Loose Canons: Eamonn Marra
Loose Canons is a new series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Read the others here.
Eamonn Marra is a comedian, writer and zine maker from Wellington. He co-hosts the storytelling show and podcast What We Talk About with Alice May Connolly and the radio show Thursday drive on RadioActive.fm. Last year, he won Best Newcomer (Wellington) at the NZ International Comedy Festival for his show man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and is performing his 2015 NZ International Comedy Festival show, Respite, at the Basement Theatre from the 29th September until October 3rd.
The New Zealand Music Community
I could never narrow this down to a single album or event or band. More than any single thing or event, the ongoing music community has inspired me and informed how I think about myself and my work.
I started going to all-ages gigs when I was 15 at places like Creation and Zebedees. At first it was to see bands from my high school, but soon I got to know bands from other high schools, then bands from out of town that played all-ages gigs, then I started sneaking into bars to watch R18 gigs (or got my Mum or Dad to come along to bars so I could get in) and then I turned 18 and would go to gigs several times a week.
Music was my first exposure to any arts or creative community, I would say every single friend I made between 2007-2011 was made through the music scene, these friends have come with me as my interests have expanded into literature, comedy and theatre. But music was the first time there was this communal excitement over things happening locally that has been so vital in my whole idea of what it is to be a creative person.
I knew Joseph Harper from when I was a teenager in Christchurch where he played bass in the band Black Market Art. In 2008 he left Christchurch to study at Unitec in Auckland. I was disappointed when he moved because I really liked his band and also because I really liked him.
Once I went to Zebedees to see Joseph play solo under the name The Jelly Tips. After the band playing before Joseph finished, every single other person left the venue. I sat on stage with him and watched him play songs by myself, then he drove me home and it was a really special and memorable night.
In 2011, he was nominated for the Billy T award. I knew he did stand-up, but I didn’t really know what that was. It was the type of thing that people did on television or overseas. I didn’t really know it was something that you could do in New Zealand. So I was impressed.
I moved to Wellington at the beginning of 2012 and I started performing comedy in April. The first time I performed, I'd never seen any live stand-up comedy. Joseph was the only thing I knew and I hadn’t even seen him perform. I had seen his play Honey in the Fringe Festival and by the time I had performed for the second time, I'd also seen his Comedy Festival show Billy Pilgrim OR; Marching Toward Death with Wobbly Legs like a Velociraptor.
Joseph’s honesty and earnestness were my starting point. I have never really thought of doing anything other than being honest and open on stage because thats how Joseph did it and that’s all I knew. Even though I have seen a lot more comedy now, Joseph’s style and ethos has always stuck with me and he is still my favourite New Zealand comedian.
The Collected Stories by Grace Paley
In the story Wants, the narrator worries that she is not a good person because she is eighteen years late returning library books. That is me.
I first read Grace Paley when I was doing a short fiction class at the IIML. She instantly struck some sort of deep feeling within me. She was funny and clever and honest but most importantly everything she writes seems to be purposeful. Grace Paley cares about things. She is a feminist and a pacifist and an activist and a mother and a member of the community and it all comes out in her work.
Grace Paley makes me want to make with meaning, work that is important or at the very least reflects things that I think are important. Grace Paley makes me a better person.
Depression really hit me hard when I was nineteen. I had all these emotions and feelings that were exploding out of me, these things that felt like they had been pent up in me for years that suddenly needed to come out, and what came out was poetry. Terrible, terrible angsty poetry. I collected these poems into a series of zines.
Like comedy, when I made my first zine I had never really seen a zine before, but I had read about them. But they were also the first thing I did where I really opened myself and made myself vulnerable.
The DIY nature of zines has been a big part of how I think about comedy. I like organising things myself, doing things cheaply and non-commercially, and making it accessible for people without a lot of money. The artwork for Respite was originally from my 2010 zine Those Like Us.
I entered comedy through the quite strange place of poetry slams. The Humorous Arts Trust (who run Raw Meat Monday in Wellington) put on a poetry slam, and after reading some funny poems in one, an organiser suggested I try stand-up.
Home / The Hilarious Comedy About How I Nearly Killed Myself / A Play About How I Nearly Died But Didn’t Then Learned A Lot About Life Afterward by Freya Desmarais
This was the show that inspired Respite the most. I first saw Home during the 2013 New Zealand Fringe Festival at BATS Theatre. It was incredibly funny and moving and well-performed. She moved masterfully from the very dark to the very funny without ever inappropriately making light of serious situations or pretending she knew the answers to these problems. It was just her story. It was also very Freya. I have gotten to know Freya since seeing Home for the first time, and it was so true to her voice and persona.
Although Freya Desmarais is a great performer, and the show incorporated more theatrical devices than I have ever used in my own work, the heart of the story has stuck with me.
Over the next year, whenever I was writing comedy, Home always came back into my mind. I wanted to make something of my own that told my own story. Something longer in form than any of the comedy I had done up until that point. And so I made Respite.
29 September - 3 October
Book your tickets here