After travelling the world with his hit show, Purge, Brian Lobel is now performing the material at the MICF. We interviewed him for our Q and A feature and learned a lot about him, including the fact that he’s not opposed to a heckle if the comedy act is using jokes to demean a group of people… Keep reading for more!
Artist name: Brian Lobel
MICF show name: Purge
Dates: 30 March – 3 April
Venue: Beckett Theatre, The Coopers Malthouse
Tickets can be purchase here.
Q AND A:
Q. What is your show about, and how did it come into being?
A. Purge is based on my real life, 25-hour, live-streamed deleting of my Facebook friends based on the votes of strangers. After announcing the stream, I was immediately deleted by 68 people (in the first hour), and within three days, I had received over 800 emails – some angry, some excited, some very angry, some enthusiastic and some very very angry. Purge tells the story of this often-traumatizing cull in an interactive way – asking audiences who is in their social networks, who they want to get rid of, and how we know the difference.
Q. What makes MICF different from other festivals you’ve been in?
A. I’ve just gotten here but already notice how so many people actually talk to people who are flyering about shows. For me, this is such a great sign that audiences are adventurous, excited to see new things and not only here to book shows they already know about.
Q. Who are your not-to-be-missed acts at this year’s festival?
A. Adrienne Truscott (her Asking for It was BRILLIANT), Alice Fraser’s The Resistance (heard her speak in Sydney earlier this month and found her mind-blowing) and Stuart Bowden (he is so surreal and wonderful). I like comedy that presents the way the world should be: more feminist, more fiercely political, more gentle, more inclusive.
Q. What do you believe is the purpose of comedy?
A. To provide laughter in a dark dark world.
Q. Can the reaction of your audience make or break your show?
A. My work is completely interactive – audience votes throughout the show about different people they would delete, people come up onstage and delete past lovers, etc – so the audience is definitely integral to the success of the show. While a quiet audience will still have a great time (I hope), it’s the really boisterous, active, committed audience members that make a show memorable for me.
Q. What’s the best and worst review you’ve ever received?
A. Worst: I once got told that my cancer show (BALL, which I wrote when I was 22 and just finished having cancer) wasn’t funny enough – IT WASN’T WRITTEN TO BE A COMEDY!
Best: I much prefer emails to reviews. While it’s nice what reviewers have to say, they are still paid to have a platform and your show is just one step in their overall remit for the night/festival. I get a lot of emails from audience members talking to me about their experience of the show – the person they hoped to delete but how they didn’t have the courage to go on stage, tales of heartbreak, tales of disconnection and reconnection. When I step on stage I don’t become someone different, and I think audience members respond to that and want to get in touch. It’s a real honor.
Q. Do you have any unforgettable over-zealous fan experiences or heckles?
A. I have a short cabaret show, An Appreciation, which starts with five audience members touching my genitals and writing a one-word description. I’ve performed it over 250x, meaning that, in the context of performance, a LOT of people have touched me. Occasionally I’ll get an overzealous description like “Suckable” or they’ll just leave their phone number, which is very funny to me (I read the descriptions out anonymously). But I’ve also dated two people I met through it… So overzealous or not, it’s working!
(Spoiler alert: the show is actually about my history with testicular cancer and is quite sad/meditative – but the beginning is quite salacious!)
Q. Is there an act you would love to heckle?
A. Any act that demeans people. If you use misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic or able-ist language in your stand up, I will walk out. Or I will make a super annoying loud sound in the audience.
Q. What would you put in a survival pack for MICF performers or audiences?
A. Cosmopolitans. Everyone loves a cosmo.
Q. Do you have plans for your show beyond MICF?
A. Purge has toured extensively in the world – South Africa, Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Switzerland, France, USA, Belgium, Italy, and will head back to the UK for a few more shows this summer. I love touring the work and am currently writing a book featuring all the emails I couldn’t fit into the hour-long show, along with responses from those who were deleted.
Q. Do you prefer to write and perform under pressure, or in a relaxed environment?
A. I procrastinate for a long long time, and then just write it all in one go. My favourite work I ever wrote was written during the interval of a dance show, another written on the Tube in London. I just have to get over myself long enough to write the damn thing down.
Q. Do you have any stage superstitions?
A. No, but I always try to wear clean underwear. But this is just a general policy. Clean underwear. At all times.