Mitchel E Roberts is not your average stand up comedian. His show, ‘May Contain Traces of Reading, is performed without uttering a single word and it’s back for another season at the Butterfly Club this Jane – June.
We spoke to Mitch about what audiences can expect this time around, and what’s next for the young rising star.
Mitch, you talk about the concept for this show as ‘coming to you in a golden moment’ – but is there a back story or inspiration behind the idea?
The back story to this show is basically that I’ve been having silly ideas since I was 8 years old, and within a couple of weeks, I’d move on to the next grand plan, or huge scale scheme. This idea was different though. For one, I wasn’t actively trying to come up with something. I was just working in a job that didn’t require a lot of brain power or attention, and while my mind was wandering, this show walked into my head, with a fully formed premise. It’s so rare that I get that one shining moment, where I can see the whole thing, and as the weeks went by I was still chuckling to myself about it. For the first time, the idea stuck around, and I was fortunate enough to have a great team around me who loved the idea and encouraged me to let it out.
In terms of inspiration, there’s a lot that’s come from many different places. My sense of humour is formed very much by British style comedy; Monty Python, Rowan Atkinson (both as Blackadder and Mr Bean), and Fry and Laurie, which my parents exposed me to from a young age. Although without a doubt, my number one comedy heroes are Lano and Woodley, who I consider to be the best example of making silly comedy out of clever writing that there’s ever been. More specifically, this show came out of watching a bunch of young local comedians during the 2018 Comedy Festival and learning lessons from them. Performers like Nadia Collins, Jacqueline Mifsud, Blake Everett, Clara Cupcakes, Laura Davis, Tash York and heaps more. Allowing myself to be immersed in and inspired by all the wonderful comedians out there got the creative juices flowing and put me in the right place for May Contain Traces of Reading to appear in my head.
The show had a successful run last season, what sort of updates and changes are you bringing with you this year, that the audience can expect to enjoy?
Most of the changes this time around were just solidifying some of the things I did on the fly during last year’s season. I hadn’t really had the chance to work the show with an audience before we opened, and as the show went on, we changed a few jokes here and there, so I’ve written them in properly.
I’ve also tightened up the show a bit, there were a bunch of places where I realised I didn’t need a particular sign to make my punchline or places where the show dragged a little and I needed to just get on with it.
Lastly, I’ve added in some ideas I’ve had since the show closed, some single punchlines, some extra bits, some more silly things, as well as expanding the stuff that makes the show unique every performance. If you’ve enjoyed it before, you can come along a second time and experience a slightly different version of it. The audience really does control quite a lot of what goes on, so you’ll never see exactly the same show twice.
Heckling is encouraged at your show – what is the best and worst heckler you’ve had to deal with, has there been an instances where the ‘sick burn cards’ didn’t have a response?
The heckling bit is actually one of my favourite parts of the show. The idea was to take a weakness of my show (that is, the inability to respond directly in real-time), and turn it into a strength. By inviting the heckles, for every person trying to make me feel bad, there are 20 people who want to see the next “sick burn,” drowning them out. The end result of that is that the people heckling love it as much as I do, whether the “sick burns” make sense or not.
The worst heckles are the ones where their heart isn’t in it, or they’re just doing it because they think they have to.
Conversely, the best ones are where they try to get me to laugh; it’s so much in the spirit of the show. I had a cousin come to the show last year who is a doctor and during a section of the show where I do a PSA (public service announcement), someone asked what PSA meant, and he loudly responded with “prostate specific antigen!” It just came out of nowhere and was so clearly not what I was talking about, the audience just lost it and it took everything I had to not make a sound. I ended up not giving him a “sick burn,” I just shook his hand and moved on with the show. With a comment like that, there’s not much you can do except salute the comedy.
If you could sum up your show for the uninitiated in one giant palm card – what would it say?
The intellectual in me wants to say something like “dad jokes of questionable quality, punchlines of unquestionable stupidity, and odd observations through the prism of an undeniably silly premise” but I feel like that’s probably too wordy. Let’s go with “it’s completely silly, a bit odd, and a good time is had by all. The more you bring in, the more you’ll take out”
Your show finishes up at the Butterfly Club on 1 June, where to next, or do you have any new projects on the horizon?
The plan going forward is to see where else I can take this show, it’s so incredibly fun to perform and I don’t want to stop any time soon. Hopefully, this season forms the start of what will be a run at a few festivals next year, as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival has been a dream of mine for a while. As for other projects, I have a few ideas brewing, so I’ll keep working on those, but I’ll have to wait and see what the next golden moment of inspiration is. Maybe I’ll write a sequel, who knows?
Like us, if you are keen to check out Mitch’ show it’s running at the Butterfly Club until the 1stof June.
Where: the Butterfly Club, Carson Place (of Lt Collins), CBD
When: 7pm, 27 May – 1 June
More information / tickets: Check out their website