Propping up your manhood

"They've got shops here for clothes and stuff for tourists, but the real people are over the hill somewhere," he said.

The props are an important part of Andrew's show. It's a hilarious but deadly serious look at men's roles and self-image - issues that came about after his own quest for meaningful manhood. Sparked by reading the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, which talked about finding balance in men's self-perceptions, it became Horabin's life-work.

"After years of learning about "father hunger" and rites of passage - and experiencing what is loosely called "men's work" - workshops, support groups - I just got really fired up about it," he said.

"I wanted the whole country to be talking about how boys become men. And what kind of men we want to be. And why we're so violent, suicidal, addicted, depressed and flat-out crazy. I mean, we're also generous, loving, fierce, playful, strong and wise - at our best - so where does all that other stuff come from? Somehow, I had the idea for a comedy show, with songs, and that's how it all got started."

It's part-motivational interaction, part-therapy - and all comedy.

"The shows are basically stand-up plus something else. When people come to a comedy show they pay for funny. It's about making people laugh and when they laugh they're a bit more open to thinking."

A story about a derailed marriage runs through the show. The bride calls off the wedding and she gives the guy two days to prove he's a man.

"Every town he goes into he buys something to prove he's a man. In the interval I give out a questionnaire for the audience to fill out and in the second half we find out something about the nature of the town."

Horabin has previously performed the show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. A professional keynote speaker, comedian, author and award-winning singer/songwriter, he's won the ASA National Songwriter of the Year (2000) and WAM Song of the Year (2003). He's motivated corporations, schools, government departments and NGOs across Australia and overseas. He's also the author of four books.

"I've been doing this for 19 years," he said. "I've worked with prison inmates, undercover cops, six-year-olds. I've learnt a few skills along the way. The show's not a monologue, it's fluid, interactive comedy.

"Even blokes who don't think they'll be into it really enjoy it. They wanna tell their own stories."

These stories in themselves become the emotional focus of the show. It's an insight into Australian culture, and a conversation, which, Horabin reckons, women are only too keen to enter into.

"Most women have very firm ideas about what a man is - they're asking for balance. They're not saying they don't want things that make blokes blokes. They want their men to believe in themselves - but not take themselves too seriously."

It's all in the props.

What a Man's Gotta Do plays NORPA Lismore City Hall this Saturday, July 21, from 7.30pm. It contains explicit language and adult concepts. For tickets call NORPA Box Office 1300 066 772 or purchase online at www.norpa.org.au.


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