Comedian Chloe Black has been performing stand up for 18 years. She might not look the same as she did when she started back in 2001, but that doesn’t mean her experience and talent are unrecognisable. An insightful and affable comic, Black is returning to Melbourne from her homeland (Tasmania) for this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. We caught up with her to chat about her show, Transistor Sister.
Why did you start performing comedy?
I actually started doing poetry readings in the mid 90s but eventually started just writing poetry strictly for laughs. I stopped doing poetry and started doing comedy in earnest in 2000/2001.
What does comedy as an art form mean to you?
Comedy means everything. It is the most immediate art form, It can be conceived, executed and validated within a matter of minutes and sometimes even seconds. It is the one constant thing in my life I’ve been doing the longest. I’ve been telling people that comedy is just part of my skin now.
18 years is a long time to have been performing comedy! How has the scene changed in that time?
The one thing I noticed when I started gigging back in Melbourne is this thing where you can do multiple gigs in one night. Back in the mid 2000s you had to “support the room”, you couldn’t just gig and split. It was the height of rudeness to just do your 7 minutes and leave. Nowadays you do your 7 minutes and then you’re off to another gig to do it again. Suddenly it seems there is enough of an audience for comedy (especially in Melbourne) that you can gig 3 or 4 times in a night. I did my first two back to back spots last November and i felt like I frickin’ rock star.
Did your comedic style change much during or after your transition?
A Little. A lot more trans jokes? LOL
I’m also being a lot more open on stage about my sexuality (I’m bisexual). So I definitely became more comfortable. It could be a number of things, such as the relief of finally transitioning or being who I always wanted to be (I feel intensely powerful when I look just how I feel; Dress, Heels, Fringe BAM! Look out!) but I’ve been doing it for so long now I also got to a point in my career where I no longer doubted my funny bone. You can spend years never knowing if a joke will land until you do it but you eventually start to learn what should and shouldn’t work before you try it. That can make you more confident in the long term. But my comedy is very much a patchwork quilt of styles. It’s observational, it’s story telling, it’s one liners, it’s funny voices, it’s sometimes angry ,it’s sometimes whimsical. Ummmmm something for everybody??
Where did the name Transistor Sister come from (aside from the pun of course!)?
I was just looking at puns and words with the prefix of trans. Transistor really spoke to me because being a horror fan girl it had a mad scientist/frankenstein quality. I really like the way it rhymes together with Sister. It just came to me when I was jumbling the sounds in my head. It was a happy accident of misfiring synapses. I didn’t know til later that there was a song in the 50s by Johnny Cannon called Transistor Sister, it’s so quaint. Here you can check it out.
Who are your biggest comedic influences, and how have they impacted you?
Greg Fleet, Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Daniel Kitson. Demetri Martin, Chris Addison, Adam Hills. Lots of influences. Also the playwright/actor Spalding Grey, he was a consummate monologist and storyteller. Just marvelous.
On a semi-related note, ContraPoints (trans youtuber Natalie Wynn) released a video called The Darkness recently. The video looks at how people from minorities employ ‘edgy’ humour to address difficult experiences in their own lives and how standard edgelords often fail to make this kind of humour funny because they don’t have the detail and the depth of knowledge to back it up. What do you think about the need for darkness in comedy? Is it something that’s present in your style, or less so?
I love ContraPoints! Dark edgy humour is valid and in some points necessary. But I’m in no way edgy. My instinct is to run a mile from anything too provoking or button pushy, simply because I’ve watched so many comedians (especially, young, green and inexperienced comedians) try and somehow tightrope walk the line between bad taste and controversy and fail abysmally. In saying that I guess what I do could be seen as edgy when it comes to the realm of gender and sexuality. But I’m also keenly aware when if you mention a hard topic on stage you will feel half the audience close off from you, they feel threatened that you’ll make them laugh at something they shouldn’t, or they just hear a dark/edgy buzzword (muslim, refugee, aboriginal, transgender) the shutters go up and the next thing that happens is the comedian’s punchline has to cut through that. Doing that insightfully and economically, and with humour is a task that requires genuine skill.
You touch a bit on online dating in the show – any advice for any potential tinder matches out there?
If they can’t be smart enough to engage you with questions then forget it. I think the worst thing for women in the online dating world is how we’re required to do all the heavy lifting. Asking open questions, being interested, maintaining interest is such a chore when it’s one sided.
You can never guarantee that men will read your profile. In fact it’s a hard won fact. I think I mention my trans status twice on my tinder profile and men still Ghost you after it comes up.
Men. Dick pics are fine just please, for god’s sake, tell me about the last book you read first. In fact if you could tell me what fictional character your dick is that would be better.
Who else are you hoping to see at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival?
Demi Lardner, Nick Capper, Cassie Workman, Rose Callaghan, Gamze Kirik, Tim Logan, David Rose. They’re seven of my top picks!!
Transistor Sister is on at 7:15pm at Tasma Terrace from 8 to 21 April as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets can be purchased from the comedy festival website.