Interview with Perth Comedian: Patrick Marlborough
By Harry Cunningham
Photography: Harry Cunningham
Patrick Marlborough is a Perth based comedian and freelance writer, namely for Vice and Junkee. Last February Patrick dropped his first comedy ‘mixtape’ “Barley Bombings – Goofs By Patrick Marlborough”. Barley bombings is a collection of Marlborough’s live performances recorded over the past 2 years. His recent debut is fearlessly funny. Barley Bombings provides an unarticulated and unfiltered discourse on topics surrounding suburban Perth, Mental health and the crazy world of Australian politics, policies and Pinga culture. Barley Bombings will make you hate JB-HiFi even more and make you realize that you actually miss Osama Bin Laden. Patrick and I hung out at JB Hi-Fi, I asked him some questions and we checked out what the ‘best of Australian comedy’ section had to offer. We didn’t buy anything.
Hi Patrick, It seems you have a love hate relationship with being Australian.
Yeah, definitely. It’s a tricky one. I always have since I was a little kid. Australian jingoism – there’s something extremely off-putting about it – essentially we’re a country founded on the destruction of the world’s oldest most intricate culture. And all that we have to show for it is like, the ARIA Awards, Li’l Elvis and the Truckstoppers, and the collected eye-rolls of David Marr (laughs).
Have you really been arrested 5 times in Bali on drug charges?
No, I’m a good boy. I don’t do the drugs – well, only prescription meds and coffee.
I’ve actually never been to Bali, too many Perth folk there. Second only to Melbourne.
Do you think Australian pop-culture will ever mature into something more than Pingas, Bunnings sausage sizzles and Bali tats?
I actually think we have an amazing culture. But I know what you mean. You have to remember that our cultural cringe has been driven by government policy and a collage of ingrained bigotries. You have a generation of Australian’s who were raised by the Howard curriculum and don’t know any better. We’ve been told to hold the arts in disdain because that means we hold critical thinking in disdain. Our scope has been limited, it’s hard for any young artists anywhere to get their voices heard – our cultural gatekeepers are Sydney good ol’ boys jerking it to Vivaldi and dropping anecdotes about feuding with an unaware Bob Ellis. It’s tragic, but a change is gonna come. You’d hope. How is Philip Adams’ health, anyway?
Can you have national pride in Australia and not be a racist?
I’m yet to see it. I mean, my parents are very patriotic but they’re incredibly left wing. It does often come at the cost of ignoring our past, however. Look at our national discourse. Just look at the past two weeks, with the Elijah Doughty decision, and the government denying the rights of the LGBT community for marriage equality. This turd wrangle of a plebiscite, cooked up by callous intellectual nomads who wouldn’t know a loving embrace from spraying Lynx Africa on their balls. I’m only very patriotic when I’m overseas (laughs). I do take pride in the fact that we have a good minimum wage, but again, I’m raised by unionists (laughs).
Do you think Australia needs to rebrand itself to show it’s more than its pop-culture stereotypes?
The ‘Crocodile Dundee’ stereotypes (if you travel) can be condescending – but Australians also revel in that. The world perceives us as these laid back, cool, funny guys but in reality…we’re essentially a nation of fuckbois. Australia is like the guy your ex-girlfriend starts dating who is seemingly just a cool scene-kid, but actually has a deeply problematic history of abuse.
Hilariously, the larrikin myth stems from two satirists – Lawson and Patterson – taking the piss out of the very people who would later adopt it as our defining trait, their persona. It’s our great, fundamental, national irony.
And how we relate to the USA? America is the 80s sports movie douchebag doing coke and threatening to tear down the community center, we are their gimpy side kick named ‘Percy’ or ‘Tum-Tum’ or some such.
I guess I want to put the ‘nah’ in Australiana.
Your various personas on stage are hilarious. Where did you learn this skill?
I’m on the autism spectrum, and I’m hypomanic and hyper-associative – so mimicry is how I learned to communicate with people. As a kid, I was obsessed with imitating every cartoon character, Buggs Bunny is my biggest influence as a comic. My favorite impression to do as a kid was John Howard. I used to put an orange swim cap on and fake glasses and ape his blubbery drawl.
I have vivid memories of being sent to the naughty bench the day after 9/11 for performing a bit that was essentially Kermit reporting the news as it happened, and The Count doing the body tally. Weird kid, for sure.
What do you find off-putting about today’s mainstream Australian comedy?
I find mainstream Australian comedy offputting because it’s the same gaggle of ‘faildads’ in their mid-40s that have been in the spotlight for what feels like my entire life. Our comedy, particularly our standup, bends towards the tame, the status quo. It’s incredibly middle class and reactionary, there’s a reason we have little to no history of serious political stand-up in the Bruce or Pryor mold. It’s depressing, but we’ve always been like that as a nation. Australians love to punch down: we love cruelty, we love slurs, we love alienating those without a voice. We hate it when that is turned back on us. This is why Chris Lilley is showered in Logies when he should probably be showered in shit and day old mayonnaise from the Bayswater DOME. This is why people like John Clarke, Rob Stitch, Gina Riley, Jane Turner, and more recent voices like Briggs and the Kates are important. But there’s few like them in Australian stand-up, it caters to the festival crowd, which weirdly, is its own kind of conservative. We make progress with content sometimes, but almost never with form.
In 2017, if your comedy isn’t punching up, advocating for something, or making this country face up to its barbarism, then get off the pot, we don’t need more of your middling shit.
Thanks, Patrick. When and where can I catch your next show?
I have a couple of shows at Fremantle Comedy Factory in September (Sail and Anchor), and will hopefully be doing some gigs over East this October. There also might be another surprise audio thingy dropping soon.