OnPoint by Keith Ng

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Comedy Festival: An interview with Mrs Peacock (Part 2)

KN: At what point is the really offensive stuff a piss take of yourselves, and at what point does it get so offensive that it becomes offensive again?
JS: We’re getting into this weird period – I think it’s internationally as well – it seems like every comedian’s got a rape joke, or something like that.
DS: Or abortion, there’s abortion gags.
JS: I don't know, like I’d probably go abortion in a song, but I don't know if... You know, it’s a fine line, there’s areas you wouldn't delve into.

KN: Is there pressure for comedians to be more and more offensive just as a kind of a stunt?
DS: Some people do do it, but I don't know if there is a need to. In Auckland, Dave Wiggins is running a show called The Clean Comedy Show, which is a regular gig he has. He plays to churches, and it’s an all-ages kind of thing. And it’s no swears, nice themes, and it’s kind of...

KN: No anal sex or bestiality?
DS: No, no. Oh, he did one, accidentally.
It was something about because he’s an American and he lives in West Auckland, he says he lives out West and it makes him feel like a cowboy. He says: 'But, you know, I came in my car. I don't have a horse, I don't know how you'd come in a horse?'
And I had to leave the room, because I was about to lose it. And there were a couple of people who laughed in the crowd who shouldn't have been laughing. But most of the people just let it go.

KN: Have you guys ever played to a crowd that’s just been aghast at jokes involving flange?
JB: Many times.
DS: We use to do it on purpose. In the early days, we would write the offensive songs, and play them in Wellington wherever we could, and enjoyed it when people walked out. You know, watching people leave and going 'ha, ha, got you'.
JB: We like to think we’ve grown up a bit.
DS: Yeah we’ve definitely grown up a bit.

KN: So what did your mothers think of that phase?
JB: My mother’s filthy, so.
DS: My mum’s never seen me, she’s lived in Australia all of my comedy life. Oh she’s seen me do a couple of gigs, but she’s never seen me do a full-on Peacock gig since we got offensive.
JB: Oh my mum’s given us lines.

KN: Oh Jesus.
JB: No, not deliberately, she’s just said something. She’s said something and we’ve gone 'aha, that’s going in the show'.

KN: Do people ever not realise that you've being offensive, or just not realise you're being ironic?
DS: Early on, our first gig in Blenheim, a lovely old lady in a wheelchair came up to us after and she said 'I’m not sure what you were singing about, but you sounded beautiful.'
JB: I guess you don't want to accuse people of not getting it, because comedy is such a subjective thing, but some people, for some part of it – like when we’re doing cock rock, talking us up – haven’t quite got it.
Like the [song] Almost Pretty, and it was one that got reviewed in Christchurch. They singled us out when we were live, because we used the line 'I don't look at the mantel piece when I’m stoking the fire'. And, you know it’s an old cliché, and that’s why we used it. But he just repeated that line and went 'please!'.

KN: The regular Mrs Peacock songs – you guys have been playing that stuff for a while, right? Does it take you guys a long time to build up that body of material?
DS: Yeah, a lot of those songs could be as old as us almost.
JS: Well, as old as the act. We’ve been going about nine years. Our oldest songs we revisited and rewrote. Well, at least rewrote the music for it, because when we started out we were sort of...

KN: Shit?
JB: Yeah.
DS: Yeah, that’s probably the best word.
JB: But also just musically really... limited.

KN: Are you guys formally trained in music?
JB: No, no particular musical training and most of our music performances has been with [Mrs Peacock], so any growth has been specifically with musical comedy, so it’s all entertaining. And Dave lives in Auckland and I live in Wellington, so it’s been even more fun, so most of our crap is on stage.

KN: How does that work, that you guys just don't see each other at all?
DS: It’s like a band, you can always go and play your greatest hits. But because we’re only ever doing 15, 20 minute sets, there are some that always go in the cycle, and there are some that we chop and change and take out. If it’s a quieter crowd, a less offensive crowd, we stick in a couple of the nicer ones. Masturbation rather than sheep fucking, themes like that.

KN: Do you guys have a scale for that?
JB: We did try and formally work it out at some stage. We got a list of all our songs and tried to give them a rating. I think I tried to put them into mild, medium and hot.

KN: What falls into each of these categories? What are the markers that tell you this is a mild song, this is a hot song?
JB: It’s kind of based on reaction. Sometimes we don't necessarily know, we have a guess of how a song is going to go beforehand.
DS: Like the one we’ve been playing recently, Sweet Dreamer. We didn’t think that was offensive, and then one night, the crowd just went 'oh my God'. Then we thought about it and we thought about it. 'Hold on what’s he... oh, he wants to take a girl in a coma home and have sex with her, but not let his flatmate partake.' And then it’s 'okay, that is quite offensive actually'.

KN: So are your songs inspired from your own lives?
DS: I’ve never known anyone in a coma.

KN: No horses...?
JS: No, we're just very imaginative.
DS: [In our] mid-20s there were a few interesting things...
JS: It was a very narrow band.

KN: Um, alright. Why does New Zealand have so many musical comedy duos?
JB: We’ve both done solo stuff, but in general doing Mrs Peacock is easier. It’s less nerve-racking. You're sitting back stage shitting yourself before a solo act, but not with Mrs Peacock.
Jermaine said to me in the past that he doesn’t know how someone could do solo stand-up. The idea terrifies him. So, you know, maybe there’s a reason that we do the duo thing. It’s a way into it for people who aren’t necessarily that extraverted on all the time.
And that’s really us. There are people who are just full on...
DS: “Hey, I’m a comedian, comedian, comedian!”
JB: That’s not us.

KN: What’s one other act from the Comedy Festival, that you'd recommend?
DS: I'd like to see Josie Long, but I’m not going to get a chance to... JB: She was the best newcomer of the Edinburgh Festival in 06, I think. For me – he’s been here before – but David O’Dougherty is amazing.

KN: What’s his act called?
DS: It’s David O’Dougherty Time, yeah. I saw him in 2006 and he was genius, that hour show was really good.
JB: He’s a musical act as well, he has like a little Casio keyboard and sits there and does kind of songs.
DS: Silly little songs, but just cute. Just a nice change of pace, something you wouldn't see in New Zealand.

KN: Cool, thanks guys!

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