Ellis & Barnes: Serious Mothers!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Certainly Not The End...

(L to R: Livia Scott, Elizabeth Biz Ellis, Reggan Holland, Becky Poole)

When ever I hear people speak about MEAT, it's always with a giant dollop of awe and a whole lot of respect. When you look at their individual backgrounds, it's clear that MEAT is really some kind of comedy Justice League. Their influences are similar, but somewhat different and because they have such presence alone and together as a group - it works any way you slice it. And the individual talents are staggering. You've got Biz, the New York Southern Belle with the fastest quick-draw wit this side of the Rio Grande and a laugh like Christmas. Becky, who is in a duo (Becky and Noelle) and a band (Stickerbook). She plays the accordion and the saw to perfection; to see her play the saw dressed as an elephant is beyond precious. Reggan is the resident London trained Shakespeare chick with a killer voice (smooth as silk) and killer timing. Livia is the woman with a thousand faces, voices, ideas and gifts. (I'm trying to work it out so that I can have Cynthia Falconcrest on speed-dial - it would still be Livia's number, but maybe we can get a special ring or something so that Liv knows how to answer the phone: "WHAT!")

I remember when I first saw MEAT.

I nearly literally ran into them. It was on the street in Portland. Let me go back a bit.

When Ted and Andy B. from The 3rd Floor decided to start a Portland Sketchfest (after we'd been to Seattle - the Godfather of Sketchfests - and Chicago) they threw down a few ground rules:

1. Invitation only.
2. All groups had to be good - really good.
3. We have to had seen you perform live.

A list was put together for the first Portland fest, and it was sketch comedy god Brandon Campbell who came up with a suggestion to fill the last empty spot. "You guys should get MEAT. They're phenomenal and exactly what you're looking for." Ted was apprehensive at first having not seen anything they'd done, but Brandon was persistent. "Trust me. You will love MEAT". With that, Ted booked them blind.

Fast forward to the night of the Sketchfest kick off (held at a local karaoke bar.) I was walking around the corner when I spotted four women striding across the street toward me. Because of their site, I knew who they were, but even if I didn't know this - how could they be anyone else? There was Biz (in cowboy hat), Reggan, Livia and Becky, tank-topped out almost strutting across the road like a prettier, funnier Rolling Stones. I spoke: "Are you MEAT?" All of a sudden - there on the crosswalk for all of NW Davis Avenue to see, enthusiastic hugs attacked me from four sides. I was in the middle of a MEAT sandwich on this balmy evening and I was instantly surprised and giggly. "Follow me!" We spent the evening being loud in a karaoke bar with a room full of other sketch comics which was at that moment The Most Obnoxious Bar In Portland. It was a great time.

I remember when I first saw MEAT perform.

A night later, I sat down in a sold out house and watched a show that by the end made me feel like I had just gone on Space Mountain. Never up until then had I seen performers so tight, in sync and writing so solid. So smart. It also only dawned on me only later that I was watching four women perform. There were no jokes about diets, cramps, eating ice-cream during a break-up or shoe shopping. Not once did they play a secretary and I never got a vibe of "men bad women good". I was instantly, instantly in love...and also envious. Ooooh! Envy! How I wished I had written "Evil British School Children" or "The Classy Abuser". Their "She Lac" sketch practically put me in traction. My face hurt at the end.

I have learned so much from these women.

Seeing them that first time and every time since, I've realised how it can be for women in comedy. After that first taste, the only thing I wanted to do was go home and write nothing but characters. I still get inspired every time I talk to them and because they said yes to the invitation to come to Portland - my life is better. I have some really great girlfriends (for once, sorry Guys) and I can tell them anything. It is for them I've coined the word 'hot-larious'.

After seven years together, MEAT is going to be performing their last official show this Saturday night at the People's Improv Theatre in New York. I'm not the only one who wishes she could be there by a long shot; the fans among the friends of MEAT are many, and we're all over the map. There are legions and chapters devoted to these New York ladies.

But this is not goodbye.

These amazing comics, musicians, writers and actors will be performing in all kinds of combos and doing all kinds of projects - just not the four of them together for a while.

I (and I know many others) would just like MEAT to know how much they've meant to us.

So quite simply, thank you MEAT.
I love you.
We all do.

Everyone You Know.



At 9:29 PM, Anonymous said...

So this is where you have been hiding for the last 25 years. Take comfort in the fact that the teen terror of Ms N. Watts is instilled in many Mosman High Girls (especially those with less than supporting roles in the Rock Eisteddford) least you didn't have the pleasure of working with her in the Yellow Parrot Ice Cream Parlour. I wanted to gouge her eyes out with an ice cream scoop after she locked me in the employee toilet on one shift. Que sera sera.
I am holidaying in LA from Oz at the moment. Was only recently reminiscing with Michelle Boram about the "good old days" and your name popped up. Congrats on your success. I haven't been able to put your blog down.
Just one question. Is it tragic that I am still a Duranie?
Sharon S-H


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