Dave Massingham is a sketch comedian and improviser with a few comedy festivals under his belt. Previously appearing as part of the Sexy Detectives, this year Massingham is striking out on his own. He’s moved to Melbourne, joined the Big HOO-HAA! and written a brand new show: Sketch Me Like One of Your French Girls. Massingham took the time to answer a few of our questions…
This is your first solo show, as previously you’ve written and performed as part of a sketch troupe. How has the writing process changed now that you’re just writing for yourself?
The writing process hasn’t changed so much as the road-testing process. You can’t just debut a sketch for the first time in a comedy festival show – you want to make sure that everything works beforehand. In the past I would write something, bring it into my sketch comedy team pals and get some pretty direct and needlessly hurtful feedback; now I find myself writing something then performing it in a local comedy room and getting my notes that way. Turns out my old sketch troupe were much crueler than discerning comedy room aficionados.
You’ve got a background in improv, and you’re currently involved a lot with the Big HOO-HAA! and Impro Melbourne. How has regular improv influenced your comedy?
Working by myself on sketches has also meant that I’ve started to experiment with audience participation a little bit more – all very loving and gentle audience participation, of course. And with increased audience participation comes increased improvisation! While I don’t go overboard with it, getting the audience to play a small part is a nice way to make everyone feel involved, and whenever I jump up in front of a crowd I’ve certainly banked on an ability to deliver off-the-cuff responses to audience members.
You’ve said your little secret is ‘if in doubt, focus on character’. What does focusing on character look like for you?
When it comes to comedy, I like characters that have an attitude. It can be a positive attitude or a negative one. It can be an attitude they have towards their father, or towards their GP, or their cockatiel. What’s important is that it is specific, because someone slipping on a banana peel isn’t funny, but the reason they were in a hurry when they ran over the banana peel might make it so.
Do you have a favourite character? Why them?
I’ve got this sketch that I have been performing for a few years now, and it’s been so good to me that I couldn’t not put in my debut solo show. That said, I’m thinking I’ll be retiring it after this show is done. The sketch stars a stupidly rich old man who is re-recording his video will now that his wife has passed – he’s trying to working out how to divide his fortune between his sons, but the trouble is that this old guy’s so twisted and paranoid that he assumes the only possible way he could end up dead is if one of his sons murders him. He’s a blast to play because he’s so grotesque.
Since we last spoke to you you’ve relocated from Brisbane to Melbourne. What’s been the most challenging part of the move?
Starting a new life anywhere has its ups and downs, but I’ve loved the transition for the most part. The weather’s better, the comedy and theatre scene is more vibrant, and a change is as good as a holiday.
We’ve previously asked you about your sketch group inspirations – who are your favourite solo sketch artists?
You’ll definitely see a connection to Rowan Atkinson in my material – my favourite comedy hour ever, bar none, is his Rowan Atkinson Live show which he honed across the 1980s. Sketches like No One Called Jones and Pink Tights and Plenty of Props are pretty much the holy grail of comedy for me.
Of course, there are a lot of local heroes who have been flying the solo sketch comedy flag in recent years too. I’m a fan of people like Brianna Williams and Steen Raskopolous.
Finally, what acts are you keen to see at this year’s festival?
Well, first things first. You should also totally check out The Big HOO-HAA! and Impro Melbourne at the Comedy Festival. Plug within a plug, over.
Otherwise – so, so many acts. Viggo Venn, Watson. Josh Glanc, Rama Nicholas. I’m super pumped to see Clara Cupcakes, Isabella Valette and Andy McClelland. Joe Shaffer is one of my favourite stand-ups in Australia at the moment, and the aforementioned Steen Raskopolous is always giving sketch a good name. More than anything though, I’m looking forward to discovering artists I’ve never heard of.
Sketch Me Like One of Your French Girls is on at 8pm from 27 March – 8 April at Tasma Terrace as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Further information, including accessibility and tickets, are available from the MICF website.