The Australian composer has returned to performing after a 10-year break. He writes about fame, failure and his surprise comeback

In 2003, I booked a tiny venue for Melbourne fringe festival, to perform a show I had tortuously titled Navel: Cerebral Melodies With Umbilical Chords. It was a sort of dark, ridiculous cabaret, and a desperate attempt to shake off the pain of all the rejections I had been getting (agents/record companies/the dude who approves small loans at the bank), by showcasing my various “talents”, which arguably included unusually clear diction, considerable manual dexterity, and a love of cheap double entendre. (Which is to say there were some outstanding jokes about fingering.)

Navel was a gamechanger for me, because I knew I had an unusual toolkit, and although I knew I had a tendency to play the clown, I didn’t by any stretch think of myself as a comedian. But that night, everything changed: the 30-odd weirdos perched on bar stools and chaises longues laughed. A lot.

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