Not very long ago, British comedian Sanderson Jones had a dream of performing at the iconic Sydney Opera House. He was relatively unknown at the time and came up with the idea of selling tickets to his show by hand, in doing so getting to know his audience personally. His show, Comedy Sale, has been successful in the UK and now in Australia, most recently with a sell-out gig at The Melbourne Comedy Festival, along with a string of weekly appearances.
And now he is indeed about to perform at The Sydney Opera House. Meantime, he's hitting the streets of Sydney, selling tickets and getting to know his audience. But don't expect to find tickets to this unusual (and very funny) show in the usual places; track him down on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or log onto comedysale.com, then meet him to get the ticket.
Sales can be a tough job, yet you choose to personally sell tickets to your show... why, Sanderson, why?
It was technique born out of necessity. I wasn't famous, had no buzz and needed to get people to my show. Then I discovered two things: 1) Doing a show to people you've met before produces a uniquely convivial atmosphere, and 2) I was really good at selling tickets. Two years later I'm getting ready to play the Sydney Opera House. It is weird.
For the uninitiated, give us a quick rundown of the nature of your show.
I sell every ticket to my show by hand. That way I get to meet everyone and customise the show to the crowd. In order to customise it I go online, find out funny things about my guests and weave it into the show. Long forgotten Bebo pages are a bloody goldmine.
Do you have a spiel or technique when you approach strangers in the street to sell tickets to them?
Yes, I do. I have a very well-honed script that ascertains whether they're free, makes me sound great and convinces them to hand over their money on the street.
How do you pick your targets?
People who like Venn diagrams have a certain look about them. Those are my guys. Oh, and if I see someone in a science t-shirt, they're mine.
Have you ever had any odd or awkward encounters selling your tickets?
Rarely. And if it gets strange, it generally involves one drunken tool going "Jesus! Jesus! You look like Jesus. Can I touch your beard?"
Any violent encounters?
No. Whenever I realise someone is an idiot, I walk away with my flyer, and then they can't get a ticket. My audience has precisely zero dickheads.
Any romantic encounters?
I met my girlfriend when I gave her a flyer on the street.
At the time of writing these questions I think you had sold more than 100 tickets for your Opera House gig. Do you start the internet-stalking phase of the operation immediately or just focus on the sales part until you've sold out?
As I write this I have another word document open with people's names, websites and other internet tidbits written down. The information gathering has begun.
It must be fun searching people on the internet and on Facebook. Some might suggest that Comedy Sale is just a way of legitimising an otherwise slightly suspect activity. Your thoughts?
As one of the world's few professional Facebook stalkers I wholeheartedly encourage the pursuit. You can 'like' photos of potential dates from years ago, befriend people you hate just troll their news feed and, of course, look at profiles of your exes as often as possible.
Is there any audience participation in the show? Have you ever managed to get someone up on stage when they really, really, really, really didn't want to go up on stage?
The person who least wanted to go up on stage, Lee, was you and, eventually, through the power of mass peer pressure you got on stage and you ended up throwing a cream pie in my face. I reckon we ended one all. That Melbourne show had the most people on stage because it was proper old theatre and had lots of room for dicking about. The elf in a lion costume fellating the woodsman, being serenaded by a Belgian beatboxer with Jazz trumpet accompaniment while a deer hopped in the background was a highlight.
You are obviously a people person. Tell us about the get-togethers you arrange outside of your shows.
The whole point of these shows is to try to create truly one-off experiences. So I try to do everything possible to make that happen. On Sunday September 23rd I'm having an afternoon of barefoot bowls at the Petersham Bowls Club so the audience can get to know each other. I want them to be as excited about the show as I am.
How do you feel about performing at The Sydney Opera House?
It's unbelievable. I started selling tickets by hand just as a way of getting people into my show. I had no idea I would end up on the grandest stage of all.
I noticed on your website your bit of Melbourne bashing when you moved to Sydney, an obvious attempt to garner goodwill in your new host city. How have you found Sydney so far?
Of all my time in Australia I have spent 95% of it in Melbourne. I love cafes, men with beards and girls with tattoos. I expected to hate Sydney and Sydneysiders, and that hasn't really happened. I've been blown away by the harbour, the Opera House and the weather.
Finish this sentence: Come to Sanderson Jones' Comedy Sale gig at The Sydney Opera house...
Because it will be the greatest show in the history of matter.
Sanderson Jones presents
The Australian Tour
Venue: Sydney Opera House
Date: September 25, 2012, 8pm
More Info: comedysale.com