INTERVIEW: Patrick Marlborough | Ships in the Night
As the year comes quickly to a close, it’s time for Perth’s creative institutions to cap off 2015 with one last shout. Ships in the Night is having their last splash for the year with a great line-up of musicians and spoken word before it sets sail for the shores of 2016.
If you aren’t too familiar with Ships in the Night, well, you might want to touch base on their website, http://www.shipsinthenight.com.au/, or head over to Facebook to see what they’ve been up to. Basically, with Ships in the Night, you get “a bimonthly gig showcasing only the finest wordsmiths from Perth and beyond, who bring their work to life on stage alongside talented musicians in a fresh, intimate context.” But if that’s a little vague, then read on, as we talk to one of the writers who will be reading some of his words at SITN’s last gig this Thursday at bar Four5Nine inside Rosemount Hotel.
Patrick Marlborough is a writer/comedian, known in some circles as NERT (or NERT), and in other circles as Cormac McCafe. I’ll let you decide which one suits him best, or which one you prefer even (though you don’t have to choose, of course), once you’ve read through our interview.
I caught Patrick in the midst of reading The Public Burning by Robert Coover, a postmodern satire of the Rosenberg executions. I knew then that I was in for an interesting conversation…either that, or in way over my head.
Apart from reading you book, what do you do, do you have a job? What’s going on with you?
I recently quit a crappy office job so I work as a freelance writer pretty much for a couple of publications at the moment like the Betoota Advocate, who are a satirical publication like the Onion basically. Every now and again I try to write for The Lifted Brow, and just various other websites and a lot of copy basically. I just take whatever comes my way.
Do you mostly write comedy?
That’s my bread and butter, but I also have worked as a film critic and journalist a lot. I mainly write fiction and poetry, and I guess it’s funny but it’s not explicitly comedy. Lately I’ve just started doing stand-up like six months ago, so I do a lot of comedy, but I do serious stuff as well.
What got you into stand-up?
I’ve been a huge comedy nerd my whole entire life, I’ve been obsessed with the history of comedy and stand-up as a form. I’ve been writing comedy since I was like twelve, I’ve had my stuff performed since I was a kid. I traveled America last year and I saw a lot of comedy, met a lot of my comedy heroes like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
You met those guys?
Yeah, yeah. We saw their show, and my girlfriend and I were lost. Then we bumped into Stephen Colbert on the street. And then he was meeting Jon Stewart, so we met both of them at the same time. It was pretty insane, I pretty much blacked out. Those guys pretty much raised me. It would be my ultimate dream to write for the Daily Show, or it would have been The Colbert Report.
I’ve been obsessed with stand-up my whole life. Linguistically I’m an autodidact and I’ve always been a very verbal, phonetic writer. So guys like Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen have really affected the way I write, and think and speak I suppose.
As far as more modern guys goes, Patton Oswalt, Paul F. Tompkins, I’m a big Tim Heidecker fan, I got to meet him actually, but I’m really into anti-comedy and cringe comedy. Tim Heidecker, Larry David, Peep Show, that kind of stuff.
Describe cringe comedy for me.
It’s comedy that makes you uncomfortable, and you don’t know whether to laugh or not. There’s the less subtle kind, like The Office and stuff, but stuff like Heidecker and Andy Kaufman where the performance is all about people being unable to tell if these guys are sucking on purpose or not.
Is that part of your stand-up?
No, I don’t have the guts to do that. I wish I did. I’m not at that point yet. I’ve done a few online things in that style. One of my big influences is this guy I went to high school with who’s one of those shyster con men who sells neurolinguistic programming for businessmen. He does those horrible business conferences where he re-trains management executives. He has a lot of videos, and it’s not intentional, but I think it’s the funniest thing in the world. I get a lot of influence from that.
What will you be presenting at Ships in the Night?
The story I’m going to do is like South Park meets Ulysses, that’s the vibe I’m going for. It’s something I wrote a couple of years ago, and I thought it was short enough for me to read out. I went to a pretty rough public school, and I look back on some of the memories from that place, and I just realise how kind of unusual it was, and the level of violence and weirdness of the place. Kids who have been fucked up since they were five. I wasn’t one of those kids, but I have this wealth of batshit stories that I’ve built on basically. I graduated with like 8 people, and 4 of them are in prison.
My work is very dialogue heavy, I haven’t really worked out how I’m going to do it. I hope I don’t have to use funny voices.
Have you considered writing plays then?
Yeah, I went to a very theatre-heavy high school, where I used to write and produce a lot of plays. I’d love to, but just a matter of like in Perth, having access and that sort of thing is harder. It’s much easier to work as a fiction writer in Perth because you can send your stuff out all over the world. The theatre scene in Perth is so small, there’s not all that much room.
So what’s the night gonna be like?
The vibe is really relaxed, it’s like a small Perth literary community hanging out. Some people are doing just poetry, some people are just doing shorts, some people are just playing music.
So there you have it. If you’re feeling literary and want to get public about it, hang out with Patrick and the other writers like headliners Lucy Dougan and Geoff Lemon, plus Ashley Ramsay, Dennis Venning and Richard Moore, and musicians like Sam Atkin and Fingernail this Thursday night from 7pm. More info on the Facebook event page here. Tickets available for purchase here, and probably on the door on the night.