Melbourne International Comedy Festival Interview – The Pajama Men

I caught a glimpse of this guffaw-rific pair of comics a couple of years ago as part of Ali McGregor’s Late-Nite Variety-Nite Night. Clearly, they made a huge impact.  This time around, In the Middle of No One has a narrative loosely held together by a horny parrot, an old bouncing (and boomeranging) baby, two aliens with a forehead or two, a couple of expeditionists (yes, expeditionists,) the girlfriend with the very large cumbersome breasts, the ice beast and her echo and a whole cartload of other thigh slappingly over-expressive characters expressed through moldable faces and voices that rendered the narrative redundant.

The Pajama Men, Mark Chavez and Shenoah Allen. Photo Steve Ullathorne

I got to find out a bit more about the genius behind these bedroom entertainers (not that kind.)

PS: What is it about the pajamas that make you guys so lovable?

TPM (M): One thing I’ve learned about wearing pajamas as a costume, and doing the type of comedy that we do, is that I’ll never be cool. I came to terms with that a long time ago. But it was never a choice. I never said “cool comedy guy or nerdy comedy guy? I choose not cool!” That said, if you think we’re lovable in the PJs, I’ll take it. I mean, really that’s what most people want right? To be loved.

PS: How long does it take for you to develop the show? Is it as much fun as it seems on stage?

TPM (S): Sometimes it is a really fun thing to do, developing material, but mainly it’s a grueling slog. It’s never really “process over product” or “about the journey”. We love performing and writing is a necessary evil. We work for about six weeks and then open a shaky legged show, but then keep developing it until we close, so six weeks to a year-plus, depending on how you look at it.

PS: Have you ever tried working with props/ a set?

TPM (M): Yes. This show (In the Middle of No One) was originally going to have a sword fight  at the end with real fencing foils. It didn’t go very well so we dropped the whole thing, but not after trying it out on stage once. Aside from the fight being clumsy and dangerous, it just felt wrong pulling out real swords at the end of a completely mimed show.

PS: How much improv makes it into your show?

TPM (S): It depends on the night. We develop through improv and often do completely improvised sets so we always leave room for riffing and that folds into our writing process which is never really done until we close the show. Good bits that happen off-the-cuff can have staying power, but then we have to cut something else away.

PS: What inspired the Ice Beast?

TPM (M): Shenoah’s been doing the character that plays the Ice Beast for many many many years. I think we were just trying the right role for her. When the Ice Beast came up she jumped at the chance (we were both skeptical but like to give our characters a chance if passion should strike). It went well, so we let her do it. So really, the answer to the question “what inspired the Ice Beast?” Is “The Ice Beast”.

PS: Having won the Barry Award in 2009, where is the bar set for you this year?

TPM (S): Getting that award was a huge moment for us, but 2009 is starting to sound like a long time ago. I’m not sure how long we should really wave the “Barry Winner” flag, but I think the show we’re doing now is a better show than the one that won.

PS: You two seem pretty close on stage.  Do you hang out together much?

TPM: Yes we do. But now that we live in separate cities it isn’t as easy. We make up for it though in long Skype conversations and stupid texts. Our comedy comes out of our friendship and shared world view and background. So hanging out is basically how we develop our work.

PS: Is it hard to separate work from rest when you’re dressed in pajamas for both?

TPM (S): We sleep in three piece suits.

PS: Tell us about your sleeping arrangements in Melbourne.

TPM: Even though we’ve all been given separate rooms Kevin (our musician) and I can’t help but sleep curled up at the foot of Shenoah’s bed. Its just feels safer there.

PS: What happens when you’re not being funny/pajama men?

TPM (S): Existential meltdowns.

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One Response to Melbourne International Comedy Festival Interview – The Pajama Men

  1. Craig says:

    hey cool. Good interview. I will go and see them

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