With the Sydney Comedy Festival now underway City Hub spoke with Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy and festival director Jorge Menidis about comedy’s ability to bridge both language and cultural divides.
Danny Bhoy has been touring Australia since 2003, which was before the Sydney Comedy Festival even existed. Through the years though he has developed quite the bond with our country and the audiences here. One must ask then, why does a comedian from Scotland have such a strong connection with an Australian audience?
“You’d have to ask them that to know for sure but I think there is a little bit of a connection between Australians and Scottish people. I don’t know what it is but I think there is maybe a love of a good yarn,” answered Bhoy before elaborating, “I tend to find that I don’t need to change too much of my material when I come here, in the sense that I don’t need to change my style only the odd reference. On the whole, it’s quite a similar sense of humour here, which is weird because I sometimes find that I have to change more of my act when I go to England than I do in Australia.”
This year the Sydney Comedy Festival is welcoming an incredibly diverse array of artists from all around the globe, which is something Menidis said was a major focus in their planning this year.
“It was very very important to us that we had a cosmopolitan and multicultural festival because we feel that the festival should reflect Australian society.”
As part of this planning, the festival organisers obviously had to consider the universality of comedy, which Menidis and Bhoy both agreed boils down to one key caveat.
“Fundamentally, funny is funny!” said Menidis.
“If it’s good it’s good and people will like it universally because you can’t predict what is going to make you laugh, it’s an instinctual reaction,” added Bhoy.
According to Bhoy, the shift towards universality in comedy is something which has accelerated in recent years thanks to social media.
“Comedy has changed a lot now compared to when I started, there’s a lot more nuance. With social media and online outlets, people have found and know what they like now. People like to go and see the things that they already know they’re going to like, whereas there was more of a tendency to take a chance on a show 10-15 years ago.”
That statement suggests a dark side to this shift though when it comes to comedy festivals. With audiences now being much less willing to take a chance on a random show, it has become infinitely harder for emerging acts to breakthrough. With this in mind, Bhoy urges Sydneysiders to expand their horizons this month when there is a wealth of great comedy in town.
“They don’t have to [come to a show]”, said Bhoy with a big laugh, “but I mean I would like them to come to my show because I think this is the finest show I’ve ever written, even as my own worst critic. There is also so much good comedy out there and with the Sydney Comedy Festival, you’re absolutely spoilt for choice. So go and see one thing you know you’re going to like but then also take a chance on something else because you can only really do that during a festival.”
If you enjoy topical comedy then Bhoy’s show, Age Of Fools, is certainly the one for you to plan a night around. Age Of Fools is a show Bhoy says he has been consistently writing, performing and rewriting for the past year in order to ensure it remains topical and relevant. This is the first time he has done a show this way and is a style which he likely won’t be employing again, so this is likely to be your only opportunity to see this style from him.
“I would never do this again, it’s been a nightmare, there is so much work required to do a show that has to stay up to date and remain relevant. The one thing that is topical in Britain at the moment is Brexit and from my point of view the only good thing about Brexit is that nothing has changed in the past year, we’re still having the same arguments, so that little bit of material hasn’t had to change much, but everything around it has changed.”
Danny Bhoy – Age Of Fools
May 2-6. State Theatre, 49 Market St, Sydney. $60.93+b.f. Tickets & Info: www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au
Sydney Comedy Festival
Until May 19. Various Venues & Prices. Tickets & Info: www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au