By Zoë Coombs MarrDramaMelbourne Comedy Festival

Trigger Warning

Zoë Coombs Marr (ABC's Dirty Laundry LiveHow Not To Behave) brings back her monstrous character Dave for his difficult second album. Dealing with the fallout of his first show; the bad reviews, the empty seats and the twitter threats from scary feminists, Dave's given up stand-up, and turned to the serious clown training of Gaulier.

Featuring such classic hits as: What's the deal with online bullying?, mime caught in political correctness gone mad, and the six-foot duck meets crippling-fears-that-keep-us-all-awake-at-night-sketch.

Watch as a hack stand-up attempts a silent clowning show that won't offend anyone. Trigger Warning: clowns, clowning, failure, Dave. 

Portrait of Zoë Coombs Marr

Zoë Coombs Marr

Zoë Coombs Marr is a performer, writer, artist and comedian. She is one-third of theatre company Post, whose work includes Oedipus Schmoedipus,presented at Belvoir for Sydney Festival 2014. The voice of ABC2, Zoe is a regular panel member on Dirty Laundry Live, and has also been seen on ABC’s The Chaser’s Media Circus, How Not To BehaveBackseat Drivers, and Live at Bella Union (SBS). Her breakout solo theatre/comedy work And That Was the Summer That Changed My Life was nominated for Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s Best Newcomer and awarded the Philip Parsons Young Playwright Award.

Zoë's most recent Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Trigger Warning won both the Golden Gibbo and the Barry Award for Most Outstanding Show of the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. 

Judges’ report

For several years Zoë Coombs Marr has been deploying her comic alter ego Dave to affectionately dismantle the ubiquitous figure of the straight white male stand-up, but Trigger Warning drops a depth charge into the near-monoculture of comedy from which it may never quite recover.

This razor-sharp, hilarious and deeply cutting text bulldozes current trends and feted performers, before constructing a meta-theatrical hall of mirrors reflecting countless corners of the performance landscape and finding the sexism, misogyny, cultural power dynamics and gender relations that haunt each and every one. As a critique of entrenched patterns and deeply problematic cultural biases, Trigger Warning provokes new conversations about culture, who gets to speak, who is silenced and in the process creates in and of itself a proposition for the new.

Extract

AMELIE PLAYS 
          DAVE BEGINS TO 'CLOWN'. HE PICKS
          ANOTHER BANANA OUT OF THE PROPS
          BUCKET. HE PEELS THE BANANA. HE
          BEGINS TO EAT THE BANANA. HE MOTIONS
          TO THE SOUND OPERATOR

CUT AMELIE 

I've just made that a banana. It is a banana. I just did a banana as a banana, I thought I was doing something in that one but I'm not, am I? That's nothing, I'm just eating a banana. I'm just eating a banana. I think I was just hungry. (throw banana on the stage) 

That's a hilarious accident waiting to happen.

It's not really working, is it? I think the problem is... you guys. You're doing something weird. You're too in your head Saturday night, you're too in your head.

To be honest, I do feel quite judged.

And can I just say, if anyone is here from Jezebel, or one of those feminazi websites... Twitter!? Can you please stop?! Because I've got the message, and some of the tweets are quite mean. And some of them I didn't even understand. You know, like the words, I didn't even know. I'd never heard 'em before. Like 'cis'. As in, 'shut up, you cis man'. You know that word? Yeah, CIS – C-I-S, it's short for cis-gender – it's when your biological sex matches up with your gender identity. I know that NOW!!! But I had to look it up, I mean I don't have a PHD – pretty huge dick, I do – I had to look it up. Before that I thought they were saying 'Kiss man'. Like 'Oh shut up, you kiss man'. Yeah, sometimes. Everybody dabbles.

What? you think cos I have a graphic tee and a neckbeard I can't enjoy a bit of cock? I love cock. It's good stuff. Fellas know what I'm talking about.

So back off, you don't know me. And I've changed now, I'm not doing the standup anymore, I'm doing clowning, aren't I? I'm doing the bloody clowning, I'm silent, aren't I??!!

I'm all absurd now. Andy Kaufman is my favourite comedian now. So there. Its official. I saw that movie, Man On The Moon, got a tattoo. Andy Kaufman, photorealistic, of his face... full colour.

What else...? Oh! I've even started hanging out with some female comedians. Which I did not even know was a thing! Learning. Just last night I was hanging out with Denise Scott. She gave me some really rough MDMA, so watch out. I've got some if anyone wants to buy it. (Patting pocket) It's not too bad... It's rough as guts. Really lovvey at first and then I sort of questioned my whole sense of self. So yeah - if you want some, talk to me after.

I showed Denise my tattoo actually.

I was like 'Check it out Denise, I'm all absurd and shit. Andy Kaufman.'

And she said, 'Oh. That's not Andy Kaufman, that's Jim Carrey, playing Andy Kaufman … in the movie Man on the Moon.'

I said – 'That is a bit of a blow Denise.'

And she said, 'I'm Judith Lucy.'

So fuck her. What a bitch. No no no, sorry, lovely lady. Please don't tweet at me Jezebels. I am petrified of you people. Look it's not a great time to be a white man in comedy ok?! So if you could just be a little more supportive of my clowning … that'd be great. 

