Comedian Sammy J returns to the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year with Part III of his ongoing ‘The 50 Year Show’.
First performed ten years ago, it returns at five year intervals with Sammy and an assortment of co-stars on stage discussing current events and making bold predictions. Deceptively ambitious, even the funny man describes it as “a slightly strange time-warped comedy show that includes video segments from the last two shows and brand new segments and special guests”. As he carefully notes though, “it’s more than the sum of its parts, it’s more about the journey”.
Debuting in 2008, even a mere five years later with ‘Part II’ the power of the central idea had become abundantly apparent. Where once there was a pregnant woman there was now a four-year-old girl, jeggings were out and hipsters were in, Barack Obama made history in 2008 and in 2013 Tony Abbott was settling in as Australia’s newest Prime Minister. The show on the surface was about technology, fashion, culture and history unfolding before us but most poignantly it captured the unfolding of life itself.
As Sammy himself notes: “There are the sort of sketches the show is based around but alongside that is this idea that we’re actually growing older. I look back at the video of the first show and I see myself ten years younger you know before I was married, before I had children, and I see this fairly ambitious young dude who was pretty desperate to make the show work and keen to prove himself.”
As times evolve so too does the comedy and awareness of the young man who put the show together. “Back in 2008 there were jokes that I was making that I wouldn’t make now either tonally or comedically. Another thing was the lack of women in the show which has just shocked me. I was clearly just totally blind to that in terms of getting my mates on board and everything. That would be a clear lesson not just for the world but for me in the last five years as something that I’m going to be rectifying pretty strongly this year.
"So again there’s that question of growing artistically, and my comedy will change of course, but also how you’re developing personally as well. For me those two always intersect on stage in different ways,” he says.
When the show debuted in 2008 Sammy J was a long way on from his “'Batman Begins' moment” performing in Red Faces on ‘Hey Hey It’s Saturday’ circa 1999 but he is still grateful for Melbourne Fringe getting behind the show, explaining, “pretty much everything about Melbourne Fringe made me want to do it there. The Fringe Festival was there as a place to try new ideas out, to be more experimental, to do something a little more off the beaten track. And so for me, I remember when I first pitched the idea they were instantly behind it. It was such a Fringe idea in a way and as I say back then, they didn’t have any reason to get behind me; it wasn’t like I had any real profile to trade off. So the Fringe Festival is just the most wonderful place/space for artists and for audiences and the audiences I find are so open to new things and trying things out so it’s a really special time.”