This project is supported by Maribyrnong City Council and our sponsors
The story of a naively ambitious pandemic project that brought together some of the very best artistic talent in Melbourne’s inner west.
Serious Comedy presents an online and ‘home friendly’ night in of western suburbs comedy, music and stories – including the behind-the-scenes secrets of what happens when you pivot in a pandemic.
West Is Best could have been the best live-on-Zoom comedy variety show ever made. If only it had been finished.
The real story is that in May last year, West Is Best received pandemic arts funding to produce a live-on-Zoom showcase of westie artists. The pitch was to recreate the 1970s TV variety show atmosphere inside a domestic house, leaning into the lockdown vibe of the time. It was technically ambitious, but achievable and definitely funny enough to try.
West Is Best! Unmissable post-television TV that transforms a domestic house into a pop-up sound stage for the best of Melbourne’s inner west’s talent and local stories.
Or that was the plan.
We tried to make this show for most of last year. But after successive lockdowns, half the team moving interstate, technical disasters, funding crises, and several physical and mental health breakdowns – we couldn’t finish the show. We took on 2020 and 2020 won.
But now it’s 2021 and we will make a show!
Back in January, we recorded the majority of segments, interviews and games. They are delightful and hilarious and include R’n’B outfit JXCKY, comedians Dane Simpson and Urvi Majumdar, filmmaker Lana Schwarcz, renowned clown Daniel Oldaker (aka Dandyman), and poet and storyteller Alan Lovett.
They look and sound far better than an online show has any right to, in large part thanks to multi-award-winning theatre director John Kachoyan, and Tony-nominated sound designer Russell Goldsmith.
We will be broadcasting these terrific performances on March 29. Yianni Agisilaou, the show’s original host will be joined by Carrie Hardie and Toby Sullivan (who are usually VERY MUCH behind-the-scenes producers) to host these clips and share their frustrating, inspirational, and their all-too-2020 behind-the-scenes stories of the making and breaking of the show.
It’s not quite Spinal Tap, but it sure ain’t High School Musical.
West is Best is not just a variety show. It’s a peek behind the curtain, or screen, at the backstage story of how this naively ambitious ‘reach-for-the-stars mega-variety, live broadcast’ concept had a few fuel stops on the way to the moon.
SERIOUS COMEDY IS RUNNING WEST IS BEST ON A PAY WHAT YOU CAN MODEL
In the live entertainment industry, none of us have the possibility of reliable income in the foreseeable future. Putting on shows (even online shows) requires significant resources. We want our shows to be accessible to as many people as possible, so we offer tickets on a ‘Pay What You Can’ model – you still book a ticket, but you choose to pay what you are financially able to.
There are $10, $20, $30 and $50 ticket options. Or, if money is very tight, you can book a free ticket (but please help spread the word).
This project is supported by Maribyrnong City Council, and our sponsors Coworking Westside, Dianne’s Dips, Fury & Son Brewing Co, and Hodges Real Estate Yarraville.
Yianni Agisilaou is a stand up comedian described as performing “funny, insightful, social commentary” Yianni is a stand up comedian who’s had a stand up special commissioned by the ABC, won awards at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and helped co-develop Serious Comedy’s online ventures. ” His new stand up show Australia Says Welcome (Conditions Apply) has been one of the first shows developed for online delivery, and will appear again for Melbourne Comedy Festival this year.
A true son the west, now recognised by 90% of cashiers at SIMS.
Carrie Hardie had her humble beginnings producing a regular comedy show in a bookshop in Sydney, and since then has produced theatre, seminar talks, and live comedy shows across Australia, as well as in the UK at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – and a live stand up special for ABC TV that was filmed in London.
Originally from Sydney, but mainly living out of a suitcase for ten years, Carrie settled in West Footscray in 2019 and quickly declared it her favourite place she’s lived, significantly helped along by the number of creative arts people and interesting small business owners of the area.
Toby Sullivan (Producer) is an independent comedy producer and professional theatrical producer who has worked for some of Australia’s largest Festivals and theatres since the early 90s, including the Melbourne Fringe Festival, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (where he was Associate Director), and Malthouse Theatre.
