Justin Hamilton’s new Comedy Festival show, Hoot, is about moving from Melbourne to Sydney… or is it? A lot’s happened in the world of Hammo since he filed his pre-festival paperwork. Between exciting new work in Sydney, recording his podcast Can You Take This Photo Please? and dealing with the death of David Bowie, he’s been re-working his show before it hits Melbourne. By the time it gets here, there’s every chance it will have transformed again. But Hamilton, who’s been a favourite on the national circuit for over a decade, certainly has the skills to re-work and revise on the fly. I chatted with him about Bowie, podcastery and the art of composing comedy:
I’ve been reading through old blog posts on your site, and one of the things that struck me was your attention to composition – posting work-in-progress setlists, discussing the interaction and evolution of sections and such. How do you feel about sharing your process with your audience, especially when you’re composing or even touring a new show?
I’m pretty lucky that while I don’t have the biggest fan base I definitely have a smart one. They’re curious about all aspects of entertainment including the process that goes into putting a show together. It makes for fun chats after the show with punters hanging around to talk about what they noticed or learned. My work load this year has been so heavy I’ve had to put that aside for now but I hope to get back to it in the future.
Does your podcasting work help with the composition at all? Has Can You Take This Photo Please? impacted the way you construct your live shows?
The big lesson is if you share a story on your podcast you better find something to add to it for the live experience. You only have so many things happen to you in a day or a week or a month and the podcast world is ravenous for more and more content every day. If I share a story or an idea on the podcast I best find something new to add to the live experience so my audience doesn’t just end up receiving an echo of an echo when it comes to stories.
Hoot is nominally centred on your big move from Melbourne to Sydney last year, though I’ve heard that you could be incorporating more David Bowie material into the mix as well. Will the show have changed much by the time you get to MICF?
Last year I did a bunch of ad libbed shows around October and on one of those nights I performed a big chunk of stories and views that I have on David Bowie. It went down really well and when the news came through that he’d died I found that the show I’d already written didn’t really resonate with me anymore. So I threw out 75% of it and incorporated the David Bowie stories and how I feel now about the whole state of events. I’m sure it will have changed yet again by the time I land in Melbourne but the Bowie stories are there to stay.
How are you feeling about David Bowie these days?
I’m equal parts shattered and inspired. I thought the grace and dignity that he exhibited to the very end was amazing but the fact that he was creating new music right until he died was extraordinary. I would like to think that when my time comes I’m doing something interesting right until I have to check out. You have my permission to go through my paper work if I drop dead in the off chance there is a lost routine that needs an airing!
Do you have any particular observances or rituals around Bowie? I’ve found myself playing a few chords from ‘Ashes to Ashes’ any time I pick up a guitar.
My main lesson from Bowie is to remain curious about the world. Never get set in your ways and remember that you can learn something from everyone in all fields. If you remain curious you will continue to grow and if you continue to grow you will continue to be interesting and (fingers crossed) entertaining for the people who invest their time and money in coming to your shows.
What’s your current favourite song on Black Star?
Today it is “Dollar Days” but yesterday it was “Tis Pity She Was a Whore”. It all depends on the mood but I love the album a lot. If you’re a fan listen to it back to back with “Station to Station”, they feel a part of a larger whole.
Finally, if you could take something you miss about Melbourne and transplant it into Sydney, what it would it be and would the host city reject it?
It would be a toss up between “The Toff in Town” and Gold FM’s Lehmo. I think the Toff would really show Sydney the way forward but Lehmo might have a nervous breakdown being in another city to his beloved Hawthorn Hawks.
Hoot is on at 6pm every Saturday of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, from the 26th of March until the 16th of April. Tickets cost $32 and are available online, and at the MICF box office.