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John Pinder – the godfather of Australian Comedy

John Pinder (at left) is pictured with his partner Roger Evans at the Last Laugh in 1979. Photo Michel Lawrence

John Pinder had a genius of talent spotting. He just knew when someone had IT! And there were lots of them with talent but nowhere to show off that talent. Until 1973 when he founded the Flying Trapeze in Brunswick St Melbourne, in what was then a less than salubrious part of Melbourne. But the FlyTrap, as it was affectionately known, was tiny with the stage the size of a pocket hankerchief. But it allowed John to show off his own talents for promoting unknown talent to an unsuspecting public.

The Last Laugh

Five years later he opened the Last Laugh in Smith St, one street down from Brunswick St and even less salubrious. An old dole office – and before that a bank – provided just what he needed.

Hawkes juggling

Jon Hawkes, who co-founded Circus Oz with John Pinder, struts his stuff.

I had just returned from London in 1978 when I was introduced to John and his great mate Jon Hawkes as they were launching Circus Oz. They needed someone to handle their advertising, their posters, their promotion and their talent photos. With my partner Bill Burrows we were just in the right place at the right time as John realized his dreams of turning a sleazy old dole office into a magical venue for a crazy bunch of performers, musicians, artists and waiters.

Bill and I spent five years helping John mould his ideas into ads, posters and all the other tools of the traditional communications industry into something he could sell to the Mums and Dads of the suburbs. Because, whilst John was tapping the extremes of quirky, bohemian, and often bizarre comedy, he was selling it to to Australian audiences everywhere with a hunger for something a little different – or maybe a whole lot different!

Sam and henry

John’s genius for talent spotting included the amazing Sam Angelico and Henry Maas as The Busby Berkleys

Scan 23 - Version 2

Mitchell Fairclough’s pastiche of a country musician in the Whittle family

John was a big man whose brain was never turned off. He always had a new scheme and a new way of presenting the unpresentable.

The great talent spotter

His roll-call of talent was as diverse and as crazy as he was: Los Trios RingBarkus, The Whittle Family, Hokum W. Jeebs, and a raft of now well-known names like Richard Stubbs, Wendy Harmer, Jane Clifton, Mary-Anne FaheyIan McFadyenPeter Moon and Jane Turner to name a few! 

What a time it was! And part of the magic was John’s other genius for employing the craziest funniest waiters ever seen, anywhere.

Last Laugh waiters

The waiters at the Last Laugh had a talent all of their own. Brian Nankervis ( Rockwiz co-presenter) is third from right.

John died in Sydney from cancer on May 27, aged 70. What a loss.

Mick Conway

Mick Conway was already well-known when he starred in his own show at the Laugh.

Footnote: All photos taken for the Last laugh and LeJoke were later exhibited at the Lighthouse Gallery in November 1986 as Funny Business – Photographs by Michel Lawrence and were later acquired by the Melbourne Performing Arts Museum.