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No wonder they call them punchlines

Admittedly the topic of how to put humour on the page was barely addressed in this session, but it delivered a barrel of laughs, writes Ryan Butler. One thing that stood out was the brutal honesty with which Imran Ahmad, Denise Scott, Michael Cathcart, and Tom Gleeson, address even the most taboo subjects. Simon Marnie, hosted the session.
Denise Scott, has starred in shows such as The Big Gig, she is also a radio host and has a career as a stand-up comedian. Her new book is All That Happened at Number 26 is a revelation of her life, and those of others, at Number 26, where she still lives. During the period described in the book, her mother developed Alzheimers. Although this is a sad episode, it is not without its comedic inspirations for Denise. On one occasion, Denise took her dog to the hostel, it took a poo in the public dining and living room. “I leant down and apologised to an old lady sitting near by. She looked at me incredulously. ‘Why are you apologising darling?’. ‘Because my dog has just done a big poo at your feet Theresa’. She was adamant. ‘You must never apologise for something like that…after all darling, we all do it’. ‘Sure I agree with you Theresa, we all do poo, but not usually in the middle of a public dining room’. She leant towards me conspiratorially, ‘actually darling, I think most of us in here have done exactly that’…So on the way out I just said to the girl at reception, ‘I think one of the residents has done a poo’. She also talks about the quirks that come with a circus-performing partner. The problem with being good, says Denise, is that it doesn’t pay financially. “A heart of gold, but God, really poor”. Curiously Denise was distracted in her attempts to read the room by one woman’s, what she called “feverish knitting”. “You looked like you were riding a motorcycle,” remarked Denise.
Imran Ahmad was born in Pakistan but migrated to London at the age of one. His autobiographical book, Unimagined tells, in an endless present tense, of the major events of his life and the impressions they left on Imran while growing up till the age of 25. Of particular chagrin is Imran’s shortcomings with girls, and the fact that he did not lose his virginity til l the ripe age of 24. “I was for many years labouring under this assumption that girls dig guys who have cars. So I spent every summer working really hard, inversting in a car, and by the time I was doing my PhD I had an Alpha Romeo, and on top of that I bought a microwave oven. Now this was 1985, it was the only privately owned microwave on campus. But between the Alpha Romeo and the microwave I still couldn’t…(laughs)”. But these experiences over the years have brought Imran a more developed sense of sexuality. “I’ve learned the truth now. Its not that girls like guys who drive cars, its worthwhile girls dig guys who write books. Anyway I would love to say that this was 18 or 19, but unfortunately its age 24, while doing my phd, more or less.”
Tom Gleeson grew up as a country kid with red hair. But his was a unique upbringing in this sense. This was due to him being a member of a very small town in which red-haired kids were the majority. This he explained turned him into a red-haired extroverted jock, who would pick on the brown-haired kids, and call them ‘brown-knob’, and ‘choc-top’, while he and his friends would laugh amongst themselves in the shade. “There was a hundred people there, but we have our own website though, it’s run by my Auntie Helen. That’s not a joke, its just a fact. The website is just like the town, it hasn’t been updated in five years, all the links go nowhere”.

When he grew up and became a comedian Gleeson thought he’d like to go to Iraq and other places and ‘have a bit of a look’. His time spent entertaining the Australia troops changed his life and he wrote a book about it, Playing Poker with the SAS: A comedy tour of Iraq and Afghanistan

Michael Cathcart started his comedy career at various Melbourne venues. He is an author and has a new book titled, The Water Dreamers. Michael pointed out that “I’m actually a Lecturer in History at the University of Melbourne” to which the Chair, Simon Manie apologised, “Oh I googled the wrong Michael Cathcart”. Michael told of how this world of academia can be both terribly unfunny, but also a surprising source of comedic material, especially when dealing with American history students’ interpretations of Australian history.

* Ryan Butler from Murwillumbah is a creative writing and journalism student at Griffith University.

Note from blogger, Marian Edmunds : I was going to add to this post as there were so many laughs, and some squeamishness too. Denise’s smoking art installation and Tom’s massage anecdote painted excruciatingly funny pictures. And Imran made us but both laugh and grimace at the situations he put himself through. But I’ll say no more on that. Ryan has captured enough anecdotes for one sitting, and readers should obtain these authors’ extremely entertaining books. The worst/best part of writing a festival blog is leaving with a list of about 25 books on the wish list. Don’t you find that? How many books are on your wish list? More posts will follow, as and when can be fitted in between making a crust/crumb/crust.


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