Interview with stand up comic Michelle Brasier
How did you come up with the idea for “Reform,” a show based on a true story of being scammed and becoming the emergency contact for the scammer?
While it was happening, I was giving live updates on my friend’s podcast, ‘Free to a Good Home’ and on our major Aussie radio station which people were absolutely going bonkers for, so I knew there was a juicy story there and figured I might as well throw in a couple of songs and a live band. I had just had so much success with Average Bear which was wonderful, but the pressure was high and second album syndrome was heavy, so I was actually relieved to have something else awful happen to me that I could make a show out of. When life gives you lemons – make lemonade, win awards, and look around desperately for more lemons to make more. THE PEOPLE WANT LEMONADE! SHAKE THE TREE! MESSAGE THE SCAMMER!
“Reform” has received high praise for its relevance and hilarity. How did you manage to strike the perfect balance between comedy and delivering a cautionary tale?
I think it’s just the way I see the world really. Every bad thing, every mistake always has a bit of humour in it. There is always a way to look at it and laugh. That’s the way I experience stories, so that’s how I share them.
The show highlights themes of friendship, empathy, redemption, and understanding. How important was it for you to convey these messages through your performance?
I am riddled with empathy, it’s disgusting. I’m just trying to drag you all down here with me, tricking you with my funny little songs. Sucked in, now your favourite movie is Paddington 2!
In “Reform,” you took a unique approach by giving the scammer an opportunity to open up instead of seeking revenge. What motivated you to delve into the scammer’s perspective and explore their backstory?
I’m always interested in how a person got to where they are. It seemed like such an absurd and desperate thing to do – to try and scam people using your real Facebook profile is so risky. It’s so easy to get caught. How does a person get to that place where they don’t care that they will get caught? That was more interesting to me than getting my money back – getting the story. Once you know what’s going on for someone it’s easier to forgive them. I’m a big believer in assuming the best in people. It helps. It makes you feel better about the world.
The inclusion of original music in the show adds another layer of entertainment. How did you collaborate with Tim Lancaster and Jordan White to enhance the storytelling experience?
I write the songs myself – I’m opening with this because after every single show people ask me who wrote the songs. It was me, the girl. Tim and Jordan are both so incredibly talented. Jordan has this incredibly broad skillset and was able to make these tracks with me and decipher what I was trying to get at. There is nothing he can’t do. We met at musical theatre school so I mean nothing, even pirouettes. Tim is my long-time collaborator and partner. We sort of work seamlessly – I couldn’t even tell you how he does it, he just knows what I want and plays it without me really having to say much just, “Here’s the song, here’s some chords, make it sound pretty, please.” Jordan plays drums and keys in the show and Tim plays Jacob, my scammer, as well as guitar. I keep them busy. We must keep boys busy.
You have an impressive track record in the comedy industry, with numerous projects and collaborations. How do you balance your various roles and projects while maintaining your comedic voice?
I am an actor before anything else so it’s really nice to use different skills in different projects. I have a pretty clear idea of who I’m not and I think that helps focus everything as a version of ‘you’ no matter what you’re doing.
How has your experience working on television shows like “We Interrupt This Broadcast” and “Koala Man” influenced your performance in “Reform”?
My TV work feels very different to live comedy. There’s an immediacy with live that you just can’t fake. That said, I love working in TV. It’s just a really different skill set. With things like Yolo and Koala Man, because they are animations, I’m just so focused on different voices and sounds I can make, which I guess then leads to discoveries that bleed into my on-stage work.
As a long-term collaborator with Aunty Donna and Double Denim, how does your comedic style complement the dynamics of a comedy group or a comedy duo?
I play well with others. I love working with the people I love. That’s why my ‘solo shows’ always have at least Tim in them. I like having someone who can reflect a different point of view or a game to play. I think if an audience can tell that you are having fun together then they have more fun too. It’s infectious. And if the show is bad it’s not completely my fault.
Your previous solo show, “Average Bear,” received critical acclaim. What elements from that show did you carry over to “Reform,” and how did you approach creating a distinct experience for the audience?
Stylistically, it’s a similar show in terms of a true story being carried along by the music. People cry less in this one, but they still do cry, which was a surprise. I think Reform is ultimately a better show structurally because I had been doing comedy for a year longer when I wrote it. It’s tighter. More jokes. More play. But the same Michelle Brasier stuff, silliness, songs, bit of philosophy so you feel you got your money’s worth.
What do you hope audiences take away from “Reform” and your performance as they navigate themes of trust, kindness, and seeing the best in people?
I hope people leave ready to assume the best of people. This show tends to engage the audience in a pretty hectic conversation afterwards which I really love. I just want them to leave feeling like their cheeks hurt and they’ve got a song in their head that they’d like to hear again. But then they get home, and they go on Spotify and they can’t find it, so then they DM me on Instagram saying, ‘Please record your songs’ and I say, ‘I will’ but then I get busy and I just do not do it over and over. I am working on it. Sorry in advance. Give me a few months, I’m BUSY, I’m a woman in TELEVISION!
Can you share any memorable or unexpected reactions from audiences during your performances of “Reform” at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival?
A lot of social workers and psychologists really love it. I suppose they are working with people who are in need of a second chance sometimes and they tell me it’s nice to see someone advocating for that with a bit of humour rather than the black and white / good or bad judgement we tend to rely on. It’s easy to judge someone. Oh, and during the show people always scream things like “Stop!” and ‘Michelle, no!’ which I really enjoy because the story has already happened. I can’t stop this train, baby!
Lastly, what’s next for you? Are there any upcoming projects or shows that you’re excited about?
Oooft, the sheer number of things I wish I was allowed to talk about. I’m writing three things that I am so pumped about but I can’t legally tell you (I’m in the FBI!). I can tell you that I am working on an album, but I cannot promise you a release date yet. Some exciting things I did recently include our new TV show Aunty Donna’s Coffee Cafe – it’s on ABC in Aus but hopefully there will be an international release at some point. Otherwise, fly over and watch it. It’s good for a laugh.
Michelle Brasier will perform her new show, Reform at the Edinburgh Festival from 2nd – 27th August (not 16th) at 7pm in Gilded Balloon Teviot (Dining Room). To book, visit https://tickets.gildedballoon.co.uk/event/14:4594/