Andy Saunders is discussing the perils of racial prejudice when he declares: "I hate racism" "I just wish we'd all realise that Aboriginals are the superior race." He pauses briefly. "God, I'm glad you laughed at that." Later, Saunders explains he is 43 years old "which is 55 in white years according to Closing the Gap."
Testing his audience is an essential part of Saunders' routine, which he says is about provoking thought and "undressing injustices with a few jokes here and there". Saunders says comedians often seek to explain the serious intent behind their jokes. But he says: "I joke because I love seeing people laugh and sometimes I really get a kick out of people thinking whether it is appropriate to laugh." His parody of One Direction's What Makes You Beautiful called "Coz I'm Aboriginal", meanwhile, has amassed more than 180,000 views on Youtube.
RISK taker, leader, and innovator.To Taree-based comedian Andy Saunders, they're all labels that not only apply to him, but to every person pushing through life, carving out a career or raising a family. "I think everyone has an element of risk taker and leader and innovator in them, whether it be a small level or the upper echelon," Andy said. "Everything's relative to every person, it's just like doing comedy.
"There's a lot of different styles of comedy out there, and a lot of people are risk takers in the way they deliver the punch line of their story or their joke." Andy, an indigenous man from the Biripi nation, sees these qualities in every individual's walk of life as well. "It's the same with everyday life too," Andy reasoned. "Your average dad that's working a nine to five job, they're risk takers too in their own way because they're putting themselves out there on a daily basis and they're feeding their families, they're wiping bums, they're bringing home food to put on the table."
Andy, a proud father of three and husband, also sees examples of innovation and leadership in everyday life. "Anyone who creates a life is an innovator, and anyone who commits to a job and a marriage or a relationship or the responsibilities of being a father, is definitely a leader," he said. For Andy, launching his comedic career has required equal parts of the risk taker, leader and innovator within him. Already he's booked in for more TV appearances including a comedy gala show on Channel Ten. He'll again be involved with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow with a personal highlight to be achieved when the show passes through Taree.
"The great thing is they've got me MC-ing Taree's road show," Andy said. Indeed, Andy's hometown of Taree is central to his performances and overall identity. Due to the nature of his comedic work Andy has been inundated with offers to move to Sydney and Melbourne to strengthen his career. ""I love Taree, it's my favourite place on the planet." - Andy Saunders"
With his young family based in Taree, it's something he's never seriously considered. When comedic duty calls he instead travels to nearby Newcastle, from where he can fly to any city in Australia. It means he can spend more time with his children and wife, with the pair celebrating 25 years together in 2015. "Taree for me is home." Taree also contains important wider family ties for Andy. "I'm from a big family, the Saunders family," he said. "We're related to everybody."
Being based in Taree means Andy can also continue his role at North Coast TAFE which sees him play a prominent role in the local indigenous community. It's a role that carries over into his comedy as he works to break down indigenous stereotypes and issues, a prominent theme throughout his work. "What better way is there to address an issue as a minority than comedy?" Andy posed. "People are open more than they ever could be when they're laughing." Andy explained the advantage that comedians had in impacting their audience. "You can get up and do a motivational speech and one out of 10 might listen to you and think that person is really switched on and it really touched me," Andy said.
"But if you're walking away from a comedy gig where you've seen a few comedians and they've addressed issues through humour, you remember the joke because it made you laugh, therefore you remember the lesson in the joke. "Whether it changes mindsets or not, it still got through to people." Andy acknowledged the difficulty that comedians found in trying to impart a lesson while also providing entertainment. "It's hard to translate everyday issues that make people feel guilty into something that people want to listen to, unpack, and find funny," he said. "To find something like the assimilation policy or the Stolen Generation and turn that into a joke that translates into something that they don't feel guilty laughing about, it's a hard skill and my hat is taken off to anyone who gets on stage and tries to tell a joke because it really is a hard thing to do."
Andy also hopes that by following his own passions he can inspire the next generation to pursue their own dreams. "I always say you're born with two things talents, and the ability to learn skills, hone them and get really good at something," Andy said. "Everyone's got a talent, sometimes you have to wait until a bit later in life to discover it. "Mine just happens to be standing in front of people and presenting stuff and not being scared to do it." With a recipe for success that has carried him this far, it's unlikely Andy will change his ways. "I'll joke right up until lunch time at my funeral," Andy said.
Manning Entertainment CentreWednesday 8 June 2016, 8pm The best of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival hits the road for another huge night of laughs. Always the biggest comedy show of the year, this is one night you won't want to miss.
Under 21: $42
Group 8+: $42
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Leah Flanagan was named winner of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander category of the awards.
She was a finalist in the section, along with fellow Territory resident
Warren H Williams.
The APRA awards offer financial and other music industry assistance worth $30,000 each to the eight category winners. Flanagan, who boasts an Irish, Italian and Indigenous background.
She cut her musical teeth in Darwin, including at the famed Nirvana restaurant and bar, which has long been a cornerstone of the Top End city's musical scene. Her fame grew on the national stage following the release in 2010 of her second album, Nirvana Nights.
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