I hope so. I don’t force people to eat it or anything, but if you have any memories at all about this book then you should hopefully like the show. I had some overseas people in one night in Brisbane who had never heard of the book before and they said they loved the show. Hopefully they were telling the truth...

Josh Earl vs. the Australian Women's Weekly Children's Birthday Cake Book is showing at the Swiss Club, 89 Flinders Lane (btw Russell & Exhibition Sts), Melbourne Tuesday to Sunday from 25 March to 18 April 2010.

Listen to the Lime Champions live every Monday evening from 7-8pm on
3RRR 102.7FM if you’rer in Melbourne or via their online stream for the rest of the world.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Wrong on Toast

This could more common than I know - I don't get invited to many children's birthday soirees - but I couldn't help but be amazed by this plate of tasty yummy health-filled kiddie-energising sugar-laden goodness on offer at a friend's three year-old's pink princess party.

Yes those are hundreds and thousands. Yes that is bread and marg. Yes, Medibot would bloody love it... I, on the other hand did not.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Hello Dolly

It’s wrong on so many levels but I couldn’t help but chuckle at the news that Mattel has launched a deluxe range of Barbie dolls featuring characters from Mad Men. Yes, for a mere $75 US a pop you can score your very own Joan Holloway, Roger Sterling, Betty or Don Draper, replete with bespoke outfits and accessories. Looking at the publicity photo it’s a shame that they’ve made January Jones look like she’s been licking piss off a nettle, and strangely for Barbie they seem to have underplayed Christina Hendricks’ boobs, but hey.

Setting aside the evil of Barbie, there’s something car-crash appealing about watching the mainstream grapple with the overground in this way. Marketing people throwing lots of money at something they don’t quite understand often results in hilarious but strangely desirable curios. I have a nice stock of strange Twin Peaks-related paraphernalia made available for that short period in 1990-91 when everybody wanted to know who killed Laura Palmer.

As for who will buy these mini-Mad Men, well, please leave your
Frankie-readers and Waylon Smithers-stereotypes at the pink Barbie Dream House door. Anyone who has been near a comic store in the past twenty years will tell you collectible replica figurines (they’re not dolls…) are big business; a Franklin Mint souvenir plate for the X and Y generations.

Building on momentum started by Star Wars and DC/Marvel superheroes, the majority of lovingly packaged plastic figures are sci-fi or comic book related. However we’ve also seen sports stars (notably WWF) and musicians (Jacko, the Spice Girls, KISS, Slipknot, Metallica and the Beatles) rendered in plastic, happily sharing shelf space with characters from movies with culty-type followings like Clerks, Nightmare on Elm Street and even
Shaun of the Dead.

Mostly these figures stay in their packaging in the hope that one day – Toy Story 2 style - they might prove valuable. This is largely hokum. I still have all my original Star Wars toys (less a formal collection, more evidence that I didn’t really have any other interests in 1981) many of them in their original boxes. For a while in the mid-1990s (when I finally got hold of the R5-D4 figure I’d been tracking down for over 15 years) it seemed like these dust-collectors in the loft might pay for a small deposit on a house. That was until e-bay came along and created a generation of kids who could get anything anytime from anywhere. Now even my most prized item (a boxed
Imperial Troop Transporter) can be picked up for mere $30.

Mattel has previously dabbled with TV and movie tie-ins with a Wizard of Oz range (a chance to buy some actual friends of Dorothy), I Love Lucy dolls and even Mulder and Scully from The X-Files so they must be confident that they can shift the Sterling Cooper crew. Just to be sure they’ve only made a limited run (10,000 of each) so it’s likely that people will snap them up. My advice to people buying them is simple… GIVE THEM TO YOUR CHILDREN TO PLAY WITH. You won’t make any money out of them in your lifetime but the idea of watching your kids, nieces and nephews creating a whole new world for Don, Betty, Joan and Roger involving trains, dinosaurs and teddy bears could be priceless.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Robert Forster, Toff in Town, Melbourne

How strange it must be being Robert Forster. Now in his sixth decade, the former Go-Between has been spending time since the unfairly-enforced end of the group writing about other people’s music for Australian arts and society magazine The Monthly. The first collection of his articles - The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll – was published late last year to critical acclaim. With pieces on Bob Dylan, AC/DC, Nana Mouskouri, Cat Power, Grant McLennan, Franz Ferdinand and even Delta Goodrem, it is as erudite, passionate and funny as you would expect and utterly recommended.

As pleasurable as Forster’s writing is I can’t help thinking that, to quote from his last album ‘something’s not right, something’s gone wrong.’ No doubt he wouldn’t even entertain the idea, but Forster’s own musical talent dwarfs that of the majority of his book’s subjects. In dissecting their music I wonder if he ever questions this peculiar alignment of the celebrity stars or considers just what does one have to do to marry art with commercial success? It certainly doesn’t show in his writing, but he’d have every right.

