The tote bag speaks true; once again the NonCanonical gang managed to replicate their unique podcast in the form of a live event. Here are my remembrances of the event, scrawled hastily on the train-ride home, describing in some detail just what it was you missed out on if you weren’t there or what you may not remember if you were. See, this time they weren’t the only ones drunk.
The crowd gathered an hour or so early in the stalls of the John Curtin pub, the perfect place to hide from the scorching Sunday afternoon heat, tentatively swapping stories, sipping drinks and dropping names like Miller, Millar and ‘-man’ on a far higher basis than is common in conversation. For the most part though people stayed separate, sticking to the cliques that they came in with, only merging to swarm up some shadowy stairs to the second floor when we were given the go ahead. What they entered was a strangely decorated room: dark, humid and decorated with sunken couches, classical Christian paintings and plastic tropical plants. It was a swampy scene befitting the average comic fans reputation, seemingly basement-esque in vibe despite the stairs leading up. Once the boys took the stage though this impression dripped away -they say that seeing TV shows recorded live, seeing the size of the sets, sours your opinion of them, that they need the effect of the camera; this was like that situation, only reversed – and eventually the crowd came together.
The show stared slowly – well it started strangely when during Joe’s introductions Larry buried his head in the lap of some poor guy in the front row to laughs from all who escaped that fate – with the customary stories of the week dropped, the intro leading right into the pulllist. The reviews here were as well worded as ever and the random interruptions as riotous but overall the segment felt a little stilted, a little over-serious in the context of the room. Perhaps the panel retreated somewhat due to an entirely understandable fear of the stage or perhaps they were simply still setting their groove upon it but whatever the reason this segment stretched on somewhat, the crowds chattering ever-present throughout.
Then there was the inevitable technical snafu and the show’s main feature, the interview with Becky Cloonan, was delayed indefinitely. Rather than ruining the show – by throwing the panel off and eradicating what comfort and confidence they had though – this was actually for the best, primarily since it meant moving up Josh Crawford’s amazing one-star review quiz show. After a few more drinks and a few more semi-awkward questions this segment began and the show started flowing freely; the crowd in constant hysterics at the hateful reviews and the panel themselves juat as pleased by their inability to identify them. That last point is key to the success of the show; that the hosts are having as much fun as us, because they very much are all are one of us and this is what makes their show so special.
Because this was the vibe when it began the Becky Cloonan interview became a sort of crowd-sourced session, budding investigative interviewer Joe loosening the reigns and allowing people in the audience (including myself at the last minute) to ask the questions that interested them, making use of the resource rather than simply flying solo in the face of us. Cloonan was as charming a presence as her profile promises, confident in her ability to hold our interest with her extended answers but never aloof or overly professional (thanks perhaps to the time difference and the tumbler of red she hoisted midway through). A straight questioning session may have heralded deeper insight into her process and the origin of her pieces but what we got was far more joyous and memorable, akin to meeting her ourselves. If you weren’t a fan of her beforehand you had to have left one and with a bit of a crush besides.
After another break came the prizes: local artists Bobby N and Sacha Bryning, All-Star Comics, Gestalt Publishing, Milk-Shadow books and many others donated time and products to the program which were given out as presents to lucky audience members ( I walked away with a free shirt and poster for my troubles) but the biggest prize on offer was getting to spend time soaking in the pleasant vibe pulsing through the room by that late stage of the afternoon. That might sound saccharine and sure, it is but it’s also true. For one I’ve never been hugged so much in my life, had a fully grown man proposition me live on stage (though with the rush jilting him gave me I hope its not the last time) or seen such a production put together simply out of passion.
The sense of love and community that the show evokes by stitching together the patchwork of Melbourne comic fandom into a singular whole is what most came across this afternoon and its in that spirit that I write this review, spreading the good word and hoping to convert some more to our masses. Sure the show perhaps isn’t the most prodigious or professional but then that’s the point, conversations you have with friends aren’t professional either but they are as potent as any you can overhear on a podcast. That, combined with a bit of cerebral muscle, comedic timing and deep comic knowledge is what makes NonCanonical the preeminent comic book podcast in my mind. So thanks to the guys if you read this and anyone unfamiliar with the show give it a shot and I’ll see you at #200.