I'm in my home town for Perth Fringe World. After having done dates in Melbourne and Sydney, I have to say, like Austin Texas in the eighties and Boston in the nineties, there is way more interesting stuff being performed in this little city than there is over east in Australia's larger counterparts.
As anyone will tell you, I have zero sense of civic pride. I will happily beat up my home town comedically as much as I will Liverpool, Adelaide or anywhere else where audiences have raised my ire. But credit where credit is due, comedy is thriving in this, the world's most remote city - By land anyway. (Perth lays claim incorrectly to a number of weird accolades. But being so remote, no one checks their facts. Which confirms its remoteness)
As I've travelled around the world this always seems to be the case, little communities pop up in the smaller cities, where a bunch of comics band together and build their own work out rooms where they can experiment and, above all, be allowed to fail. They watch each other's sets and turn up in droves to watch every visiting act. Consequently, once every five to ten years lightning strikes in a bottle and it's never in the big cities.
Look at Boston in the nineties: it produced Louis CK, Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, Dane Cook, Amy Poehler, Denis Leary, Janeane Garofalo and the list goes on and on. Iron sharpens iron as they say and something very exciting happened in Boston in the post boom period of the nineties, when there was no money in it and they weren't New York or LA. Comedy thrives in environments with more to prove and a chip on its shoulder.
Cities with their own festivals or already thriving scenes create complacency. I remember dropping in to do a spot a few weeks ago in Melbourne and every other act on the bill wouldn't even look up from their phones while I was on. Now I'm no superstar, but I am only there once a year and at the very least, I'll show you how to bomb with confidence. At first, I put it down to my ego speaking. But then Nikki Glaser turned up for a drop in spot: here's a girl out of the US with some pretty decent heat, working a different style, coming off her own comedy central series right in their backyard and still every local act milled around the wings, staring at their twitter pages, not even venturing to the back of the room to watch a rare treat. I practically had to stop myself from slapping their phones out of their hands and yell, "Oh so you've learned it all now have you kids?"
I'm truly heartened by just how many local acts turn up to watch avidly anytime I come home, just stopping short of bringing notepads, they act like proper students of the game. I think being so remote has a big part to play. As a kid growing up here, stand up was simply an impossible job. Comedians were cabbage patch dolls, they weren't regular people first, they just appeared fully formed, out of the blue, somewhere else.
Now, the local acts in this city even have their own night called Shapiro Tuesdays for them to get up and experiment, play games, try new material, roast each other, have on the spot joke writing competitions. All named after insane improviser US cult comic Rick Shapiro. Do you have any idea how much of a comedy nerd you have to be to know who Rick Shapiro is? Now surround that knowledge by desert and you may get some understanding of the comedy obsessives in this little community.
And this city has responded to their budding comedy scene, all my visiting international friends concur, this is their favourite stop on the Australian festival circuit. The crowds are warmer and friendlier (to be honest after being overlooked artistically for so long they're just glad we made the trip) they get jokes faster, unhampered by pseudo punditry. There is even a local saying amongst the comics: everyone goes over east to make it big, then comes back home to get paid. So if you're in Perth for Fringe World check out some local talent. I know for a fact, from acts like John Robertson, Ben Russell, Sean Conway, Craig Quartermaine to Sami Shah and more, there's some real world class stuff going on here.
Brendon is appearing in Sydney at the Sydney comedy store in "Why Australia Day can Sod Off" on Jan 28th here
And with fellow comedian Craig Quartermaine in Perth 1st-5th of Feb here