Fiannah de Rue’s first solo show It’s Not Funny hit the small stage at Tasma Terrace at last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival with a bang. A raw mash of very personal stand up and broadly relatable cabaret, woven together with a series of sketches built around Blue Heelers, de Rue found her voice in a very Australian style of comedy. This year, she’s poised to continue to that trend with her new show Here Come the Blues.
Here Come The Blues is a sketch-based exploration of why people are fans of the Carlton Football club. Using some very exaggerated caricatures, de Rue lovingly parodies the fans of the football club she herself loves. While the show is an over-the-top dramatisation, de Rue says she has to start from a place of truth – and that truth is that she goes for Carlton. ‘I’ve always been a footy fan, I’ve always loved football’ says de Rue. ‘My first show was very personal, very story telling. So I wanted to do something different. I really wanted to do something with lots of big characters in it, and there’s a lot of characters in footy.’ Character-based comedy is definitely one of de Rue’s strengths. Her character work is central to her improvising background, and it’s something that de Rue finds easier and more comfortable to do on stage. Put simply, it’s because she doesn’t have to be herself on stage in front of a group of strangers. ‘I loved my last show and I loved just being myself up there but it was a lot scarier, a lot rawer,’ de Rue admits. ‘But this I can hide behind the characters, just give myself fully to them.’ This commitment to character fills out what could otherwise be stereotypes and quietly transforms them into proper characters, with a deeper, but still hilarious, sense of motivation and purpose. There’s still a lot of energy that comes from the audience, something that de Rue finds happens in good comedy no matter what.
De Rue’s first show, It’s Not Funny, was rawer because of its deeply personal subject matter. While Blue Heelers featured heavily, the show was actually about de Rue processing the death of her father and working through some of the key cultural touchstones (like TV shows) of her childhood in Devonport, Tasmania. ‘When I set out to write my last show my intention wasn’t to do a stand up show. I wasn’t like ‘I’m going to write a stand up show’ I just sort of like, wanted to do a solo show, and then started writing my story.’ De Rue makes a joking spew sound as a simile for the way her first show was written and performed, something personal that rushed out and onto the stage.
It’s been a different process writing Here Come The Blues, and not just because of the different style of comedy de Rue is pursuing this time. She’s also got a writing partner in Mario Hannah, who is also her tech for the show. Like de Rue, Hannah’s background is improv, but he’s also got a lot of writing experience, something de Rue was glad to be able to draw on. De Rue describes the process as a back and forth, ‘we sort of came up with ideas together and then went away and wrote separately, then came back again.’ Having someone else around during the writing process also meant that there was more room for using improv to kick start ideas ‘we definitely used a bit of improv to get characters going and figure out what’s going on with them’.
Using improv, de Rue has developed the three central characters of the show – an old woman who is a lifelong fan of Carlton, a lonely young woman who is so emotionally invested she cries every time her ‘boys’ lose, and a midde-aged Greek man who just wants to see the club return to its glory days. ‘There’s a series of sketches, but there’s a narrative throughout that holds it all together,’ de Rue says. ‘It’s really fun.’ It’s also not a particularly common combination, as de Rue explains: ‘the AFL world and the comedy world don’t overlap too often, so I thought it would be nice to do something a bit different. There’s one or two, but it’s a very small overlap. There’s the fact that Hughesy goes for Carlton I guess.’ It’s a logical combination, given the huge crowds that turn out to both comedy and football in Melbourne.
De Rue is definitely trying to tap into that AFL crowd market. Her ideal audience member for this show is ‘a footy fan’, and not just any footy fan. ‘Obviously I’ve written it for Carlton fans, I want Carlton fans to come and watch it – they’re my ideal audience member, that’s who it’s for.’ But she’s quick to add that you don’t have to be a Carlton fan, or even an AFL fan, to enjoy the show: ‘I have trialed it to some people who don’t know anything about footy, to an American guy, and they still laughed and enjoyed it. So don’t worry! The characters still translate. They’re extreme, but there’s truth to them as well. There’s a lot of relatability. There’s layers to it. There’s Carlton specifics, there’s football specifics, and then there’s just sketch comedy.’
With Here Come the Blues, de Rue is kicking for the goals of relatable Australian comedy and nailing it. With two years of MICF under her belt, de Rue’s larrikin sensibility is only set to continue to skewer beloved Australian cultural touchstones for years to come. See her while you can.
Here Come the Blues is on at 7pm at Tasma Terrace until 7 April as part of the 2019 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets are available via the comedy festival website or at the venue.