If there’s any art form that has had to consistently fight back against misrepresentation and misinformation, it’s comedy.
There are still punters out there who think comedians make up their entire routines on the spot, effortlessly, and the stereotype of the stand-up as a laid-back layabout holds a surprisingly firm grip on contemporary thought.
That said, anyone who doesn’t properly understand the range of issues facing working comedians would do well to spend a little time chatting to Darren Sanders [above]. The celebrated comic and talk show host has a wealth of stand-up experience, but more than that, he also happens to be a deep thinker who is fully invested in his chosen field.
For example, he’s a man who understands all too well that comedians don’t just lean over and fart out perfect routines. “A comic’s setlist is never complete, I don’t think,” he explains. “What you do is build routines and then you end up adding to them over the years. It’s taken me 24 years to get two-and-a-half hours’ worth of material that [I] know works with every type of audience.”
That fine-tuning results in a lot of mistakes and misfires, and in that way, a comedian is always subject to a range of evolutionary factors. “If you want to get consistent laughs from a paying audience [you’ve] got to stick to the gold and every now and then do something for yourself,” Sanders explains. “Setlists change over the years as newer jokes slowly replace older bits. It’s consistently changing, since as a performer you are also changing.”
Of course, as comedians themselves alter, so too does the world around them. Although Sanders argues that Sydney’s comedy scene hasn’t been too badly affected by the stringent lockout laws, he admits that the swathe of new technological formats available has altered the face of an ever-shifting art form.
“I think the internet and TV have affected live comedy. People believe or are told comedy is on TV and radio, but it’s not. Stand-up comedy is best experienced live. There are so many comedians that have been working for over 20 years that aren’t household names but are some of the funniest people in the country.”
Sanders’ enviable working knowledge of the contemporary comedic landscape has also put him in a perfect position to oversee the programming for Sydney’s brand new comedy hotspot, the Sydney Comedy Club. For Sanders, the decision to become involved with the space was a no-brainer.
“I’ve always believed Sydney needs a comedy club where headlining comedians who have worked in the industry for over 20 years had a decent, classy venue to perform in,” he says.
Above everything else, the drawcard of the new space rests on its diversity. Sanders isn’t some comedy snob, and he stresses that inclusivity and variety will be the name of the day at the club. “Comedy has always been very subjective. What one person thinks is funny another doesn’t, so you’ll always need a diverse range of acts within a comedy night. Here we are even venturing into different forms of comedy including ventriloquists and also looking at comedy magicians.”
But no matter how they choose to get sides splitting, all those booked to appear – including big names like Wil Anderson, Mikey Robins, Tommy Dean, Sarah Levett, Mick Meredith and Darren Carr – share one thing in common: a classy polish that Sanders argues is the key to all good comedy.
“You need to be prepared if you want to be professional,” he says. “You still need to think of this as a job because you’re getting paid for it.”
Sydney Comedy Club Opening Night, featuring Wil Anderson, happens on Friday January 20 at Sydney Comedy Club, Luna Park.