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June 1, 20143 years ago

Pete

In 2001 my cousin and mate Pete Anderson was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease and was told his life expectancy was 2 years at the most. He was happily married to Leanne, was besotted with his 6 month old daughter and had just returned to teaching at Mt Lilydale College: The school that had nurtured his love of teaching and introduced him to the love of his life for good measure. What followed is one of the more amazing life stories I have witnessed.

Pete & I were born a month apart in late 1964. Our mums, Kathleen and Margaret were close. They had different interests growing up. Mum would spend most Saturday afternoons sprucing herself up for a dinner dance while Margaret was screaming for the Magpies at Victoria Park. However their sisterly bond was impenetrable and despite being separated by several dozen Melbourne suburbs our two families shared a similar bond.

Pete & I by virtue of our arrival into the world at the same time were thrust upon each other as companions. Pete's dad Vin captured many moments of us together as babies on his Super 8. Mostly it's focused on Pete, with me as a blurry bonneted afterthought in the background. That would have been easier to digest if my parents had paid similar attention to capturing me on camera - They didn't. As the youngest of 5 there was a noticeable gap on our family mantel piece next to the portraits of my 4 elder siblings. Apparently the baby photographer had passed away in the interim years and they never bothered to look up the yellow pages. I'd go on for longer about this slight on my infancy but this piece isn't about me.

As younguns Pete and I weren't that close. I was introverted as a kid but from the age of 5 Pete already had a swagger. Mum would faithfully take me along to his birthday parties and I would spend most of the time explaining who I was to his dubious mates feeling somewhat like a cousin amongst his preferred peerage. 'Who's the kid with the shit metaphors?' they would say.

As teenagers we got on better but Pete was always so prodigiously cooler than me that I was a tiny bit intimidated. He was everything I wanted to be: He could talk to girls without having a nose bleed, he didn't wear home made clothes and he clearly had jurisdiction over how he wore his hair. However as adults, as my insecurities washed away, I realised that what I had mistaken for aloofness was a guy who was immensely comfortable in his own skin.

We both came to teaching via different paths and we found we had more mutual ground. We both loved teaching but I remember talking to him about whether there was more out there for us. His foray into HR roughly coincided with my decision to make a go of a full time crack at comedy and he couldn't have been more supportive. He and Lee would bring a host of mates to each and every show I put on and we'd catch up for drink after and his zeal for my career change was infectious. His stint in HR didn't last as he felt the pull of the strong vocational pull of teaching. Even though I'm happy with the career I've eked out in the arts, I still have pangs for the collegial nature of education that I've never fully replicated in the more isolationist world of entertainment.

When Pete was diagnosed with MND he was at the top of his game. Pete was already in the higher echelons of 'top blokes I know' but the years that followed saw him continue to rocket through charts. He is quite simply the most inspiring person I have ever known.

Rather than wallow in the cruelty of his circumstance he battled the disease stoically with a constant eye on the needs of those who loved him. As piteous as his condition quickly became he continued teaching for as long as he could and when he had to succumb and leave his beloved job he set about writing to leave a legacy for Eliza. Encouraged by journalist Neil Kearney who saw brilliance in his prose, he began to compile his work into a book. After 10 years, long after he had lost speech and the ability to type 'Silent Body, Vibrant Mind' was published and I had the honour of launching the book in The Jim Stynes Room at the MCG in October 2012. In my introduction I suggested that given he had been at it for 10 years, I was little disappointed at the slightness of the book. One of the little known symptoms of MND is that emotions are greatly exaggerated. Sadness is amplified, Joy leads to delirium. I've done a number of benefit shows for Pete and MND over the years so as his distorted groans grew louder it wasn't the first time that I thought that one of my jokes might actually kill him.

But this story isn't just about Pete. It's about his ex students who organised fund raisers and created the momentum to get the book published, his friends that cooked meals for 13 years and helped modify their home, the carers who bent the rules because this man had moved them and the countless people, who made themselves better than they already were to help out a family so cruelly stricken.

Pete has touched so many lives as has the bravery of Leanne and Eliza and my bloody brilliant Magpie loving aunty and their families.

