News from inside the Bubble. Winter 2020.
I had the lovely experience of performing alongside the wildly talented Lucy Durack in an episode of Neighbours. We shot with Covid-19 restrictions in place, and that made things very interesting, but what I realised is that I haven't been on a Neighbours set since the early 1990s, and hadn't been at the studios out in Melbourne's east since finishing series 1 of Totally Full Frontal in 1998. In honour of my new appearance on one of Australia's longest running Tv shows, I've dug up one of my early Neighbours appearances, recorded on VHS by Dad, who fast forwarded through the ads... bless him. And yes, it was difficult to re-watch.
I have been going through old stuff I've done. Re-digitising footage and so forth. And, of course, re-living some highlights of my performing career. Here's something I thought was a wonderful example of the amazing simpatico vibe Darren and Paul Cheese had at their best... Or it's one of the most self-indulgent outings by the Cheese Brothers in their brief (but brilliant) history. Friends one and all, I give you the Cheese Brothers' Conceptual Jazz Dance!
In honour of the twentieth anniversary of Dave Taranto's passing, here is his last recorded public appearance, at "Cheese Shop Til You Drop", a fundraising effort that doubled as an opportunity to pay tribute to the great man. This recording was made at the end of July, 1999. Dave was gone six months later, thanks to the brain tumour he named Tommy. At least that was Dave's public name for the tumour. Vale David Angelo Taranto.
In December of 2019, it was 20 years since a friend of many, Dave Taranto, kicked the proverbial. I have done a few things since he died, but I hope I will never forget him, and that's partly why I keep this site going, as a reminder of what a great person he was, and what an honour it was to have had him so strongly involved in my life. He saw it as his job to point and laugh at the idiocy of humanity's arrogance and to support others who did similar. He wanted to call the collective bluff of those seeking power over others. He genuinely didn't understand why, to quote Kamahl, people are so unkind. Below is Dave during the 1994 Cheese Shop Xmas Show, sharing withal the instructions for the present he got his Dad.
As I stated recently, 2019 is the 20th anniversary of Dave Taranto's passing. He was a great guy and not only passionate about Australian comedy (in fact, not just Australian comedy; he loved quality laughs from anywhere), this man was actually quite influential in the comedy scene in Melbourne through the 90s ("just don't ever call me a guru... what am I, Molly Meldrum?" he would say). As a tribute to this smart, kind, funny man, I'm posting videos from my Taranto Show collection to remind everyone what went on back then in the Dark Ages before streaming, when people got their entertainment outside home. I've posted the first Cheese Shop Xmas Show recording I have, so I may as well continue, with Xmas Show 1993, and six minutes of Dave summing up the year and getting the show started.
March, 2019: As it's the start of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, I thought it appropriate to post a video featuring the godfather of the festival, my old mate, Dave Taranto, from the first recorded Cheese Shop Xmas Show (of 1992). 2019 is the 20th anniversary of his passing.
Look, I've got to admit, I've done some pretty ridiculous things in my time. And what you're about to see is one of them. I played John Howard through series 3, 4 and 5 of Comedy Inc: the Late Shift, but only once did I have to stand up and sing as JH in front of the studio audience. As much as this is weird to do, imagine the mind of the person who came up with this extraordinary sketch, a musical tribute to the affectionate relationship enjoyed by two members of the Coalition of the Willing: Howard and George W Bush. Witness 'These Are The Lips Beneath Your Ring'...
Every so often it is mandatory for an actor to produce a digest of their recent work, a wee compilation for potential employers to see what you've been up to. Here's my latest effort. Next season I'll get back to publishing more highlights from the world of TV sketch comedy. (ace!)
Totally Full Frontal was a show that prided itself on doing parodies of popular TV shows and in the late 90s one of the most popular shows on the box was Seinfeld, so it was inevitable we would parody it. But how to parody a comedy program? Jokes about jokes? Tricky. What's enjoyable about this parody is how well all the TFF cast pulled off their impersonations of the characters from Seinfeld, especially Darren Gilshenan as Kramer and Julia Zemiro as Elaine (personally, my Jerry feels a tad 'one note', as they say... I got stuck in that shrill upward inflection of his). The performances are great, as is the uncomfortable focus on masturbation (...remember that episode The Contest?). I publish this in the light of rumours about a Seinfeld reunion, courtesy of Netflix.
