What disguises to wear in Canberra’s cafés, according to a spy, uh, we mean comedian

What disguises to wear in Canberra’s cafés, according to a spy, uh, we mean comedian

Ahead of the Canberra Comedy Festival 2019 (18-24 March), we asked local spy comedian Frankie McNair about her go-to spy cafés and what to wear to each accordingly.

Yes, she’s definitely a comedian. Yes sirree. Nothing suspicious to see here.

We all know that Canberra is full of spies, and with so many cafés it can sometimes be overwhelming to know which disguise is the right one. Don’t worry ASIO! I’ve got you covered with my “handy guide for the caffeinated spy”!

  1. Tilley’s Devine Café

    No disguise required! You can relax and wear your regular attire of a three-piece suit and tilted fedora as you keep an eye on your mark from one of the many shaded booths.

    Enjoy a long black as you stare out of a rainy window while noir jazz plays and wonder what life out of the game could be like. Could you settle down? You, a partner, and a couple of sphynx cats? Or is this lonely road the only one you know how to travel?

    Then, just before that mood-changing "3:30pm local primary school milkshake and chippies rush", follow your mark by barrelling quickly out the heavy oak door into the conveniently located alley behind the café.

    Spy rating: 7/10 newspapers with holes cut out for eyes.
  2. Barrio

    Bust out the white crew neck tee and earth-friendly jeans because today you are an entrepreneurial graphic designer with a one-syllable name (ideally Jay or Ash). Before opening your video surveillance device disguised as a Moleskine notebook, be sure to order a coffee with the house nut milk (Nothing to do with the mission; it's just really good. Treat yo'self.)

    If your target starts to become suspicious, utter a phrase like “some quality doggos in Braddon today”.

    Alternatively, you could start asking the barista questions about their feature table, such as “is this red gum?”, “that’s a good slab”, or “I’ve got a mate in Braidwood who’s right into this stuff”.

    This will set your mark at ease and give the busy barista an insight into the rich woodworking history of Braidwood.

    Spy rating: 8/10 Inconspicuous nut milks.
  3. Sweet Bones

    Your disguise is gonna have to be vegan-friendly if you don't want to draw attention to yourself. Wear some old overalls over a tie-dye shirt, and make sure you have an iron-on patch of your favourite band on the empty baby carrier you are wearing (the baby carrier will double as a heat detector).

    The beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows make it easy to keep an eye on your target as they savour the homemade vegan delights. Stay incognito by ordering one of the Cinnabons and breaking off lil' bits with your hands to share with your bubba.*

    Being a spy has never tasted so good.

    *Pram filled with sonar equipment.

    Editor’s note: perfect your secret identity by practising whipping up some Cinnabons at home using the recipe here.

    Spy rating: 10/10 Birkenstocks that double as truth serum.
  4. Highroad

    With grand windows, natural colours, and a Scandinavian-chic open floor plan, Highroad is the perfect place to disguise yourself as a hungover indoor plant (preferably Bird of Paradise).

    Position yourself in a medium-sized pot near a north-facing window so your foliage gets plenty of light while you use a watering can filled with Berocca to stay hydrated.

    Use your binoculars to spy on the target through your large green leaves. If they spot you, quickly pretend to scan the menu of incredibly fresh, flavoursome and exciting cuisine before ordering a dry piece of sourdough and a black coffee. Your mark will be none the wiser and you’ll get sourdough.  

    Spy rating: 9/10 Sunglasses indoors.
  5. Old Canberra Inn

    Disguise yourself as the ghost of Ned Kelly. That’s right, dressed as the spirit of an old bush ranger, you’ll fit right in as you wander the halls of The Old Canberra Inn.

    Some of the many benefits of this disguise include being able to stand right behind your target without arousing suspicion and being able to walk through walls.

    The major downfall of this otherwise seamless disguise is you won’t be able to enjoy some of the finest chippies your nation’s capital has to offer.

    If this gets too much to bear, you can always let your anger out by acting like the poltergeist you are (flip some tables, make groaning noises, and hide the aloe – tomato sauce is better anyway).

    The frustration of not being able to eat the chippies will add to the character of you being a soul trapped between two worlds, and set your target's mind at ease.

    Spy Rating: 7.5/10 Ned Kelly ghost chippies.

You can spot Frankie at the Canberra Comedy Festival at her solo show Frantasia (21 March), as one-half of Sweaty Pits Comedy's act in Pity Party (20 March) and as a finalist in RAW Comedy 2019 – ACT State Final (18 March). She’ll be the one glancing shiftily from side-to-side performing on stage.

Check out the other shows of the Canberra Comedy Festival here.


Frankie McNair

Frankie McNair is a Canberra comedian who has been screaming on stage since 2017. Her comedy is best described as blurring the lines between stand-up, physical comedy, and a Liza Minnelli fever dream. Her mum frequently asks her if she needs money.