Comedian Frank Woodley talks with QT Magazine about his new show that is coming to south-east Queensland as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival this month.
FOR 20 years the comedy duo of Colin Lane and Frank Woodley wowed audiences around the globe. Since they called it a day in 2006, Frank Woodley has crafted his own stage persona which, in truth, isn’t that much different from the person he is, and that’s why audiences love him. In fact, it’s fair to say he has evolved before our eyes and he is constantly attracting new fans. “I think it’s true that for the vast majority of comics it is the case – that who you see on stage is who we are,” Frank said. “The nature that I’m a solo performer, has seen my persona grow with me. “I’m about to turn 49 and as I’ve grown into that age I’ve found myself talking about kids, or just concerns I have in life…and that has resulted in this interesting evolution where my persona has become a little more grown up. “It’s a bit pretentious but people were talking about this when I was studying drama. They were going on about ‘finding your inner clown’…which sounds a bit wanky…but that relates to the fact we all have a way of showing off or entertaining in a way that comes most naturally to us. “I made the Woodley TV series which was an outlandish over- the-top nonsense show. My wife kept saying it was a documentary ... that stung but maybe there’s some truth in it what she said.” Frank brings his new show I, Woodley to the Brisbane Comedy Festival this month, and it has taken time for him to find his niche as a solo performer, something that took while to get used to. “At the Melbourne Comedy Festival last there was a 30-year anniversary event at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne. Colin and I got back together and did a 10-minute spot, it was the first time together since we split, even though we are still great mates…for me it was like putting on a beloved coat, or getting on a bike. “It felt so effortless, so comfortable and so I think while I don’t have the same feeling any more waiting for Col to do his bit in a live situation, in saying that, it’s a profound place where my comedy instincts have come from, over all those years. “I think because The Adventures of Lano and Woodley became a cult thing, for the most part even kids of about 10, more often than not will tell me they love my TV show, that’s the one they are talking about,” Frank said. “Still it does feel like Lano and Woodley is the greater connection that audiences have with me, that’s where they know me from, but I’m the youngest of seven kids so I’m grateful for any attention.” This new show is directed by Bob Franklin, a veteran of the live comedy circuit and best known for his work with Jimeoin and on ABC’s The Librarians. Having someone view the live show from a different angle has taken away a lot of stress from Frank. “Bob supported me in writing then directing this show. After a few months the show has gone through a few shifts, so I gave him a draft of it. “Next time we got together he was brutal with the writing, we went from 15,000 words over two hours to just 8000, which ended up being a great improvement, as he has such an astute comic instinct and understanding. “His feedback through the writing process, and then through trial shows, has been quite effortless and I have to say you often hear people spruiking their latest album saying ‘oh it’s the best thing I’ve ever done’… they say that every time but the process of this has really surprised me how easy it’s come together with no
stress. “Normally when I do trial shows before taking them on the road, it’s like having 60% of the show complete and it’s like an editing process to get that other 40%. There’s lots of crash and burn but the first trial show for I, Woodley I’d say was 90% there. It’s worked really well having Bob on board and I’m really happy with the result.” Frank loves doing physical comedy, and his heroes include Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Harold Lloyd, all from the early part of the 20th Century when short black and white films filled cinemas across the globe. Frank will also tour later in the year with his show written for kids, called NoodleNut, and it’s a form of performing that Frank really enjoys. “I’d done shows with kids in the past with Colin. I think it was a family day or something and we just cobbled stuff that we thought would be good for kids. “But when you write a show, knowing that it is for kids, I have since found that I could perform the same way now that I do with adults.“I did some shows and I thought ‘why haven’t I done this for the last 30 years’? “I have a routine in the kids show when I come out sucking on a mango, talking about how much I love mangoes and, when I get to the pip, it slips out of my hand like a bar of soap. Kids love it. “I used to do a similar routine with a goldfish but the audience never really related to it, it just felt flat. But when it did it with the mango pip, I thought yes…I’ve found my people! You understand! You understand!”