Sunday, May 20, 2012

Million Dollar Tegan

Wana know the best way to get back into the habit of blogging? Get together with your ex-boyfriend and take him to see a comedian you haven't heard of! The ex-bf (now current) and I chose Tegan Higginbotham at the Melbourne Internash Comedy festival last month cos she was young and a girl (but not in a weird way...we just wanted to support up-and-coming female comedians...promise) and she was FUNNY – in the sense that we laughed a LOT. Tears were induced, abdominal muscles were engaged – I think I even snorted. I was also inspired to write a review immediately! (I didn't, though, obviously - but am making up for that lost time now).

Her show, “Million Dollar Tegan,” was an hour-long recount of her foray into boxing and her first televised fight (it didn’t end with her cracking her neck on a stool a la Hilary Swank, but she did make a joke about how, before she saw Million Dollar Baby and had only heard a summary of the film, she originally hoped said killer-stool might have been a giant Poo Monster). Jokes and anecdotes ranged in content from interesting details about the boxing industry (the smell of boxing gloves, the way not to punch, the way fights are scored) to by-products of Tegan's training, such as the close friendships she made with the other female boxers, the nicknaming culture at the gym (hers was "Spastic") and the crush she developed on her mentor.

Tegan bustin' moves
The narrative arc frequently veered into non-boxing territory, revealing stories about Higginbotham's messy ex-housemates, her dad’s model spaceships, getting fired from her day job, eating chocolate and the excitement of going to the tip. Somehow, these tangents segued convincingly back into the boxing story and provided a layered picture of Higginbotham that meant the climax of her show – fighting her first fight, and experiencing all the emotions that went along with it – was that much more powerful. Structuring her show around a narrative made it particularly easy to stay engaged and allowed her to build certain jokes throughout the gig, as opposed to relying on one-liners. Her timing was impeccable. Several times since the show, I have laughed out loud when particular lines come to mind - especially a recurring joke about meeting Dipper. Her one Bible joke was cute and funny - and, impressively, very well-informed!

Unlike many young comedians, Higginbotham's onstage presence was easy and unfazed. She spoke with familiarity to the late-comers, laughed at herself when she mucked up a joke (which made the line even funnier) and continued with gags about her boxing coach even though he was in the front row. Her candour and openness made it feel as though she was speaking to the audience like friends, and admirably, she spoke with a humility that didn’t rely on total self-deprecation or self-abasement (which I find a bit tiring after a while). 

This attitude allowed her to create some extremely moving moments. I may have welled up when she described how she got punched in the face – hard - by her opponent (and friend) during her first real fight. She described how confusing it was to be punched in the face – hard – and be bleeding and unable to see properly and have no-one ask her if she was ok (and instead having people cheer her on). The only consolation she had during this moment was to see her mother crying in the crowd. Though she quickly reverted back to funniness, these snippets of insight gave her show a surprising amount depth and richness.

Do I sound like I'm raving too much about this show? Possibly. As you know, anything done successfully by a young woman makes me stupidly happy, so this show had my happiness off the charts. BUT - the rest of crowd was laughing as much (if not more) than I was. Go and see Tegan Higginbotham at her next show, for shizzle.

In other news, I wrote a piece on women and gender and stand-up comedy for the Kill Your Darlings blog - read here!

PeEsE oWt bAyBz - xOxOx

1 comment:

  1. "As you know, anything done successfully by a young woman makes me stupidly happy " -- not stupid, but warranted and celebratory!

    By the way, i have just been reading the comments from your kill your darlings blog post about gender & comedy, which weren't there when i first read it. i was so excited to see such a rowdy discussion going on underneath your article! and it occurred to me, which it prob already has to you, that a history of majority male comedians has meant that comedy has culturally been masculine, what we laugh at, what we see on television etc. comes from that masculine history (basically what you already said in killings piece). for example, gender difference jokes were set up by men dealing with their own masculine insecurities about communicating with women/understanding (or more like not understanding) women and a persistence of the stereotype of the 'hysterical' woman (emotion - it's a sickness). but then they become a 'type' of humour, that we see in will ferrell films and ashton kutcher films and on and on. in many cases for women to be 'funny' they too often are having to fit into that pre-configured structure of comedy/ bridesmaids and the bag of shit (in all the trailers, but there were so many other subtle funny moments in the film than that!).
    so i like the way in your blog post you talk about how tegan uses narrative to draw out humour, over one-liners (like the bag of shit). it requires comedy-goers to take a risk though, and adjust their expectations about how humour is built/delivered and also their patience for it.

    i wish i could've seen this show!

    and glad that you and the ex-bf(now current) are back together.