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Friday, August 29, 2014


The hit you get in the beginning gives you this high. It’s the kind of high where you can smell the flowers without having to put them under your nostrils, a fluid in-touch-with-yourself floaty high, cooler than a cucumber and smarter than a smartie (but only the orange ones).

The thing is once you’ve tasted it, you want it again and again. But when you get the taste again , it never quite seems the same. It’s cool, but not quite as cool as the first time. So you take a risk, you say something off-script, you riff with an idea that’s not in the plot line. 

It’s the mixture of words, knowing the order that they should go in, of holding yourself in a particular way, of knowing which inflection to use, of pausing, of waiting, and then waiting just a little bit more, then the delivery – the beautiful delivery – of a beautiful punch line. You come out the other end and wonder, can you do it all again? Can you take yourself somewhere else again, just by making people laugh?  

After a while you realise that it’s actually not just the hit that you want, it’s an understanding too, an understanding of why one word, rather than another word works, of why a pause is often better than a word, of how allowing the audience fill in the gap is sometimes better than saying the whole joke out loud:

She arrived with two lemons in her suitcase.

It’s true, it happened. The details though, the back story, doesn’t matter. The image of someone arriving with only two lemons in her suitcase shimmers with opportunity. Do I tell the whole story, or just say the line knowingly, letting the audience fill in the gaps? It always depends on what the material surrounding the line is. Sometimes the whole story needs to be told, other times the sentence is suspended, held there as an offering of what might have been, before and afterwards as a consequence of arriving with two lemons in her suitcase.

I’m five shows in. Themes appear again and again: the not for profit sector, local, state and federal government funding, the kitchen bench, motherhood, marriage.

I work and rework the material to make it fresh, funnier than the last time. I spin it drier than the last time, weeding out more and more words, making each one count. Sometimes it’s really hard to get to the delivery end of the joke, the set up seems to take an age. I want to give the audience permission to laugh, but they have to wait, they have to be given the warp and the weft of each word, they have to wait for me to build the picture, to set the scene. I tantalize them with these words:

I remember this day, because this was the day I sneezed a piece of carrot out of my nose.

Pause. A very long pause.

I was working in a fruit and vegetable shop at the time. I looked at her, the woman I sneezed the carrot onto and she looked at me and I said:
We’ll not charge you for that piece of carrot.

Other lines open up saying one thing:

 I got on a plane once –starving.

Finishing with something unexpected:

Because I had an eating disorder.

Comedy has to take you somewhere you don’t expect to go. The more I write, the further away from the starting point I want to go: 
for the hit, for the funny, for the pleasure of finding the word that is seemingly unrelated to another and bringing it right back around again and linking it, to create the alchemy that is creating a great joke.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In summing up

In my 30's I really wanted babies.
In my 40's I was desperate for a renovation.
Now I want only to be on TV - to validate my own existence. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Coming Out

Despite the husband, the two kids, the three chickens, two fish, a dog and the cat who we all call the tabby shite, I have decided to come out of the closet.
I have been in the closet for over 40 years, shrugging mainly.

Coming out of the closet has meant though, that I have had to start schlepping everywhere; to the supermarket, to the library, to the south side. Who can get matzo on the north side?

And kvetching? Don’t get me started. Kvetching about the weather. Kvetching about the price of fish. Kvetching about the possums in the roof.
Sadie tells me Justine, no need to kvetch, just get the rabbi over. Last time they had possums in the roof at his house, he gave them all a batmizvah and they never came back.

Kvetching here, kvetching there. The other day I go to Glicks bakery café with my friends. They know me here, I say, sit, sit.
We order, we eat. The waiter comes over and asks Today Mrs. Sless, is anything alright?

Justine my friends and family say, you’ve got chutzpah doing comedy.
Chutzpah? I say Chutzpah?
And I tell them,I saw this little old lady on the tram to St Kilda the other day. She was clutching her chest and said to the young girl seated in front of her, If you knew what I have, you would give me your seat.

The girl got up and gave up her seat. Then the young girl takes her magazine and starts fanning herself.

The little old lady says to the young girl, "If you knew what I have, you would give me that  newspaper so I could cool off."

The girl gives her the magazine.

A bit of time goes by, then the old lady gets up and says to the tram driver, I want to get off right here.

The tram driver says she will have to wait until he gets to the next stop.

The old lady clutches her chest again and tells him, If you knew what I have, you'd let me off right now.
The tram driver stops suddenly and everyone on the tram lurches forward. The tram driver tells the little old lady that she can get off the tram right away.
As the little old lady steps off the tram, the tram driver asks her, Ma'am, I hope you don't mind my asking, but what is it you have?

The little old lady replies: Chutzpah!

Excuse me there are challah crumbs in my comedy

But why now? my friends ask, why are coming out of the closet now?

Closet shcmoset, I say.
Because now, I am tired of remaining silent. After all these years. People are always looking at me, all of them asking, are you Greek? Are you Italian? 
It’s time to put things straight.
Now after all this time I look at them and I ask them: This nose? This hair? This humour?Am I Greek? Am I Italian? Are you kidding me?

I’m Jewish already.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Australian Politics is a lot like English High Tea - there are 3 layers which is lovely, but it’s a bit much.

In the hallowed halls of local government the material for the Béchamel show just writes itself.

'Please finish the 86 tram before I die' an elderly lady wrote in.

Over heard in the office ' An ice cream van is being organized by the social club, we have to write a risk management plan '

There are 3 stressful things in life: death, divorce and a local government restructure.

In years to come I  suspect that I will be visited by hundreds of eager young community development workers looking for advice and I will tell them:
In my day the community wanted English teatime recipes, halal sausages and buses. Buses to take them places. In my day we took 481 people to the snow in buses, some of them had never even seen it before.
Then I will wake up and they are still there, desperate to shake my hand before they leave my Order of Australia and me. As they leave I put my hands under the automatic hand sanitizer waving and saying goodbye member of the community goodbye.

Béchamel is all singing all dancing and all knowing, particularly about Australian politics and it defines what politicians are:

A flash mob a term coined in 2003 to denote a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and sometimes seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then disperse.