The first dead comic turned up bright and early one Sunday morning in June, June 7th to be exact…dead cold in Alma Park, which is a short twenty minute tram ride from Melbourne’s CBD. A jogger in red and white shorts discovered the man’s body around 7am on his second lap of the footy oval when he stopped to tie a shoe lace.
The body was lying face down head turned towards the railway lines, curiously to the left. He had a smile on his face as if he’d died in a fit laugher. Close to the man’s head, a breath away from his silly grin, was a malurus cyaneus, commonly known a blue wren, also as dead as a donut. The bird and the man made an odd couple on the embankment that sunny winter’s morning. Looking down the jogger kicked at the bird with his running shoe just as the Sandringham train sped down the track, the breeze from the train making the dead man’s teeth chatter. The jogger did not recognise this particular species of bird at all but knew the name of the dead man immediately…he was ‘Eric Minchin.’ The jogger had caught a few of Eric’s gigs at the Comic Lounge in North Melbourne. Eric often hosted there during the International Comedy Festival. In fact most comedians workin’ Melbourne’s comedy circuit knew Eric and they all hated his guts. Often behind his back Eric was called ‘a fuckin’ big twat!’ Eric was disliked mostly because of his popularity and his constant upstaging at live gigs. Eric did not like to share the limelight.
Eric Minchin had had the kinda’ career the average Aussie comedian working the circuit longed for. It had been smooth sailin’ all the way for Eric. Not one wrong step, no stumbling either. While most comics in Melbourne struggled to put food on the table, Eric and his family were eating out at the Flower Drum… and Eric could often be found without his family dancing the night away at Eve Nightclub. Eric had a lovely wife, a beautiful child and over a two hundred and fifty thousand likes on Facebook…Fuck it, what more could any comic want? Eric was an Aussie success story, even 60 Minutes had interviewed him.
Eric also had a well paid gig on Australia’s second highest rating TV show, ‘Good Golly 5 ‘0’Clock News’ on Channel 3.
For you info…
Channel 3 is the same channel that programmes The Jailbirds. Eric did a segment on the TV show called Where Are They Now? A piss take on the short lived careers of forgotten Aussie celebrities…I guess the irony of Eric’s comedy routine and news reporting finally caught up with him. How could Eric Minchin have known last Friday when he signed off for the weekend he would make the headlines on the Channel 3 telly prompter -‘Eric (the twat) Minchin popular Australian star found dead in a ditch.’
He couldn’t have known that of course, or would anyone have guessed he’d would die in such a peculiar way sleeping like a baby next to a dead blue wren. Eric death was the start of what was to become known in the Australian media as The dead Bird Mystery – Comedy to die for!
Eric Minchin was to be Australia’s first victim.
Eric Minchin loathed by some, loved by the general public, dead at thirty eight.
Approximately Thirteen Hours Earlier….
Larry Bird was seated on backstage toilet at Bar 59 waiting nervously for his return to the Melbourne Comedy circuit. He scratched his balls and ran his routine over and over in his mind. Ten years was a long time to be off the circuit. Larry knew it too. Did he still have it? Noble the stage Manager banged on the door. She’d been a stage manager longer than she’s been a lesbian and was over both roles.
“It’s ya fifteen minute call Larry. Tuck it in mate a get ready. I can’t wait to hear your new routine. Best of luck” she shouted then under her breath added ” You’re goin’ to need it.” Noble tugged at her tight jeans and spat on the floor.
Larry flushed the toilet and stood watching the water swirl around the bowl for a moment. This was it, he dreamt about this night for a long time, over ten years or was it longer? Larry had lost track of time…and now here he was, ready for his return to the stage, finally. Slowly he walked down the corridor turning left at the end, as he rounded the corner he could just make out the sound of another comic’s routine. The joke’s lingering in his mind blocking his creativity a little. Larry didn’t know who was performing and he didn’t care either. As Larry stood in the wings waiting, he thought about his mother and father, his life up to this point, his first kiss in the backseat of a mate’s van when he was just fifteen and he thought about the plastic bag with half gram of coke waiting in his jacket pocket.
‘No Larry don’t do the coke thing’… Larry thought.
Larry reached into his pocket and rolled the little bag between his fingers and onto his palm …just as Noble the lesbian turned the corner.
“Five minute call Larry! Christ what’s wrong with you mate?…You’re sweating like a pig”
Larry Bird was indeed sweating like a marathon runner.
“Nothing. I’m just nervous. Stage fright I guess”
“Stage fright. Well you look like shit! Pull’ya self together mate…you’re on.”
I’m on Larry said, over and over in his mind. This is it. Everything I’ve done, been through has led me to this place, this stage…this moment.
“Curtain up mate” Noble shouted.
Larry swollowed hard and stepped out onto the stage, the stage lights blinding his view. I am home Larry thought…I’m home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NOEL ANDERSON completed NIDA’s Playwright Studio 1996. His written work includes: Germ Warfare (Bondi Pavilion), Kylie Kastle Throws a Party performed in schools across Australia, Sammy and Dave (Stables Theatre) and The Carer (Belvoir Street). In 2008 his play “Pulling Out” won Midsumma’s Pink Shorts at Gasworks and in 2012 his work was featured in Love Letters at the Melbourne Arts Centre. In 2013 Noel’s play Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes of Fame soldout La Mama’s Courthouse, returning 2015 to the Jewish Museum of Australia with Warhol’s Geniuses Exhibition. Directing work includes: Sylvia Plaith’s Letter’s Home (Belvoir Street), Oliver (Gold Coast Performing Arts Centre), A Fitzroy Romance (La Mama), The Water Sellers (Best Director Winner Monash Festival) and Price Check The Musical (Theatre Works)
Noel is producing, directing and co-writer on a new Aussie musical called Audrey Hepburn and I Consider Our Assets which open on 29th Oct at the Melba Spiegeltent, Melbourne
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