Cleaning the Cupboard

This will come as no revelation to any of you but I am one hell of a stubborn wee thing.

There are times when I will get into one mind set or another and refuse to budge on an opinion no matter how unforgiving, self righteous or wrong I can be. Well, look. There are many days when I can be wrong. Very, very wrong.

So as the storm whips around me, it seems only fair that I admit to being a bit of a snobby little shit who thought she knew better …

Dear New Zealand International Comedy Festival,

When I was your employee, way back in 2005, I really thought I knew it all. I had just organised a massive event for the Wellington City Council, had spent years bossing people about in a theatre and I thought that I knew everything there was to know about running festivals … oh ho yes, the sheer arrogance of it all.

Until recently, I didn’t realise how little I understood the Festival. In Auckland, the NZCIF seriously rocks. There’s a great atmosphere – most of the acts and crew get together at the end of the day in one spot, swap stories, talk shop and then just talk all sorts of crap until it’s time to stumble home. In Wellington, that environment just doesn’t exist. It may be because there is no hub for comedy like the Classic (San Fran doesn’t really compare, especially as you can’t just hang out there when a show is on) or it may be that Wellington has a home for theatre at BATS and subsequently the Pit making a divide between theatre practitioners in the Festival who hang out at the Pit after the show and comedians who hang out at San Fran. So the two never mingle, never get to understand each other, don’t try to sneak into Late Laughs even when the house is sold out (I was the only Wellington theatre person to do so) or even realise that the First Laughs is actually a party for everyone at the Festival.

Aside from getting audiences into the venues, getting comedians and theatre folk to play with one another and create a great Festival buzz was a whole other battle I didn’t understand … until I crossed over the line from purely theatre to being a comedian’s tech. And here’s the thing about being a comedian’s tech: I have never, as a tech, received more respect for what I do than I have from the various comedians I met over the last few weeks. Lots of actors and directors respect you fine, but only the rare ones ask for your opinion or bounce ideas, theories, staging ideas etc. off you like a comedian (regardless of whether you’re working on their show or not).

Back to 2005. I had a lot of ideas that I phrased in an incredibly arrogant manner. I should have spoke up rather than bitching away in Wellington, I should have stood up for the Festival, I should have communicated my needs and listened to you better.

As ashamed as I am to say it, back in 2005, I just didn’t get how comedy, as an industry, worked. It’s not theatre, it’s not the university circuit and it’s not just another Festival. It’s Comedy. I think I get that now.

I’m sorry. I was passive aggressive, cowardly and frankly a bit of a dick.

Much love and apologies,

sonal x


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