Published 18 October 201020 October 2010 · Main Posts Off to the Athenaeum Clare Strahan It was a shocking night for venturing out on Friday – rain, wind, dark (you get that at night), cold, a storm on the way. Bravely, I drove into town. After my last foray to the comedy theatre, I thought better of using public transport. Meeting dear, generous friends in the foyer of the Athenaeum, I was excited. I’d watched some youtubes of Fear of a Brown Planet and liked them very much. I knew nothing about Allah Made Me Funny, but the title appealed. We wandered up to our seats in the ‘gods’ of the theatre and were not welcome. ‘The house isn’t open,’ said someone from down below on stage to our bewildered usher. ‘Tell them to get out.’ The usher’s ponytail swung embarrassedly as he told us, a little more politely, to get out. For some reason the throng (and throng it was) was herded to the feet of the various entrance stairs and made to wait. An mostly inaudible announcement was made mentioning mobile phones and cameras, and then we were allowed in. Weird. Organisational discomfort aside, it was a very entertaining evening with Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain, the two young men from Fear of a Brown Planet, as the standout stand-ups for the evening. A shining light was the very charismatic MC, Azhar Usman, from Allah Made Me Funny. He was hilarious and very warm, a pleasure to be entertained by. I had been worried about sexist jokes, heading off on Friday night. I didn’t find that ‘go make me a sandwich’ joke funny. Well, during Friday night’s show there was little mention of women at all – except mothers, who clearly don’t count because when you’re childless and under 30, parents are still mythical creatures without lives of their own. I was a little disturbed by the hard time given to Indians, however, in the show and I genuinely thought ‘the Indians are getting a bit of a bashing’. The irony of this was almost lost in my rush not to think smartarse and unsavoury things that are in any way related to race – especially the trivialising of sanctioned social crime. I should just keep quiet, after all, small, in my box, cleverly disguised as a middle-aged white woman, otherwise I’ll just piss everybody off. Everybody in my own head, clearly, and not just everybody brown. Somebody told me Fear of a Brown Planet don’t ever get heckled by white people because white people are too scared. Scared of 27-year-old stand up comedians who have had to move home to their mothers? Bahaha. What this white person is scared of, however, is accountability. Being held responsible. Part of the problem, inconsequential to the solution. I was born in England, for God’s sake. I believe I have blood on my hands – well, on the hands of my ancestors. I’m Lady Macbeth and the nurse is watching me. And I live in Australia. I’m an Australian citizen. But I’m not touring the country agitating for change and the betterment of the lives of brown people … or any people. I’m locked away in my cedar-weatherboard tower, slowly crumbling into the bush, up here in the mountains where you’ll all come to feed off my pets when the apocalypse comes, or the sea rises (though both may occur simultaneously, if the apocalypse is a slower-moving beast than we imagine). I admire the young fellows of Fear of a Brown Planet. My true fear is that, as they are very good looking, and given my age and the current demonising of middle-aged women admiring handsome young men, I might have appeared predatory had I shared with them how much I enjoyed the show and how glad I was they didn’t make any sexist jokes. My skirt was above the knee, after all. There was an emotional close to the show. The comedians from Allah Made Me Funny – Azhar Usman, Preacher Moss and Mo Amer – are the inspirations for Fear of a Brown Planet (and therefore the cause of Ahmer Rahman’s parents’ despair). Performing together was, for the five men, the culmination of a dream. And it was a fun evening that managed to capture both warmth and edge and had the audience laughing out loud – all the ingredients for great stand up comedy. It’s Sunday as I write. About the right time for the really-pissed-off-people-who-left to be at that barbecue, still complaining about Fear of a Brown Planet and how they want their money back. If you were there, you’ll know what I mean. If you weren’t, you missed out and I suggest you get there next time. Clare Strahan Clare Strahan is a two-time novelist with Allen & Unwin publishers, long-ago contributing editor to Overland, and teaches in the RMIT Professional Writing & Editing Associate Degree. 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