Comedy class

Did you hear the one about the diocesan accountant who wrote his own stand-up comedy show?

It goes like this: a middle-aged Sydney Anglican walks into a bar...

As unusual jokes go it’s right up there, but it has the unexpected quirk of being absolutely true – and it’s part of this month’s Sydney Fringe Festival.

When asked where on earth the idea for such a show could have come from the middle-aged Sydney Anglican in question, James Flavin, laughs heartily.

“When I was growing up comedy was my rock’n’roll,” he says. “While my friends were going to pub bands and jazz bands and classical concerts I was going to live comedy gigs. Melbourne, Edinburgh... whenever we’re on holidays one of the first things we look up is the local comedy scene.

“I’ve always loved comedy and the whole idea of live performance, and about 20 years ago I started thinking I should give it a go myself – then life gets in the way. You have a child, you do family things then you have another child... but now the kids are 19 and 15 there’s an opportunity.”

With his work hat on Flavin is the general manager of public schools ministry organisation Generate Ministries, and also chairs a number of finance-related committees for the Diocese. But behind all the management and accountancy, and the meetings and the minutes, there’s been a comedian itching to break out.

The genesis for the show, titled I’m Sorry, came from the experience of his daughter’s mid-teens. “She went from being daddy’s little princess to ‘Every problem in my life is due to my father’ – everything was my fault,” Flavin says. “Problems with her hair were due to my genes, so that was my fault. Problems with school? My fault. Problems with friends, my fault... And I want to admit I didn’t pay a lot of attention... after all these years you learn when not to listen.

“So two years ago I started writing this show, just picking up snippets of things here and there, and once it struck me that the title was I’m Sorry – middle-aged white heterosexual male apologises for everything – I realised I’ve got a lot to apologise for! And the Sydney Fringe has been polite enough, or low enough in its standards, to actually accept my proposal.”

The festival organisers have even planted the hour-long show in a Kings Cross bar, which Flavin finds funny in itself, especially as the content of his show will be vastly different from the crass, swearing-filled offerings that often dominate live comedy. To help underscore the point, he also calls himself a “gentleman comedian”.

“I was trying to think of a way to describe myself – young comedian, educated comedian, edgy comedian, up-and-coming comedian, established comedian – and they all fell over,” he says. “Gentleman comedian implies that I’m more old school, where a gentleman was good at everything but not expert in anything. I’m trying to bring some class to it. I’ll even be wearing a suit... because I need to reinforce in people’s minds the middle class middle age idea, and because some of it’s funnier when it comes out of an old bloke’s face. The white beard helps.”

Flavin told his Bible study group at St George North church about his plans at the beginning of this term, and the men’s response was to enthusiastically plan its social night around one of the three shows.

"It’s getting out there – it’s exciting,” he says. “As people have found out the reaction has been somewhere between ‘Really?’ and ‘About time’. A number of friends know I’ve been toying with this for a while so for them, the fact that I’ve finally got my act together is unsurprising.”

I’m Sorry is on September 5, 9 and 12 with an extra show now on September 26th at the World Bar, 24 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross. For information see www.jamesflavincomedy.com