Big Dog Comedy in the Steel City

Hatch’s Pat Doherty describes what it’s like to share the stage with a heckle of comedians.

There’s something weirdly honourable about a son or daughter following Mum or Dad into a particular career.

In Andrew Milos’ case, he’s following in the footsteps of his comedian uncle, Richard “The Dickster” Kaminski.

The Dickster was an infamous Sydney-based comedian who began his career in November 1997. He started cracking jokes at the first mecca of Sydney comedy – the Harold Park Hotel – in the cult live show, Virgin Sacrifice. Later in his career, he toured with the likes of Mark “Chopper” Read and Mark “Jacko” Jackson.

Now his nephew is endeavouring to bring laughs to the people of Newcastle through his production company, Big Dog ComedyMilos has been running the company since January 2017 and stages comedy nights in a number of venues across the Steel City. The Happy Wombat on Hunter Street is one of those venues. It’s also where he started out.

I’ve gigged and toured with Charlwood many times. Earlier this year we spent a week at the Perth Fringe Festival and last year we did rural gigs around NSW. She is energetic and cheeky on stage and the detailed stories of her sex life and relationships leave crowds doubled over with laughter.

But on this particular Friday, the audience at The Happy Wombat was a little cold (a term used in comedy to describe a difficult audience). People are initially reluctant to laugh aloud around others but Charlwood – the professional that she is – quickly changed that, and had them in stitches by the time she brought out the first act of the evening.

Newcastle local, Elena Tero, was first off the rank – hitting the mark with comparisons between her homeland, España, and Australia. There’s nothing Aussies like to do more than laugh at themselves. As Tero finished her set, the audience applauded and the microphone was handed to local stalwart,  Soame Chopra.

Chopra used to run one of the most ruthless gigs in all of NSW. Sydney comedians would drive three hours to The Orient Hotel in Cooks Hill to die a million deaths on the blade of Novocastrian silence, or to leave victorious – drunk on comedy and the beers audience members would buy in celebration. “The Ori” was a favourite bikie haunt. The gig was feared by comedians… it’s name only whispered off-stage in the open mic rooms around Sydney.

But Soame is slick on stage. He’s been doing it for ages and his seven-minute set is well rehearsed. Capitalising on his Indian heritage, he hooks the audience early and doesn’t let up, covering his retirement and work as an accountant – dry territory made very funny.

Next on stage was yours truly. I won’t rattle on, but I had a great time and luckily, the cameraman for the night captured the audience’s response.

After the packed house is given ten-minutes to recover, the show returns with Bec Charlwood bringing the LOL’s with stories about her brother and some red hot crowd work, targeting audience members with laser precision. While the laughs are still rolling, the Central Coast’s Michael Kabba takes over. Kabba delivers the jokes. He is very physical on stage, passing around imaginary photos and contorting his body in the most hilarious manner. He covers the subjects of gifts from abroad; how we used to communicate about our holidays – pre-social media; living on the Central Coast and a brilliantly funny spin on a friend’s motorcycle incident.

Kabba leaves the stage and the time has come for internet sensation and headliner, Aaron Gocs. “Gocsy” is a ridgy-didge, okka bloke, who performs in trackie-daks and a pair of Brooks’ Glycerin (a very supportive, cushioned, corrective shoe. One of my favourites). He has a glorious mullet and his belly hangs out beneath his shirt just a little bit. In the comedy scene his viral videos are legendary. They’re not your run of the mill, quickly cut, loud, racist, misogynistic fare. His are slower paced, working class, true blue yarns, which are as unique as any you’ll find on the internet.

“Gocsy” is slow on stage and his jokes take a while to wind up, but the punchline is always a cracker and delivered very true to his brand. He talks about fast food restaurants, playing footy and good old pranks. The night finishes on a high and everyone is left with sore cheeks and abs from laughing so hard.

At the end of the night I stood out the front of the venue talking to a bunch of Newys’ finest – when Nick, the group’s mouthpiece, pipes up. He puts his beer down, looks me dead in the eye and says: “Look mate, honestly, you were funny. When you got on stage I though ‘here we go, this bloke looks about as funny as wet cement’,  but you were actually pretty good!”

I feel like this backhanded compliment is a good analogy for the entire show. A skeptical audience was turned… and comedy won the night.

The next Big Dog Comedy show is July 20 at The Family Hotel in Maitland. If you find yourself reading this article while in the Lower Hunter Valley, I suggest you check it out – just for laughs.

Comedy forever! – Images supplied by Digital Emotions Creative