          MOTIONS TO SOUND OPERATOR
AMELIE PLAYS 
          DAVE 'CLOWNS' PITIFULLY. HE SHRUGS.
          HAS RUN OUT OF MATERIAL. HE GOES TO
          PULL DOWN HIS FLY, BUT CAN'T. HE
          LURCHES FOR THE MICROPHONE.
CUT AMELIE. 

I have to tell you why I'm doing the silent thing. I hate it as much as you. But the alternative is worse, ok.

So, we spent a lot of time at Gaulier trying to find our clowns. Everyone's clown is different. We've all got one. They're not all silent. Mine's actually not. So, your clown is either an introvert or an extrovert. You will know they're an introvert because they will post about it on facebook. All the time:

'Oh this is exactly me.' No it's not.

'Sometimes I wanna have a party, other times, wanna read a book.' You're an introvert.

Classic introvert. Special. No. Fuck off.

Anyway, I found my clown. Turns out I have the worst kind of clown. And that is an unfunny clown. Because it turns out my clown is just a cranky lesbian in her 30s, named Zoë, and that is not funny. No-one wants to see that on stage. Oh nononono. It's not financially viable either.

So, I can't let her speak because it's fucked.

It's spot on, but it is boring as shit.

I should show you, shouldn't I? (Audience response) Ok … oh I need a location first. Sorry, what was that? The Q&A section of a panel on gender and comedy? Ok. People always say that. It's weird. It's like it's the only context you can imagine her in. So I've prepared some questions. Are you happy to read out loud? 

          PICKS 2 WOMEN FROM THE FRONT ROW AND
          HANDS THEM QUESTIONS 1 AND 2

Don't open it now, you'll get distracted. I can tell. I'll cue you, it'll be super obvious. So here we go. I'm really sorry about this. It's going to be fucked. Sorry. I know you came for a nice time out, but this is going to suck all the comedy out of the room.

You've been warned – trigger warning, lesbians.

          DAVE TURNS AROUND WITH HIS BACK TO
          THE AUDIENCE.

ZOË: 
          ZOË TURNS BACK. GLARING AT THE
          AUDIENCE WITH AN INTIMIDATING
          SARDONIC 'LESBIAN AT A PANEL ON
          GENDER AND COMEDY' EXPRESSION

Well, first I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation – and express my disappointment that I am the first person to do that tonight. I guess we just all forgot.

But in answer to your question Jeannette, yes Dave did arise as my direct response to the aggressively male environment of standup comedy. I would like to stress that it is about the environment, not the individuals.

Hashtag: notallcomedians. But it is about the environment, which can be incredibly problematic. And it's one I know well, because I've been doing standup comedy since I was a teenager. And I love standup, I love comedy, I love the form, I love telling jokes. It's really all I want to do. But I haven't done standup as myself for about five years.

Because as much as I do love it there's really only so many times you can get onstage after a guy has just destroyed with a bunch of rape jokes and hop up like, 'Hey buddies, you know that body we were talking about violating? Well here's one to entertain you.'

Exactly. It wasn't the best environment for at least my personal brand of mostly fisting based puns. My FBPs if you will. And that's where Dave came from. I just found it more interesting and far funnier to play with him in that context. Because as a woman, in comedy …

AND THAT'S NOT FUNNY, IS IT??!? Jesus. Shut up

You fucking VICTIM!

So we won't be doing that. NOT FUNNY. IT'S NOT FUNNY. What a boner killer. Don't worry, we won't be doing the Q&A. Don't worry about that. Who would put a fucking Q&A on gender and comedy in a comedy show? A sadist.

DAVE: Ok, here she is. My shit lesbian clown.

ZOË: (To girls with questions) Hang onto em though, we might need em later. (Wink) 

So that's why I've got to silence her – she'll go on for hours like that oh oh blah blah, 'To really unpack that privilege onstage, I became really interested in Dave's vulnerabilities. And so, putting him in situations where he couldn't possibly succeed, like, oh I don't know, trying to do a clowning show … Because Dave's always on the back foot, and he's always falling apart. He'll fall over, he'll bleed from the head, he'll vomit in his props bucket later. He might … accidentally take ecstasy from the night before, thinking that it's Valium, and get really fucked up – which'll happen in about five minutes. But through it all the thing I really love about Dave is that he just keeps trying, keeps going, reaching for ever more ridiculous means, like a… a… a 'silly costume just to jolly things along'.

ANYWAY! Ughhh! OH MY GOD! Ugh, what a shit clown. You become what you hate, I guess.

          ZOË LOOKS AT THE AUDIENCE

So I've got this silly costume, just to jolly things along!

          DAVE PULLS A CLOWN COSTUME OUT OF
          THE PROPS BUCKET

Oh look, I found my clown.

I'm going to have to take my pants off

          DAVE TAKES HIS JEANS DOWN REVEALING
          SATIN BOXER SHORTS

Don't worry, I am wearing boxer shorts.

They say 'party animal'. That was me last night with Denise, Judith, Hannah, whoever the fuck she was. Lovely lady.

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