Janet McLeod - The Connector From Down Under

August 2, 2021

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Janet McLeod

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez

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2021 Summer Vacation Series

Destination - Melbourne, Australia

The world is in the midst of a host of debuts, including the blinding sight of faces that haven’t seen true sunlight for many months, poking out of doors and taking the cautious first steps back into the great outside.
It’s only fitting that we debut something of our own for the podcast: the 2021 Summer Vacation Series. While we’re in no way on vacation, the theme speaks more to that most summer-y of concepts, traveling to new places near and far. Many of our guests are local to Austin, but during the pandemic we had the honor of “hosting” comics from around the world on our Isolation Comedy series, and the Vacation Series is our way of bringing them back for the full Comedy Wham interview treatment.

Right out of the gate, Janet McLeod wants to be helpful. 

From the moment our con­ver­sa­tion began, she men­tioned the web­site Time and Date Con­vert­er” to keep track of dif­fer­ent time zones, some­thing she’s found invalu­able as the host of online shows book­ing comics from around the world. McLeod’s genet­ic pre­dis­po­si­tion to be help­ful is exact­ly how we con­nect­ed orig­i­nal­ly. I was part of an inter­na­tion­al Face­book group meant to con­nect comics from around the world look­ing for online shows, and McLeod was an eager helper to me book sev­er­al amaz­ing Aus­tralian comics like Ryan Cof­fey, Dane Simp­son, and Rusty Berther (look them up, they are amazing).

The oth­er rea­son that McLeod and I con­nect­ed is her atten­tion to detail. As she rat­tled off the names of some of the inter­na­tion­al comics she’s booked on her show (names yours tru­ly would nev­er dare utter with­out weeks of care­ful study), her atten­tion to the cor­rect pro­nun­ci­a­tion of her inter­na­tion­al guests is part of how she makes you feel at ease. She cares to get it right. McLeod’s love of com­e­dy began watch­ing tele­vised sketch com­e­dy shows and, you guessed it, con­nect­ing with her school­teach­ers by rat­tling off catch phras­es or impres­sions from the show. And at less than 15 min­utes into our con­ver­sa­tion, McLeod self-declares I’m a con­nec­tor, I love to con­nect peo­ple.” Even so much that at one point, New Zealand com­ic Cal Wil­son declared McLeod as the fairy god­moth­er of Mel­bourne comedy.

I'm a connector, I love to connect people.
Janet McLeod

As for her expe­ri­ence with per­form­ing com­e­dy, McLeod felt that her wardrobe lent itself to out­ward the­atri­cal­i­ty and let her break out of her shy­ness. Even­tu­al­ly, mov­ing from her home­town of Bal­larat to Mel­bourne, she was observ­ing a show from back­stage when the emcee vol­un­told (cred­it to Nkechi Chibueze for this turn of phrase) her to per­form a brief standup set. Many times her ear­ly per­for­mances were clos­er to one-woman sketch per­for­mances. I would have very much liked to have seen McLeod’s per­for­mances with the inflat­able chair (you can lis­ten to the pod­cast to hear her hys­ter­i­cal play-by-play).

As we shift to how she began to con­nect with the glob­al com­e­dy scene, she attrib­ut­es a lot of that to her atten­dance at the largest fes­ti­vals in the world — Edin­burgh Fringe, Mel­bourne Inter­na­tion­al Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val, and JFL Mon­tréal. She notes that the com­e­dy world is small­er than we real­ize and it does­n’t take much to be con­nect­ed by 1 or 2 degrees of sep­a­ra­tion to any giv­en com­ic. Do you hear that Jer­ry Sein­feld? Open invi­ta­tion to be on our pod­cast, over here (no car or cof­fee necessary)!

Her own cur­rent per­for­mance style was born out of being hand­ed an oppor­tu­ni­ty to take over her friend’s show who sad­ly passed away. Among the lessons she’s learned are the impor­tance of work­ing with nice peo­ple and hear­ing dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on stage. 

If you think Amer­i­ca is going through tur­moil when it comes to the recent spike and man­age­ment of the COVID out­break, McLeod explained the con­fus­ing and frus­trat­ing state of affairs in Aus­tralia in its han­dling of the virus. After spread­ing her­self thin with live shows, she piv­ot­ed to online shows and ulti­mate­ly began pro­duc­ing online cor­po­rate triv­ia events which helped her sus­tain her­self finan­cial­ly and cre­ative­ly. As she admits, she uses Zoom as an enter­tain­ment plat­form.” She admits it’s an imper­fect for­mat, but it is a for­mat she has adapt­ed and thrived with. She loved the aspect of help­ing oth­er comics have fun with the online plat­form as well. 

McLeod says “…one of the great things from last year, one of the things that I enjoyed being able to do was to help come­di­ans gain that confidence…and find a way that com­e­dy would work in this sort of a plat­form.” The online plat­form will stick around, she pre­dicts — whether some­one is home­bound due to phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions or social anx­i­ety, the world of online com­e­dy has made it pos­si­ble for all of us to enjoy com­e­dy from the com­fort of home.

One of the great things from last year (2020), one of the things that I enjoyed being able to do was to help comedians gain that confidence.....and find a way so that comedy would work in this sort of a platform.
Janet McLeod

As McLeod grap­ples with the Aus­tralian state and fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s han­dling of COVID (includ­ing lim­it­ed access to vac­cines), she will con­tin­ue to work online and bide her time until she can return to live per­for­mances. The good news is she is well equipped, from 3 dif­fer­ent cam­eras, to mul­ti­ple light­ing optins, to her stel­lar ener­gy, she’s ok with the sta­tus quo for now. She had a sneak peak of the post-COVID com­e­dy world by attend­ing the Ade­laide Fringe Fes­ti­val was a phe­nom­e­nal reunion and she real­ized how much she missed live per­for­mance, but rec­og­nized the hard work that goes into mak­ing it safe for every­one to return to comedy. 

The good news is McLeod con­tin­ues to be incred­i­bly well-con­nect­ed to the glob­al com­e­dy scene. For her, the con­nec­tions I’ve made have been part of my toolk­it of sur­vival.” We’re hap­py to have bor­rowed some­thing from that toolk­it last year and look for­ward to one day con­nect­ing with her in real life.

Want to know more about com­e­dy in Mel­bourne, Australia?

Janet’s men­tions and rec­om­men­da­tions for comics to check out from Mel­bourne or larg­er Aus­tralia include: Cal Wil­son, Tim Minchin, DJ Andrew McClel­land, Ethan Cavanagh, Oliv­er Clark, Dane Simp­son, Jude Perl, Reuben Kaye, Geral­dine Quinn, Kirsty Webeck, Claire Hoop­er, and Ivan Aristeguieta.

If you’re in Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia Janet, rec­om­mends that you check out the hand­ful of com­e­dy clubs in town and there are 3 – 5 standup com­e­dy shows each night. Sim­i­lar to most devel­oped Amer­i­can com­e­dy towns, you can see every­thing from bar shows, to club shows, to large the­ater shows. We won’t com­ment on whether this is sim­i­lar to oth­er scenes or not, but McLeod likens the Mel­bourne scene to a giant dys­func­tion­al fam­i­ly — full of cama­raderie, but brim­ming with hilar­i­ous oddballs.

Janet can be seen and heard:

  • Plan­et Janet Triv­ia Events 
  • Local Laughs — return­ing soon!
  • Cin­e­ma Fias­co with Geoff Wal­lis — return­ing soon!
  • ABC Local Radio’s Overnights With Trevor Chap­pell. She’s on every sec­ond Tues­day at 2.30am (local time which late morn­ings in the US).


Fol­low Janet

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