There is more to a great show than the singer or actor. Numerous people in the entertainment industry are often overlooked, but the Mercury is out to celebrate them.
The choice for an Irishman to move to Wollongong was simple – it was a place that didn’t have a comedy scene.
Fast forward several years and Martin Henchion runs a number of regular comedy events around the Illawarra.
“Five years ago there was one comedy night running in Wollongong … and it was running twice a month,” he said. “There were maybe three professional comedians in Wollongong at the time and maybe four or five open mic comedians that would pop up every now and then.”
Now the area boasts around 10 people who get paid work and a stack of others who frequent the nine open mic comedy gigs each month.
One of those rooms is co-run by Daz Giles, formerly of Parramatta but now calls the Illawarra home.
Both started running comedy nights because no-one would give them a gig.
“At my second ever comedy gig a lady spoke to me, and now we have three kids … she was Australian,” Henchion said.
“That’s a warning to all ladies going to comedy,” added Giles.
Both gentleman attest to Sydney’s comedy scene being tough, with mostly comedians playing to other comedians who are judging and critiquing their every move.
“Sydney people don’t go out so it’s very, very difficult to get an audience to come out and watch anything – especially open mic comedy," Giles said.
"Comedians dread going to Sydney,” Henchion added. “There are a lot of free open mic rooms in Sydney … but I’ve heard the horror stories and I just don’t go.
“Standing in a room of 25 to 30 comedians, watching one comedian, waiting for their turn to get up – so there’s a lot of nervous tension and people not paying attention.”
However, people in the Illawarra love to go out, as long as there’s at least one headline act.
But there are some guidelines to performing a routine if you’d like to get a laugh.
Don't be too offensive that you're not funny that the organisers start telling you they're not open any more.
“There was another comedian locally about a year-and-a-half ago, he was a vantriliqusit who was so offensive and not funny, it was horrendous,” Henchion said.
“We just kind of gave him the cold shoulder and he disappeared.”
Don't pick on someone who is in a lower position than yourself.
“[It’s] a term punching down,” Henchion said. “That’s why racism is okay against the English and against the Americans because you’re not punching down but in third world countries it’s offensive.”
“If the joke doesn’t have a punchline it’s a sentence,” Giles said. “If they’re just stringing sentences together they’re not doing comedy, they’re talking. We don't want talkers we want comedians.”
Meantime, the pair have never seen any Wollongong celebrities or radio identities get up at an open mic room (despite some boasting how funny they are). But Henchion warned it would be tough if they did, as it’s harder for anyone with a big profile.
Behind The Curtains will continue next Wednesday.