Thursday, 5 April 2012

How we Conquered Melbourne

My wife Jen and I like to attend a lot of shows. Bands, comedians, theatre.

In 2011, we decided to visit Melbourne for our birthdays (both in March) and see as much of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF) as we could, while taking in all the sights of the town. 

There's so much to do in Melbourne - From the film/TV/animation exhibits at The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) to the endless selection of interesting shops, bars and restaurants, many of which remain open until the early hours of the morning. Unlike Brisbane, there are theatres galore, and performers on every corner instead of charity street hasslers. And a really good public transport service to get around with. There's no shortage of trams. If you miss one, there's another right behind it. 

The highlight of our 2011 trip was meeting comedian Bob Franklin, who gave us free tickets to his show. His was one of about 15 or 16 shows we attended in the short time we were there.

In 2012, we again managed to squeeze 15 MICF shows into 6 days, and also attend the filming of a TV show. Well, I guess it was two TV shows, because one of the MICF shows was a special filmed for TV.

But we really embraced this trip in a big way, really getting involved and making an impact. Here's what happened:

- We booked front row seats to the MICF "All-Stars Gala" show. Yet to be aired on Channel Ten, this massive show at the Palais Theatre was hosted by Julia Morris, and featured sets by Wanda Sykes, Sam Simmons, Idiots of Ants, Dead Cat Bounce, Wellington International Ukelele Orchestra, Jeff Green, Wil Anderson, Shappi Khorsandi, Greg Behrendt, Mark Watson, Kumail Nanjiani and more. Being in the front row of this means you're right amongst the action. Camera men running past, comedians performing right in front of you, and in the case of comedian Sam Simmons - incorporating you into the act! When the show airs on Ten, you will see a shirtless Sam Simmons riding on top of the gentleman to my right, and then climbing past me to sit on Jen's lap! The cameras were in our faces the whole time. A great start to our holiday!

- During a play by Bob Franklin and Steven Gates (aka Gatesy from Tripod), I was chosen to portray a character named Jason. A failed actor, and regular psychiatric patient of the doctor being played by Bob Franklin. 

- After seeing Lawrence Leung's show, another comedian John Robertson gave us free tickets to his show because he liked the way we were dressed - all in black. Another win!

- On our way home from a show, Jen photographed a billboard at one of the tram stops and posted it on Twitter. She started what became a widespread discussion about how it seems to promote irresponsible drinking and bad workplace health and safety practices. Within a very short time, Jen was the number one "trending topic" in Australia on Twitter! 

- Comedian Mick Neven had a show at the MICF where it was encouraged to tweet during the show. It was an interactive Twitter show! People could tweet from home too! All tweets were displayed on a screen at the front, and read out during the performance. Jen was chosen to drive the iPad up the front, and be in control of Mick's Twitter account. Retweeting things and replying to people. 

- Somehow over Twitter during the Mick Neven show, Jen was mixed up with a different "Jennifer Hansen" (same spelling), a Melbourne journalist who is married to Neighbours actor Alan Fletcher (aka Doctor Karl Kennedy). The confusion ended with the two chatting a lot over Twitter. This part of the story has an interesting twist later.

- Having been on a waiting list since September to be in the audience for "Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight", a popular TV show on the ABC, we got a call to attend a filming on the second last day of our trip. We showed up to the station, where a production assistant announced they're going to film a sketch starring comedian Jimeoin, and they wanted some of us to be in it! Jen and I raised our hands pretty quickly. While the episode we're in the audience for aired last night (there were a few very brief shots of us), the sketch we appeared in will air on next week's show (18/04/2012). 

- The Doctor Karl Kennedy twist was when the other Jennifer Hansen's husband Alan made a brief comedic cameo on the Adam Hills show, just a metre from where Jen was sitting. What a coincidence! All was discussed over Twitter afterwards and apparently Alan (who is not on Twitter) thought it was hilarious.

- Only hours before boarding a plane back to Brisbane, we had coffee with character actor Michael Davoren, who plays Basil Faulty in the "Faulty Towers Dining Experience" - That's not a typo. The original show is spelt Fawlty. Faulty is the tribute show. They travel all over the world with it! 

And that was our most recent trip to Melbourne in a nut shell. We didn't just visit. We got amongst it! Got involved! And got on TV! And Jen was famous Australia-wide on Twitter for one night! 

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