I was in the town of Goolwa in SA on tour on May 19th. It was the first day of a tour. The show is called 'Road Trip' and it requires our team spend 48 hours in a town with a view to compiling a 90 minute live show based entirely on that town. It's exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. I was being filmed talking to a local artist as she showed me her glass eye ball collection when my phone throbbed in my pocket. Something made me ignore the camera rolling and I looked at the phone screen. I saw that it was Pete's brother Mark and my heart sank. I'd been to see him the preceding week and knew the situation was dire. I don't recall much of the next 10 minutes as I feigned interest in this woman's bizarre obsession. I remember even less of the period when her husband took over to show us his collection of caps that hung on the shed wall.

I've often questioned the fairness of life as Pete's quality of life became worse and worse as I tripped about the globe pursuing my dreams but never has my life felt so transparent as I sobbed in the bush adjacent to the Eye Ball Museum. My self pitying moping didn't last. The grief burned but I knew Pete would have no truck with that train of thought. I hauled my sorry arse back into the charmed life I lead and found myself 2 hours later dressed a ghost in a haunted old police station.

The funeral, which Pete had meticulously planned himself, was worth the ridiculously convoluted, sleepless journey. My time was tight so I barely got to speak to anyone in any depth other than my brother Chris who came miles out of his way way to collect me at the airport and drive me all the day back to ensure I got the flight back so I could go and be an idiot in the next town on the schedule. Chris and I talked all the way and without saying it we both realised that Pete had brought us, and all found themselves part of his story, closer together.

So farewell old mate. Tomorrow when I'm judging a foot race between the 12 hairdressing salons in Warragul, I'll think of you and remember that every second is sacred.

NB - To hear the story directly from him, I highly recommend you read Pete's book 'Silent Body, Vibrant Mind' ... google it, you'll find it
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November 6, 20134 years ago

'Backyard Ashes' - World Premiere coming to a Wagga Wagga near you!

The green carpet has been rolled out, the picket fences erected and the second popcorn machine has been fired at the 'Wagga Forum 6' for tonight's World Premiere of the locally made 'Backyard Ashes'

Almost 12 months ago to the day I drove up The Olympic Highway with my Daewoo packed with enough undies to last a month and a script I was yet to learn. From the welcoming first night shindig at 'The Thirsty Crow Brewery' I knew this was going to be fun. Despite the frugal budget and the lack of a distribution deal there was a complete absence of cynicism on set and around the community.

The film's creative team Mark Grentell and Peter Cox, well loved in the Wagga community, have an unpretentious enthusiasm that is infectious. When the council pass the resolution to mount busts of local legends they'll be up next to the likes of Mark Taylor, Wayne Carey, Scobie Breasley and Arthur Orton, the infamous 19th imposter who famously walked away from his butcher shop in Wagga Wagga and for a time successfully claimed to be the heir to the Tichborne lineage in England. But their is no pretense here: the boys from Crow Crow Productions of the rightful heirs to the crown of Riverina's finest film makers.

12 months down the track, the film has been picked up for distribution [Umbrella Entertainment] and the official film bodies have now come on board to assist with the the post production. Shit, they've even got merchandise and everything. I have't seen any of it yet but I'll be disappointed if there aren't inflatable John Wood dolls

The film is being launched this week [November 7-10] in the NSW towns of Wagga Wagga, Albury, Orange & Tamworth. It is set for a metro release on November 22nd if it goes well in the regions. So if you want to make sure you see it on the big screen, ring or email your local cinema and ask when it's starting. If that doesn't work write them a memo attached to a cricket ball and deliver it personally through their front window.

I'll be there tonight walking the astro turf gauntlet and no amount of sledging will wipe the smile off my face as I walk out to bat.

Here's a link to the trailer

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfLn-duACkM

… And here's the Facebook Page. Like it and find out about where the film will be showing over the next month

https://www.facebook.com/BackyardAshesTheMovie
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July 22, 20134 years ago

'The Complete Works of Shakespeare - Abridged' - Taking The Bard On The Road With State Theatre SA

The caravan is packed with fake knives, poison vials, Elizabethan ruffs, unconvincing wigs, a flat packed cauldron from IKEA and a blow up crocodile and we're on the road.

