A lot of comedians have been turning their hand to books of late – why look, here’s a Fairfax story on that very same subject. Good luck getting past this line…
what is evident is the women on the comedy circuit seem to write more memoirs than the blokes, and those books are made up of more than just jokey anecdotes.
… if you’ve read Tony Martin’s Lolly Scramble or Nest of Occasionals, Akmal Saleh’s The Life of Akmal, Anh Do’s award-winning The Happiest Refugee, Charlie Pickering’s Impractical Jokes, Tom Gleeson’s Playing Poker With The SAS, Grahame Bond’s Jack of All Trades Mistress Of One, the endless stream of Barry Humphries memoirs, and so on. Yeah yeah, it’s not a competition, but if you’re going to hang your article on a hook, it’d help if it was a hook that actually existed.
Added to that list of male comedians looking back at their past with a critical eye is Justin Heazlewood, AKA The Bedroom Philosopher, with The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries. Published by The Small Press in Melbourne, supposedly only 500 copies were printed, which makes stumbling across it in an actual physical bookstore doubly exciting! To us. Well, it was until we discovered you can order it from his website here. Or read an extract (that’s a bit more hipster pick-up than most of the book) from it here. Guess we’re not so special after all.
The book itself is a collection of various tour tales largely focusing on the vagaries of performing to a bunch of people who often aren’t quite sure what kind of act they’re seeing. Early on Heazlewood talks about how he pitches himself as a musician more than a comedian because musicians get more respect on tour (supposedly Tom Gleeson pulled out of one tour that billed him as “Love him or hate him you would have laughed at least once”; Sam Simmons couldn’t even get a tent at another), and a lot of this book is more in line with a muso’s tour diary than, say, Pickering talking about his dad’s wacky hijinks or Doh’s experiences as a refugee.
Heazlewood is a sharp writer (as you might have gathered from his song lyrics) who largely eschews overblown lyricism and tortured metaphors, and his tour adventures are the kind of thing that make for great stories later while no doubt being something of an ordeal at the time. As far as comedy goes you’ll be checking this out more for actual laughs than for backstage gossip about the Australian comedy scene – even if Greg Fleet does make an appearance – but Heazlewood does deliver a few gems about his own approach to his work and comedy in general, and overall the whole thing is an insightful and compellingly readable window into the roller-coaster ride of live performance.
Fairfax may have been right in talking about the current boom in comedians memoirs and comedy books in general, but The Bedroom Philosopher Diaries is one of the few books out there that’s not only by a comedian but about comedy as a day job. Heazlewood deals with disinterested audiences, audiences who are really into it, his own occasional lack of energy, how to throw people out of a gig when the sound tech guy is your security guy, how to defuse a bunch of angry guys by turning the night into a breakdance contest, and a lot more besides. If you like his music, you’ll like this. If you don’t like his music, we’re slightly surprised you’ve read this far. If you don’t know his music, it’s probably easier to find it than this. If you don’t like musical comedy but do like reading about comedians, this is a book worth searching out. Is that everyone covered?