Carita Farrer Spencer made her name in Brisbane as a professional actor and performer with a penchant for sell-out cabaret shows. The Dame has been a crowd pleaser for a long time, and last year, she created instant hit Larry Paradiseo for Women in Voice 21 at the Judith Wright Centre. This year she’s bringing both the Dame and Larry to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
We had a quick chat with her in the lead-up to her show…
Both the Dame and Larry are larger than life characters, with very distinct personalities. What prompted you to create the two of them? How much of yourself do you see in them?
Yes I’m quite comfortable with “Larger than Life”. I created The Dame originally in a concert called Women In Voice (Brisbane). I am always drawn to character and physical comedy, and The Dame has plenty of both. She’s a wonderful clown character who is always “Three sheets to the wind,” allowing for lots of comedic opportunity.
But, as a Singer, I always maintain musical integrity whilst mayhem happens. I don’t see a lot of myself in there (thankfully!) but my dad was a Publican/Bookmaker, so I grew up surrounded by pissed people. I guess I’m a good study.
Larry, on the other hand… well, he was an experiment that went wonderfully well! I tried him out on audiences in Brisbane last year and what can I say… men want to be him, and women just want him. I don’t see much of myself in there, but I have been told by a few people that they see mannerisms like my husband! I guess I unconsciously based it on him… he’s both hilarious and sexy, so there you go!
The weird part is, I look really hot as a man.
Taking on a character like Larry must give you the chance to do a different type of comedy to what you can do with the Dame. How do your performances of both differ from each other? Do you find you have more fun with one character than with the other?
I have different kinds of fun with both.
The Dame feels like being a Jazz musician. You just go into the zone and never quite know exactly how each note will be played. I like to call it “free-flight” performance. The most important part about playing a pisshead is that anything can happen! And you are constantly looking for their mistakes… that’s where the humour comes from. It’s very liberating.
Larry on the other hand is more akin to stand up, which I am really enjoying. He sings as well because he a Vegas Performer, but the fun part about him is interacting with the audience. He’s totally about up close and personal connection, and that’s super fun.
As well as international events like the Comedy Festival, you’ve also plays more rural gigs in places like Albury-Wodonga. How do you find the big, flamboyant acts go down in those places, compared to in places like Melbourne?
I think an audience is an audience – they have their different vibes of course and reactions to things vary night to night, town to town, or country to country! That’s the beauty of live performance. But when you deal with the genres of music and physical comedy, I think most people will find the humour in it, no matter where they live.
I’ve had more rural experiences where I’ve been sweating it, thinking “this is going to freak them out, they won’t get it, or they won’t like it”, and to my surprise they’ve been the most OUTRAGEOUS audiences going.
You also do work as an MC and an artist. How do you find these impact on your comedy and your cabaret?
Usually the MC stuff is an extension of the Cabaret/Comedy work that I do. It’s all about making people feel relaxed, making friends with your audience and keeping them smiling. My painting and artwork is nice foil to all of that nonsense and extraverted-ness of performing.
It’s nice to sometimes flick off the show pony button. I find visual art is like meditating.
When you’re writing your shows do you tend to find that you write more from the comedy side or the musical side first, or do the two develop together naturally?
It does vary, especially if I’m creating something for a private event, or a corporate gig, but my music choices are always from a character perspective for the most. So, it’s probably character/music hand-in-hand. I am always lead by what I think will be fun to perform. I find if I’m enjoying myself, so is the audience.
Your comedy festival show is running until the 12th of April. What does the future hold for Larry, for the Dame and for Carita?
Well, Larry and The Dame are heading up to Brisbane to perform a season of this show later in the year, and thank god – cos mama needs some new shoes! I’m also aiming to get along certain people from the industry to see the Comedy Festival show, with a view to opening a few doors for more work here in Melbourne and Sydney.
I’m also currently co-directing a show at the National Institute of Circus Arts with the second year students. My husband (a Clown with Cirque du Soleil) and I are building a cabaret/circus fusion show with them, and it goes into full time rehearsals straight after the Comedy Festival.
No rest for the wicked!
Larry Paradiseo & The Fabulous Dame Farrar will be Live at the Galleon, St Kilda, from the 25th March to 12th April. Tickets start from $18 – get tickets from the Melbourne International Comedy Festival website, or at the door. For more information about Carita, check out her Facebook.