After an intense rehearsal period in Adelaide I'll be prancing about the country in my peacock cod piece with Tim Overton and Nic English performing 56 shows in 20 theatres in 4 states from July 24th to October 6th.

Imaginatively directed by Adam Cook, TCWOWSA takes the Bards body of work and bends and beats it into 2 and half hours of delightful silliness amidst the colourful and playful world created by designer Ailsa Paterson. Tickets are selling fast and word has it that Princess Kate had her birth induced to ensure she didn't miss opening night in Wollongong.

We'll be indiscriminately firing off glitter canons in The Gong, Noarlunga, Adelaide, Mildura, Burnie, Warrnambool, Werribee, Sale, Shepparton, Albury, Queanbeyan, Taree, Brisbane QUT, Logan, Cleveland, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton & Brisbane QPAC.

Here's the link for national dates

http://www.statetheatrecompany.com.au/home/whatson/shows/completeworks-tour-2/

Here's the link for Adelaide dates

http://www.statetheatrecompany.com.au/home/whatson/shows/completeworks/

Tour details can also be found in my gig guide.

http://www.damiancallinan.com.au/gig-guide/

Best keep moving, these tights aren't going to put themselves on.

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April 23, 20134 years ago

World Premiere of 'Roadtrip' To Go Ahead Despite Links To Stephen Dank








Unperturbed by revelations that they are likely to be investigated by ASADA, comedians Mickey D & Damian Callinan are going ahead with the world premiere of their new concept show 'Roadtrip'

The show, which also features the skills of documentary film maker Charlie Hill-Smith, sees Callinan & Dwyer spending 48 hours in a town and then putting on a show based on the town and their experiences.

The first show kicks off at Port Macdonnell and they're not entirely sure what is going to happen yet but it's likely Mickey will be getting seasick on a Cray Boat and Damo will be dressing up as a female ghost in period costume and kicking the footy around the cemetery.

This trial season, produced by Country Arts SA, sees the boys visiting ...
- Port Macdonnell - April 30th
- Bordertown - May 2nd
- Lameroo - May 4th

Full show details can be seen at ...

http://quotemywebvideo.com/1111/gig-guide/

Assuming their names have been cleared they will then be embarking on an extensive national tour of the show in 2014.

Dwyer was recently seen drinking the first milk directly from the teat of a new born cow and has admitted to being a known associate of a bloke who almost met sports chemist Stephen Dank, the man at the centre of the 'Drugs In Sport' crisis. Callinan refused to comment as he was eating bark dipped in pigs brain extract at the time.

This is a 'performance-enhanced' blurb for the show.

The van is packed and Mickey and Damo are coming to your town to put on a show. Only problem is they don’t have one... yet! The boys have 2 days to steal the keys to your town and discover secrets only a local would know. With the help of award winning documentary film-maker Charlie Hill-Smith, 48 hours becomes 90 minutes of hilarity. Mickey & Damo will reveal the good, the bad and the funny of your town and you'll wish you'd brought in your washing.
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March 29, 20134 years ago

Damian Callinan is 'NOT' doing a show at this year's Melbourne International Comedy Festival - Get Your Tickets Now!!!

An autumn evening outside Melbourne Town Hall

Other Comedian: 'Have you done your show?'
Me: No
Other comedian: You on later?
Me: No
Other Comedian: Haven't you opened yet?
Me: No, I'm not doing a show
[awkward silence]
Other Comedian: I'd better keep flyering.
[Other Comedian walks away and stops to talk to another group of comedians also not really flyering]

I now realise that one of the driving motivations for doing a show is to avoid being asked why you are not doing a show. This line of questioning is not limited to other comedians: my family, friends, local cafe owners, my mower guy. Having done 13 of the last 15 festivals this is unfamiliar territory. Previously my excuse was that I was performing in productions interstate which was seen as an acceptable excuse however I was rarely called upon to use it because I was 'interstate'

The fact that I am in Melbourne whilst the festival is on but not doing a show seems to be confounding everyone. Someone even rang and complained to my former agent after unsuccessfully attempting to buy tickets to last years show.

