Wes Gardner is part of the team behind Slutmonster and Friends, a recent Melbourne International Comedy Festival success story. Here, he writes about being on the other side of the comedy curtain and tells the story of the show’s development—from end to beginning.
The end of the festival
We are in a stuffy bar packed with comedians at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival awards night. Our obscene musical comedy show Slutmonster and Friends has been nominated for the 2013 Golden Gibbo Award. Simon Keck’s name is read out, and we applaud with extreme grace in a ‘good for him, he deserves it, he’s so good’ kind of way. To the point where it’s a bit much.
One week earlier
Bright lights are in my eyes and my face is covered in blood. I’m running across the stage, almost completely naked, while a crazed woman in a pink, polar-fleece monster suit with fuzzy tits and a huge phallus is chasing me with a dildo. A hundred people are watching it happen, which seems like an awful lot to me. Later, one of those people will tell me that I seriously need to wax my arse (advice I choose to ignore). Another person will comment on how oddly smooth and hairless it appeared. This acts as a microcosm of the diversity of public opinion and is my first introduction to the vagaries of critical feedback.
Weeks earlier (before the comedy festival begins)
I am practicing a trick I will be doing onstage. It involves lifting my fiancée, Jessie Ngaio (aka Slutmonster and dressed in her homemade, pink, fluffy costume) up by her hips, upside-down, and performing a standing ‘69’. My little brother is directing us and murmuring words of encouragement, too softly and too close. The monster’s ex-boyfriend (our co-star, Lucas Heil) is off to the side filming the whole thing, smiling and nodding. The situation could only get stranger if my parents burst into the room and started practicing with us. This extreme doesn’t quite happen, though the monster’s parents do arrive unannounced from Papua New Guinea one morning. After seeing the show they begin making unrepeatably foul jokes, as if a dam of respectability has been breached, allowed a black sea of filth to gush forth from their dirty, dirty mouths.
Our house looks like the Muppets broke in and exploded. Scraps of fluorescent fake fur are all over the floor, the couch, the table, the everything. Jessie is sitting on the couch, concentrating intensely on the bright-pink, 16-inch penis she’s hand-sewing. I observe this odd scene with the complete disinterest one has for any of the mundane, commonplace things they’ve been living with for months. After a moment, I realise that what I’m seeing would be considered unusual by most people and go get a camera.
Months earlier still
Lucas and I are sitting on the (relatively clean) floor of the same room, writing our show. Our process is to stare at a blank Word document with unending hatred in our eyes, then get distracted and try to make each other laugh, then sift through the pile of non sequiturs we’ve tossed off, to see if any of them would fit in a plot. Now and again Jessie enters the room with tea and we walk her through what we’ve written. Sometimes she laughs. Sometimes she looks at us blankly and reminds us the show is meant to be funny and interesting and dirty and good. At one point Lucas and I are writing while wearing bicycle helmets. I don’t remember why but I have a photo of it.
Many, many, many months earlier
Jessie is arriving home from a presentation by the people who run the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Jessie comes away from it feeling inspired and empowered, and she wants to do a Comedy Festival show, and she wants me to be involved. I say ‘No way. Good luck with it.’
And, for a little while, I forget all about it.