“Come flyer with me, lets flyer, let’s flyer away” sang Sinatra on one of his earlier songs, an ode to his early days of flyering before shows. Old Blue eyes later changed the lyrics to “…fry with me” before finally settling on “…fly with me” which enjoyed moderate commercial success.
Commercial success is the aim of the game when it comes to flyering at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For those of you who aren’t hip with the lingo, flyering is the art of handing out promotional literature to potential, yet often indifferent, punters, in the hope of them attending your show. It is an ancient art that evolved from Burmese jungle performers who would promote their dance shows, by handing out pieces of bark scrawled with monkey’s blood to villagers. The bark and blood method was only abolished by the festival in 1989, due to a decline in the amount of monkey blood available in the CBD.
Many a comedian will tell you how demeaning it is to whore your wares out the front of the town hall. Average shows will give out thousands upon thousands of colourful and glossy A5 flyers, in the hope that 5% of their adoptive owners will respond to the call to view particular show. Most flyers will end up in a bin; approximately 50 m away from the town hall. Others find their end as beer coasters, hand bag stuffers and in some cases emergency toilet tissue.
Unless you’re a highly produced act with a big budget to outsource, flyering is usually the day job of the performer. It’s not uncommon for Comedians to spend 3-4 hours a night before the show being abused, ignored, heckled, spat on and occasionally cracked on too. Some, in an attempt to stand out, may dress up or sing songs, but often this leads to them blending in with the rest of the CBD’s musical maniac’s on night release from one of the states quality, but slightly busy, mental health institutions.
So next time a strange smiley person hands you a shiny flyer, take it and smile politely. Remember that old saying “Every time somebody accepts a Comedy Festival flyer, a fairy gets its period.”