WHEN COMEDY IS NO LAUGHING MATTER
KIMBERLEY PRICE caught up with the man who would make the twin towns laugh. And discovered his plans to make the first Comedy Feast the first of many are looking pretty promising
COMEDY shows are an incredibly serious business and Michael Anderson is learning that the hard way.
But as they say, he who laughs last; laughs loudest.
And while Michael might not be guffawing after staging Echuca-Moama’s first Comedy Feast he is still wearing a pretty self-satisfied smile. He lost money on the show. But just a little bit. Not enough to frighten him off doing it again.
Funny thing, though. Michael is the first to admit he would be the last person most would name if you asked for someone to run a comedy show.
He is a thoughtful, soft-spoken and well-mannered personality and is picture perfect for his daytime career as a 39-yearold financial planner.
“It is a bit funny – it’s an odd match really,” Michael confessed. “I don’t know how it happened. “I’d been involved in the Murray Business Network and I saw Des Dowling perform at one of their events.
“That got me thinking why don’t we get more comedy events to Echuca-Moama? Performers will often go to Bendigo or Shepparton but rarely here.
“Through the Murray Business Network events, I got an insight into how the industry works and it made me think it was possible to organise something.”
While he might not fit your idea – or mine – of a comedy promoter his ambition to bring laughter to the lives of others is growing and 18 months after taking the first step towards his first show he is a man who has learnt a lot of life lessons.
Tree-changing to Echuca-Moama five years ago from his home in the heart of Melbourne’s suburban sprawl, Michael in his suit and tie is a financial planner at Ausure Financial Services, and is expecting his first child with fiance Amanda Taylor in May. “I’m a very private person,” he said. “I don’t like public speaking and I don’t have Facebook or anything like that.
“I wouldn’t want any attention. I’m very happy the comedians didn’t pick on me during the event.”
So what compels the proverbial shrinking violet to force himself so deeply out of his comfort zone and organise an event such as the Comedy Feast?
After preparation towards the show was already underway, a death in the family last year became a defining moment.
“It shocked me; it was also a turning point in my life.
“It helped motivate me to enjoy life more and don’t procrastinate.
“Life is too short and we all need to laugh more.”
Suddenly Michael discovered he was not alone, his plans to make people laugh found a tidal wave of support. From individuals coming out of the woodwork to lend a hand to an old mate in Melbourne making the trek north to lend him gear for the stage and sound.
By and large the self-deprecating Michael gives much of the credit of the night to others.
“Maggie Johnson, who works with me, is a total opposite to me. She does public speaking and is a confident person and she became a kind of ambassador for the event,” he said.
“Hayley Evans at Rich River Golf Club, where we staged the Comedy Feast, was another help.
“They both really gave me the confidence in the program and I wouldn’t have done it without them.
“I cannot speak more highly of Scott Christian at Radiant Media, he was the one who made us look good – and so many others came forward to help in with the event.”
The Comedy Feast was held at the beginning of the month and saw Richard Stubbs, Dave O’Neil and Des Dowling make the trip to entertain the crowd of more than 200.
The novelty of having class comedy come to us was a huge success.
“I was always going to be nervous,” Michael said.
“But after the first minute, Des Dowling had the whole crowd laughing.
“On the night, looking around and seeing everyone’s faces, just laughing, it was the best part.”
And the local feedback has been incredibly but supportive of the initiative.
Dave O’Neil recently launched his podcast The Debrief and on one episode, he and Des Dowling talked about their journey to the twin towns for the show. The podcast ends with the comedy pair examining the Comedy Feast and making criticisms and praises and even mentioned Michael himself.
“I was pretty anxious in the lead up to the podcast release,’’ Michael said.
“But Dave and Des were super positive.
“They criticised a few things, but nothing I was worried about.”
So with the stress of getting his first show off the ground now a distant memory, Michael has no plans of stopping.
He is already raising his sights to pull some big names from the comedy circuit.
“Comedy Feast was never about making a profit. I enjoyed the challenge and I just want to make it bigger and better each year.
“There are definitely some things to change and I’ll make some adjustments for next year.
“But you have to make mistakes to learn. I wouldn’t change it too much, just make it better all round.
“I have my own dream for the show. I’m big on goals and I definitely have some. I’ve seen the evolution of Riverboats and there’s definitely room to branch out to the Bendigo and Shepparton areas and target tourists.
“If we got a high profile name then we’d get more bums on seats, but that costs a lot of money. So I’m looking to double the budget and double the crowd.”
As chief cook and bottle washer Michael is prepared to do everything and anything it takes to make his dream work. Except for one thing. Don’t ask him to get behind the microphone, even for introductions or thanks.
“I don’t want to be up there,” he laughed. “Just the helper behind the scenes.”
And he was still laughing as he walked away.