If you've never attended a Cam Venn show, you are definitely in for a wild ride. If you have, you may have an inkling of what's coming, but even then you should proceed with caution. Returning with a new show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Golden Gibbo Winner presents an action-packed tale revolving around a precious jewel, a killer shark and a retired thief back for one final job to beguile his audience with. Welcome to Shark Heist.
“Shark Heist is your archetypal hero’s journey of an ex-thief doing one last heist to try and get his best friend, a great white shark, back," Venn tells me. "An audience member described it to me as “like recreating the movie you just saw in the lounge room with your mates” and I love that. There's plenty to be entertained with, and you can expect lasers, intense montages to music, and the world’s biggest diamond."
Somehow this doesn't feel like everything that audiences will end up with, as with his previous outings, Venn has straddled the line of what can be - or should be - done on stage, leaving people gasping but wanting more. It is something that he's well aware of in the creation of his current show. "It’s always tough to follow the previous one. I had the same thing after Balls Deep (my first solo show) of how the hell can I top that…then I laid an egg in Charles Horse Lays An Egg," he says. "I had to let go of the egg pressure and focus on telling the story I wanted to tell, and on what lights me up now. In a way Shark Heist is the most entertaining show I’ve ever made, and it was such a relief to put it out there and have people loving it sick. It was such a joy."
"I’m a highly visual and kinaesthetic person, so I'm really about creating amazing images. I've got a passion for movies and tv, and I grew up on them. It’s how I make sense of the world," Venn mentions. "I can get stuck in my head in real life but on stage I come to be so alive, our bodies in space producing these imaginary worlds. It’s the absolute best. Stand-up comedians create worlds with their words but as Noel Fielding said “I want to see it”."
While his ideas for the first two shows came from simple objectives, Venn has approached his third one closer to a traditional process. "With Balls Deep, the seed idea was “could I get a boner on stage?” With Charles Horse Lays an Egg it was “can I lay an egg on stage?” With Shark Heist it’s been more story based. The title was the first thing to be determined. I love sharks (in particular killer shark movies) and I love heists. I watched so many films to create this work," he explains. "I also spent much time researching “The Hero's Journey” and classic screenwriting formulas. Making props is a major element of my process as I get to use my hands whilst getting time to dream. I also got glue poisoning from constructing a giant shark out of foam so who knows what influence that had…"
of the fascination with Venn's shows, is the level of eager
and enthusiastic audience participation that he receives. They are the
type of shows where people are given permission to do things
they would never consider doing in real life and seeing that is a laugh
for anyone. "EVERY performance night is a surprise," Venn stresses. "Because of the nature of how I work, rather than
picking them myself, I invite people to volunteer to get involved. At a recent performance in Kalgoorlie, I got the 5 drunkest people and the stage was about a
metre and half high. I told them to come up from the side on the stairs. Each one of them launched themselves up and then teetered on the edge
the whole set, it was chaos but fun chaos. And nobody died. Another evening, I had a dominatrix insert a paintbrush up my bum. I whispered Red, she
understood. There are thousands of moments of unexpected audience magic
and that’s what gets me excited about this work."
1) When did you realise you were funny?
When I was about 12 I attended 24 Hours of SciFi at the Valhalla Cinema. During a movie called Them about giant ants, a girl on screen was walking along slowly and I yelled “wind her up”! A fairly lame joke sure, but it got a huge laugh. The whole packed full cinema laughing. It was the biggest room I’d ever played. I went on to make many more hilarious comments throughout the films. And I was lauded by the cool older teen.
2) What is your favourite word?
I like bollard. Bahahahaha…bollard.
3) If you were arrested with no explanation, what would your friends assume you had done?
Some sort of nude publicity stunt gone wrong.
4) If animals could talk, which would be the rudest?
I want to say walrus but my 8 year old is screaming at me saying that is wrong. She says monkeys. But she doesn’t know that walruses are actually fucked. I love them but they say some messed up shit.
5) Which character from a TV show most reminds you of yourself?
Maybe a cross between Kramer from Seinfeld and Matt from Nirvana the Band the Show.
Venue: The Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Season: 7 - 19 April | Tues - Sat 7pm, Sun 6pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $28 - 30 Full | $25 Conc | $24 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: Melbourne International Comedy Festival