Michelle Azevedo made a name for herself as a comedian pretty much from the moment she graced her first stage. For some people it takes months, years to build up to that point where they’ve got a handle of it, but for a select few it’s the most natural thing in the world right from the get-go. In the few years Michelle has been doing stand up she’s already achieved more than many others could only dream of.
“I used to do silly surreal jokes, and have tried on a lot of hats in the time I’ve gotten to this point. I’m starting to strike a good balance of being able to talk about my life and the things that are going on with observational tags thrown in throughout. Hopefully I’ve reached that point, a lot of the time I don’t but it’s definitely gotten a lot more honest and I think I like the direction that it’s headed.”
Comedy isn’t a hobby or pastime for Michelle, it’s a way of life. It influences and directs everything that she does and the choices she makes. It’s changed the way she views the world and vice versa. She’s reached a point where she knows who she is and is comfortable in herself.
“I’ve worked it out through a process of elimination. I’ve tried every style of comedy and now I know what I am because I know what I’m not. I tried every other way of being before being comfortable with myself.”
Not originally from Brisbane nor Australia, Michelle’s upbringing followed a path a little different to most.
“I moved to Brisbane five years ago. I was originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, then my mum remarried a guy when we were in primary school and we moved to Australia when I was ten. We moved to a town called Biloela in the middle of nowhere. It was a tiny spec of a town. I realised that the things that I wanted to do would have been pretty much impossible to do where I was located at the time. The urge to do stand up was in me because I had been writing stand up material for a while. Even if I didn’t consciously realise that I actually had the ambition to do it, I realised that it couldn’t be done where I was.”
“I think it brings a different perspective to who I am, that maybe informs what I do. I don’t think that I necessarily talk a lot about those experiences on stage but it meant I got a lot of world experience that maybe a lot of others wouldn’t get. We would have to go back every six months to see my dad so we would do a lot of stopover trips all around the world. I think I got to learn very early on about perspective of you versus the rest of the world. Comparisons of what your bubble is and how that compares with what else is going on. I think in that way, it informs what I do and what I am. For the most part it’s given me the opportunity to have a broader perspective than some people get the chance to have growing up.”
To what extent this transient background had an effect on who Michelle is as a person is one of those things so wrapped up in the philosophy of who we are that we’ll never truly know.
“I heard stand up on a plane and thought that I wanted to do that. A lot of the earlier material that I was writing was when I was travelling. Airports are a fantastic place to observe people. Travelling and being in transit, I got the chance to watch all different kinds of people ‘be’. That informed what I wrote about and gave me the chance to pull from a more varied pool of resources. It’s like a social experiment watching so many versions of the exact same thing being done.”
Michelle runs a weekly show at The Milk Factory where she hand picks every other comedian on the line-up and whose success is no mere coincidence. I asked Michelle what it was that made her night different to others.
“I wanted to have the chance to have an audience who were with me. I wanted to be the regular host of the show because it forces me to do different jokes every single week, which is a lot of writing and rehearsing. A lot of the time I have to really think on my feet and put myself in an uncomfortable situation in order to develop skills quicker than I usually would need to. It’s definitely served its purpose. I think it’s also nice for audiences to know at least that they’re going to see me. It’s me and people I’ve specifically picked that I think they would also like to be introduced to. It feels like a friend that you already have introducing you to new friends. I like to think that I’ve developed a bond with the regulars that go to the show where they start to trust my opinion a bit. If you like me, you’ll also like this person. It becomes friendlier and more personal than a lot of the shows that are a list of anyone and everyone.”
I asked Michelle whether she was looking forward to Comedy Commentary Cinema.
“I thought it was a really fun idea. It reminded me of a lot of podcasts and things that I really like and The Doug Benson Movie Interruption and things like that. I really enjoy the communion that happens from people being able to mutually make fun of the same thing at the same time. It comes down to the dynamics of friendships. When you’re in a group of friends and everybody knows each other well enough or has enough context to make fun of the one specific member of the group, and they’re in on the joke as well, I feel like that’s the most bonded that people ever are. There’s no emotional hang-ups in that, it only exists in that moment, you can enjoy it right there, but if you ever try and tell that story to someone else later, it never works. It only works in that moment. I think that’s a cool thing. I think it’s cool that you have to be so present in something that only exists once with the people who are there.”
“I am an awful film heckler. Not loudly enough that other people can hear it, but to the people I’m with. I’m a horror for talking through movies though it’s always about the movie. The only time I’ve openly heckled the movie, everyone was doing it and it was the recent Fantastic Four movie. It was the one where at the end of the movie every single person stood up and said “Are you fucking kidding me!?”. Every person who left that felt ripped off by it. It can be more fun than going to watch a good movie. Watching a movie that’s so bad you get to have a little moment with the other people who are in the audience who are like “What the fuck are we witnessing?”.”
With such dedication to her craft and such tireless effort in self-improvement, I was curious what Michelle’s long-term goals were.
“I just want to be good. I’m not saying I’m not good now, I feel like I’m doing alright and that I’m making progress, but I always want to be better at stand up. I’m always working towards the idea that once something works, what’s the next bit? The next bit has to be funnier than what I last wrote. I’m trying to stay on a trajectory where someone who saw me three months ago would see me now and say it was way better. I don’t even mind if they shit on the last set, that’s basically what they’re saying, but that’s my favourite compliment. I always want to have that experience. Ideally, I have ideas for different scripts and theories and books and things which I’ve always had ambitions to do, but my main thing is just to be a better stand up.”