It wouldn't be so bad if people just asked me, I replied no, and we moved on but ... .

Mower Guy: What's your comedy festival show about this year?
Me: I'm not doing a show.
Mower Guy: How come?
Me: I'm too busy
Mower Guy: Doing what? [glancing at my half eaten midday breakfast]
Me: Writing
Mower Guy: Writing what?
Me: Oh look it's early stages and ...
Mower Guy: A book?
Me: No
Mower Guy: Movie?
Me: Sort of ...
Mower Guy: What's it called?
Me: Doesn't have a name. I'm still ...
Mower Guy: When will it be out?
Me: Look it might never happen.
[awkward silence]
Mower Guy: Better get back to mowing
[walks to a group of other mower guys who are also not really mowing]

One evasive technique I have been trialling is ...

Local Cafe Owner: Are you doing a show in the ...
Me: No!
Local Cafe Owner: Why Not?
Me: To be honest door knocking for the Jehovah's is taking up way more time I than I thought.
[awkward silence]
Local Cafe Owner: I'd better get back to cafe owning

So if you bump into me over the next month and you ask me that question, and you will, be prepared for an awkward few minutes. In the mean time if you click on my gig guide you will see that I have a few guest spots lined up in other people's shows.

http://www.damiancallinan.com.au/gig-guide/

And if you facebook message me I will send you a list of recommended shows.

http://www.facebook.com/damian.callinan
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February 20, 20134 years ago

'IS IT POZIBLE?'

It’s 2.30am: I’m on facebook and unable to tear my eyes away from the school renunion photos of someone I don’t really know. An email arrives.

‘Help ‘Marzipan Ladder’ get to the Edinburgh Fringe’ … It’s another Pozible request from someone else I don’t know who thinks the world needs to see their spoken word, improvisational dance expose on beauty pageants. After selling out 3 nights at the Gympie Fringe Festival, they believe the time is right to make other people pay the $20,000 they need to perform to empty houses in the back room of a disused Laundromat.

For those who don’t know what Pozible is, it’s an online fundraising forum that gives artists of all persuasions a platform to ask for donations to achieve a specific goal: Get an album recorded, self publish an anthology of poems, make a caravan out of cable ties, wrap a macramé camel in glad wrap etc.

When I first started out in the performance world there was no such forum. You’d work out what you wanted to do, make a budget you could afford, paid for it yourself and then did the show. I never even thought to ask other people to pay, stupidly thinking my indulgences were not the domain of complete strangers.

Don’t get me wrong, I have pledged for several good causes of artists I know who have done the hard yards and whose work I believe in, but I’m sorry ‘Yvette Paris Pants’ I’m not going to pay for your holiday to Berlin because you’ve discovered you just need a corset and tattoo of a barn owl to call your self a Burlesque artist.

Anyway I’d better get going, my tribute to the journey of Burke & Wills with an albino Welsh choir, line dancing lolly pop ladies and a GPS projection of the trip beamed onto the side of a Clydesdale set inside a shipping container in isn’t going to fund itself.

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January 17, 20134 years ago

'Silent Body, Vibrant Mind' by Peter Anderson

[Disclaimer - Peter Anderson is my cousin and the following review is heavily tainted by familial bias]

I've been working on a book for the past 6 years. It's been through a number of drafts and my editor Melanie has been extremely patient and generous with her time. It's still not published and it needs another draft before we even think about generating some more rejection letters.

Peter Anderson took over 10 years to get his book published and it's quite thin. I pointed this out to him while MCing the launch of his book recently. While I cite such excuses as 'shifting priorities', 'a volatile publishing market' and 'can't think of an ending' Pete has Motor Neuron Disease and wouldn't make excuses even if he could speak.

After being diagnosed with MND in 2000, writing became his passion as his body quickly began to regress around his still brilliant mind. The book began as a way of passing on his story to his daughter Eliza who was but a 1 year old when the diagnosis was delivered. Initially he was told he would be lucky to live for 2 years so the writing poured out of him. In time writing became physically difficult, exhausting and painful, yet he persisted with new technologies that kept his words trickling.

