Laura Davis will join us Tuesday on May 10 (next week!) to launch the 2016 Emerging Writers’ Festival program. She spoke with us about her wildly successful show at MICF this year, her artistic processes of avoidance and creation, and what it takes to write comedic characters that are genuine.
You’re performing at our launch on the 10 May, ‘Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars’ – do you relate to this theme at all?
Yes, I think I certainly can. I’m working as an artist at the moment at the point in my career where performing takes up full time work hours, but only pays about half of what I need to live. It’s very odd to go from performing at large venues one night, to working cleaning them (through the casual agency I work for) the very next.
You’ve just finished up at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with your show Marco. Polo. Did you have a good time at the festival? Can you tell us a bit about your show for those who didn’t catch it?
I had a great festival this year. I was produced through a grant called the Moosehead Awards so a lot of the administration pressures were taken off of me into better hands. The show sold out most nights and it was pretty much a dream run.
I make stand-up shows, but on a slightly odd skew. This year’s show was named ‘Marco. Polo.’ after the call and response blindfold game you play in the swimming pool as kids. I performed the show blindfolded, working with the audience to explore themes of trust and connection. Technically most of it is performed as ‘straight’ stand up (if you can ignore the fact that I’m blindfolded, in bathers and balancing on a ladder) but with the added visual symbolism, interactive games and metaphors helping to build upon the themes covered in the material. It got five star reviews so I’m hoping that means it didn’t come off as piece of supreme wankery.
What are you working on next?
I’m trying desperately to finish a webseries that I’ve been plugging away at for years. It’s so close to the point where I can get other people on board to help that it’s torturous. I find it hard to switch between writing in my own voice for stage, and writing for other characters so each time I dip into it it’s a bit of a slog at first. Right now is my best time though, as I’ve got enough new material written from Marco. Polo. to see me through for a few months of club spots and the show is all neatly packaged up.
Do you have writing habits and routines for your work you can share?
Yes, absolutely. Firstly, I need to find a space that is not too private-not too public, a café or art gallery usually works well. I particularly appreciate an art gallery café. I like to sit down with a nice cup of lapsang souchong, and then doubt myself and my abilities for anywhere between six months and three years while consuming my time with a thousand less important things. Then when I can’t possibly avoid it for any longer I sit groaning at a small desk in the corner of my bedroom for a few hours and eventually realise that it wasn’t that difficult once I got going.
Do you have any advice for emerging comedy writers?
Stick to your sense of humour. Whether you’re writing or performing comedy there’s a hugely noticeable difference when you see work that’s been written in someone’s genuine voice, rather than what they think people will laugh at. I’ve seen people flick like switches onstage, when someone heckles them or something goes wrong and they break out of their pre-written material into something more genuine that they’re improvising in their own sense of humour. Humour has so much tangled up in tension and honesty, that it’s hard to manufacture a stage persona that you have to work to stay within.
If you’re writing comedy characters, make them people that you understand and empathise with even if they’re the villains. The worst scripts I read are when people write a hollow voice of an oddball person that they think will be funny, with a long list of strange personality traits with no reasoning behind it. These characters are almost impossible to act/imagine. I’ve been in auditions before when the writers were there, and had them not be able to explain why my character was doing what she was doing other than “she’s crazy and weird” and it never quite rings true.
Sharp, charming and delightful, Laura Davis is a talent who’s been earning praise and acclaim for years. She’s collaborated and toured the country with the industry’s finest and appeared of SBS’s Stand Up shows and ABC TV. She also did the official backstage interviews for the Comedy Festival Gala on behalf of MICF. After winning the prestigious award for Best Comedy at Melbourne Fringe and Best Independent Show at MICF, Laura Davis is challenging, silly and one of Australia’s rising stars.
Golden Tickets to the Emerging Writers’ Festival are available now. Golden Tickets are your passport to the Emerging Writers’ Festival. They will get you an access to the National Writers’ Conference, an invite to the Artist Party, VIP seating at all performances and panels, and access to selected workshops and masterclasses.