Michael Workman


In his new show, War, former Perth boy Michael Workman grapples with dreams, nightmares, war, peace, and the fundamental underpinnings of reality and the human experience – ambitious stuff for a man who  ostensibly just tells jokes for a living.

War is a story about a morphine addict who wanders into a battlefield and accidentally drags the entire world into a dream. Yeah.”

That, in a nutshell, is how Michael Workman describes his new stand up comedy show. It’s heady material, but that should come as no surprise. In what could still, accurately if somewhat dismissively, be described as a nascent career, Workman has earned a reputation as a comic who digs deeper, emotionally, and stretches further, conceptually, than many of his peers – consider the excellent Mercy, or the at times painfully intimate Ogre. Veterans of his work know to go in with their brains engaged. However, this one still requires a little more clarification.

“It’s kind of about the idea of dream,” Workman continues. “And not like a dream but the dream and what that means in terms of human consciousness and where we come from and where we’re going. So it’s kind of tied into creation myths and the basis of humanity and how I kind of think that’s in danger at the moment because of certain factors.” he pauses. “Yeah, I don’t know, man – it’s a complex web.”

It sounds, we venture, like he’s exploring some Jungian territory here – delving into the notion of the collective unconscious.

“Kind of,” he answers. “And about how everything we do in the conscious world comes from the dream world- even the very basis of human civilisation has come from our dreams and our mysticism from ancient times. And the idea of that coming back and having an impact on the world that we know today sounds like an alien idea but it’s still an undeniable part of our makeup.

“On a small scale, when you have a dream, as soon as you wake up the dream starts to disappear. And that’s because it has no foundation on the material world – it can’t exist here and so it just sort of disappears. I wondered what if the opposite were true – if the physical world were to disappear and the dream were to become the foundation. That kind of ties in with a lot of creation and destruction myths from ancient cultures, so I sort of tired to contemporise that.”

Workman has already performed the show in Sydney and Melbourne, and though the reception has been warm, he admits that he’s received more than a few puzzled looks as well.

“Oh yeah, totally! Mostly it’s been quite good. I think that, the way things are, we have a lot of stupid reality shows and we’ve got a lot of flashy lights, you know, and we underestimate how smart people really are and we tend to condescend and talk down to them. After doing this show, I realise that the majority of people really want something challenging and confronting and I’ve been really happy with the response, actually. But, of course there’s always someone who just stares at me blankly and doesn’t get into it.”




Michael Workman’s War runs at the Astor Theatre until May 17. For tickets and session times, head here.