Artist Inquisition: Lose The Plot
Words: Julia HowlandImages: Courtesy of artists
As part of our ongoing Artist Inquistion series we caught up with Marian Blythe and Dan Salmon from Lose the Plot. Lose The Plot is a creative panel show hosted by Marian, and is showing in conjunction with Melbourne Fringe 2016. Each night three of Melbourne’s most talented comedians, authors, musicians and actors are challenged to tell an improvised story one minute at a time, whilst being helped by Marian, Dan, and the audience.
How did you first get involved in being hilarious and creative? Were you born very dull & boring and had to work at it? Or did you pop out of the womb slinging jokes at the nurses?
Marian Blythe: My school report in grade three said, “Marian finishes her work too quickly and then disturbs the other children.” I would argue that they meant “entertain” rather than disturb. I’m not sure that I’m hilarious, but I was a chatty, annoying kid who wanted to make everyone love her, and the best way to do that is make them laugh — if motivational books and my therapist are to be believed.
Dan Salmon: I don’t think I was particularly witty at birth, but most of the people who were there at the time are either dead or incapable of communication now, so I can’t ask them. To be honest, I’m not 100% sure I’m particularly funny now. I generally steal jokes from people who I find much funnier than I am and pass them off as my own. That’s cool, right?
How did you come up with the idea for this show?
DS: All Marian’s idea – don’t blame me.
MB: I love watching artists do their thing. Creative genius is so fascinating. I want to get inside their brains and watch the cogs turning. I co-host a podcast called Devotee, where myself and Lucas Testro interview artists we love about the stuff that they love, and it got me thinking about what influences art, and what inspires people to create things a certain way, so when the City of Literature and Fringe put a call out for shows that highlighted Melbourne’s rich storytelling culture I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to get all different kinds of artists and creatives together to make something magic live and in front of a crowd? Turns out that was a pretty great idea. Watching them in action is in parts inspiring, intriguing, fun, frightening, and best of all, thoroughly entertaining — it’s quite the ride, is what I’m saying.
Why have you chosen the people you have to participate in your show?
MB: I got Dan on board because he is one of the most fun and funny people I have ever met. Also, he is easy to get drunk and coerce into singing karaoke — which is pretty much my favourite thing to do.
DS: It’s true, she did get me drunk and coerce me. I think in some jurisdictions that’s classified as a crime, but it’s getting me out of the house, so I’m cool with it. To be honest, I’ve wanted to work with Marian for a while so it didn’t really take too much alcohol to get me to agree, and she’s got this way of getting you excited about the things that she does, which is generally by making them awesome.
MB: Regarding the panelists on the show, the point of Lose the Plot is about storytelling, and I think all artists are storytellers, not just writers, but comedians, actors, musicians, visual artists — they’re all telling stories, just in different mediums. So I wanted to throw a bunch of my favourite local artists together and see what happened. We have writers in the mix of course (Jeff Sparrow, Lee Zachariah, Andrew Nette, Lisa Dempster, John Richards, and Alex Heller-Nicholas), but we also have people like Rama Nicholas and Kate Boston Smith who are theatre performers; comedians like Josh Earl, Dave Lawson, and Adam McKenzie; and visual artists like Isabel Peppard. And of course they’re all multi-talented so are musos and presenters and critics and producers as well! Basically, there’s a ridiculous amount of talent involved in this show — the least of which is me!
What has been your favourite part of putting this together?
MB: Definitely watching it all come together on stage. There’s something electric about witnessing genius at work. Each panellist brings something completely different to the story and they bounce off each other and feed each other. It’s truly amazing to watch.
DS: It really is – there’s something about the tension inherent in improvisation that makes it thrilling. In the first couple of shows I’ve had to remind myself that I’m not just in the audience and need to do a bit more than gawp at the amazing stuff coming out of the guests’ mouths (that sounds much grosser than it is).
How does living and working in Melbourne influence your work?
MB: Melbourne is so full of talent it’s ridiculous. You can’t walk down the street without tripping over someone you want to start a project with. It was so tough keeping the show run to four because I wanted to keep adding shows to get more guests in. We’re hoping to do some more in the future so maybe in 2045 we’ll have exhausted Melbourne’s talent pool and will have to take the show on the road.
DS: It’s kind of like this cruel game of musical chairs where you don’t want to take one away, but if you don’t then the overlords will feed one of the guests to the kraken. It’s a tough time.
Where do you find comedic inspiration? Politics? Pop Culture?
MB: I have a definite sarcastic streak, so the utter farce of our current political and cultural landscape helps, but really it’s bouncing off other people that inspires me — particularly Dan. He and I click really well and it makes for a very fun time. We spend a lot of downtime laughing hysterically at ourselves and high-fiving each other in a completely obnoxious way. Thankfully we got most of that out in the rehearsals and manage to hold it together on stage for Lose the Plot.
DS: Totes. *high five*. I find humanity fascinatingly awful, and particularly as I get older and realise that it’s only getting worse. If you’re too lazy to do something to improve things (as I am), all you can really do is laugh at it.
Netflix: What are you watching?
DS: I’ve actually been getting home from the show and rewatching Black Books and Absolutely Fabulous. On Saturday I ordered pizza at 1am, put on an episode, promptly fell asleep on the couch, woke up at 5am to a barrage of text messages from the delivery driver, accompanied with a photo of the pizza being left at the front door at about 2. It was cold but I was not in a state to care.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
MB: Wow, how long have you got? I feel like I’ve been given more bad advice than good, generally. I grew up in a non-creative environment of people who just “got on with things”. I was definitely a square peg in a round hole.
If I had to pick the worst bit of advice though, it would be something numerous people said to me as a child (including my mother), and that was to not stand out — as in, don’t try to be extraordinary because people don’t like that. I spent a lot of my life being scared of making waves because people might judge me. Then I realised that making waves is possibly THE most fun thing to do, so I took on a Zero Fucks Policy regarding what other people think … and am really enjoying that. Please note: I did just have the urge to end that sentence with a winky-face but thought you might think that was naff — so I probably care a little bit what people think … ;) :P :D
DS: The worst advice I’ve ever been given was to go to architecture school, which was actually advice that I gave myself. Since then I’ve never really trusted my own decisions, which makes me extremely suggestible, and incapable of working out what bad advice sounds like.
Lose the Plot is showing this Saturday 24 September at 6.30 and 8.30pm at Wick Studios in Brunswick. To find out more information and to purchase tickets visit the Fringe 2016 Website.
About Marian Blythe:
Marian Blythe is a writer, presenter, and producer. She currently co-hosts Devotee: The Creativity Podcast, has presented numerous shows over the years on Triple R radio, has had writing published in The Big Issue, Trip Magazine and various online mags and zines. She also just co-produced a short film, Capes, which will be premiered at the prestigious Austin Film Festival in the US next month.
About Dan Salmon:
Dan Salmon is a broadcaster and editor. He’s currently on the team of Byte Into IT, Triple R’s computing and technology show (despite knowing precious little about technology). He’s written for Trip Magazine and is co-editor of POST Magazine, a Melbourne-based publication focusing on critiquing architecture from the point-of-view of the inhabitant. If you give him food he’ll follow you home and curl up in front of your fireplace, but not in a creepy way.