Victoria's secrets

A Melbourne Comedy Festival diary

Dan Willis and Nik Coppin are making their first trip to the Melbourne Internation Comedy Festival, in the state of Victoria, where they are hosting a stand-up cabaret, Early Risers, in Club UK. Here they write an exclusive diary for Chortle about their experiences down under.

Day 1

Well, after a 24-hour flight, last-minute hiccups and what can only be described as an overenthusiastic sniffer dog at Australian immigration, here I was, stood in front of my first audience at the Melbourne comedy festival.

Our venue is one that wouldn't be out of place in an early Star Tek episode: small dark and dingy with an extreme amount of blue fibreglass covering the walls.

Saying that, it is a nice room, 50 seats, very intimate and well placed in Melbourne's city centre. Not to mention that the manager of the bar above, Club UK, has enjoyed our manly banter and throws us the occasional free jug of Dogs Bollocks, the politely-named local beer

During the afternoon Nik Coppin and I had been performing at one of Melbourne's universities, a strange gig where we were billed as headliners, yet had to help get the crowd in by begging round the canteen for people to move into the bar area - ajob that had to be done twice as lectures started and finished

Things went great though, and out of nowhere we suddenly had a small fan base of 20-year-old students - mainly females after the attention of my Nike-wearing stage partner, Coppin

But the gig had a real feelgood factor that gave a positive feeling about the month ahead. Job done, and we were on our way to the bar. And just at this moment five of the students from the afternoon turned up to see our show, an hour late. Oh well, students are the same the world over. Dan

Day 2

The second of our shows is out of the way and we truly have had a great couple of gigs. We haven't sold out like some of the acts here, but all of them are paying punters and so we are playing to a crowd that are fully up for our show.

The charm offensive of being out on the streets with flyers appears to be paying off. This is due largely to what we have termed Dave 'Boardy' Board which we created to be our third member. He is silent yet most effective in attracting the Aussie comedy fan into our Web of Charm.

In other news, as well as doing a grand job of compering The Late Show at The Festival Club, Daniel Kitson is getting naked and stunt diving off of the stage to rapturous applause. Rock and Roll comedy from The Kitsonman ­ he'll be trashing his hotel room next.

Oh, and did I mention? It's REALLY sunny over here. Nik

Day 3

Lee Mack, Dave Gorman, Daniel Kitson and Ross Noble are all carrying the flag for we British comics over here, pretty much selling out venues that hold close to 1,000 people. Although even they, I guess, have the occasional hiccup: the sound guy forgetting to switch on the mic, or possibly the spotlight bulb popping mid set.

I doubt however that they have ever had to pull their show because their venue owner was too hung over to remember to open the venue.

And so it was we were stood outside Club UK, 6pm with a crowd of paying punters and a promoter who was close to cardiac arrest.

But in true gentlemanly style we decided to take it with good humour, refunding the tickets and giving everyone free tickets to the next show at our venue.

Later we headed to perform 20 minutes each at Late N Live at Young and Jacksons, a gig which has much in common to its Edinburgh namesake of old, basically a bearpit with 200 drunk and tired punters up for a shout..

We survived ­ just - getting some big laughs and tricky heckles in equal parts before popping down to the official festival club, a flashy place with a glass VIP area overlooking the stage.

For some reason me and the Copp-Meister count as VIPs, so that,s where we watched the comedians' equivalent of Pop Idol - Dave Gorman sang his favourite Song 2 complete with stage dive, Lee Mack grinded his way thru Elvis's Too Much Conversation and Adam Hills showed off by actually being able to sing. Simon Cowell would be happy to comment if he wasn,t too busy chasing table dancers. Nik's gonna have a shock tonight as I've put his name down for a version of Like A Virgin. Like being the operative word. Dan

Day 4

Sunday arrives and so marks our first day without a having to do a show well, if you discount the non-event on Saturday of course!

However, the day was not wasted as one of our new comedy buddies, Aaron Keeffe took us to his mate's house to throw a shrimp upon the barbie.

Only we didn't actually throw any shrimps on any barbies as this doesn't happen over here, much like a lot of the stereotypes we had come to believe as the Aussie way of doing things.

I was also pleased to discover that despite what we are led to believe, the likelihood of encountering large, hairy, murderous spiders is minimal, especially in the city. I have also been assured that if a large Huntsman spider does bite me, it is not much worse than a bee sting, Because of course, I LOVE being stung by bees!

There's not much else to report on, as even the festival bar was rather quiet last night. But worry not true believers; gossip is yet to come. Nik

Day 5

The work needs doing to get a crowd into our show for the coming week, so Coppin and I decide to go round the many backpackers' hostels and put up posters, hand out flyers and generally publicise our little shin-dig.

First of all a sit down with yellow pages and a map, a cup of coffee and our tactics are set out - each hostel marked clearly, our route timed to military perfection. So off we trot, and the first hostel is a success, posters up, flyers distributed and off down the street again until we realise that Nik has left the map in the previous hostel, so we return to collect it in good humour, and yet again off we trot.

Eventually we make it to the farthest out hostel on our map.. Posters put up, we then realise that Mr Coppin had managed to leave our flyers when he'd picked up the map. Two hours and all we,d done is walk back and forwards between 2 hostels- Saatchi and Saatchi we ain't!

Anyhow, even though we weren't performing our show, we were invited to perform at a gig to 200 backpackers in a bar round the corner.

This proved to me that certain jokes needed packing up and sending home due to the locals simply having different tastes, as opposed to cultural references jokes about Panda Cola work (even though don't have Panda Cola over here), but they aren't keen on some more general stuff about, say, the police. That joke is now on the plane flying home economy class on Qantas. Dan

Published: 30 Mar 2004

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