Jimeoin: the night I died

Comedian Jimeoin tells Time Out about his worst gig experience among the 'massive surfing farmers' of Esperance, Western Australia

  • Jimeoin: the night I died

    © Steve Ulathorne

  • ‘I was playing a gig in Esperance, Western Australia, a few years ago. The audience was made up largely of the local surfing farmers. They farm all day and then surf on colossal waves in the evening so these guys are huge.

    ‘A very drunk punter (apparently called Ditchy and probably the biggest bloke I have ever seen) came onstage while the support act DC was on – and tried to hit him. DC ran off behind the curtain and Ditchy followed him backstage and landed a couple of punches. I managed to hit this man-mountain and then just clung on to him like a monkey to try and slow him down as he flailed around, punching anything that moved. We stumbled outside through the fire exit doors and then busted back through them and ended up onstage, all still fighting, with the audience cheering like crazy. Ditchy at one stage tore a brick out of the theatre wall (you couldn’t make this up) but it backfired on him when he hit a policeman. They had been called by theatre security – a 70-year-old guy called Neville, thin and tiny with a bad wig on.

    ‘They called an interval to settle things down a bit, but of course, people kept right on drinking.

    ‘For the second half I had to borrow someone’s shirt because mine had been torn off in the fight. The gig became about trying to have a laugh with the rest of the audience who had witnessed most of this... but there were also five people in the front row who were mates of Ditchy – and they were not happy. It really became less of a comedy gig and more like a bizarre piece of theatre that kept switching from being funny to deadly serious and actually pretty frightening. Mind you, some of the punters said after that they thought it was one of the best nights they'd ever had.

    ‘At the end of the show, when I went to play my guitar, one of Ditchy’s friends stormed onstage and tried to hit me with a bottle. Some of the police from the fight had decided to hang around and see the show so they were able to grab him and threw him out. The show ended without further mishap and we were packing up our gear when this same joker broke back into the theatre with his friends. I looked up to see them charging down the aisle to attack us so we ran backstage and desperately tried to hold the stage door shut while they hammered at it and while we called the police again.

    ‘This time the boys in blue gave us an escort out of the venue because the car park was filling with Ditchy’s mates, howling to get at us. They drove us in a police van to where we were staying, which was the only motel in town – a real dive, with wind howling through the windows – you get the idea. Esperance is one of the most remote towns you can imagine. It’s a three-hour inland flight from the closest city, Perth, which itself happens to be the most isolated city in the world. Our flight was in the morning and so we really had nowhere else to go but our motel room.

    ‘Meanwhile, the ever-increasing baying mob had also figured this out, had surrounded our room and were trying to break in to get to us. We had to barricade ourselves inside with a chest of drawers (and every other bit of furniture that moved) pushed up against the door and windows as these guys tried to break in. All night.

    ‘I have never been so frightened in my life. A week later I was the act at a pretty full-on bikers convention, but after the surfing farmers of Esperance experience this seemed like a doddle.

    'Esperance was the night I very nearly really died.’

    'Jimeoin on Ice' is at the Arts Theatre, Feb 5-17.

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