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

The Riverine Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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