Hello. My name is WeeStu Campbell and I am a stand-up comedian.
If the rhythm and cadence of that sentence rings familiar, it is no coincidence. Both it, and the more familiar AA introduction, points to a deep-seated addiction.
Stand up comedy is the hard stuff. Once it gets into your system it is hard to shake. For 59 years I was abstinent, sober if you will, from stand up. Until that is, one fateful Monday night in July 2019 when, at the urging of my pushers, I got up on stage at OneMic Stand open mic comedy at the Rhino Room in Adelaide. The stage lights blinded me, the laughter intoxicated me and from that moment I was hooked. Now, if I go more than three days without a fix I am in withdrawal. Believe me, it’s no laughing matter.
Now I’m about to take my addiction to a new, higher level. I’m hitting up new pushers and suppliers, sorry promoters and venues. I’m upping the frequency and intensity of my doses. I’m going to run with a much bigger, far wilder crew of performance addicts. I’m seeking the mainline, the purest shit. I’m about to embark on my first ever Adelaide Fringe as a true user: a registered artist.
I write this on Monday February 10. Opening night still four sleeps away. But, today the journey begins. FringeWorks, the administrative hub of the Fringe is open, in the Fringe Club building on the corner of Frome and Grenfell. That means I can get my hand on the ticket to all my Fringe rushes. The artist’s pass.
For the moment FringeWorks, like any good dealer, is hidden from prying eyes. The club doesn’t open until Friday. No one advertises FringeWorks. It’s a secret for us performance junkies. The Fringe signs aren’t out yet. I enter the building cautiously, surreptitiously. It’s a building site, still being fabricated. There are no signs to guide me. Luckily three magicians come down a staircase, as if floating. They recognize me; I’ve worked with them in numerous variety shows. I’ve found my dealers den.
Upstairs the dealer’s hub that is FringeWorks is also in a state of flux. Workstations, printers the other necessities of an artist’s mobile office, still being put together. Again, I’m recognised. Being called WeeStu and wearing outrageous t-shirts has some advantages. Matt, Supplier, Artist and Venue Coordinator beckons me over. He sees the desperate hunger in my eyes and gives me what I need. The good stuff, the key to magic journeys. The Adelaide Fringe Artist Pass. With one of my aliases, Wee Stu, on it. This will give me access to the 25 nightly hits of stage time I’ve already secured, and hopefully many more.
I leave elated. A little drunk maybe. I pass another comic on the stairs; I recognise the cravings in his eyes.
By evening, however the hunger has returned. I’m back at Rhino Room OneMic stand begging for another hit of five. They give it to me. Third act in the first session. The routine works. The laughter fixes me. Very briefly I own a piece of stage real estate. Now I only have to wait until the next open mic at the Goody Hotel on Tuesday, BRKLYN Bar on Thursday and then, at last, my Fringe debut. Love 2 Laugh, Brompton Hotel Friday 14th February, 9pm. Come along. Join me for the ride. Share the highs, the lows, the empty rooms, the deaths on stage, the behinds the scenes, the coffee (oh the coffee) and the confessions of a 59 year-old Fringe virgin.
Words by Stuart Campbell