Fresh from the writing room of two premium satire shows, the ex-Adelaide stand-up talks about his dizzying rise to super stardom, the state of Australian arts, and the Adelaide he didn’t think existed.
Adelaide is so far gone, we have to go to Melbourne to find a satirist next door. In case you missed it, his name is Pat McCaffrie. He is eloquent and whipsmart, in the manner of a publican bard rather than a lecture hall snob; graceful, even modest, despite ample reserves of panache and chutzpah and joie de vivre.
As I said, he is from Adelaide. To understand him, you should think about what that means. Melbourne is the future of Adelaide, in the literal sense of time-zones, but also in a more figurative sense that makes me sound smart and also cool. It’s well-established that any halfway-decent Adelaidean creative gestates in Melbourne for nine months of the year before their annual pilgrimage. And Pat is juggling multiple children, now that he works for another finely combed ex-Adelaide satirist, Graham Chapman [name changed for privacy reasons], on the ABC TV show Mad As Hell.
Melbourne is not Adelaide, but it’s sort of like Adelaide, huh? The world's second biggest Fringe Festival takes place in a bustling metropolis where most shops don't open past 5pm, and whose thriving, cosmopolitan CBD spent last year celebrating the introduction of a second tram line and a gallery full of borrowed Impressionist art. Presumably this information is in some way relevant.
I meet Pat McCaffrie at the packed Exchange Specialty Coffee on Vardon Avenue, a fitting Fringe stalwart. Like Pat, Exchange Specialty Coffee is Adelaide grown with Melbourne flair; a sharp wit, crisp, pressed, and firm of purpose. [NB: insert here an analogy with another comedian so the reader is spared from having to think critically.]
Make no mistake, Pat’s on the rise. The surest mark of a premium late-night host is a sharp jawline, and Pat’s chin doubles as an effective bottle-opener. But today, Pat's casual, shedding the suit of his big city talk show The Leak (via Melbourne's prestigious RMITV). He's a small town boy again.
We share sparkling water, a symbol of the millennial condition: full of hope, full of gas, incapable of taking out a loan. We rant about the franking inquiry, we ramble about the standup careers of YouTube comics. We work through the cryptic crossword in The Saturday Paper. We float together for a moment, a breath. We depart.
I entirely forget to ask him any questions.
Here are some questions I texted Pat afterwards:
Who are you wearing?
Pat McCaffrie: Given these clothes were bought for me by members of my family, I’m going to say “mum”.
What is Scott Morrison's main weakness going into the upcoming election?
PM: Probably the psychological torture that comes with being Scott Morrison. That, and Australia’s general indifference to him. If he can ever do something that Australians actually notice, he’ll have a much better shot at winning an election.
Please explain 'franking' in 25 words or less (else I will write a long section about your inadequacies as a political commentator)
PM: Faced with a choice between being labelled an inadequate political commentator, or reading up on tax policy, I think I’m happier being called inadequate.
What do you like about Adelaide audiences?
PM: That they’re open-minded. They’re happy to laugh at stuff when they might not necessarily agree with the premise at first. They give you a chance to change their minds, which not all audiences do. But mostly I like them ‘cause they’re happy to come and listen to me for around 50 minutes on a weeknight.
"25 Across: Doing well, like a hamburger bun (2,1,4) O _ / _ / _ O _ _"
PM: On A Roll. As I generally am when completing cryptic crosswords…
Who are your comedy icons?
PM: Generally it was UK comedy when I was growing up like The Goon Show, and The Two Ronnies, a bit of Dave Allen. Later on I got into a lot of Chris Morris and Armando Ianucci’s work; Stewart Lee; John Oliver; and Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place. Later on I discovered America, particularly Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. So those people definitely shaped a lot of what I think is funny.
Which performer/performers at this Fringe should I avoid?
PM: Most of them. They’re damaged goods.
What are 3 adjectives for today's lunch?
PM: Bready. Crunchy. Halloumi.
Pat McCaffrie’s show Politics and Polar Bears (There Will Be No Polar Bears) runs at the Rhino Room until 2 March. Tickets can be purchased here.