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Published July 18, 2018

Maybe you’re a fan of podcasts seeking something a bit more polished. Maybe you love Netflix stand up specials but don’t have that much time to spend in front of the TV. Maybe you’re the kind of person who wants to listen to their favourite comedian’s best material on repeat. No matter who you are, if you look, there’s guaranteed to be a reason why you’ll like comedy albums.

No longer relegated to childhood memories of long car trips, the Australian comedy album is making a comeback, and it’s all thanks to Simon Cumming and his label Chuckle Cabin Records. Founded less than a year ago, Chuckle Cabin has already released Laura Davis’ Cake in the Rain, with Jack Druce slated to record his show Kitchen Bird on 2 August. With so many world-class comedians producing hours of stand up each year in Australia already, it seems like Cumming has figured out how to not only bring the comedy to the people, but how to preserve it as well. Til Knowles caught up with him to chat about what prompted him to start a comedy record label in the first place.

Why did you start a comedy record label?

I was listening to heaps of comedy on Spotify, and I was like ‘I should make a playlist of all Australian comedy albums.’ And I went on there and found like, five things total. That seemed to me to be crazy – how is that even possible?! We make hundreds of shows per year. Melbourne International Comedy Festival had almost 700 shows this year. Most of those are Australian people – that’s at least 500 unique hours of comedy every year. And for none of that to really live beyond that time seemed crazy to me.

Also, as I went and dug into it, I looked into the ARIAs. There’s an ARIA for best comedy release, and it is consistently won by radio compilation CDs. So Matt Okine won one for his own stand up CD, but then Matt and Alex, a compilation of stuff from their breakfast radio show won. Roy and HG won the year after that.

The year after that?!

Yes! And then a Jon Clarke compilation CD won last year (2017). I understand that he’d just died, but the stuff on there was like 20 years old.

So Laura Davis was like ‘I want to win an ARIA’, and we looked at it and no women have ever won. Matt Okine did this big bit when he won, and in his speech he said ‘there are no women nominated in this category, how does that make any sense?’

Well, if there are no women making comedy albums…

I don’t get it. They’re huge. In America, all the biggest comedians have audio albums out. Small comedians have albums out. I just don’t understand why in Australia it’s just not a thing. It’s bizarre.

Do you think it’s partially because podcasts have taken off? What’s the relationship between a comedy album and a comedy podcast?

I don’t think so. I think if you enjoy a podcast you could enjoy an album as well, I don’t think it’s a one or the other type thing. Albums are a one off, they don’t come in a stream. A podcast, you listen to every week. An album only comes around every once in a while. Your favourite comedian might only put an album out every two years.

Comedy’s very popular on Netflix, on Stan. all those streaming services have stand up. Personally I find just listening to the audio is better. I don’t have the attention span to sit down and watch something, but I will definitely listen to something while I’m driving or walking around.

So much more effort would go into an album – the same amount of effort as a special. You’re setting it up so it’s a full show, whereas a comedy podcast is a bit more like mates in a room, it’s very uncurated (well, most Australian comedy podcasts are anyway).

That’s the difference as well. A comedy special is the culmination of so much work. It’s scripted, it’s made to be the funniest, best finished product, whereas a podcast can be a bit more haphazard. There’s something fun to that, but there’s definitely a place for the album as well. An album is a lot harder to make, but a lot more entertaining for that one hour.

How do you find recording them? How does it work?

It’s actually great! I think it’s why Netflix are commissioning so much stand up: it’s really cheap to make! If you compare it to a band or something, even just thinking of the recording, there are so many instruments to mic, whereas stand up you’ve got like three microphones, one for the comedian, two for the crowd, that’s it. The recordings have gone really well. I’ve bought all the microphones to make it sound good. There’s also a lot in the mixing. So what I will do is listen to a stand up album that I really love and then listen to what I’m editing to try and be like ‘how do I make it sound just like that’. I listen to some now and I can’t help but think ‘this is terrible!’ I even watch some specials and it’s like ‘the sound on this is awful’ because it sounds like the crowd is in the distance somewhere, you can barely hear them. The good ones, you want to feel like you’re there. The laughs – it feels like you’re sitting the the crowd. That’s the feeling we want to make happen.

You want that kind of intimate experience.

Yeah! that’s actually why the record label is called what it’s called as well. I was like ‘a cabin is a nice cozy place. Come in to our little cabin.’

And now you have the t shirts with the logo design too!

People love the t shirts! I made myself one because I thought it was fun and so many people asked for them. So when we did the first album I made them. But that’s the way the music industry goes now too. Music is free, so merch and live shows are where the money is. And everyone needs t shirts!

What’re your favourite comedy albums?

My favourite comedy album is called Simply the Beth by Beth Stelling. It’s got a pun in the title, so you know it’s good. I really love that one. I actually met Beth Stelling at comedy festival this year and I told her exactly what I was saying earlier – that I listen to her album and then edit the album I’m doing to get the sound right. That one really sticks with me. I used to really love Aziz Ansari’s first album from five years ago. I’d listened to it so many times I could do the entire set list.

So you can relisten to comedy albums?

Oh yeah. I must have listened to Simply the Beth like… 6 times? I think it’s a weird misconception that people don’t want to listen to comedy again. I know from doing comedy that people want you to do things they know. If your friend is doing a gig, you want them to do the hits! People don’t think it’s a thing because of the element of surprise to a joke, that if you’ve heard it, it’s done. A lot of the time though, especially when you’re watching your friends, you don’t want them to do their new stuff you want them to do their best joke, give you the one that you love.

So Jack Druce’s album is coming up, and Laura Davis’ album is already out. Who else is on the agenda?

That’s a good question! I try not to think too far in advance. I’m keen to find more people to work with me. It’s easy working with Jack, because he was the opener for Laura’s show, so he saw the behind the scenes of that. He saw the process and said ‘oh yeah, I’m interested in that!’ I’ve got to approach more people. I hope as we get more records out people will see the value in it. Anecdotally lots of people go ‘oh I’m not ready to do an album’ or feel like doing an album or a special is like killing it, like you can’t use those jokes ever again. Melbourne comedy is kind of ruled by the comedy festival and also television, and I guess I see this as an in-between. Like, you can go out and make your own thing, you don’t need to wait for the ABC to say ‘hey we’re going to put you on TV for an hour!’. And Laura had already had a special on the ABC.

I do think it would be cool to have a monthly or a quarterly show where you have five or six people on and then release that as a thing. People could come and do 15 minutes that’s recorded and that could be a stepping stone to doing a full album.

That would be cool – like a teaser! ‘We’ve got these five people coming up in the next year!’

Yeah!

 

Jack Druce is recording his show Kitchen Bird at 7pm at Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets in Collingwood on 2 August 2018. Tickets are only $10 and can be purchased via eventbrite. For more info, check out the Chuckle Cabin website

 

 

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