Google "Michael Workman" and you won't find out a hell of a lot about his new comedy show Ave Loretta. In fact, interrogating him about the show doesn't reveal much about it either. “Let's just say it's about music,” is all he's prepared to give away. That and the fact that although Wil Anderson has described him as Nick Cave doing stand-up, he doesn't request oral pleasure as much as Nick Cave does. (Familiarise yourself with Cave's version of Stagger Lee, if you don't know what this means).
Mr Workman has been performing his darkly whimsical form of comedy since 2008. Shortly after setting off down the unpredictable and frequently treacherous path of live comedy, he started winning awards and appearing at the world's best festivals with past shows such as The Ogre, Humans are Beautiful and Mercy bagging awards and garnering praise from the critics.
So read on to not find out very much of what Ave Loretta is actually about. Hopefully, though, you might get a sense of the workings of this quiet thinker, writer, musician who likes to make people laugh, and who will no doubt rack up some more rave reviews with his new show.
So how has your day been? What's been taking up your time just before making the time to answer these questions?
My days are very busy. Mostly they are spent writing for different projects, and doing interviews. I only have time for one take away Indian meal a day now, so I’m really suffering.
If this were a real life interview I would probably make sure you were comfortable and offer you a cup of tea or a glass of wine, but as it's an emailer I can only make sure you are comfortable with this font. Are you okay with Arial or are you more of a Times New Roman kind of guy? Or is there another preferred font you, erm, prefer.
I prefer Times New Roman, but it’s fallen out of favour a bit. It’s kind of seen as a throwback to the uncivilised earlier days of the internet, when it was more a lawless collection of colonies.
If I had offered you a cup of tea or a glass of wine, what would you have asked for? What do you like to drink?
A really nice sunset. And I would have drunk it with my eyes.
What kinds of thing take up your time when you are not up on stage?
Preparing to be on stage takes a lot of time. When you’re not on you’re thinking about being on, or conversely trying not to think about being on, which can be equally tiring. Further from the immediate time of being on of course, I’m pretty much writing constantly.
How long have you been working on Ave Loretta?
I start writing the next festival show immediately after the festival every year. So Ave Loretta has been in development for about 11 months. This one is very different to my other shows, it incorporates more a ‘stand-up’ feel, but it has lost none of the darkness people have come to expect.
What can you tell us about the show?
If I had told people that my last show was about a man adrift at sea with nothing but a pile of cabbages, who is grappling with the upheaval of early Castro era Cuba, no-one would have come. But that’s what the show was about. It won best comedy at the Adelaide Fringe, which is a major award, but you wouldn’t think the show was worthy by hearing that. Ave Loretta is equally misleading in its subject matter, so I hesitate to tell people what it’s about. Let’s just say it’s about music.
Your blurb about the show doesn't really reveal very much, but I like the idea of “a silent war against banality.” What flavours of banality are we talking about here?
The banality that goes unnoticed, the kind that creeps in without making a fuss and sets up in your living room next to the Foxtel and the Glade plug-in. Suburban banality, invoked for its misguided virtues of safety and contentedness.
Don't you think a really loud war against banality might be more effective?
No. The war on banality goes unnoticed because people don’t realise it’s happening, therefore it is silent.
Besides banality, what else do you think should have a war waged against it, silent or loud?
Pretty much everything.
You've done some trial shows leading up to the Melbourne premier of Ave Lorretta... just how much impact do those shows have upon the final product?
They have a huge impact, they are absolutely indispensable. There is no way to positively know what your words will sound like until you have said them in front of strangers, it’s a radically different experience to rehearsal. So from that have come all of the notes that made the show what it is.
What were you doing before you got into comedy?
I was composer/music teacher. I wrote scores for theatre productions.
Are there many people out there who might be surprised that you're a comedian now, or is it no surprise to anyone?
I’m sure many people were surprised initially, and then with slightly more retrospect, found it totally plausible. People expect that the comedian is ‘the class clown.’ That is perfectly antithetical to the psyche of the comic, in fact. The comic is an introvert… who likes dinosaurs.
How much music is there in your new show and what kind of music is it?
The entire show is music. However you won’t be able hear it; it’s implied. The show is about a synaesthetic so all of the words are designed to trigger other sensory responses.
What kind of music don't you like?
There’s no particular genre that is especially loathsome to me. It’s a false proposition really because the only sort of music that fails to impress me is music that has no soul, and it could be argued that really isn’t music at all.
Wil Anderson described you as being Nick Cave doing stand-up. What do you think of that description? Accurate description of your show?
Having seen Nick Cave recently, I can say he definitely tells people to suck his dick much more than I do. I guess of all my shows Ave Loretta is closest to watching Nick Cave... not because I tell people to suck my dick though, more for its dark voracity.
Will you be seeing other comedy acts at the festival? Who? And what do you like about their comedy?
Probably a few this year. Go see Rhys Nicholson if you want to see to the very edge of human culture, and come back all messed up but better for it. Same goes for John Conway, but in the opposite direction. Of course Mel Buttle shouldn’t be missed either, she is very funny indeed.
Is there a line or two from Ave Loretta that captures the essence of the show?
“The best songs fade out, so you can pretend they go on somewhere else, in a more perfect world than this. I know that somewhere there’s a real life, and all we have to do to find it is follow the fading music.” - Loretta.
We should come along to see Ave Loretta because...
I have no idea what motivates people to do anything. I’d say it’s good but then people watch My Kitchen Rules so what would I know about good? If you don’t like My Kitchen Rules then this is not that, so you might like it. There.
Michael Workman is performing Ave Lorretta at the Melbourne Town Hall as part of the 2013 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, 28 Mar - 21 Apr, 2013. Further details»