Comedy, Festivals, Stage

The Umbilical Brothers and their kids show (not for kids)

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The Umbilical Brothers (Shane Dundas and David Collins) are one of Australia’s most successful comedic acts, both at home and overseas. They’ve been together for more than 25 years and during that time have performed for the Queen, on the Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and supported Robin Williams. In 2006, they created a television show for kids, called The Upside Down Show. Drawing on that experience, they’ve created a whole new kids show. But this one is for adults.
Why have you decided to put on a kids show for adults?
We just had a brainwave. When do adults ever get their own kids show? We wanted to connect with people’s inner children, but in a very twisted way. Adults are a neglected audience where kids shows are concerned.
What’s in the show? Fun and games for the whole family?
Actually it’s fun and games for everyone except kids. Make no mistake – it’s a kids show. It’s just not for kids.
Were there any particular kids shows you looked to for inspiration? Adventure Time? Yo Gabba Gabba?
We looked to a real kids TV series we made with Sesame Workshop, called The Upside Down Show. So it’s like a wrong version of that. Actually someone recommended Adventure Time to me … I’ll have to quietly check it out.
The ticketing page says quite clearly that kids under 13 won’t be admitted. Were you worried that the message might get lost and some parents might bring kids along?
Hey, we’ve done what we can! We’ve made it very clear, and if parents choose to take their five-year-olds to this show, it’ll be on them! And there’ll be a lot of explaining to do in the car on the way home.
Your performance style is quite unique, particularly in Australia. Who were your major influences when you were starting out together?
It seems to be fairly unique around the world, which is very lucky for us. I grew up on Monty Python, The Goodies, Bugs and Daffy (the old psychotic versions) and kung fu movies. Mix that in with a healthy dose of deconstructive humour (well, it’s in all those) and you’re pretty much there.
You’ve now been together for 25 years. Are you starting to get sick of each other?
We’ve lasted longer than most marriages, and we still tolerate each other. Here’s the secret to a good marriage: space. As a result we now live in different cities. As the saying goes, “out of mind, out of sick”.
The way you work together looks like it requires a lot of accuracy – do you rehearse the act in any particular way?
We’ve always had the natural click, where the accuracy happens intuitively. Thinking too much breaks the natural flow, like thinking about how to walk as you do it. Not that we don’t do the work. I mean we’re not lazy. Ok we are lazy. But that doesn’t invalidate the goddamn lazy-arse working method we have. We keep rehearsal to a minimum, and build it on the fly. We talk about trying stuff out, and then just go for it. If the vibe’s right it can yield results you never anticipated. Like a broken nose.
You’ve performed together for the Queen – how was that experience? Different to any other performances? Nerve-wracking?
I have to admit my nerves were pretty wracked that day, more than usual. I silently told myself it wasn’t the actual Queen, but one of those Queen impersonators. In a way that felt even more surreal, but it helped.
You’ve done the Melbourne International Comedy Festival a few times now. How does it compare to other festivals?
To be honest, it’s awesome. Sorry Melbourne, you had to hear the truth sooner or later. Montreal is beautiful but the festival there feels a bit business-like, like you’re being chopped up and packaged for distribution. Edinburgh is amazing but it is a monster, and it can swallow you whole, which it did to me a few years ago when I did a solo stand-up show there. We’ve done well there as the Umbies. Live or die, it’s an unforgettable experience and hopefully forges a stronger you. Well, that’s hard if you’re dead, but you know what I mean.
Who else are you hoping to catch at the festival?
I want to discover someone completely new and amazing. Someone I can’t spot formula in, who takes us to new comic places. I’d recommend David Quirk’s new show, if you want something special and different.
[box]The Umbilical Brothers: KiDShoW (Not Suitable for Children) is at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 27 March to 13 April. Tickets are available at[/box]

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