You think you wouldn’t read about it, but you can, World heritage listing considered for Bendigo Telstra phone booth, Man wears green bag as hat and La Trobe uni student’s study habits border on the insane. Just jump onto satirical news site The Bendigo Standard and it’s all there in full colour.
Psychological Science student and website editor Luke Morris wrote the latter article from recent experience. There he was on Sunday, in the thick of preparations for this week’s first Bendigo Comedy Festival, and on the eve of an assignment deadline.
“Oh god,” he laughs, dropping his head on the table. “I literally wrote an email to my subject coordinator asking, what happens if I fail? I had an assignment due on Monday and I was literally crying, saying, I don’t know how I can do this.”
Did he make it? “Yeah! And it wasn’t the worse thing I’ve handed in either,” he says.
Suffice to say it’s a busy time for the part-time student, local writer and comedian. When he meets the Bendigo Campus blog he has a satchel bursting with freshly-collected comedy gig posters. It’s the first of a long list of tasks to complete before the festival kicks off tonight.
Luke says uni has taught him many things beyond this mad multitasking. Namely that he can do a lot more than he thought he could.
Just three years ago he wasn’t in such a happy place. Having moved to Bendigo for a job that didn’t work out, Luke found himself isolated, unable to find secure employment and struggling with some old challenges. In getting help he began a steady walk towards returning to study.
“It was through seeing a psychologist and talking about how hard it is to find someone to talk to about what I was interested in. She said there’s interesting, educated minds at university and that might open doors for me … at the time I needed stability, an interest and human contact. Those are the three things uni’s helped with.” Alongside La Trobe, Luke also found a home for his love of comedy.
“I’ve been writing since I was a kid at school. I experienced what would be referred to now as bullying and depression but back then it was called having a bad day and being razzed on. Writing comedy was a way to escape. I kept doing it despite everyone telling me it would never work out.”
That was before Luke went along an open mic comedy night in Bendigo, figuring he had nothing to lose. “I got up and I got laughs, and that was that. I found my people.”
This weekend those people will be out in full force and gunning for laughs. Luke is one of a handful of locals organising the festival, which includes five Bendigo comedians, five international comedians and a duo performing for kids.
Luke will perform his Wine Science show on Saturday night, based on the time be spent working in the wine industry. For his next gig he’ll be drawing some material from the La Trobe classroom.
“When I do stand up I do a lot of character things, about how people behave, and I’m very blatant about it. In my current show I talk about the psychology of selling… I’m also writing a show for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival based on the Milgram Experiment.”
Covered at uni, the Milgram Experiment shows how people in authority can influence others to do things that conflict with their personal conscience, even potentially fatal acts.
“When you start out doing comedy you tend to draw from those around you and from people on TV but the more you get used to being on stage the more natural it becomes and the more you feel like talking about what you’re interested in.”
Turns out Luke’s two current passions are even more closely related than that. “I don’t think I could have done the comedy festival thing without uni. But god, it would have been easier! One doesn’t lead to the other but I can’t see the two as not being connected.”
A feature of the festival will be two open mic sessions, and Luke encourages others to be brave and give in to their alter egos. “We just encourage people to get up and give it a go, tell a story from your day that you thought was funny, tell some jokes you’ve written down on a piece of paper. We’re trying hard to attract more people and part of the festival is about doing that.”
It’s also, quite simply, about having a laugh. “We want people to have a really good time so they’ll come back next year and come to other things.”
The Bendigo Comedy Festival is on from October 11 to 13. See the full program and book your tickets here.