When the opportunity arose to gallivant on over to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I was pretty unaware of what the experience would entail. I mean, was I signing up for a Dave Chappelle style show in a huge auditorium, or was I entering the misty haze of a dimly lit stand-up comedy club where comedians are a lolly-bag assortment of lost drunkards, talented small-towners trying to make it in the big city, and racist yanks? Then I remembered that this isn’t America, we don’t have Yankees, and this Festival is not just some Thursday night special at the local bar: It’s the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. World renown, Melbourne loved, and talent saturated..
I got excited, and headed to my first show, to a comedian I had never heard of, in a part of Melbourne I was yet to discover.
As I waltzed into the venue, with a new friend I recruited at Wholefoods an hour earlier, I was amazed to see the hustle and bustle of a comedy world I was foreign to. Show after show, crowd after crowd, it was apparent I was in for a treat. But it was only when I picked up the program, read a short speel on the show and comedienne I was about to devour, that I realized that this was kind of a big deal, and my forthcoming interview got a whole lot more intimidating.
Before I had a chance to digest the fact that the girl on the stage came critically acclaimed by Jason Alexander (George from Seinfeld) himself, I was ushered into my seat in the most intimate of 12-seated rooms, and the lights turned out.
Bridget Jones reminiscent music played and the desperately silent movements of the staged figure revealed Ms. Rebecca de Unamuno as a woman who is ready to shed her spinster coat, and find Mr. Right.
As she recounts the pain of high-school crushes that went wrong, delusional one night stands and the shrills of her girlfriends who promise that love will “come when you least expect it”, we follow Rebecca’s attempts to manifest her Prince Charming. As her last resort, she summons the powers of Internet dating.
The show is candidly filled with ludicrous instant messages, horrible first-dates, and an overview of the tactics endorsed by single, creepy men. It is both enlightening and hilarious to experience the reality of over-30 spinster-dom.
But amidst the humour and confidence of her talent, what is revealed in the less vibrant of scenes, is an insanely talented woman, who is lost, confused and disarrayed at her inability to find “the one”. Tired of loveless sex, fleeting flings and third or fifth wheeling with her more “blessed and attached” friends, Rebecca is ready, yearning and deserving of true love.
It’s a show, which takes you by the hand and incites you to experience her singledom first hand. It challenges those who are attached to be bloody grateful of their relationship, but warns the single audience members to be pretty frightened about what may very well, be their story to tell soon enough.
Leaving the auditorium, I was saddened to think that this was Rebecca’s personal identity, so when I met her backstage after the show, it was my mission to get to the heart of the matter, as it were.
Here’s a recount of our chinwag.
So, it’s something I have always been intrigued by, how do comedians practice your jokes and shows? I mean does your Mum know this show back to front after having heard it a hundred timed?
I practice to myself! It’s a gamble most of the time, but I just have to write it, trust it and throw it out there. The audience is key, so whenever I get a laugh I think, “Ah that works” and ill keep running with that. So it is also a matter of experimenting, tweaking and playing with different word and sequence combinations until you find what the audiences responds to best. I am first and foremost an improviser so playing with the structure is only natural.
I was going to quiz you on that, your improvising is spot on! How do you so flawlessly roll with whatever comes your way, especially when the audience participates and you are able to implement that unique involvement within the show?
Well, improvisation is what I love, it’s where I let my hair and have fun. Because I am so comfortable in changing things and mixing it up, it just works!
When did you realize you were funny enough to make the public laugh?
Honestly, I never knew or thought I was funny, but in talking to old school friends who have since seen me perform, they come to me saying that they always knew that I was destined for comedy. But I guess looking back; humour has been a big part of my entire life. My whole family has a great sense of humour, my Dad especially is really funny, so it is almost second nature for me to go to the funny side in most situations. And I think the way we communicate and express love to each other is to make a joke.
So I guess that’s where your thrift in improvisation comes from. It is natural for you to jump swiftly over to an entertaining standpoint, and just pump out something funny.
Exactly! It’s what makes improvisation so exciting, because as you say it, the audience is reacting, and you receive that reaction for the first time – because you’re saying it for the first time. So I guess on the improv stage, is where I really found the funny. I had to fall back onto something I knew: humour.
And honestly, for me, it is so much easier to improvise than follow scripts, I actually find them confronting! With improvisation however, I trust myself. I trust that I can come up with something.
Tonight for example, I accidentally kicked the laptop off the stage earlier in the show, which meant I needed to change the ending. But that’s fine, I just roll with it, I know I can make it work.
And “Kiss My Date”, how much of it is based on fact?
All of it, 100% honest. A few of the male Stand Ups in the festival feature in the show, but not to worry, all names have been changed to protect the guilty. But yes, it’s all true!
I think comedy is born of truth, you have to relate to what you’re saying in order for the audience to relate to it. So I thought you know what, I’m going to make an honest show.
And you come as “possibly the smartest, sharpest most versatile performer Jason Alexander has ever known”. Explain.
(Laughs). Well, Jason and I have toured several times together, and I remember the first tour, he was MC-ing a showcase, and when I heard his voice backstage, I was terrified! But when we met, we just clicked, and I had the opportunity to perform improvised scenes with him. After the first tour we kept in contact, so next time around he always said to me “why don’t you come talk to me after the shows, we are friends”.
But we feel like we have been working together for years, he calls me his “sister form anther mister”, and he’s my “brother from another mother”. He’s fantastic, but it’s still hard for me to believe.
Amazing! Well he is your friend, so own it!
Rebecca De Unamuno is performing “Kiss My Date” at the Trades Hall until April 20th. Don’t miss it, kiss it!
Sheona, the author of this piece, writes for empowerment on her blog at ‘The Sheona Experiment’ @ thesheonaexperiment.com