Tonight’s show is representative of yet another such distortion. As one half of this country’s greatest song-writing partnership, the idea of Robert Forster playing a venue as tiny as the Toff in Town should be too absurd to be true. The room is barely big enough to contain the man himself, never mind the scores eager to see his only Melbourne shows of 2010.

Whether the Toff was deliberately chosen for its intimacy, through a vast underestimation of demand or genuinely reflects Forster’s solo pulling power is unclear but to compare with an artist of similar vintage, an equally solo and acoustic Lloyd Cole sold out the vast Thornbury Theatre late last year. Inevitably tonight is a sell out which makes for a cosier time than expected, but at least everyone has a good view.

The performance itself begins with a curtain slowly pulled back to reveal the six foot three frame of Forster theatrically posed on an old wooden chair like one of Rodin’s statues with a guitar looking like he’s been waiting there for hours. It’s typical Forster, both arch and slightly aloof and part of his repertoire of hammy, eccentrically comical stage moves which also see him appearing to float around his acoustic guitar which seems to remain magically static in mid air.

Without a band tonight’s set differs greatly from the 2008 tour to support The Evangelist, an album which is conspicuous by its absence tonight. Instead Forster punctuates songs from the two Go-Betweens eras with choice cuts from his nineties back catalogue. We are treated to Snake Skin Lady replete with back story, and an eerie Danger in the Past with a foreboding Forster as Kingsley’s Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby from the Water Babies.

Still rightly proud of his contribution’s to the Go-Betweens’ 2000 comeback album the Friends of Rachel Worth, there are outings for German Farmhouse, Spirit and an apparently ad hoc encore of Surfing Magazines. Born to a Family and Darlinghurst Nights are pulled from 2005’s Oceans Apart and offer more evidence that the Go-Betweens reformation was one of the few in rock history worth its salt.

Inevitably though the biggest cheers of the night go to two of the Go-Betweens best known Eighties songs, played out as call-and-response with the crowd. McLennan’s Streets of Your Town (“…shi-i-i-ine…”) and Forster’s Spring Rain (“…falling down like sheets…”) bring a gentle euphoria to the room as well as a few moist eyes. The night concludes in raw beauty with a tender Dive for Your Memory, with the wistful refrain of ‘when I hear you saying that we stood no chance, I’ll dive for your memory, we stood that chance’ gently mouthed by everyone in the room.

Whatever the logic behind tonight’s venue there’s no denying that being able to observe your heroes at this range is a rare treat. In a week where Australia’s biggest news story concerned a cricketer and his girlfriend, it was nice to hide away from it all amongst people who know that Robert Forster - songwriter, critic, author, artist, is – to
paraphrase the man himself, one thing greater than all the things that he is together.

Visit Robert’s website here

The 10 Rules of Rock and Roll here

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Getting Animated

It’s pointless and stupid to complain about films that don’t get nominated for the Oscars… so obviously I’m going to do it anyway. But first I need some help. Can anyone who has seen all five of the films shortlisted for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (Secret of Kells, Coraline, Fantastic Mr Fox, Princess and the Frog, and Up) tell me if all of them are better than Mary and Max?

Obviously there are the usual elements of taste, studio clout and politics to navigate in order for a movie to get nominated for an Oscar, but I’d be truly surprised if all five nominated films are artistically, emotionally and comically superior to Adam Elliot’s genuinely touching and brilliantly rendered
masterpiece. I doubt Princess and the Frog contains many suicide attempts.

In the end the award went to Pixar’s Up. Congratulations to them - it was fun and technically stunning in parts. Still for me Carl, Kevin, Dug and Russell felt too much like McHappy Meal toys waiting to happen. No matter how cute I think it would have been, it’s hard to imagine McDonald’s giving away little colour-free plastic figurines of poor lonely Mary Daisy Dinkle or podgy middle-aged Asperger’s sufferer Max Jerry Horowitz to over-stimulated munchkins to play with as they stuff burgers down their throats.

Still, everything has its place and, Melbourne being Melbourne, there is now an opportunity for children of all ages to celebrate the maudlin glory of Miss Dingle and Mr. Horowitz at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (
ACMI) in Federation Square.

Mary and Max: The Exhibition is a free event from 2 March - 6 June 2010. Visitors can check out plasticine character models, costumes, sketches, sets, storyboards and props up close, as well as footage of the animators at work. You can also design and submit your own plasticine folks as part of their
Create a Character competition, with signed prints and DVDs up for grabs.

Given Adam Elliot’s loving recreation of 1970’s Melbourne in the movie it’s nice to see Melbourne give a little back, so for those who can get there, please do. Full details of the exhibition are available here.

