Cabs hadn't always wanted to be a performer and originally studied photography where he completed an Honours degree at the Queensland College of Art, and subsequently began lecturing on the craft. The change to performing was a gradual realisation but one that was a natural progression for Cabs. "While studying photographic art I always came up with projects where I had to put myself in front of the camera and play silly games with video, stop motion, and so on," he tells me. "I guess my practice heavily involved self portraiture but it wasn't until I was simultaneously working as a lecturer in photography - performing to my students everyday - and studying my honours, that I realised I was interested more in the performance aspect of my projects than the documentation. So I've always been performing - the only difference is - I now perform to live audiences as well as cameras."
"As I didn't have any official background in performance, I was very lucky that I was pushed into a Dr Brown clowning workshop prior to my first Adelaide Fringe season. I didn't know who he was or what clowning was, but I had been told I was a clown many times," Cabs recalls. "It was very refreshing to see that there was an art form that valued the class clown/village idiot. Phil (Dr Brown) always pushed that clowning was about being humble, connecting with people and providing them humour and entertainment that they ask for as they guide you with their responses. That message helped me immensely - even though it's very difficult to implement all the time, especially under the pressure of gazing eyes - it's a lesson that I try to always keep in my cabeza. Dr Brown is the most humble and giving of clowns, so it was a pleasure learning from him, even though my ego came out battered and bruised."
While his first show Who is Dani Cabs? looked at identity and how it is constructed, Cab has taken a different course for his upcoming show, choosing to explore an idea that everyone values yet rarely find the time to put into practise. "Poncho Orange is all about fun, solidarity, play. It's about asking people to take life less seriously. I guess mainly because I need that reminder often."
"Poncho was actually born from play. In my adult life I have always been able to play up to the Latino stereotype, since my parents are from Uruguay," Cabs says. "One day when I was playing that Latino with some friends, making jokes, one of them had lent me their orange shawl, since it was a bit chilly. The shawl was referenced as a poncho. That's where the character first got his name, but he exists out of many years of play."
Poncho Orange may be unscripted clowning comedy but Cabs has a number of tricks up his sleeve to ensure that things can run as smoothly as possible on the night. "I try not to stress out too much that I'm going up in front of an audience with just my body and my wit as tools," he explains. "Poncho began entirely as unscripted play, and it still is unscripted, but after so many shows during 2016, my bag of tricks and jokes has grown so. Therefore before each show I have a rough set list as a guideline to where the show could possibly go. My prep is making sure both myself and my tech are aware of what might happen and what our possible contingency plans might be."
"If I try something and the audience don't respond positively I can't take it personally, I just need to alter my direction until they do. So it allows me to stay positive, to keep playing, experimenting and to understand that the show isn't about me or my ego, it's about giving something back to my audience."
The one food I cannot live without is mum's vegetarian cannelloni.
My most cringeworthy moment in on stage is when a drunk tradie crashed my show and it ended in him being totally naked on stage and asking me to shit on his face while he lay under me.
A movie that sums up my life is Nacho Libre because I love Jack Black's "Latino" and it's all about love.
How many seconds before you can't eat food off the floor? Fluid answer - depends on factors such as what floor, what food, hunger level and who I'm trying to impress or un-impress.
During MICF, I really want to perform to HEAPS of people and make them laugh and giggle and be super happy they saw me.
Venue: The Tuxedo Cat, 293-299 La Trobe St, Melbourne.
Season: 13 - 23 April | Mon, Tues, Thurs - Sat 9.45pm, Sun 8:45pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $22 Full | $17.80 Conc | $16.75 Preview | $13.60 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: MICF website
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