'Blaze Against The Machine' sees the return of Shayne Hunter to the comedy circuit with his debut festival show.
Shayne answers some questions about his thought-provoking and funny performance.
Your show has some reference to drugs and questions their legality. Where did this theme come from?
My parents were addicts, heroin and gambling, so I am a purebred, I am like a show dog of addiction. I think we are all interested being able to have greater self control, the struggle between going to the gym vs eating ice cream, doing the paper work before the deadline vs watching Netflix, smoking bongs vs writing a gratitude letter to loved ones. Most of us know we let ourselves down and others by proxy when we give in to instant gratification. Society has structured its drug laws to punish addicts and I believe this is the wrong approach, sending meth heads to the naughty corner won't help. Come to the show, I'll explain why...with dick jokes!
The show promises to not only be funny, but also intelligent and to make audiences think. How so?
Writing and researching this show I learned that often people who become problem addicts are lacking self esteem and a sense of meaning. You need something meaningful enough in your life to bare the horrible suffering that is the human condition, without that there would be no point delaying instant gratification. Why not just masturbate and shove chocolate in your mouth? I was walking down the street and this dude down an ally way was like "hey kid, you want some meaning?", I was like "Yeah!", and he said, "in your life you will have a meaningful impact with 1,000 people, and that 1,000 will have a meaningful impact with another 1,000, and that 1,000 will have a meaningful impact with another 1,00 and you're within two degrees of separation with a BILLION people and everything you do takes a step for the entirety of humanity in that direction". When he told me that I realised that when I am ripping cones, I am ripping cones for humanity! One small bong hit for Shayne, one giant bucket bong for mankind. Knowing that has helps me cut down.
In 2013 you stepped back from comedy to focus your energy on refugee and aboriginal rights. When and why was the decision to do this made?
I was a young person that wanted to change the world and I could see problems in society and I wanted to relate to things that had a sense of meaning and purpose. I did think that the the conditions that lead to refugees and the historical mistreatment of First Nations people was related to war and greedy conquest, I was very worried that a nuclear war would happen in 2012 when the west was going to invade Syria. However we like to think of our motivations as being the most virtuous. I am sure there was some element of refusing to step up to the responsibilities of my career at that time and avoiding it with a hero narrative was a good way not to risk failure.
Do you draw on that kind of thing at all in 'Blaze Against The Machine'?
Yes, having been involved in the Far Left, which sees the world as oppressor vs oppressed, with different classes in a constant power struggle, as well as observing and counter protesting the far right, I learned that it's not "power corrupts", it's that people are corrupt and then they get power. I saw a great darkness in people that preached the highest virtue in my time in the activist world. Here is a great quote: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 'The Gulag Archipelago'.
I draw from these experiences because I believe the moral struggle is internal and that the ability to delay instant gratification and not take drugs is similar to the ability to be honest, because telling the truth is often short term pain for long term gain, while telling lies is like taking drugs, short term pleasure often at your own and others expense.
This is pretty much your 'return' to the comedy circuit after that shift in focus. What made you want to come back?
I never stopped doing stand-up, I was just underground doing stand-up at activist events and fundraisers in anarchist squats and things like that. I came back because I love it! I came back because I realised I didn't know enough to be an activist or decide how the socio-economic political order should be structured but I do know that I can make people laugh.
What's your favourite thing about putting shows like this together?
Learning and studying the internal processes of the mind. We have an amazing ability to rationalise instant gratification. Our frontal lobes, the 'human' part of our brain, seems to be just a good defence lawyer for our criminal monkey brain that just wants pleasure. Learning how psychedelic drugs can turn off the 'me' centres of the brain and allow us to have mystical experiences where we are one with everything is also so amazing to learn about. Do you know magic mushrooms actually grow on the lawn of Parliament House? Like nature is trying to help us! Imagine Question Time in Parliament on magic mushrooms? "Mr Speaker, what is reality?"
What can audiences expect to witness in 'Blaze Against The Machine'?
They can expect a comedic examining of the internal and external process of addiction and how it relates to self-deception and a lack of meaning in life and on the flip-side I talk about how psychedelic drugs can allow us to have positive life-changing experiences. I dissect the commentary on drug law reform and some of the failures on prohibition. This isn't just some pretentious show about drugs... All the material works in mainstream comedy clubs, so it's funny and very accessible, but if you are in any way interested in these subjects I know how to illuminate them.
Shayne Hunter Dates16-18 March – Brisbane Powerhouse (Brisbane Comedy Festival)
29 March-22 April – Pomodoro Saro (Melbourne Comedy Festival)
3-6 May – Enmore Theatre (Sydney Comedy Festival)