Caro Meets Comedy Interview

Zoe Coombs Marr: Dave

By | Published on Friday 4 September 2015

Australian Zoe Coombs Marr has received a lot of acclaim for this show starring her character Dave – a struggling, sexist comedian – and a lot of that approbation comes from her stand-up comedy peers. Who I reckon know what they are talking about.


Coombs Marr has recently headed down to London for a number of dates at the Soho Theatre, following a full run at the Edinburgh Fringe this August. I sent some questions over, to find out more about Dave, Zoe, and what’s coming next for both of them.

CM: Tell us about the show. What happens in it? Would you call this stand-up, or theatre?
ZCM: Dave is an hour of comedy from an aggressively mediocre club comedian from Sydney (as played by me, a female comedian from Sydney… read that how you will) attempting to fill an hour with roughly 6 minutes of material. I’d call it stand up, because although there are theatrical elements, when it boils down to it, it’s really just me making jokes at the audience. I can’t tell you what happens in the show without a spoiler alert, and then you’d have to stop reading and wouldn’t be able to enjoy the rest of the interview. Which would be a shame, because I reckon my answer to question 4 will be pretty remarkable.

CM: Did you have an agenda in creating Dave? Was it your intention to expose misogyny in comedy? Or misogyny generally?
ZCM: It’s a comedy show, so my agenda is laughter. And I find that the best deepest laughs are found sitting right next to the darkest stuff. I didn’t really sit down and go, ok, I’m going to expose misogyny in comedy. I mean, for starters, comedy kind of does that quite well itself. I was more interested in this character of the failing comedian, the hack. And how he’s received by an audience. Comedy is a pretty gendered environment, so once he was in front of an audience, the sexism came naturally. Because I’m a woman, a lot of the focus is on gender, which is absolutely what I’m interested in talking about, but there’s also a huge amount of comedy to be mined just in parodying comedians and a long history of people like Andy Kaufman & Neil Hamburger doing it. People forget Steve Martin’s act was actually a parody of a hack. In the end, it’s much more about the audience than it is about anything else – what we laugh at and why and how; I find that all fascinating. Once you have a handle on that, you can manipulate a crowd and push them right to the brink. The aim is to make people laugh in such a way that they feel like they’re going to hyperventilate or have a stroke or shit their pants. If we take down a little misogyny along the way, well that’s a bonus.

CM: Is the character based on anyone in particular?
ZCM: No, he’s based on a little bit of everyone. The thing with Dave is that he’s the “every comic” – that constructed ‘guy down the pub’ persona that so many comics cultivate, and audiences love. I’ve been doing comedy since I was a teenager, and I know those guys. And Dave just came from that. Because comedy is all really constructed. I think a lot of the time, a real “Dave’s” persona onstage is just as constructed as my character, only when I do it, it’s much more obvious because I have hair glued to my face.

CM: Does he have any redeeming features? Should we feel sorry for him?
ZCM: Oh yeah, he’s full of redeeming features. There’s a lot to love. I actually feel quite protective of Dave! It was important to me in making the show that I didn’t make something hateful. Because I am a comic, and I’m friends with a lot of comics, I understand where it’s coming from. I’ve made a lot of Dave’s mistakes, and there’s a lot of me in him. Underneath all the dick jokes, he’s actually very vulnerable. It would have been really easy to make a hateful show that just points and goes – this guy sucks… but that show would be pretty boring. Dave is complex, and because of that we have to think about not just what he’s saying, but why, and what role we as a society or an audience play in that.

Actually, looking at it, this answer isn’t that great. Sorry for getting your hopes up in question 1.

CM: You took the show to Edinburgh in August. How did that go? Did you enjoy the run?
ZCM: Yeah, it was great. Edinburgh is a big crazy beast full of beer and midnight cheese crepes. Everyone is vibed and excited about shows and talking about them and it’s a really interesting mixed audience. I love doing the show, so if I have a stage, a mic and a crowd, I’m happy. Also, Edinburgh! That place is nuts. Castle on a volcano – ridiculous.

CM: What’s next for Dave? Or is the Soho run the end of the road for him?
ZCM: I think Dave’s going to take a long hard look at himself after the terrible failure that this show has been and perhaps start working on his next show. ‘2 Dave 2 Furious’, perhaps. I have a feeling he’s had a lot of really bad feedback and twitter fallout after his debut show, so he’ll have a lot of trauma to address. Maybe he’ll try to make a show that doesn’t offend anybody and end up completely silent.

CM: What’s next for you? Any new projects planned?
ZCM: Well aside from helping Dave write a new hour of comedy from his trauma, I’m working an a couple of little television things and a new theatre project with my company, post, back in Sydney. I also have a commission to write a new play so am avidly avoiding deadlines and literary managers, and in May I’ll be heading to New York to start work on a very exciting new show with some very exciting ladies. I can’t say much yet, but it’ll be big.

‘Dave’ is on at Soho Theatre until 12 September. See this page here for more info and tickets.

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