Monday, March 24, 2014

Melbourne vol. 1: The Prince Pat

The first venue I ever went to underage was the Prince Pat Hotel. Back in the 90s I wasn't there for the contraband vodka but the comedy. The late Dave Taranto hosted The Cheese Shop and it was there I saw a young Wil Anderson tell jokes about working for the Herald Sun ("translating the copy from its original German"), Dave Hughes do shtick about life on the dole and Fleety bundle the crowd out onto the footpath so he could drop-punt a frozen chicken across three lanes of traffic.

The Cheese Shop was the heart and soul of Melbourne's comedy scene. The crowd was well-versed in comedy - it knew the canon, Python and Carlin and Hicks and Partridge - and allowed newcomers the space to develop and veterans the chance to experiment. When Comedy Festival rolled around, international acts would appear unbilled - Franklin Ajaye, Rich Hall, Boothby Grafoe, Corky and the Juice Pigs. I remember Greg Fleet, Marty Sheargold and Matt King singing "Got No Mates"; Fred Rowan's ode to Jeff Kennett; Judith Lucy's one word take-down of a former colleague; Sue Ann Post and her hand-rolled smokes tucked behind her ear; Scared Weird Little Guys and Lano and Woodley sharing the stage at the annual Christmas show.

Taranto was a curator, a comic and a comedy nerd. Janet McLeod took your cash on the door and never asked for ID. The back walls were covered with illustrated pics of the D Gen. Anthony Morgan would hit up the pinball machine between sets. Cigarette smoke hung in the air. I loved the place.

These days the Pat is a gastropub, Taranto is gone and Rove is a multi-millionaire. I stopped seeing much comedy outside of the Festival. Wednesday nights lost their allure. But I rarely cross Victoria Parade without thinking of that chicken.


Anthony said...

I finally saw Sean Cullen live tonight, after years of listening to Corky & The Juice Pigs on The Cheeseshop on 3RRR as a youngster in the '90s. I couldn't help but think of the late Dave Taranto's legacy on the way home. It was nice then, after a bout of nostalgic googling, to find this entry that sums up some of that Live Comedy Love. Thanks.

Jo said...

Hey Anthony. I didn't even know Cullen was performing at MICF this year - will have to check him out. Taranto was a huge loss to Melbourne's comedy scene, and I don't know if anyone has taken his place - or whether they could if they tried. Thanks for reading.