The result is one of the more enlightened pieces of writing I ever read. It is in equal measures profound, devastating, inspiring and gut wretching and one of the best handbooks on the acceptance of fate you could hope to read. It's a testament to a man who has confronted his mortality and not only found a reason to live on but actually love his life despite this 'despicable disease' and Hawthorn's recent Premiership fade.

Pete and I share the title 'Ex teacher.' In fact we both taught for roughly the same amount of time. I ultimately left teaching to become a full time comedian and an unpublished novelist and Pete briefly left teaching to work in HR but scuttled back to the classroom when he realised he had left his real vocation behind. While I revel in my current career, there are elements of teaching I still miss and I perform regularly to staff and students. The collegiality of educators in particular is hard to replicate. Pete's description of the nobility of teaching should be prescribed reading for all would-be educators and his anecdotes should be compulsory reading for all parents waiting outside a principals office ready to dump on their child's teacher. In fact such was Pete's impact in the classroom that some of his former students were at the vanguard to get the book published.

'Silent Body, Vibrant Mind' is also a love story. A man's love for his wife Lee and daughter Eliza and their love for him; the love of the people around them - mothers, sisters, neighbours, former students - who continue to ease their burden. It's the kind of biography we should read more often, It's not bristling with anecdotes about crushes on Kardashians or dates with Di Caprio's: It's the thoughts of an ordinary man who has been forced to endure extraordinary things and has proven himself to be something greater than he could have ever imagined.

This is Pete's website

www.peteanderson.org

You can buy the book from there or ask at your local bookstore. It's published by Brolga Books and available online via Pan Macmillan

My book can be read by stealing my hard-drive

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January 17, 20134 years ago

Campbell Newman lures Callinan to the Brisbane Comedy Festival

After answering a personal plea from Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, Damian will be bringing his hit one man show 'The Merger' to Brisbane's 'Powerhouse' as part of the 5th annual 'Brisbane Comedy Festival.'

It's likely Newman will be in attendance for all 6 shows from March 12th to 17th at 7.15pm [Sunday 6.15pm] but once they've blocked out a bank of seating for his entourage there should be plenty of room for other punters to buy tickets. In a bold move to bolster his flagging popularity in the polls, Newman is banking on linking himself with the Melbourne based comedian who only recently claimed to have never met Newman and ...'would sooner buy a 'Coffee Club' franchise than be seen in his company'

Random political backing is not new to Callinan, only last year he performed in Pyongyang at the bucks turn of Kim Jong-Un's best friend at the request of the North Korean leader and in 2011 Callinan became the first comedian to officially open a parliamentary sitting in Uganda at the insistence of President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

'The Merger' - the story of a struggling country football club who recruit asylum seekers to stave of a merger, has been branded by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as 'a show that I have yet to see'

For booking details, information and a copy of Callinan's Ugandan address click on the link below.

www.brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/view/damian-callinan-in-the-merger/
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December 6, 20124 years ago

'Backyard Ashes' - See you later Wagga Wagga, you gorgeous old crow!

Random: How’s the film going?

Me: Umm yeah good

Random: My brother in law donated the mower

Me: Oh, Ok ...

Random: … And my husband runs the club.

Me: Right, which …?

Random: … We’ll be at the thing on Saturday. My daughter was an extra. I’m bringing the bread. [answers phone] … Yeah, I’ll be there in a minute. Just wait … I’m talking to one of the actors … No, not John Wood … I don’t know, I’ll ask ... What’s your name?

Me: Damian Callinan

Random: [to phone] Daniel someone. [hangs up] Better go. Kids are in the car.

Me: Cool, see you Saturday

Random: See you Danny

And so goes many a conversation in the welcoming arms of the Rural City of Wagga Wagga.

I’ve been part of the transient population of the City of Crows for the past month making a film called ‘Backyard Ashes’ – a feel good, knockabout comedy about backyard cricket, mateship and BBQ’s where no-one gets around to eating.

