Mel Buttle remembers as a child her mum’s fridge door being full of invitations with the words “bring a plate” on them. “So I’m kind of going back to that era, you know, when there were pikelets with jam and cream,” she says of her new show, Bring A Plate.
When Buttle, a born and bred Queenslander, speaks with the BRAG, she’s just finished the first night of her show at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. Alas, no-one took the show title literally, but she hasn’t given up hope just yet.
“I called the show that because I actually hope someone brings a plate. Like, deep down I’ve gone, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool, one night someone will turn up with something,’ because I’m always doing shows at dinner time,” she says. In Sydney or Melbourne, this is never an issue, but when she’s performing in Brisbane, she says it’s impossible to find anywhere still open to eat when she comes offstage – so she secretly harboured a desire for an audience member to appear one night with a plate of sausage rolls.
Scoring a free feed from her audience wasn’t the only reason she chose the title. It also refers to the content of her routine. “It’s a nice title that summarises what I’ll be doing, you know; when people bring a plate it’s like all different things on the table – for me, that’s what the stories are. But also this feeing of, when you bring a plate, and you’ve had two glasses of chardonnay, the kind of stories that come out, they’re the ones I’ll be telling.”
Buttle, who has appeared on a variety of TV shows such as This Week Live, The Project and Tractor Monkeys, will also share stories from her childhood, such as recollections of driving to Sydney every Christmas with her family. “My dad wouldn’t stop so you could wee, he would only stop at a petrol station for petrol to try and get there really quickly, and if the petrol station didn’t have a toilet, well, too bad – you just had to wee in this ice cream container.”
She’ll also be talking about the time her dad lost a budgie (to this day, she says, the owner of that budgie still doesn’t know the truth) and the TV show Embarrassing Bodies, “which is one of the greatest TV shows of our time”. But it’s also a chance to bring her audience up to speed with the continuing adventures of her father, Barry Buttle. “It’s just like a catch-up. I’ve sort of picked up from where I left off at the end of last year’s show: ‘This is what my dad has done this year, this is what I’ve done.’”
Buttle’s show for last year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival won her the Director’s Choice award. “It was a shock,” recalls the comedian, who was actually in the toilet at the time of the announcement. Not actually on the toilet, just having a “breather” in there to escape the crowded venue for a moment. “Then all of sudden my friend runs in the toilet, ‘You’ve won! Get out, you’ve won!’ and I thought it was a trick. ‘Oh this is very cruel to pretend I’ve won an award in the middle of my panic attack,’ but no, I had. I had won an award. And it was amazing.”