Nemeses – Where are they now?
In 2020, ‘toxic’ comedy duo Nemeses (Alistair Baldwin and Vidya Rajan) had their Melbourne International Comedy Festival show cancelled due to the pandemic. But not even COVID could stop the force of momentum behind their content creation. In a visionary pandemic pivot, they brought their fever dream of a DIY lockdown sitcom to a live-streamed ‘hcq-Wheeler Centre’ event and panel discussion. Two years later, ahead of their shows at this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, we caught up with them to see what they’ve been up to and find out whether their friendship endured through the pressures of six Melbourne lockdowns.
You both have shows coming up at Melbourne International Comedy Festival, separately. Are you still friends?
Vidya: Unfortunately, we are even better friends than we were before.
I feel like I found my creative soul mate years ago and then over time she’s become one of my best friends (in a way that exists outside of the late-capitalist, art-technology-intersecting, clout-addicted Content Creation Complex)
Alistair: Our haters are furious. We actually only used to hang out to collaborate on things. Now we also hang out to like… watch Poirot and have brunch. I feel like I found my creative soul mate years ago and then over time she’s become one of my best friends (in a way that exists outside of the late-capitalist, art-technology-intersecting, clout-addicted Content Creation Complex). Which is nice.
Sometimes memories from those early lockdowns feel blurry and from a far more distant past than they really are. How does it feel now, looking back on something you made during that time?
Vidya: It’s wild! We made it when I was in quarantine in Perth and I’m surprised by how much it still makes me laugh, and this is as someone who can’t watch anything they’ve done most of the time. I think the distance or pandemic brain has made me forget it’s me in it.
I’m very proud of it, and I think it still captures a lot about our obsession with productivity, monetising identity to survive, the silliness of performative politics etc. It also taught me the valuable lesson that I should be carrying a ring light and full service camera pack wherever I go. As the saying goes: Quarantine is temporary, but content? She’s forever.
Alistair: I’m also shocked how good it is. I don’t say that to be vain – I barely remember anything from that time, it feels like I’m watching a stranger at times. We were both mid-spiral, working an entire continent apart, and made something which still feels relevant to the way we talk about productivity-fetishism today.
That said, you can really tell we shot it before I perfected my DIY hair-bleaching process, so maybe we should delete it?
Quarantine is temporary, but content? She’s forever.
What have you been up to since then?
Alistair: After our Wheeler special we found a bit of a niche in the Wild West of the livestream scene – hosting Melbourne Fringe’s Digital Program Launch, doing a Twitch-stream ‘walking tour’ of NGV’s 3D-modelled exhibitions for Running Dog and making Resource Daddies, a video art explainer on how to land a sugar daddy in the climate apocalypse for The Other Film Festival.
Vidya: All the things Alistair said. We both work a lot in TV as writers for hire so there was a lot of that. In terms of comedy or theatre things, I also worked a bit doing sketch comedy for The Feed – a dream! – and finished an adaptation of Looking for Alibrandi for Malthouse – on this year! I think doing the sitcom also helped me realise I love making work in digital spaces – I made a little game on Cancel Culture for Liminal and am making more stuff in that vein at the moment.
What has been the best comedy to come out of the pandemic ‘pivot’?
Alistair: In my opinion the funniest comedy to come out of the pandemic was the joke of a legal defence Bo Burnham’s team mounted during our lawsuit against him for wholesale copying our Livestream for his Netflix special Inside. The argument that ‘he doesn’t even know you exist’ and ‘why would he watch the Livestream of a ‘Centre for Ideas’ in Melbourne, Australia’ really made me laugh.
Runner up is every single Meg Stalter video.
Vidya: Why would you ask us this question when we are right here? Is this a neg? Unrelatedly, you suddenly seem really hot to me Wheeler Centre Blog…
I did really enjoy the special my friend Bo Burnham released though. He was hesitant to go ahead with it after the livestream, but I said to him – Hey. Bo. Listen. The purpose of art is to inspire more art. Just do your thing and I’ll secretly sabotage the legal team of any Melbourne-based comedian I may or may not have collaborated with who might try to sue you.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to vacationing with Bobo (sorry that’s what his close friends and employees call him) in L.A. soon!
Why would you ask us this question when we are right here? Is this a neg? Unrelatedly, you suddenly seem really hot to me Wheeler Centre Blog…
And the worst?
Vidya: The celebrity Imagine video is hard to top. It’s comedy whether they intended it or not. But maybe it had some redeeming features, because I was able to immediately make fun of it, i.e. make content. Perhaps there is no good or bad comedy, only content that generates more content and content that does not.
Alistair: There are almost too many to name, but every ‘Zoom Reunion Special’ of a beloved 90s/00s sitcom – with the cast either doing a reading of a beloved old episode or (arguably worse) a totally new script that responded to the times (COVID and/or ‘get out & VOTE!’ vibes). But I can’t completely blame them, I guess even the Rob Lowes of the world got bored in lockdown, too.
What can people expect from your upcoming shows?
Vidya: My show is called Respawn and it’s on at Comedy Republic from 12–24th April. So the first thing people can expect is that’s when it will be.
The show is a silly and darkly humorous look at the beliefs and rituals we cling to in the face of uncertainty and death. It kind of uses the idea of reincarnation as a cultural belief I grew up in to structure the show, but really that’s about a journey into yourself too. You can expect comedy about culture and race, the internet, feminism, therapy, religion and family – and a dash of PowerPoint just for good measure. There’s some personal stuff in there too but also equally importantly, at one point I play a worm. And that’s all I’m prepared to give away for now.
Alistair: I’ll be turning Level 4 of the Wheeler Centre into a pop-up comedy venue (there’s like three accessible comedy venues in the CBD so sometimes you just gotta activate a conference room). My show Everest is about how my mum thought climbing Everest while pregnant with me caused my disability, and how I think that’s not really how genetics works.
Not to be cringe on main but I am really proud of it, and I think it’s a great appetiser for the rest of the Wheeler pop-up (where you can see Elly Hewitt & Lucy Rees explode the Western theatrical canon, and Nemeses Livestream director/video artist James Collopy explode your brain).
Weird overlapping themes between me & Vidya’s shows include ‘being obsessed with mortality’ and ‘looking hot while being obsessed with mortality’.