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Barnie Duncan invites you to get lost ...

Barnie Duncan. Image: Evan Munro-Smith
Barnie in 'Calypso Nights'. Image: Alex Hewitt
Trygve Wakenshaw and Barnie Duncan in 'Different Party'. Image: Sarah Walker
Some entirely original and quirky advice


When I was 22 my favourite song was Let’s Get Lost by Chet Baker. I myself felt completely lost at the time, but it didn’t bother me. I kind of revelled in it. In fact, all I was doing with my time when I was 22 was revelling hard in getting lost. I mean I knew broadly that I wanted to be a storyteller of some kind. But I didn’t know if that meant as a writer, a painter, a musician or an actor. So I was dabbling in all of that stuff, and in lots of other stuff too.

Twenty years later I still feel a tad lost from time to time. By this age, you are supposed to be nestled down into your vocation. Bedded into it, without room for doubt. I do have moments of insight though, and will now impart some of them for that plucky young yoof way back then.


It’s not about the dudes

I know you think that you were born in the wrong era, that you should have been born around in the ’60s, in Greenwich Village, because that is the scene you love, and all your favourite brains come from around there in some way - but you need to expand what you are reading! And listening to! All these dudes! Dudes dudes dudes! Dude poets, dude novelists, dude painters, dude musicians… read some women.

I know you love “bleeding poppies” and getting all woozy to Billie [Holiday], but there are other females to listen to. Get the f..k into Patti Smith earlier, please. Go stare at some Lee Krasner. Dig out your Babes In Toyland cassette and play that in your car. The Golden Notebook has been sitting on your bookshelf forever. Pick it up and bloody read it.


Don’t collect empty trophies

Stop trying to be Charles Bukowski. You can’t drink your way into being a good writer. I used to proudly collect every bottle of Stolichnaya I’d finished with. These were first displayed on top of a fridge in our flat’s lounge. They then spilled onto the shelves and then to the floor by the fridge. When I moved out of that flat I put all these bottles into a fridge box and carried them around with me. Why? These trophies don’t make you a good writer, Barnie. They just made you a nostalgic waster.

Image: Alex Hewitt


Buy Vinyl

Go and spend more time at record shops! There are so many record shops around you, 22-year-old Barnie, and look how cheap a 12 inch is! You bought vinyl when you were a kid, why did you switch to CDs in your 20’s? Go back to vinyl! Trust me!


Don’t Drop Out of Uni

Please, get your bloody degree. It will come in so handy, especially during those periods when the performing work dries up and you need to hustle some kind of regular job. You had six months to go! Bloody idiot.


And by the way ...

These are all little things. You are basically doing OK though. You know what path you wanna go down. You made a pledge whilst staring into that river in Paraguay that you were going to be a storyteller, and you are.  

You have the passion and the confidence. You don’t seem to need that much money (you get by on toast and rollies). You can be more demanding about what you get paid in your thirties. But for now, just keep splashing about in rivers...

With Trygve Wakenshaw. Image: Sarah Walker

Barnie Duncan performs his new solo show ‘Tap Head’ at Basement Theatre from Wednesday 22 – Saturday 25 May, as part of the NZ International Comedy Festival.

Top photograph by Evan Munro-Smith

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

22 May 2019

The Big Idea Editor