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Werewolves of London? No, the stylish goats of Redfern

MANY comics will tell you that a "funny thing happened on the way to the gig", but Al Pitcher has got the photos to prove it. There is the picture of the street kid who mooned him in Glasgow, the photo of the mother throttling her child at a wedding in Melbourne, and the picture he took, just yesterday, of a man walking his pet goats through Redfern reports Tim Elliott in the 2May 2009 issue of the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The Goat Man," Pitcher proclaims. "He told me that his goats would be on the Disney Channel that night, and that they were going on the catwalk for Fashion Week. Amazing. If anyone complains that nothing ever happens round here, you can say, 'Rubbish. You've got The Goat Man."'

Tall, red-haired and built like a South Island sheep farmer, Pitcher has been prowling Sydney's streets with his camera ("it's my wife's"), in preparation for his nightly stand-up gigs, in which he presents his snaps as a comic slideshow, musing on everything from street signs to local landmarks, and encouraging the audience to join in.

"It's total seat-of-the-pants comedy," he says. "Every night is a brand new show, depending on the shots I get that day."

A homage to the ordinary, the extraordinary and the overlooked, the Al Pitcher Picture Show has garnered multiple awards in Britain, where he had been lauded for his freewheeling genius and Midas-like ability to make the most jaundiced audiences see their world anew. Even Sydney's recent rain cannot bring him down.

"Look at that," he says, snapping a sodden egg lying broken at the bottom of a brick wall in Pyrmont. "It's Humpty."

Walking across the street, he spots a man with plastic bag on his head. "Perfect," he says, hurrying over. "You've always got to ask their permission. Most people say yes, except for this one maniac in Melbourne, who not only told me to f--- off when I asked him, but said that if I tried to take his photo he would smash my camera. I mean, how rude can you get."

Even the stalest of urban icons - upturned shopping trolleys, No Trespassing signs - suddenly seem ripe for his lens. "I rarely use a photo as a punchline," he says. "But rather as a launching pad for a larger conversation."

The approach is not without risk. For one of his first shows in Sydney Pitcher used a shot he had taken in Newtown of a jet landing. "It thought it was amazing, being able to see the underbelly of the plane as it came in really low. But when I showed it, the audience just went flat. They said, 'Big deal, we see that every day, mate.' In cases like that I just go to the next photo."

Pitcher says he has always loved improvising. "The world is great if you open your eyes and take a look. I was reading The Age, and one page had this news about the riots in Bangkok and stories advising people not to go to Bangkok, and down the bottom was an ad with Jet Star's specials to Bangkok. You just can't write that kind of stuff."