Off The Rails Comedy grew from three things: one, that Wodonga deserved its own comedy night. Two, I wanted to grow a grass roots comedy scene which was locally run and three, because I was sick and tired of the train service to Melbourne being replaced by a bus. Finally the planets aligned and it happened: I launched Wodonga's first independently and locally run comedy show at the back of O’Mailles Hotel in June 2017.
It was great. It was a packed house full of potential and there was lots of chatter about its growth. Unfortunately there was little support to back that chatter and like most new entertainment on the Border it didn't work. I wasn't sad about the losses, I pulled the pin and looked elsewhere as I was determined to take it to a venue where it COULD work.
So in March 2018 Off The Rails crossed the border to The Bended Elbow Albury. From there it grew up to become a well-supported and professionally run monthly night upstairs at One Nightclub. Its first incarnation, Comedy In The Club, hosted some amazing headliners including Aaron Gogcs (The Merger, True Story with Hamish and Andy), Danielle Walker (Winner of RAW Comedy 2016 and Best Newcomer MICF 2018) and Ashley Fils-Aime from the USA (MTV’s Sink or Swim, SiTV’s Stand-up Comedy Showcase) it was great.
Actually, it still is great! Shows continue to run monthly at the Bended (3rd Friday of each month if you're interested) in its new incarnation Regional Rush Hour. Since the move to Albury more venues have partnered with me to present regular and bespoke comedy nights including St Ives Hotel Wodonga, Wodonga Student Association, Gables East (Take Away Laughs - check it out June 26), and more across the region.
Off The Rails naturally evolved and in doing so our audiences grew and new artists began to emerge on the Border. It was growing and as it did it presented an opportunity for local people to get up on stage. I remember running a workshop and some had never heard their voice in a microphone before. I was so chuffed at what I starting to see emerge from all this. It was the beginning of a local comedy community!
If you're not familiar with comedy or creative scenes, you're probably wondering "How and why has this grown?". That's a fair question, it is the sticks after all and not much gets off the ground around here. I can tell you it's grown because Off The Rails brings Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Fringe favourites to us right here on the border. You don't have to travel 3+ hours away for comedy show (although it is handy having the Melbourne International Comedy Fest down the road). The great thing is you can hear about a show on a Friday and decide that afternoon if you've like to go see it. That's great. That's convenient and people like that. We shouldn't have to miss out on the opportunity to do that just because we live outside the capital cities.
Finally, one of my favourite reasons that Off The Rails has grown and become so successful is that that Comedians are keen to travel here from all over the country. From TV and radio personalities to international artists: People with some real skin in the game are asking to perform in Albury Wodonga! The border is known amongst comedians as a great audience to perform to (go you comedy lovers, be proud of yourselves), and on top of that we're proving that regional audiences exist.
We're out here, and we're worth coming here for and that's the best!