The popular comedy/ history podcast, The Dollop, was in Brisbane recording two live shows at a sold-out Brisbane Powerhouse (7 September).
With Australian history, every action in the founding of this country seems to be influenced by drinking, violence or battling those in power; or all three in the case of the Rum Rebellion of 1808. All of these factors influencing Australian history becomes more apparent when discussed by outsiders, like those of American comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds of The Dollop.
The duo’s comedic minds also bring out the hilarity of historical figures’ foolhardiness, judging by the roars of laughter erupting from crowd. Joined by Australian comedian Nick Cody, the trio sat down on stools on the stage, microphones in front of each of them. The table placed in the middle filled with a bucket of cold beers exhibited that this wasn’t going to be just any history lecture.
After a short set of announcements for podcast listeners, along with warming up the crowd and themselves with their witty banter, the trio began their story of the infamous Captain William Bligh. William Bligh’s story is one many know, thanks to his place in history as the captain of the HMAS Bounty, which has been the subject of three films about its mutiny (with the part of lead mutineer Fletcher Christian being played by the likes of Errol Flynn, Marlon Brando and Mel Gibson).
Interestingly, it’s a story I came to know from a previous job at a museum where I had to give a talk about the ship sent to capture The Bounty, the HMAS Pandora, and then demonstrate how to fire a cannon. So, this particular evening held even more significance for yours truly.
Appearing slightly academic in his glasses and button-up shirt, Dave Anthony read notes from his iPad, painting in vivid and sometimes foul detail how inept, despite his experience, Bligh truly was. Dave’s level of research is just as accomplished as his humour, filling in the blanks of Bligh's appearance and personality as a: “Short man with a gorilla-body, large bobble-head, and an absolute dickhead.”
Gareth and Nick, having no idea about what the story is beforehand, spontaneously launch into hilarious asides throughout, with great quips appearing throughout. With the topic of breadfruit, an awful fruit which was fed to the slaves and crew who manned Bligh’s ships, the trio joke about how it is the poorer ancestor of fruit-bread, and, in an inspired ‘Cool Runnings’ reference, the Jamaicans Bligh tried to coax into eating it would start a bobsled team before they ever ate it.
Nick Cody makes the funny observation of how the breadfruit trees are treated better than Bligh’s crew, with them receiving much of the water rationed for the crew, and being “taken for walks” as they were carried from their shelter inside the ship on to the deck for some sun. It wasn’t just sarcastic wisecracks, but also the creation of full, three-dimensional characters by Gareth leading to further side-splitting hilarity.
Gareth doesn’t just have the brilliant ability of mimicking accents authentically, but he can develop characters completely on the spot. When the detail of Bligh’s demand for his crew to include a blind Irish fiddler to play for three-hour long jigs came up, Gareth created a hilarious character whose story develops throughout the evening: going from being unable to find his fiddle, to being stranded on a remote island with only the company of his domineering wife, a rock with seaweed for hair.
As the story of the only man to be sentenced by a court to “treat his crew nicer” came to an end, the audience were left content for two hilarious hours by the story of the pettiest man in history (one who caused the Mutiny On The Bounty for flying into a violent rage when he lost his coconuts).
While the podcast will be available on their website soon, the live recording experience offered so much more, with the trio onstage showing that a bit of humour and connecting with their audience can lead to learning much more than they did in history class in school. The Dollop is the greatest example of education as entertainment, and one of the most hilarious two hours of learning anyone will have.