This town has embraced this film like it’s ‘The Hobbit’ but there will be no ‘Hobbiton’ for the tourists to flock too once the film circus packs up and leaves town. So what will be our legacy? Will there be a short-term spike in backyard cricket supply sales? Will we see a strip mowed down the centre of every yard? Will locals plant a Boony Bush at short leg?

In this case I feel like the legacy is in fact ours to take away. Wagga Wagga may get some scant recognition when the film is released. The town is name checked in the film but it could be anywhere. No-one is going to see the film and say … ‘Nicholas, did you see the burnt landscape on the fringes of that industrial estate, fuck Aspen, we simply must take our next holiday in Wagga!’

But even if I told the town that [as I am now … woops!] I suspect they wouldn’t care, because what I’ve witnessed here is a community prepared to celebrate their town and the artists they’ve sporned. The film is the creation of Peter Cox [writer] and Mark Grentell [writer/director] Coxy is a local drama teacher and theatre creator who seems to know everyone within 100 km radius of town and is loved by them all. Mark is an equally revered, multi talented local boy who is now a Sydney based director. This is a project they’ve been cooking up for years and it simply would have been foolish to shoot it anywhere but Wagga.

Helicopters for aerial shooting, Mr Whippy vans for children taunting, backyards for cricket, pool decks for cast and crew parties, factories for … well factory scenes. We’ve even had local cafes turn up to hand out free afternoon tea and the Mayor drops in so often, we’ve begun to question if he has enough to do.

I’m writing this at the Wagga RSL Motel, which has been my home for the past month [no charge of course]. I sleep here, eat here, change costumes here and sometimes film here. There are side effects to this level of RSL exposure. I balk at any drink that costs more that $4: I now instinctively stand for a minutes silence at 6pm and have to talk myself out of accessing the soft serve machine at breakfast.

The crew are a mixture of the best in the business and local students from Charles Sturt University’s Film & TV production course. As an ex-teacher I’ve relished watching the organic tuition on display as the craft is passed on the battlefield of the set. Greenhorns on Day 1, assistant grips and clapper-board operators have transformed into old hands in less than a month.

The patience and skill of cinematographer Damian Wyvill and his team, whose recent credits include ‘The Great Gatsby’, has been inspiring as they work with a first time director, lots of first time everythings and a cast determined not to compromise their cricket shot selection to the peril of crew and equipment.

The cast is similarly varied in experience. From the fresh out of NIDA Jake Speer to first intake at NIDA John Wood, the cast have taken to the pace of life in Wagga like a duck to the Murrumbidgee.

‘Is John Wood in there?’ was the popular refrain from locals slowly wandering past our location for the first few days but after a month in town that has slowly changed to ‘Is John Wood still in there?’

The large ensemble cast is roughly broken into two groups. Those who can’t play cricket [The Poms] and those that can [The Aussies] There are exceptions to that rule but I don’t want to name names and Jamie Way knows who I’m talking about anyway.

This film has a heart the size of Phar Lap and is possibly slightly Aussier than Phar Lap. That’s a big call: We all know that that you can’t get much more Aussie than a successful Aussie horse born in New Zealand. Who knows what the future holds for this film but those involved aren’t going to die wondering. Well Annie the tireless producer might: She’s spent the best part of 2 months sleeping in the un-air conditioned production office to save money. Such is the state of the shitbox she has called home, she may have succumbed to an asbestos related disease before the film is released.

I’m about to wander down the street to a BBQ thrown by Mark Grentell’s parents. It’s about time they did something, so far they’ve only let us take over their house as the primary location and unit base.

I leave here in a couple of days and it will be nice to be home but I must say I’ve liked calling this my home too. See you later Wagga Wagga you gorgeous old crow.

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October 24, 20125 years ago

Adelaide Comedy Tour Underway

First show down and three to go on the Adelaide Comedy Tour. Here's some pics from last night's hijink at the Arkabar. Don't miss out on the chance to pretend being in a boat on stage with strangers.

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/set=a.10151287604692363.532683.20826207362&type=1

Next Shows
Oct 24th - Marion Hotel
Oct 25th & 26th - Rhino Room

Bookings @ Details @ www.adelaidecomedy.com
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