Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sanderson Jones' Comedy Sale At The Sydney Opera House

Sanderson Jones' Comedy Sale

By Lee Bemrose

Not very long ago, British comedian Sanderson Jones had a dream of performing at the iconic Sydney Opera House. He was relatively unknown at the time and came up with the idea of selling tickets to his show by hand, in doing so getting to know his audience personally. His show, Comedy Sale, has been successful in the UK and now in Australia, most recently with a sell-out gig at The Melbourne Comedy Festival, along with a string of weekly appearances.

And now he is indeed about to perform at The Sydney Opera House. Meantime, he's hitting the streets of Sydney, selling tickets and getting to know his audience. But don't expect to find tickets to this unusual (and very funny) show in the usual places; track him down on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or log onto

Sales can be a tough job, yet you choose to personally sell tickets to your show... why, Sanderson, why?
It was technique born out of necessity. I wasn’t famous, had no buzz and needed to get people in my show. Then I discovered two things: 1) Doing a show to people you’ve met before produces a uniquely convivial atmosphere. 2) I was really good at selling tickets. Two years later I’m getting ready to play the Sydney Opera House. It is weird.

For the uninitiated, give us a quick rundown of the nature of your show.
I sell every ticket to my show by hand. That way I get to meet everyone and customise the show to the crowd. In order to customise it I go online, find out funny things about my guests and weave it into the show. Long forgotten Bebo pages are a bloody goldmine.

What's the ratio of sales of people who approach you to cold calling?
About 80/20. Though I wish more people just came up to me. One woman did that yesterday. It was aces. Her name was Shannon and I’d bumped into her in Adelaide, then Melbourne and finally they can come. That is awesome.

Do you have a spiel or technique when you approach strangers in the street to sell tickets to them?
Yes, I do. I have a very well honed script that ascertains whether they’re free, makes me sound great and convinces them to hand over their money on the street.

How do you pick your targets?
People who like Venn diagrams have a certain look about them. Those are my guys. Oh, and if I see someone in a science t-shirt, they’re mine.

Have you ever had any odd or awkward encounters selling your tickets?
Rarely. It generally involves one drunken tool going “Jesus! Jesus! You look like Jesus. Can I touch your beard?”

Any violent encounters?
No. Whenever I realise someone is an idiot I walk away with my flyer, and then they can’t get a ticket. My audience has precisely zero dickheads.

Any romantic encounters?
I met my girlfriend when I gave her a flyer on the street.

At the time of writing these questions I think you had sold more than 100 tickets for your Opera House gig. Do you start the internet-stalking phase of the operation immediately or just focus on the sales part until you've sold out?
As I write this I have another word document open with people’s names, websites and other internet tidbits written down. The information gathering has begun.

It must be fun searching people on the internet and on Facebook. Some might suggest that Comedy Sale is just a way of legitimising an otherwise slightly suspect activity. Your thoughts?
As one of the world’s few professional Facebook stalkers I wholeheartedly encourage the pursuit. Like photos of potential dates from years ago, befriend people you hate just troll their news feed and, of course, look at profiles of your exes as often as possible.

Is there any audience participation in the show? Have you ever managed to get someone up on stage when they really, really, really, really didn't want to go up on stage?
The person who least wanted to go up on stage, Lee, was you and, eventually, through the power of mass peer pressure you got on stage and you ended up throwing a cream pie in my face. I reckon we ended one all. That Melbourne show had the most people on stage because it was proper old theatre and had lots of room for dicking about. The elf in a lion costume fellating the woodsman, being serenaded by a Belgian beatboxer with Jazz trumpet accompaniment, while a deer hopped in the background was a highlight.

You are obviously a people person. Tell us about the get-togethers you arrange outside of your shows.
The whole point of these shows is to try to create truly one off experiences. So I try to do everything possible to make that happen. On Sunday September 23rd I’m having an afternoon of barefoot bowls at the Petersham Bowls Club so the audience can get to know each other. I want them to be as excited about the show as I am.

How do you feel about performing at The Sydney Opera House?
It’s unbelievable. I started selling tickets by hand just as a way of getting people into my show. I had no idea I would end up on the grandest stage of all.

I noticed on your website your bit of Melbourne bashing when you moved to Sydney, an obvious attempt to garner goodwill in your new host city. Not that us Melburnians care at all in bashing that superficial, shiny bauble of a city with its inflated prices, its wankiness, its egostistic inhabitants preening themselves on their beaches so that they're the best looking shark food money can buy... with its vacuum of creativity and its nauseating air of too-busy-on-the-treadmill-to-give-you-the-time-of-day-ness... erm... how have you found Sydney so far?
Of all my time in Australia I have spent 95% of it in Melbourne. I love cafes, men with beards and girls with tattoos. I expected to hate Sydney and Sydneysiders, and that hasn’t really happened. I’ve been blown away by the harbour, the Opera House and the weather.

Finish this sentence: Come to Sanderson Jones' Comedy Sale gig at The Sydney Opera house...
Because it will be the greatest show in the history of matter.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Kiss Them All Soundly, The Owl And The Pussycat, Review


Lee Bemrose

It's Likely that it has been a while since you've heard nursery rhymes such as Simple Simon, Georgie Porgie and Mary Had A Little Lamb, although you probably still know at least some of the words. It's also quite likely that you've never given these rhymes any thought.

Apparently inspired by his own mother's slight modification of The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe – changing the line about her whipping her children and putting them to bed to “Kissed them all soundly and sent them to bed” - Jason Cavanagh gave these rhymes quite a bit of thought. Specifically, he wondered what made Simon simple; how did Georgie Porgie make the girls cry; and what, exactly, happened to Mary's lamb?

