[COMEDY ~ AUS/INT]
Feel that, people…? That strange unfamiliar sensation that we live in a place that is an actual place with a cavalcade of things to do, shows to see, experiences to be experienced. It’s a nice feeling, isn’t it?
For just a few scant weeks every year Adelaide is bursting at the seams with theatre, comedy, burlesque, culture. People are out, going to Gluttony or The Garden, gathering in tents and basements to see acts from all over the world. Adelaide Fringe is the second biggest arts festival in the world (Edinburgh is still #1) and the largest arts festival in the Southern Hemisphere. It is the biggest ticketed event in Australia by miles and it’s a gift to us. One that we should enthusiastically unwrap and play with while we can.
Given the sad decision by the cities only newspaper to not cover The Fringe, it’s up to the rest of us to spread the word about shows and encourage each other to get out of the house and participate.
Bringing the joy of laughter is nothing new for Craig Egan head honcho of the excellent folks behind Adelaide’s year-round home of comedy the Rhino Room. Having started as a stand-up, Craig Egan found himself becoming the ringmaster of all things comedy in Adelaide. For twenty years he has juggled shows across multiple venues, nurtured and encouraged a supportive comedy scene which has a national reputation. Some of the biggest comedy names in the country either got their start at the Rhino or found it their spiritual home and return again and again. The Rhino Room Late Show during the Fringe each year has become a thing of legend, with an unannounced and often staggering line up of stars from round the festival appearing in a much more modest venue than their own shows.
I ask Craig just how many shows Rhino Room (and its sister venue The Howling Owl) are hosting this year?
“All up we have 82 different shows with something between four and five hundred separate performances. Things do tend to change during Fringe we drop a few here, add a few there. It’s not quite as a moveable beast as the last couple of years because of covid we had to be really on our toes because states would close borders of a performer would get covid or something, but this year everything seems on track but we always add things if there is demand and space in the schedule.”
It must be nice to have a bit more certainty in Fringe life now that people are back going to shows with more confidence.
“It really is,” Craig says. “It feels great. Coming into the first week after Opening Weekend and early in the week sessions aren’t traditionally massive, but it’s been really strong, and some are doing amazingly even in the early week slots. It’s exciting. It feels like it’s full swing and back into it, you can’t count your chickens, but it feels like it’s going to be a good one and all of our acts are having a really great time. Everything is back to full capacities too, no limits or distancing. People are still being careful, wearing masks which is fantastic. But that feeling of being able to get out and enjoy a festival is definitely in the air.”
With that many shows to wrangle, how much sleep do you get during Fringe?
“Well, considering it takes so much to get it all up and running at the start. There is a huge list of things that must get done before the Fringe even starts; it’s like cranking up an old car or something. Very little is the answer to that question though,” he says. “In the old days we’d be out partying until four or five o’clock in the morning, but these days I am up at 4am editing photos and doing promos. Plus, I have two little kids who get up at six or seven and they don’t care if I’ve been up all night… they want to play games. The last few years I’ve been trying to find a balance between supporting all those shows and supporting my little family as well. I can’t wait for the day that I will be able to show them what we do and have them involved.”
Rumour has it that your kids work the door cheap, don’t they?
“[Laughs.] I’m sure that won’t be long!”
One of the pillars of the Fringe is the now legendary Rhino Room Late Show. Friday and Saturday night starting late with an always unannounced line up, it’s like the best lucky dip ever. It’s a showcase for comedians to do a bit of their show that hopefully people will then go and get tickets for, but often it is a place where comedians feel comfortable and just have some fun. Big draws like Stephen K Amos, Wil Anderson, Rove McManus, Ross Noble and heaps more have all been regular drop-ins. It’s such a great way to get a taster place of shows and often the interaction between the comedians is off the cuff and can go anywhere. What are your favourite Late Show memories?
“Well, obviously the last Late Show at the old venue (when it was in Frome Road) was the moment I picked to propose to my fiancé,” Craig recalls, “so that will always be special. But there are so many favourite moments. One of the very early late-night shows, probably before it was officially called ‘The Late Show’. Adam Hills and Pete Monahan had a song they did which the chorus was “That Was Always Going To Happen…”. So, each comic would get up and do their bit and as they finished they would chime in with “That was always going to happen”.
“Daniel Kitson was on stage and Lee Mack (now famous off the tell) was in the bar. Kitson was adamant that he wanted Lee to get up and do one of these things and Lee wasn’t having any of it. “I’m having a night off, just want a drink with my friends”. But Kitson wouldn’t let it go “Come on he’s in the bar, we have to get him up”, the audience is screaming and chanting and it’s going on too long, but he was holding his ground. “COME ON LEE MACK COME ON”. He finally relents, comes up on the stage, takes the microphone in hand, puts it back in the stand and walks off stage without saying a thing. Then Hills and everybody kicked into “THAT WAS ALWAYS GOING TO HAPPEN!”. It’s those little moments of acts playing together and having fun with it, that at it’s best makes the Late Show so special.
“These people work really hard on their shows; there is structure and rehearsals and tweaking and agonising over every little thing, Late show is like mucking round at after work knock off drinks. It’s loose and audiences love seeing that and often seeing an act three sheets to the wind. It’s one of my favourite things because it’s unpredictable when you put a bunch of people together and do a show like that.”
So, there is a lot of shows on what do you recommend? What should people see that they might not yet know they need to?
“You are asking me to pick between my 82 kids?” Craig says. “There are some amazing things to see. Amy Heatherington just won Best Comedy in Perth and she is just a delight wo witness on stage and a delight to work with and so great to see her getting acclaimed like that. A long time ago I made myself a promise to try and minimise working with arseholes and she is anything but! – a glorious human being.
“Another great act on for the first two weeks is Anna Piper Scott, a transgender comedian who is absolutely hilarious and winning awards all over the country. She’s very funny and I am loving watching what she is doing at the moment. The incredible Bron Lewis who, if you haven’t heard of her yet you certainly will soon. I can’t go past Paul McDermott +1, which doesn’t usually finish at the end of the show but keeps going out on the street afterwards.
“Justin Hamilton who is the man who back in the year 2000, really gave us the groundwork for what Adelaide Comedy has become. He was running the gigs back then. He is such an incredible writer, a funny man and so many years in the business he rips it up every single time he is on a stage. It’s his first Fringe show since 2019 and he is our old mentor and friend, is Justin Hamilton.”.
Also worth checking out are Anne Edmonds, Lloyd Langford, Lauren, Michael Hing, Ruby Lee-Taurua, Nath Valvo, Jordan Raskopoulos, Alice Fraser, Claire Hooper & Nikki Britton, Tania Lacy, excellent Kiwi stand-up Guy Montgomery, Luke Heggie, Adelaide’s Jon Brooks, Tom Cashman (currently Tom Gleeson’s side guy on Aussie Taskmaster), Tom Ballard, and so many more.”
Get yourself out of the house and stuff some laughs in your face!
Check out the full Rhino Room Fringe line-up HERE.
See you at a Late Show!