For everyone else around the world, if you haven’t seen Mary and Max I urge you to do so. It’s a quite unique and lovely film with suitably understated voice performances by Toni Collette, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries. That said, it’s so beautifully put together I reckon you could watch it with the sound off and it could still bring you to tears…

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The Not-So-Grim Reaper

Whenever I'm gardening I'm always conscious of the wise teachings of that great philosopher, Neil the Hippy. Not just things like oh wow, heavy heavy heavy and you hate me don't you? but more we sow the seed, nature grows the seed, then we eat the seed.

Readers following my amateur gardening in 2009 would have seen that whilst sowing was undertaken with relish and childlike enthusiasm, nature tended to be less forthcoming on the growing bit. Whilst there was no famine, our feast was more Lilliputian than hoped. Perhaps this was penance for only taking up gardening based on drunken spite towards Jamie Oliver for pretending that he actually tends his own garden on Jamie at Home.

This year we seem to be reaping the rewards of the toil establishing the patch back at the start of summer, and from getting up ridiculously early on allocated watering days desperately trying to keep everything alive. The photos I posted in January contained nothing to suggest the magic that a Melbourne February was to deliver, especially not everything doubling in size in just four weeks.

Anyway, for those interested parties here are some pleasant summer garden photos to make you hungry and also maybe show you that literally any muppet can grown their own veggies.

the first of a thousand zucchinis...

a comically perfect beetroot, ready for illustration by Beatrix Potter

perhaps the most delicious corn I've ever tasted, still in it's hula skirt

some carrots... not as tasty as the corn but size wise greatly improved on last year (see embarrassing photographic evidence here)

vegie platter madame? eat your heart out Oliver...

Of course everyone loves gardening in early autumn because it's the one time when the garden gives back more than it takes. In the interests of balance I'll continue to provide updates through the year. We'll see how smug I am in the depths of winter... still for now I am the Lord of the Veg.

Who Reads Yesterday's Papers?

Bugger. Bugger bugger bugger. Bugger bugger bugger bugger bugger. Proving that even when you have one ear to the ground you're likely to miss something important flying overhead, I just found out about Isy Suttie's first ever Australian shows... back in January. Sydney-siders were apparently treated to several nights of her show Love Lost in the British Retail Industry at the Seymour Centre as part of Sydney Arts festival. Swines.

Given that I've been actively looking out for a sniff of an announcement regarding Isy and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival I'm not quite sure how I missed this, but hey, there you go. Maybe Sydney was trying to keep it a secret.

She's back in the UK now so for all you lucky folks round those parts here are some March dates (mostly in London Village and environs).

March 8 - Old Rope London and Enterprise Chalk Farm
March 9 - Fat Tuesdays Angel benefit and Wilmington Arms
March 10 - Josie Long (How to be a Better Person), Battersea Arts Centre
March 11 - Old Rope, Brighton
March 15 - Albany, Great Portland Street
March 16 - Domestic Goddi, Albany
March 17 - Paradise by Way of Kensal Green,
March 18 - Grub Bar East Grinstead,
March 20 - Monkey Business Camden,
March 22 - Happy Mondays, New Cross
March 24 - Bridport cinema
March 25 - Amnesty International benefit, New Inn, London
March 26 - Courtyard Theatre, Hereford
March 29 - Mirth Control, Wisbech
March 29 - Farnham Mirth Control

There's a full run down of activities beyond March on her Myspace site. Meanwhile for those who only know Isy from Peep Show here is a nice clip of her in action as part of the 2008 Edinburgh Festival... more please Isy. More please.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Technology 1 Humans 2

Mayans may have predicted 2012 for the end of the world but the apocalyptic war between man and machine is already well advanced. These are already dark times; how else to explain this sight of wanton destruction which greeted me in a Northcote car park just this week?

Yes, it’s a handsome and highly desirable wood-effect trouser press – a Corby no less - ripped asunder and left on the pavement like trash. Slain for what? Because it was a machine? Because it wanted to help folks look nicer? Because we can’t all learn to get along and live in harmony?

Clearly the aggressors were people with no soul; no respect for form or beauty or a perfectly straight bifurcated garment. Either that or Alan Partridge was in town and a bit bored. Whatever the reason, there are things that are just wrong. This is one of those times…

Still, there are evil robots out there – Mint Custard regulars know this all too well - and some do have to be brought down. Like this so-called-boiler robot – sneaking into people’s airing cupboards, messing around with their water so that no matter how gently they adjust the shower temperature controls it’s either too roasty burny hot or sticky-out nipply ice cold. For that alone I’m glad that someone took this fucker out and left it to rot on the wastelands.

So in summary… come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, and try to love one another right now (unless they’re an evil water-adjusting mechanical psycho-shower hose beast).