Canberra comedian Marky Worthington used to get lots of material from his observations on public transport. He called it the daily grind for good reason.
But there hasn’t been a lot to laugh about in 2020.
Like the restaurants that have had to rely on takeaway meals to survive, comedians like Marky have had to dig a bit deeper to find something funny about the day trip to and from a job in information technology.
“The dynamic of public transport has changed because people are social distancing,” he tells Region Media.
“Now it’s socially acceptable to give people space instead of thinking you can get away with grinding your genitals against them on a crowded bus. There’s not as many weirdos on the buses now.”
Canberra’s comedy scene has been seriously booming since venues began to reopen as people’s drive to always look on the bright side became greater than ever.
“I’ve got a few more jokes that I’d like to get polished that are related to the whole pandemic thing and bunch them all together in one 15-minute act,” Marky says.
But timing is everything, and Canberra’s cluster of about 50 stand-up comedians have been delivering punchlines to packed audiences at places like The Basement in Belconnen which hosts a monthly open mic night, MCed by Marky.
“We’ve gone from the back room at The Basement to filling the front room with a capacity of 100 people and even more once restrictions eased,” Marky says.
The roster of people wanting to give stand-up comedy a crack for the first time has also been at an all-time high.
The monthly open mic night at The Basement has a roster of 16 comedians and Marky says there has regularly been another 16 on the reserve list. About 50 people have performed this year.
“It’s usually first in best dressed as to who gets a five-minute slot and I try to give preference to people who haven’t performed before,” he says.
Now, there is a group of regulars with a range of styles and polished material on anything from the usual suspects such as politics and religion, to sex, obesity, and the failures of being a schoolteacher.
Marky also finds some of the best material comes from people in the front row.
“A group came in to a recent show and they all looked like public servants except for this one guy wearing a Slayer shirt,” says Marky. “This guy stood out like dog’s balls and he took a few jibes about why he couldn’t afford a collared shirt and stuff like that. But he reacted perfectly and really helped make a few laughs for the room.”
Marky says there is no such thing as a bad joke, just one that needs a bit more work. Comedians will always have a joke they think is funny and have tried it in front of their friends, but he says there is no truer testing ground than a microphone and a live audience.
“Anyone who says a joke has gone too far just hasn’t found the right way of saying it,” he says.
“Stand-up comedy is the emotional version of a roller-coaster ride, but it’s all about having that five-minute routine down pat and just having a go.”
Marky says being on stage is his own version of therapy.
“I still remember my first stand-up at Smith’s Alternative in November 2017. I did what most comedians do and rehearsed in front of a mate and as soon as I got on stage, I forgot part of my routine. I lost the crowd so I just started ranting for about three minutes and managed to get them back.
“That first time is going to be scary but it’s when you come off stage and you immediately want to get back on – that’s when you know how good it can be.”
Marky also has a comedy podcast with his mate Cy Fahey, simply titled Marky Worthington Comedy, and has big plans for the local scene in Canberra.
He says the best way for someone wanting to try stand-up comedy is to come to a couple of open mic nights, which are generally advertised on social media through groups like the Stand-up Comedy in Canberra group on Facebook.