Edinburgh Fringe Fest - Michelle Brasier
Reform is the second stand-up show from Michelle Brasier (Aunty Donna’s Big Ol’ House Of Fun), and tells the unbelievably true story how she became the emergency contact for a stranger who tried to scam her. Already receiving multiple 5-star reviews and critical acclaim in Melbourne, Reform is a cautionary tale laced with friendship, radical empathy, redemption, kindness and understanding over a theatrical hour of storytelling and original music.
From scams to sell out shows, Michelle told us all about finding the good and the interesting in everyone, sharing a stage with her partner and her love for the Fringe.
Give us the elevator pitch for Reform.
In 2020, I tried to buy a Pilates reformer online. When it turned out to be a scam, I became obsessed with finding the man who scammed me and finding out why and how he'd ended up here. It's about the moment I chose to lose $500 but make a friend. Reform isn't your usual 'comedian outsmarts scammer' story, it's much kinder and much more likely to make you scream 'NO!' while you're watching it. Sometimes you put your scammer in prison and sometimes you become their emergency contact. It's a show about living in the grey areas in life in a time when everyone is obsessed with the black and white. A rejection of judgement, a call for hope and an argument for assuming the best in people even when they prove themselves, time and time again, to be an absolute dickhead. With original songs and a live band, obviously. I would rather be a fool than a cynic and so a fool, I will happily be.
The situation you’ve found yourself in here is wild, is it all true?
Unfortunately, this is an absolutely true story. I tell the audience at the start of the show that it's all true except for one small lie and invite them to guess the lie at the end after the show. They always guess the really big twists and turns but it's something very small that I only changed to protect my scammer. My partner, Tim Lancaster, plays Jacob - my scammer and I think it's cathartic for him because he spent the entire time begging me to call the cops so it's nice for him to be able to portray this man he once hated so much. Both to understand and empathise with him and to play him off as a bit of a wanker. Very satisfying. My live shows are all true stories about stupid things happening to me which makes it seem like I'm very unlucky or my life is cursed. I think it's just because I pull every thread till the end. I mean, I could have just called the cops. But where's the story? I'm a big believer in finding the most interesting version of every person and every story I meet. And then turning them into a comedy show, winning awards and monetising it of course. I'm not a philosopher on high. I like it in the muck, there's poetry down here. And someone's pooed their pants too.
What brings you back to Edinburgh Fringe?
I love Edinburgh Fringe. It's a marathon but I love it. Financially it's an absolute nightmare and that's coming from me after a sell-out season last year - it's still so expensive that you make nothing but it's an investment I make in myself every year because every time I do it, I leave better, with a more polished show and a better performer in general. I see so much amazing theatre there and I find it all so inspiring. I filmed my show Average Bear as a special for Paramount Plus and then I took it to Edinburgh, but I wish I had the chance to film it again after it came out of the EdFringe machine so much better. Scottish audiences are great. Besides, we don't have castles in Australia.
You have won and been nominated for so many awards I’ve lost count. Do you think they are helpful in advancing your career?
Oh goodness haha thank you! Awards mean nothing but also everything depending on if I'm talking to someone who has just won or just lost. They can really help especially at the beginning of your career but I also think, just because you haven't been nominated before - it shouldn't make you feel like you should quit. I don't like the idea of art as a competition, but I can definitely see how it's opened doors for me. People are more likely to take a chance, to come and see what all the fuss is about.
Then again, Aunty Donna, who I work with - have never taken Best Show at Melbourne Comedy Festival which is our home festival, and they are the most successful comedy group we have.
When I first started out, I didn't know there even were awards and I was just so happy to be there and to have any audience at all. Starting to sell out and win awards is so nice but it can poison that joy so it's important for me to be really, really grateful and to never become entitled. I want to keep working hard. (And I want to keep winning awards even though I wish I didn't feel that way).
I see a lot of younger comics coming up now with a plan. They save their best stuff so they can be established well before they do their first hour just so they can be nominated for Best Newcomer awards. I don't think that's a good mindset. Awards are so lovely, but the goal should be pleasing your audience, not a panel, not other comics, the people who have actually paid to come and watch you for an hour. If you can make them laugh and enjoy what you're doing - that's the gig baby. That's the dream. (The dream is also to win all of the awards - god the duality of being human is disgusting).
You are well known for being one half of comedy two-hander Double Denim – is it less scary to take to the stage when you’re part of a duo?
It is much harder to go it alone! I love being on stage with my friends and trying to make each other laugh. That's a joy I really miss from Double Denim. Even in my solo shows, they aren't really solo shows because I rope my partner into playing guitar for them and we always end up with some jokes between us. The joy is in the play and when the only person to play with is the audience, it can be really daunting. I have the most fun when I'm on set with mates, especially Aunty Donna, just trying to make each other laugh. I think that's what makes the best work for me so it's a big challenge to do these shows. That said, I bloody love a challenge. And I really love how hard you have to work when you just have your jokes and a story. When I wrote my first proper solo show, Average Bear, I was really, really scared. The risk feels higher but the pay off when it goes well is euphoric.
Michelle Brasier: Reform will be performed at 7pm in Gilded Balloon Teviot (Dining Room) from 2nd – 27th August (Not 16th)