Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
Learn what goes into sustaining a career in comedy
What does it take to become a comedian? Stuart Daulman's Masterclass at the Comedy Festival was an uncomfortably realistic insight into what matters the most in building a successful comedy career. Spoiler: being funny isn't it.
Masterclass is a satirical piece about how the comedy industry works to make people laugh, where laughs don't always have to be a result of funny or innovative work, but "any LOL is the gol" (sic). This seminar-style presentation on everything you need to know to become a comedian is a thinly veiled rant against the soul-destroying marketing core of comedic practice. It is a demonstration of almost passive-aggressive submission to the rules of the industry that force comedians to compromise creative fulfilment in favour of staying visible at all costs. What we learn in this masterclass is not so much "how to be funny" but "how to sustain a career in comedy and make people laugh even when you're dying inside".
The show is very meta and is filled with industry in-jokes and references that might not be relatable to all audiences, but certainly resonate with anyone who has worked in this or a similar field. Daulman walks us through his social media secrets, networking strategies, and top budgeting tips (which are sometimes very cheeky). He also explains how to develop content that audiences will respond to, which while appearing manipulative, is also undoubtedly effective. His segments where he recounts some painfully humbling experiences of flyering for his shows, and where he reviews his reviewers' opinions, are particularly raw and impactful.
Daulman presents his masterclass with assistance from Jake Ludowyke, who helps using an old-style transparency projector, apparently revived from extinction just for this show. This is a strangely abstruse artistic choice, and seems like a lot harder work than simply using modern tech, for only a marginally funnier outcome. This made me wonder about the subtext in this choice, especially in conjunction with the use of other "classics" such as jokes about slipping on banana peels.
There's definitely a cynical, subversive angle to this show, and Daulman's unconventional format and approach testify to his originality even as his presentation focuses on what everyone must do in order to succeed in comedy. The last major segment in the show is a stand-up segment that Daulman switches character and costume for - it is a practical demonstration of everything that has been covered in the masterclass, and is easily the quirkiest and funniest part of the show. In some ways, the show seems like a very long set up for this short punchline, for this compilation of callbacks as some sort of revision at the end of the class.
While Masterclass wasn't the funniest show I saw at the Comedy Festival this year, it was definitely clever and thought-provoking, with content that would be practically useful for emerging comedians. At the very least, it was an honest show that gave audiences insight into what goes on behind the scenes when comedians craft experiences for them in shows across the festival and throughout the year.