I thought it might be funny, in my newly established tradition of re-publishing items featuring me doing things in extremely bad taste (see my Bill Cosby clip below, an example of me doing embarrassing black-face), I thought I'd dig up an occasion of me performing as Don Burke, a thing which happened on Comedy Inc. a couple of times, from memory. What I found was pretty boring. Instead here's something I thought was actually pretty witty, and silly, and therefore more palatable. Please enjoy me as Carson Kressley and Alec Guinness in a Comedy Inc sketch from 2004, a parody of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, featuring a makeover of everyone's fave evil dude, Darth Vader. Who said Star Wars wasn't camp?
The Taranto Show
I once knew a guy by the name of Dave Taranto. He was a true lover of comedy and he was essential to the development and success of the comedy scene in Melbourne during the 80s and 90s through his Cheese Shop radio show and by hosting his highly-regarded stand-up room.
Dave died in December 1999 but he lives on in the memory of so many successful performers who owe their start in the industry to him and the environment he nurtured.
I've always maintained a tribute to Dave on this site called The Taranto Show, featuring footage from the Cheese Shop Live Xmas Shows 1992-1998 and now I can proudly say I have uploaded every little bit of Dave Taranto footage I have from those shows, as well as some footage of Dave during an extravaganza of comedic performance called 'Cheese Shop 'Til You Drop' - a one-off mini comedy festival created to pay tribute to a man who had been a source of encouragement and support to so many.
So, go to The Taranto Show and glimpse a bit of Melbourne comedy history. And send me a message about it.
So now John Clarke is dead, too. I must be getting old if I feel, as I so often have of late, that so many of the people I respect are dropping off. I had the undiluted pleasure of working with Mr Clarke on two occasions, firstly in Mick Molloy's 'Crackerjack' and then as a character named, funnily enough, after me, in an episode of the second series of 'The Games'.
John (or as Dave Taranto would say 'Clarkey') was an inspiration, and I always felt proud if I could raise a smile in him. The last time I bumped into him, after not having seen him for a few years, he spoke to me with such familiarity it was as if we were finishing a conversation we'd started just the day before. He loved Dave Taranto. He loved Lynda Gibson. He was a wonderful, talented man. Vale Mr Clarke.
Recently I was sent some memorabilia, by the wonderful Lyndal McIlwaine, of my time working with Lynda Gibson during the mid-nineties, including photos by the great comedic chronicler Peter Milne. Lynda and I fell into working together when I asked her to direct my solo Mel Toupe show Lervsexy (1994) and we co-created Wall 2 Wall: The Shagpile Floorshow later that year, launching it at The Builders Arms Hotel in Fitzroy before taking it to the Prince Patrick Hotel in 1995 as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (MICF). In that show we first performed Noeline and Laurie Dragge, characters we decided to develop into their own show, From Dragges to Riches, for which we received a MICF Moosehead Award.
We toured the show to the Adelaide Fringe of 1996, intending to perform it at the MICF of that year at the Melbourne Town Hall. Unfortunately, between one festival and the other, Lynda decided she wasn't that keen on performing during the time of her 40th birthday, and she quit being Laurie, but helped me to turn From Dragges to Riches into a solo piece, which I performed in The Cloak Room at The Melbourne Town Hall. Lynda would have been 60 in 2016, had she not died from cancer in the early 2000s. A mad talent, a wonderful person, a brilliant, energetic nutter. A generous peformer and a great mentor. Thanks Gibbo.
It's all about me, people...
This site's about me... I'm a performer and a writer. Here you'll find some information about who I am and what I do. It's part brag-book, part archive, part blog. There's a bit of information about TV and live shows I've done and links to videos on my youtube channel. As I say, rip in. For professional contact, please call or email Helen Pandos Management.
My agent made me do it
My agent, Helen, suggested I put a showreel online, so I've popped my 1999 actor showreel onto my youtube channel for all and sundry. It's a collection of performance bits from my Totally Full Frontal years. Ah, the memories...
Below that is a reel from 2003 of some Comedy Inc work.
And below that is a more recent mini-reel collection of TV appearances. Enjoy, folks!