Sketch comedy duo Woah, Alyssa! are about to hit the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s final week with a bang. The duo is Colwyn Buckland and Filip Lescaut, who are also a couple, have spent several years performing improv and sketch before striking out on their own with Woah, Alyssa! 1. Fresh off a hit season with rave reviews at Adelaide Fringe, Colwyn and Fil caught up with Naomi Blackman to chat about the inner workings of Woah, Alyssa!
From a background in improv, how do you find working off a script rather than going with the flow?
Colwyn: I got into comedy through improv but I did a lot of acting stuff in college – as it’s called in Canberra. I moved to Melbourne to do acting and then I got side-tracked and started doing ballroom dancing for a bit. Then I met up with Phil and we started doing improv together which is how I got back into performing arts and it ended up being the perfect thing. So to answer the question, I’ve always worked off a script and I find it fine!
Fil: I would say I find it harder work, I find the pay off with a scripted show is even higher than a really, really good improv scene, as soon as you say something that hits, to lean into that. Whereas when you prepare something, it’s almost like you’re making a bet that the way it goes is the way the audience is going to want it to progress.
What goes into writing one of your sketches? Do you do it together or is one of you the ideas-man?
Fil: It’s always a mix. Sometimes it’ll be both of us sitting upstairs with a laptop and other times one of us will be like ‘I have an idea’ and will write a first version and show it to the other one to take a pass at it. Everything at some point ends up being filtered through both of us.
What is your all-time favourite sketch?
Fil: I would say I really love ‘Shan Dan Wanda’ from SNL. I think a lot if it is improvised – or at least it seems that way. Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph play these really over the top, bizarre, game show ladies that point to the prizes. It’s kind of like what we do in the sense that it’s kind of a cartoon, they do goofy voices. It’s the kind of stuff that if you don’t get right-
Colwyn: If you don’t get it right it can be quite alienating, but if you do get it right, you invite people in on the fun. Which is what we try and ourselves. Most of my favourite sketches are Kirsten Wiig sketches, but there’s this Amy Schumer sketch where she is being interviewed by the cops and she’s got multiple-personality disorder but she can’t do all the accents of all her personalities.
Where do you get inspiration for your material from?
Fil: It’s a bit similar to what Seinfeld does, where they did it more realistically and we’re more cartoonish. You know where they name things like ‘re-gifting’. Naming cultural things that people do, they put a name to it and they talk about it.
Colwyn: We like to do things that are similar to our experiences as gay men, we feel like out stuff is accessible to everybody but it’s cool to find those things that are like how gay kisses are handled in TV. If you’re a straight person, you can find it funny but if you’re queer than you might think ‘man I always think that’ but nobody makes fun of it.
Do you feel a responsibility to the queer community to bring these things to light?
Colwyn: I’d say certainly not. I think our number one aim is to make people laugh and to make people laugh you have to write from your own perspective. We have a perspective of gay men, so we touch on ideas that other sketch groups wouldn’t but I don’t think we’re speaking for the whole queer community.
Fil: It’s very possible that another gay person would be watching and think ‘I don’t agree with that’ and that’s fine, you know. I feel that people would maybe would put that responsibility on us, especially if we got bigger and I think that’s something to think about, but for now we just need to be funny and personally true to our opinion.
Do you get nervous, how do you overcome that?
Fil: This far into it, I always anticipate getting nervous and I know that it always turns into adrenaline. So I still get nervous, but I’m wise enough to not really get stressed about it.
Colwyn: My lungs and stomach will always do something funny between the hour and five-minutes before we go on. But that’s fine, I try not to get stressed about it.
To finish up, can you describe your show in three words?
Fil: Irreverent, Cartoonish and I’m going to go with outlandish.
Colwyn: I’d agree with those.
Woah, Alyssa! is on at Cage Me a Peacock at 6:45pm and 9:15pm every night until 22 April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets, show details and accessibility information is available via the MICF website.