In a basement somewhere in North Melbourne three women are rehearsing, right now. They’re testing jokes, making props and sending out press releases, working to refine their upcoming Melbourne International Comedy Festival Show. Those three women are Lauren Bok, Chelsea Hughes and Megan McKay, the comedic masterminds behind Wander Women. In amongst grey walls and costume racks, they took a brief break to chat about their upcoming sketch show.
Wonder Women is an hour of sketch about the ins and outs of travel, that studies everything from the kind of people who go on Contiki Tours and to problems with Trip Advisor reviews. “Travel is a gold mine,” Bok says, “it’s not limiting at all. Plus, with the three of us we can kind of confirm that the experiences we’re using are universal.”
“Some of the material might be bit uncomfortable,” Hughes confesses. “We have a bit about how white people want ‘exotic’ experiences with the quintessential photo opportunities.”
“Yeah,” Bok says, “that fine line between travel and just wanting to impress your Facebook friends.” There’s also a ballet number, although it might lean closer to an interpretative dance, titled “Dance of the Luggage Liquids.” All up there are around 20 sketches in about 60 minutes, which Hughes admits is ambitious. “We like a challenge.”
Funnily enough, the thing marring the rehearsal process the most is travel. “We’ve all been away!” Bok laughs. “Chelsea went to New Zealand and Tasmania, Megan went to South Africa and I went to South Australia [for the Adelaide Fringe Festival].”
So the rehearsals are going slowly, but Hughes says they’re incredibly rewarding. “We’re all stand ups, we haven’t done much sketch. So we’re finding our feet, and so is the show.” In fact, the show started as stand up with a few sketches, and snowballed from there.
“We couldn’t kill any of our babies,” McKay says. Bok agrees “We love every sketch. There’s no padding, no filler.” It’s a natural result of the work the trio has put into the show. “We want to be able to perform each sketch on it’s own,” McKay says, so they need to all be strong. There has only been one gig so far, at the Reverence in Footscray on Thursday night. This is due in part to the difficulty of performing sketches during stand up and open mic nights.
“It can be a bit disorienting for the audience,” McKay explains, “especially when it’s only five minutes. They finally adjust to it and it’s over.”
“It’s a leap, and there are best conditions for comedy, but sometimes you’re performing to people while they eat their dinner,” Bok says. “That’s what’s good about the comedy festival. They’ve bought their ticket, they know what they’re in for.”
When they first started discussing the show, plenty of their fellow comedians automatically assumed Hughes, McKay and Bok were sharing a bill because of their stand up backgrounds. Originally it was Hughes and McKay performing, and they invited Bok to produce, direct or write, because they thought she’d be time poor.
“I was like… I want to be in it!” Bok remembers. “None of us have worked together before,” she adds, and each of their comedic styles are quite different. “We all have a shared love of comedy,” Bok says, “Megan’s the content provider, she’s writery. She’s got this really dark voice, but she’s pun deficient.” McKay laughs and nods in agreement. Bok, who has written for and starred on Channel 31’s Live on Bowen, goes on: “I’m more of a performer, I develop my stuff onstage, to the point where sometimes I’ll get up with very little content.”
“I’m good at punching things,” Hughes chimes in testing them out and cutting them down, seeing how jokes stand up. It’s a skill she developed as an improviser. “It’s a proper collaboration,” McKay says.
Despite the theme, Bok insists you don’t have to be well travelled to come and see the show. “Just be on the net a lot,” she says, and it’ll make sense. They’re hoping their audience will include a wide range of people. Their 6pm timeslot lends itself to the after work crowd, and Hughes has been emailing travel agencies and others in the travel industry. Hughes has also been thinking about a more specific demographic as a precursor to taking out some Facebook advertisements. “Women between 25 and 55 are our target,” she says, “because that group includes us!”
Wander Women also has an FMV (Festival Managed Venue), for which they’re very grateful. It’s a sign of faith from the Festival, seeing as none of them have done solo shows at MICF. McKay, Bok and Hughes are all excited about the show, and confident. “No one says ‘that’ll do’. We video, we watch, we do it again.” McKay explains. “We’re committed and intensely focused,” Hughes continues. “We’ve been meticulous about the whole process. There’s not one of us the others need to pull along.”
“So far!” Bok interrupts, and they all laugh.
Wander Women is on at the Portland Hotel from the 7th until the 19th of April at 6pm. Tickets range between $15 and $22 and are available from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website.
The trio are also performing at the Butterfly Club’s Funny Babe Fest on Sunday March 22nd alongside a whole host of other funny women from 8pm onwards. Tickets are between $23 and $28 doors, available online or at the door.
Giveaway: Win a double pass to Wander Women for Friday 17th April. Follow us on Facebook and leave us a Facebook comment: what was your funniest travel experience? Winner will be chosen randomly and the winner will be chosen on April 2nd.