Loose Canons: Uther Dean
Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.
Uther Dean used to live in Wellington and make theatre; now he lives in Auckland and makes comedy. With a Masters in Scriptwriting from the International Institute of Modern Letters, he’s written for Radio New Zealand, The Spinoff, The Wireless, The Lumiere Reader, Salient, The Listener, as well as Shortland Street and Power Rangers. Uther is the creative co-director of My Accomplice theatre company and was a National Finalist in the 2017 Raw Comedy Quest. He tweets at @utherlives.
This week Auckland audiences are lucky to get a double bill of recent Uther Dean solo works, Everything Is Surrounded By Water, co-written with Hannah Banks in 2013, and A Public Airing of Grievances, which had a first outing in the Comedy Festival 2016.
You know when your friends know your taste so well that when they introduce you to something it seems like you’ve always known it? Like they haven’t so much brought you something as revealed to you a hither-to unknown part of yourself? Mitski, an amazing singer-songwriter whose songs just cut right through you, is the peak of that for me. Only a month or two ago while working on a show together, Oli Devlin and Freya Daly Sadgrove introduced me to her beautiful, angry, heart-breaking music.
I sat opposite the two of them listening to Drunk Walk Home in my headphones and as she broke into the amazing, cathartic, bestial screams that make up the second half of the song, my heart began to explode with light. She expresses the things I want to express but better and backwards in high-heels. Her music hits every part of you, not so much plucking the heart-strings as gently playing them like a harp. Not only did I realise that in that moment that I had found my new favourite music - the kind of art so good that you’re happy to spend the rest of your life working to be half as good as it – but I also felt more connected and known by my friends than ever before. I loved Mitski and I loved my friends. It was one of the best moments of my life.
A bonus reason to love Mitski, as if her enthralling and life-changing songbook isn’t enough, is that she is a master of titling things. Her albums, in order, are: Lush, Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, Bury Me at Makeout Creek, and Puberty 2. She’s a genius.
Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie
Kieron Gillen is a comics writer – he writes some of the best stuff out there. Jamie McKelvie is a comics artist – he draws some of the best stuff out there. But like Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, as worthy as they are apart, when they are together they explode. They produce genre-redefining work that is formally inventive at the same time as reminding you what it’s like to be alive.
From Phonogram, their indie debut about music and magic, through Young Avengers, their Marvel superhero comic about how parents just don’t understand, to The Wicked and the Divine, their still-ongoing series about cultural icons as literal gods at war, their work takes all the best that comics can give you – punch-the-air thrills and laugh-out-loud comedy – and gives it to you in dense, compelling, profound stories that make you a better person for having read them.
In Phonogram, a woman goes to battle with herself in a dreamscape of music videos where she’s chased by the evil mechanics from Take on Me. In Young Avengers, a lesbian Latina can traverse dimensions because she’s strong enough to punch holes in reality. In The Wicked and the Divine, Lucifer-who-is-a-female-Bowie battles snipers while Sahkmet-who-is-Rihanna and Amaterasu-who-is-Florence look on. If I could think of just one of those things in my life, I’d die a happy man. Gillen and McKelvie do it on a monthly basis.
They make smart comics, they make queer comics, they make fun comics. And they’re all the same comics.
Josie Long is the person who made me want to make comedy. I’d enjoyed comedy long before I saw her stand-up show Trying is Good in the 2008 New Zealand International Comedy Festival, but I hadn’t seen anyone doing anything that I felt I could do. Comedy seemed to be the land of alpha men being angry about injustice (which I liked) or angry about women (which I didn’t).
But Long showed me that comedy doesn’t have to be about assertiveness and aggression, she showed me it can be about tenderness and understanding too. She tells stories about lonely or misunderstood people and she exposes the fragile bits of the world and lets us laugh with them rather than at them. That was the kind of work I wanted to make. I hope it's the kind of work I do make. She does all of that at the same time as being absolutely hilarious. And she makes it look easy. To watch a Josie Long show is to gain a new friend, and lucky for all of you, she’s put one of her shows online for free. (She’s also got a great BBC Radio 4 show called Short Cuts which you should check out.)
I love Doctor Who more than any person in my life. It was the thing that kept me warm when the world was cold in my childhood. It taught me to value intellect over violence, compassion over control. It is silly, it is smart. It taught me to read and taught me to change. If you cut me, I bleed TARDIS blue.
And this year, holy shit, it’s finally a woman and that’s just the best thing. The Doctor is this amazing mercurial force for justice and understanding so how the fuck haven’t they been a woman already? I look at my whole life and it’s just this long series of women who have been strong and smart enough to put up with me and the rest of the world despite all the work men are doing to stop them. The Doctor has always been a woman.
I love Doctor Who more than any person in my life.
Griffin’s Amiibo Corner
I like it when he puts them in his mouth.
Discount codes which get you $10 off each show are available if you book before midnight Monday 9th October. Use the code 'french' for Everything Is Surrounded By Water, and the code 'windows' for A Public Airing of Grievances.