Murphy McLachlan is a deeply amicable person, which helps when you’re trying every performative art form in under an hour, and also when you’re being interviewed. His comedy show at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival is called Murphy McLachlan Tries Everything, and it’s an interactive exploration of everything from burlesque to juggling. McLachlan, co host of Is This the Podcast?, can be spotted eating pizza and gigging around Melbourne. I caught up with him just before he got on stage at Private Bin Night at the Butterfly Club.
McLachlan is recently returned from Adelaide, having done a short run of his show at the Fringe Festival there. “Fringe was a good experience,” McLachlan says. The festival as a whole has had reasonably low attendance, something true of McLachlan’s show as well. “One night I had three people. It’s cool to know the show still works with such a small audience!” he laughs, especially since Tries Everything is quite interactive. “I do chat to the crowd, I get some of them onstage. I don’t encourage heckling, but I do want them to feel like they’re part of the show.” McLachlan has learnt to gauge the atmosphere and pick the friendlier audience members, although this hasn’t always worked out. “One show, during the drawing segment, I had an audience member up on stage. I was trying to chat to them as I drew, find out what they did for a living, that stuff. They gave one word answers.”
It’s not straight stand up either, something which has challenged McLachlan a little. “I feel like when people go into a show expecting stand up and get something a little different, they don’t mind too much. But when they go in thinking it’s more, their expectations are much higher.” When it came to writing, McLachlan’s process was pretty similar to his usual. “I take the premise and come up with a punchline,” something to steer towards, “but the nature of the show means every set up is a little bit different. So I think “how can I make that funny”.” Given the physicality of some of the forms of entertainment he’s trying, McLachlan has found it harder to test out in comedy rooms. “Some of it needs the set up of the show, especially the finale.”
Luckily, McLachlan’s been finessing his improvisational skills for the past year, so he’s prepared. “I’ve found that audiences have a similar set of responses, but sometimes it’s totally different. I’ve been riffing more in sets, going off script. I think it’s helped me as a comic in general as well as for this show.” In the Melbourne scene, he notes, improv is separate but impressive. “Improvisers are more like performers,” he thinks. He actually auditioned for an improv troupe, but says he bombed; “I wasn’t animated enough. They were doing all these theatre warm ups and I just couldn’t get into it.” Still, he’s happy to riff, and agrees that audiences like feeling like they’re seeing something new and special. “You see comedians on television and they’ll do the same bit on all the shows they go on. I don’t understand that. Then again, they’re making money!”
“I think there’s a difference between comedians you like and comedians who inspire you,” McLachlan says about his influences and favourite comics. “I really love Hannibal Buress, Ross Noble, Arj Barker, Demetri Martin. Mitch Hepburn might be my favourite. But I don’t think I sound like them. If you listen to one comic, or read a lot of their tweets, you might adopt their style for a bit, write a few jokes that sound like them, but it doesn’t stick.” McLachlan’s style is trends closer to jokes and gags threaded into chunks, rather than elongated bits or snappy one liners.
When it comes to other acts at the comedy festival, McLachlan admits he’s most excited to see people he knows personally. “I want to see and support the local comics. I know them, I know they’re funny.” His recommendations include Kate Dehnert, Rob Caruana, and three man sketch comedy group Chimp Cop. “I’ll still try and see the headliners,” he admits, “but I don’t know what to expect.”
Murphy McLachlan Tries Everything is on at the Imperial Hotel on Wednesday the 25th, and then from Sunday the 29th of March until Sunday the 5th of April. Tickets cost $10 to $15 and are available from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website.