The result is this darkly comical re-imagining of these already quite strange vignettes from childhood. They have been brought into the modern world, their whimsy replaced with an unsettling reality. Where the originals have an inevitability about them, a feeling of simply being, Cavanagh has pulled them apart to explore the possibilities, and suddenly things are not what they seem.

Four actors (Susannah Frith, Adam Willson, Peter Rowley and Brooke Smith-Harris) play out the three separate stories with the first three taking on dual roles, Peter Rowley doing a particularly good job. His switch between damaged and potentially dangerous George and the patient healthcare worker Martin was instant and complete each time. Adam Willson also did a good job of changing between Simon and Mary's long-suffering husband James in the Mary's Lamb story, this latter one acted out hamily like a 60's sitcom... it isn't clear why this was done and I couldn't decide if it was jarring next to the others or effective. Perhaps it was a reflection of 50s and 60s middle class America and the culture of smiling and pretending everything is just fine, no matter what. It was amusing and certainly there was something off-kilter about it, and in that respect it fitted in with the things-aren't-quite right feel that hung over the whole play. Susannah Frith seemed to relish the sit-com part of her two roles and Brooke Smith Harris as schoolgirl Alice did a wonderful job of being at once street-wise, compassionate and vulnerable.

The unfolding drama of each of the stories sustained suspense throughout the almost hour and a half. Once you settle into the extreme cosiness of The Owl & The Pussycat theatre and get the hang of what's going on on that tiny stage, your curiosity is piqued. You know things aren't right and you want to know what is going to happen. The ending is inventive, a little haunting and yet leaves you with a sad smile on your face. Well worth seeing no matter how cold and rainy it is outside.

On at The Owl & The Pussycat Theatre, Richmond, until September 22nd.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Grumpy On The Amalfi Coast

Hmm. Not sure what happened but this column went missing in action. It was supposed to be up on the mag's website weeks ago. I was just tweaking my resume to send it off and suddenly remembered I had written this but not seen it. Funny little brain with its random way of thinking. Anyway, better late than never. Enjoy. I'm back to rubbing my face in the fact that I have not had a very sensible work life, and that it's nearly impossible to get any paid work as a writer. Oh joy.


With the magic of the internet it is possible to keep working while you are travelling. I go a bit stir crazy if I don’t write for a few days, so it’s brilliant to be able to sit here like I am now on my hotel balcony with a view of Mount Vesuvius across the Bay of Napoli and write this column. That's not what the photo is; that's me on the Amalfi Coast.

Last week, however, I got an email invitation to attend a theatre opening night for review. Unfortunately, the opening night was in Australia. My reply to the invitation was “I would love to come along but unfortunately (wrong word entirely) I am on the Amalfi Coast.”

I just fired it off without thinking. Then I sat back and said it out loud. How often in my life, I wondered, am I going to get the chance to say that? I can’t make it because I am on the Amalfi Coast. Possibly never again. Hmm.

I logged into Facebook where a few invitations to club nights were left idle. I had intended to just ignore them but decided to post replies now. “Sounds like a great night but I won’t be able to make it because I am on the Amalfi Coast.”

A friend was having a birthday drinks get together so I told them that I would love to come but I am on the Amalfi Coast.

Another friend was online, so I started a conversation.


“Hello, Grumpy. How’s the trip going?”

“Good, good. What are you up to this weekend?”

“Not much. Having the gang over for dinner tomorrow night, other than that, having a quiet one.”

“Dinner? That sounds lovely. You know, I’d love to join you but I’m on the Amalfi Coast.”

My friend went quiet for a while, so I said, “The Italian one.”


“The one in Italy.”

“Sorry - got a few conversations going. The Italian what?”

“The Italian Amalfi Coast. I’m on it, and that’s why I can’t make it to dinner tomorrow night.”

“I didn’t invite you because I know you’re away. Been following your adventures on FB. Why are you banging on about the Amalfi Coast?”

“Because I’m on the Amalfi Coast.”

The friend must have had a bad connection because they dropped out shortly after that.

I emailed friends at random to announce that if they had any parties/marriages/anniversaries/funerals etc, I couldn’t make it because I’m on the Amalfi Coast.

I wondered if I shouldn’t have been doing this two weeks ago when I was in Santorini.

“I can’t make it because I am in Santorini,” I said out loud.

The Dreaded One looked up from her book. “What did you just say?”

“I said I can’t make it because I’m in Santorini.”

“Why did you say you can’t make it because you’re in Santorini?”

“Because I wondered if it sounded better than I can’t make it because I’m on the Amalfi Coast.”

“What are you actually doing? I thought you were supposed to be writing your Grumpy column.”

“I am. Kind of. I just need to tell one or two people that I can’t make it to one or two things because I’m on the Amalfi Coast. It would be rude to simply not respond to an invitation.”

The Dreaded One’s gaze lingered for several long moments, as though she suspected me of being up to something rating extremely highly on The Stupidometer.

I got back to work. I got in touch with long lost relatives, old school friends, even one or two friends I’d had fallings out with, just to say we should forgive and forget and we should catch up for drinks sometime soon - just not right now because I’m on the Amalfi Coast.

Finally done, when I didn’t think there was another living soul who needed to know that I couldn’t make it because I’m on the Amalfi Coast, I decided to indulge in a long, lathery shave before getting ready to go out for dinner. I was feeling pretty good about this Amalfi Coast business. I felt like a pretty smooth mofo. Yeah baby, can’t make it to the thing because I’m on the Amalfi Coast.

Then I reached for the bidet towel to dry my face.

Oh yeah, I’m one smooth mofo.

Grumpy is freelance writer and smooth mofo Lee Bemrose ( If he can’t make it to your thing, it’s probably because he’s on the Amalfi Coast.