Thursday, December 28, 2017

So Long Sydney

Today will be our last two shows at the Sydney Opera House.  As is always true, every time you go on stage there is a chance to learn something. For me it has been a chance to learn how to grab large audiences who have a hard time with MY accent. Yes they speak English here, but their accent is almost a dialect.  As was the case when I first got here and didn’t understand that the hotel clerk was asking for my “mobile number”.  The audience is also struggling a little to understand me, and it is my nature to talk fast especially with my interaction with Bob. So I have to adjust and slow down a little and open up a lot.  Every show gets better and easier.  But slowing down adds a little time to the process. 
Unfortunately, those of us who talk to the audience are being pressured to keep the show from running over.  Since most of the acts are silent and timed to the music there is no flexibility for them.  The duty to stay on time falls to Harrison, the comic, Brett, the sword swallower, and me, the ventriloquist.  Unfortunately, we can not control laugh time, it can add minutes to a set without changing a word.  In my humble opinion we are not the reason the show runs over.  It doesn’t take a mathematician to add up the time of each act and realize the show was produced too long. In fact because of an injury one of the acts has been absent from the show for about a week, and the show still runs too long. For those who may not know what that means in show biz terms, if a show goes over a certain length of stage time, the local crew goes into over time pay.  It costs the producers money... which is ultimately all that matters to them.  
I am not being paid for my consultation nor my expertise but I think I could cut 10 minutes from the show and not touch a single act.  There is some production fat in the show which, although very pretty, is totally unnecessary, especially if the show is running long.  If it was my show that fat would be gone faster than a stage hand can claim golden time.  Instead of looking at the show fat, they come after the comedy acts to cut material.  They have no idea that comedy is all about timing, and timing is an element of time.  They seem to think that if we just cut to the punchlines we will still get the same laughs.  That will not solve the problem of length, and it will kill the audience enjoyment factor as well as our acts.  
There are rumors running around back stage about what they might do to get the show to run on time in Melbourne.  I kid you not, one idea was to start them show 10 minutes early.  Some one pointed out that starting early does not shorten the show. Duh?? The other suggestion was to have the opening comic start his set as the people are being seated. Again, pretending the show has not started when it really has started, is not a way to solve the problem.

I am one of only a couple of people who have two spots in the show.  That is what the producers contracted me to do and that is my job.  The question might come to this:  “Am I willing to cut one of my spots to keep the show from running over?” It is a loaded question. No one is anxious to cut their own creation, but this is not my show and I am not the star, the show is the star and everyone in it is a necessary part.  But even if I cut one of my spots the show would still run long, and there would be one less moment for comedy.  Until the producers realize that some of the unnecessary fluff is making the show long we comedy acts are unwilling to sacrific our art for their bottom line.  
At one point in the rehearsal process everyone lost their temper.  There was so much wasted time during the rehearsals it lead to the frustration of exhaustion if nothing else.  My turn came when there was a particularly long segment being over rehearsed as the concept kept changing over and over. 
I said, “This is the reason no one wants to hire us old guys, because we have worked in shows that know how to do it right.”   I am pretty sure that all anyone heard me say was, “You kids get off my lawn.”  
Even after all these realities of show business, the moment I am on stage, alone doing my own thing, everything else goes away. For about 13 minutes I even forget Trump is still in office.
As you were,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jay, Thank you for the gift and letting us take a personal insight into your journey so far. I am even more in awe of your extraordinary talents.
Please stick to your guns and not let "them" take away any or any part of your acts away,especially Bob (even though he seems to be rather annoying at times, Jay!). If anything it would have been nice to see Arthur Drew make an appearance.
"Chookas" for the rest of the Aussie trip.
Best wishes and Happy New Year to you and Sandi.