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Being funny for money – the life of a career comedian

Elka Wood 5 May 2019

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall [left] and Andy Mathews in a still from their current Melbourne Comedy Festival show "Magma." Picture: provided.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall [left] and Andy Matthews in a still from their 2019 Melbourne Comedy Festival show “Magma.” Photos: Supplied.

On 18th May, the Melbourne Comedy Festival roadshow will visit Bega for the first time, performing in the civic centre at 7 pm. Its appearance reminds us all that for some people, getting laughs is simply a way to pay the bills.

That’s the case for Alastair Tremblay-Birchall, who spent his teenage years in Tathra and went to uni to become an engineer. After working in the industry for a few years, he decided to swap steady, profitable work for life as a comedian, creating his first Melbourne Comedy Festival show in 2013 – and he hasn’t stopped since.

“I’ve got quite a few comedy festival posters wracked up, that’s how I keep track,” Alastair says.

And the secret to having a show at a comedy festival? “I’ll tell you the secret,” Alastair says, lowering his voice, “it is unbelievably easy. You have to be able to come up with $550 to register plus pay your nightly venue hire. So the secret is that you have to take a financial risk and be stable of nerve.”

In his 2019 Comedy Festival show, “Magma,” with collaborator Andy Matthews, Alastair and Andy return to their engineering roots, giving a fake presentation on how mining magma will solve all the world’s problems.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall says success arms are the reason for his success. Picture:provided

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall says success arms are the reason for his success.

While Alastair is not on the roadshow line-up this year, he says that bringing comedy to regional areas is something he wholeheartedly supports and that it has been a need to be close to home with his wife and their toddler [not to mention a lack of invitation!] which has kept him from getting on the road.

“The roadshow looks like a really cool thing to be involved in,” he says. “They have a line-up of various styles of comedy, often with a few international acts.

Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Center Coordinator Georgina Pearce says that the final line-up for Bega has been confirmed and it is indeed an international affair- John Hastings of Canada, Rahul Subramanian of India and homegrown comedians Pat McCaffrie and Danielle Walker.

Dave Callan will MC on the night.

Danielle Walker will perform at Bega's Commemorative civic Centre as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow on 18th May. Picture: provided.

Danielle Walker will perform at Bega’s Commemorative civic Centre as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow on 18th May.

Even if you’ve never seen Alastair’s work, you’ve likely been exposed to his gags, as in between stand-up shows, he works behind the scenes writing jokes for television shows such as Shaun Micallef’s “Mad as Hell” and “Talking about Your Generation.”

“I treat it like any other job, like being a plumber,” Alastair says of his television work. “The only thing is that I’m trying to unclog society.”

But there’s no such thing as a steady paycheck and Alastair has had to get used to “scary gaps” in between bouts of work. He and Andy have a “very silly” guided meditation podcast called “Shusher” and sometimes write quiz questions for “The Chase” but part of being a career comedian, it seems, is embracing the uncertainty of what’s around the corner.

Still, Alastair wishes he’d known 10 years ago that “anybody can do this if they want to. You learn how to do it from watching other people who are good at it and you start to understand how jokes are made and you can trick the human brain into laughing.”

But it’s not without a lot of self-reflection that successful comedians are made.

“You have to accept it when a joke is not working and kill it until eventually, you have 5-10 minutes of content that does work.”

Comedy might not be magic but good comedy is often the result of at least a decade of hard work – so get your tickets for the Melbourne Comedy Festival Roadshow in Bega now!

What's Your Opinion?

3 Responses to Being funny for money – the life of a career comedian

Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre 12:44 pm 05 May 19

Great article Elka!

Our line up for the Roadshow has been finalised:

MC: Dave Callan, Danielle Walker, John Hastings (CAN), Pat McCaffrie & Rahul Subramanian (IND).

    Elka Wood Elka Wood 1:12 pm 05 May 19

    Thanks, Georgina! I'll edit the article now with the up-to-date line up :]

Damien Davis 6:42 pm 14 May 19

Good job! 🥂🤠⚛️☯️🤓