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ARTS - Let's (Break)Dance

Author: Darryn King
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Comedian Lawrence Leung has started his own secret society, gone hunting for poltergeists and can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 90 seconds… but all he really wants is to fit in. His show, Lawrence Leung Learns To Breakdance, documents his field study into the realm of coolness, and is coming back to sydney for the cracker comedy festival this month. He spoke to 3D’s Darryn King.

You toured the show last year, didn’t you- It must be pretty polished now-
Yeah I toured it last year, but every time I do a season of it, it’s a different crowd, it’s a different vibe, and a little different each night. I try to change it up a bit.

Is it giving away too much to discuss if you did actually manage to learn to breakdance-
It’s giving away a little bit… The entire show is about the search for ‘cool’, and my quest to try to ‘outcool’ my brother. I guess the culmination of that is learning to breakdance because I used to think it was pretty cool and I still think it’s pretty cool right now.

About this idea of ‘coolness’: do you think that comedians in Australia seek an aura of coolness-
That’s a really good question. I actually think comedy’s quite similar to music. A lot of comedians really want to be rock stars. With rock stars, there’s role models, you sort of know what rock stars should act like and look like. But with comedy there aren’t that many role models, especially in Australia that set the example of what to be.

Most comedians are trying to be what they themselves want to be. We’re trying to be honest, we’re telling stories and observations based on our lives. Not like actors who pretend to be other people who speak other people’s lines – we’re using our own material and telling our own stories. (Having said that, I really like what actors do, I can’t act myself.)

But in terms of coolness, I guess for me it’s that internal search throughout your teenage years and your 20s: you want to fit in but stand out at the same time. When it comes to comedy, I think people who try to be cool on stage end up not being very cool. People who are just themselves tend to be the best comedians.

Do you think you have a particular approach to comedy-

Yeah, I guess. I like to tell stories. My particular comedy is very anecdotal and a lot of it’s based on myself, my vulnerabilities and insecurities – these things that hopefully people can relate to in their lives. I just seem to have a lot of these embarrassing moments.

For your shows, you’ve also become an apprentice to a con-artist, you’ve gone ghost-hunting… I get the impression you’re indulging your fascinations as well-
Oh, absolutely. I don’t know what people find funny, I know what I find funny, and what I tend to do is base my shows around my own obsessions. When you’re working in the arts, theatre or comedy or filmmaking, you write about what you know and what you love. And what I know and what I love are quite obscure things like Rubik’s cubes and puzzle solving and ghost hunting and cheating at cards…

In your study of coolness for this show, you met fashionistas, professional pick-up artists, and all sorts of self-professed cool people... Were there any memorable encounters-
Yeah, yeah, I did this thing… I wanted to work out coolness in terms of fashion. I made a T-shirt which I thought was pretty cool and I tried to sell it in Chapel St in Melbourne, which is the fashion district. And there was this guy who was, you know, cooler-than-thou, with all the accessories and that. And he actually tried to buy the T-shirt. It kind of made the point that I could just make a T-shirt and sell it and it could be as good as the $80, $100 designer T-shirts.

WHAT: Lawrence Leung Learns To Breakdance at the Studio, Sydney Opera House
WHEN: Tuesday 15 April – Saturday 26 April
MORE: sydneyoperahouse.com
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