While normally residing in Melbourne’s Footscray, the employment situation of the pandemic and Toby’s disgusting level of expertise and professionalism (amongst his many production skills, he’s also a trained data nerd), Toby has been (temporarily) been nabbed by the Adelaide Festival Centre.
Jxcky (Musical Guest). With musical influences as wide ranging as Taylor Swift, UPSAHL and Billie Eilish, Jxcky is a young singer/songwriter from Melbourne’s west.
We found Jxcky and his band through a simultaneous mix of connections-of-connections and on Triple J’s UnEarthed.
See Jxcky and his band play one of their pop/R&B songs about the train to Sunshine in our bathroom. (They did the song in our bathroom, the Sunbury line doesn’t run through there.)
As one fan put it, “silky smooth vocals and an infectious hook.”
Russell Goldsmith (Technical Director) is a sound designer and producer, and composer. He’s basically worked in every aspect of sound you can think of.
He’s worked in theatre, composition, radio plays, audio books, films, rock concerts, and more.
Russell was nominated for a Tony Award for his sound design in Neil Armfield’s production of Exit the King.
He’s also provided expert audio evidence in one of those scary Melbourne gangland trials, which is presumably is fine to include on promotional material.
John Kachoyan (Segment Producer) is a director, writer, script developer, and teacher living in West Footscray. He works in theatre, opera and screen across the world, and has won multiple awards for his work. He’s been Director in Residence for Bell Shakespeare, worked with Melbourne Theatre Company, and across several prestigious venues and production companies in the UK, like the Old Vic and Soho Theatre.
We may be a little low-fi on West is Best but John’s creative eye for detail makes those segments sparkle.
Alan Lovett (Storyteller) is an actor and performer who’s toured across Australia and Canada throughout his career. Nowadays, Alan runs his own company, Melbourne Trivia, hosting and coordinating local and corporate trivia events.
Alan is also one of State Library of Victoria’s favourite Storytime and Baby Bounce presenters, part of their education program.
Alan will be reading several short entries from the pages of Once Upon a Time in Footscray – a (mostly) anonymous compilation of stories from across the local area devised by local artist and business owner, Liana Luca-Pope.
Urvi Majumdar (Stand-up Comedian) is a 2018 and 2019 RAW Comedy Victorian State Finalist, and will be doing a short stand up spot on the show. Urvi’s performed to sold-out crowds at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, Emerging Writers’ Festival and Melbourne Writers’ Festival.
Last year Urvi was selected for the the inaugural StandUP! grant, awarded by the festival in collaboration with Premier Daniel Andrews.
You can see Urvi in Channel 9’s comedy mini-series Metrosexual and in numerous Hot Dads sketches.
Dane Simpson (Stand-up Comedian) is one of Australia’s rapidly rising stars. Dane’s toured across Australia and appeared on ABC’s Comedy Up Late. Dane starred in the hit stand-up comedy show Aborigi-LOL which sold out its entire first season at Melbourne Comedy Festival. You might also recognise him from Have You Been Paying Attention?
Although hailing from Wagga Wagga, being briefly and conveniently (for us) detained in Melbourne due to travel restrictions, we made Dane our outside eye, to validate that west, is indeed, best.
Daniel Oldaker (playing the Incompetent Chef) is one of Australia’s finest and funniest physical comedians performing as Dandyman.
He’s a five-star, award-winning, physical comedian with 23 years of performance experience, spread over more than 30 countries.
Daniel trained with Phillippe Gaulier (Sascha Baron Cohen’s mentor), and is a sought after performer by Cirque du Soleil.
For West is Best, we asked Dan if he could recreate a famous local recipe. When a world-class clown brings his own chef’s hat to a gig, you can guess it’ll be messy.
Lana Schwarcz (Writer, filmmaker and puppeteer) is an actor, theatre maker, circus, comedy and cabaret performer, and a Jim Henson-trained puppeteer.
She’s been a resident artist at Jacks Magazine in Maribyrnong and when Lana’s not working as a company member, she writes and creates all her own work, including the design and build of puppets.
During the pandemic, Lana worked in a number of front line positions and managed an covid-ly drawn out home renovation, but is still managing to fit in creative work amongst everything. Expect a sweet and silly fairytale with delightful puppets.