Tim Duck was one of the founders of the Canberra Comedy Festival in 2013. Tim is an audio and event professional, with an interest in music, film, comedy, art, creativity and the environment. Alongside his freelance audio work, which covers a range of media, music and live performance, Tim currently is Director of Canberra Comedy Festival, Production Manager of Canberra Writers Festival, and a teacher of sound production subjects at Canberra Institute of Technology. He’s also the father of a 3 year old and loves spending time in nature.
THE STREET TALKED TO TIM BEFORE THE LAUNCH OF THE CANBERRA COMEDY FESTIVAL IN MARCH 2022
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO COMEDY?
The LOLs!.. Like most people it was originally dumb comedy on TV, and then seeing the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Gala on TV originally as a kid, but then it was when a good friend of mine started doing stand-up comedy himself here in Canberra that I started attending shows and then getting involved behind the scenes. One of the first comedy shows I attended here in Canberra was a Raw Comedy event at The Street Theatre.
I love the energy that you can feel in a room when a gig is going really well, and I love that the audience is so intrinsically tied to how well the gig will go.
WHAT ROLE DO YOU THINK COMEDY PLAYS IN AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY?
Comedy comes in many forms, and there are some different roles that it can play, including just being playful, which I think is important in itself. I love the shared experience aspect of live comedy in particular, but actually live shows in general too.
Another role it can play is that it can provide some insightful political and social commentary – “Many a truth is said in jest”.
THE COMEDY FESTIVAL HAS BEEN PRESENTED IN CANBERRA SINCE 2013. WHAT HAS BEEN ITS DEVELOPMENT OVER THE YEARS?
We wanted to create some more opportunities for local acts as well as bringing more shows to Canberra as it felt like we were missing out on a lot of good shows that acts toured to Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney etc. We proved that there is an appetite for live comedy here in Canberra and after that first year, which was mostly sold out, we expanded to present more shows at bigger venues. We showed good growth in audiences year-on-year until COVID hit right as we were about to start our 2020 festival. After a few rounds of reschedules we’re really looking forward to presenting a festival again this month.
COVID-19 HAS HAD A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE FESTIVAL OVER THE LAST TWO YEARS. HOW HAVE YOU AND YOUR TEAM MANAGED DISRUPTIONS?
The timing of COVID hitting Australia in March 2020 nailed the festival at the time, but thankfully a measured approach to working through things with our various stakeholders meant that we made it through that period in a reasonable position to move forward.
We’ve learnt over the last two years that anything can happen, and so we just need to be flexible and agile in response to whatever happens. Our relationships with our audiences and stakeholders including partners, venues and artists are key to being able to manage “unforeseen circumstances”.
WHAT CAN AUDIENCES EXPECT FROM CANBERRA COMEDY FESTIVAL (CCF) 2022?
Lots of laughs! We’re just glad to be back out and putting on shows, and we hope that people are keen to come out and have a laugh with us.
We have some old favourites returning as well as some fresh shows, including a good contingent of local acts.
HOW IS CCF ADDRESSING INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY IN ITS PROGRAMMING?
The broader comedy scene attracts all sorts of people, which helps here, and in general there is a good representation of people from different cultural backgrounds performing, relative to the size of those populations. Certainly the LGBTQI+ community has strong representation in comedy. Although there are generally less female stand-up comedians than males, this ratio seems to be improving slowly with more participation from females, at least locally here in Canberra where we have a strong contingent of female acts thanks in no small part to having a supportive scene and some positive female role models.
We always try to program some cultural and gender diversity and aim to have something on our program for everyone. Part of the beauty of comedy is hearing people’s unique perspectives. Whether it be acts with different cultural backgrounds such as Ivan Aristeguieta who brings an insightful and hilarious perspective of Australian culture from someone who grew up in Venezuela, to our local Koori Comedy crew, or acts like Kirsty Webeck with their LGBTQI+ influenced material. Our Clean Comedy Spectacular at The Street Theatre is programmed for an audience that might not otherwise come out to a live comedy show due to the risk of potentially offensive material, and provides a safe option for members of the community of all ages.
All of our venues are wheelchair accessible this year too.
DO YOU THINK THERE IS A STYLE OF COMEDY EMERGING OUT OF CANBERRA?
At times there seems to be some stylistic cliques, but in general there is some good diversity in the comedy scene here in Canberra, and no one particular style of comedy coming out of Canberra. I do hope that as Canberra grows we can keep more of our young talent here in Canberra and see less of them move to the big smoke of Melbourne or Sydney to try to further their careers.
WHO EXCITES YOU MOST IN COMEDY AT THE MOMENT AND WHY?
I get most excited by seeing people’s careers develop as they hone their craft and own style/voice. This includes people like Daniel Connell who will be performing at The Street Theatre – I love his quirky, laidback Aussie style. It also includes people like Chris Ryan who is really building her profile in the industry and managing to do it while still living here in Canberra. I also love Luke Heggie’s comedy – he has a dry, cynical wit and a very Australian presentation. I’m also keen to see some more of Emma Holland’s material as I haven’t seen her perform in a little while.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING/WATCHING?
There are no regular shows I’m watching right at the moment (most nights are spent working on a comedy festival), although I don’t mind some Bluey or Peppa Pig when my kid is watching the box. I do like checking out different stuff though including Australian comedies – the last one I got into was Frayed which I really enjoyed and I hope there are more seasons of in the future.
I’m currently reading Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming by Paul Hawken et al, but that is a non-fiction book rather than fiction – it has some optimism around what can be a very depressing topic. I’m looking forward to reading Benjamin Stevenson’s new book Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone that comes out at the end of this month. Benjamin is the festival’s Artistic Director (and half of The Stevenson Experience) and this new book has already been picked up to be adapted to a HBO limited series so it is a busy but exciting period for him.
CANBERRA COMEDY FESTIVAL AT THE STREET THEATRE FROM 21- 26 MARCH 2022