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Category Archives: INTERVIEW

What do Dylan Moran, Arj Barker, Ross Noble and Stephan Amos have in common? They were all fresh-faced comedians introduced to the world at Bulmers Best once upon a time. I pick the brains of this year’s graduates Carl Donnelly, Tom Allen, and Seann Walsh before they realise their talents are well worth $10 per head.

CARL DONNELLY

It says in the press release that you took up stand-up in 2005. What were you doing before that? I worked in an office as an accounts assistant which was the last of a series of dead end jobs I had done since dropping out of university at the age of 19. I was never cut out for the whole 9 to 5 thing. I had the gift of being able to do the bare minimum of work required to not be fired! One of the worst things I used to do was sneak off for naps in the toilets. I would always go to a toilet on a different floor if I was hungover etc and have a 30-minute snooze around 10am. Then when I came back to my desk I’d pretend I had been in a short notice meeting.

What’s the obsession with covering your feet? What’s wrong with them? I have a strange OCD thing where I feel constantly paranoid when not wearing shoes. I’m convinced I am going to stand on something sharp or kick a door etc. I’ve had it since being a child. So for as long as I can remember, I can only be barefoot when in bed (or in swimming pools, anywhere where it is necessary). This fact is on my Wikipedia page but I have no idea how it got on there.

Are you looking forward to performing in front of an Aussie audience? Of course. One of my favourite things about being a comedian is that danger/excitement of going on stage in front of a room full of people that don’t know you and convincing them you are worth listening to. Doing that in another country is even more exciting as you are talking to people that have a totally different way of life with different cultural references. Obviously the danger exists that they won’t have a clue what I’m talking about but I’m willing to risk it!

TOM ALLEN

What would you be doing if you didn’t make it in comedy? I’ve always had a fantasy about opening up a cake shop – somewhere by the sea. I think it’d be a cake shop that also sold other things (like power tools for example) and it’d close on Wednesday at lunchtime so I’d have time to maybe go to a Zumba class. As a comedian you don’t have any kind of comfy routine so I think I’d enjoy having my evenings to cook dinner, maybe paint a wall or even watch a soap.

Who would play you in the movie of your life? The man from Crocodile Dundee or possibly John Malkovich as we have a similar hair line, though he has a much higher voice. I met him once. He was dressed completely in white.

For Aussies here who don’t know anything about you, why should they come see you? I guess because I’m different (eccentric even? maybe at times odd). I’m obsessed with stories, details and the way we interact with each other – like the time I offered to carry a disabled man’s bag down the stairs but then realised I couldn’t lift it off the ground. For me, live comedy is about finding those things, however odd, that we’ve all got in common, and that make us laugh because we go, “Oh I’m not as weird as I thought”. It’s just relief! If you come, we’re going to have one hell of a good time together!

SEANN WALSH

Time Out London’s called you this generation’s Dylan Moran. Your thoughts? I was very flattered when I read that but it is ridiculous. I think it’s just because I can do quite a good impression of a drunk guy.

What has been the proudest moment in your comedic career thus far? Probably the recording of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow (Not the edit! I cried when I watched the edit). All I have ever wanted to do was stand-up on primetime television. Everything in my life starting from school was built towards that moment and it couldn’t have gone any better

Your top five favourite comedians? Charlie Sheen, Charlie Sheen, Charlie Sheen, Charlie Sheen and Charlie Sheen

Have you been to Australia before? What are you looking forward to seeing/doing here? I haven’t. Friends that have been told me there’s a great cafe culture in Australia, which is great for me. My favourite thing to do in life when I’m not drunk is to sit outside a cafe, smoking and drinking black coffee all day. I must stink!

Apr 27 – May 8, The Factory Theatre, 105 Victoria Rd, Enmore, $27-$30, 9020 6966, factorytheatre.com.au

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Former thrash metal rocker who has been drumming up controversial topics all over Europe the past decade returns home to give Aussies a dose of Conspiracy Realist. Is he metal, mad or a thought machine? Take a deep breath and leap into the mind of Steve Hughes, if you dare…

You observe and joke about everything from politics to sociology. Are you constantly working even when you don’t want to? How do you stop? I don’t stop. This is my job. It’s not really healthy but this is it. I’ve never been a happy person but I’m not miserable and am quite fun to be around but I can be rather intense for people are who are more content than me. I’ve tried to be more chilled out but alas, that is not my path. Nothing has ever helped except art, music, comedy, performing and pot.

Do you reckon Australians recognise local talent only when they’ve made it overseas? That’s a complex question and a very interesting point I have often thought about myself. I think Australians recognise talent and there is a lot of it here but the cultural conditioning of the establishment which will not recognise talent has an affect on all of us. Its pathological promotion of sport, which I find as a creative and intelligent person utterly offensive, is disturbing.


The establishment finds art too risky a business as it requires contemplation and self analysis, an adventure that has never been promoted in Australia as it may embarrass the over compensating attitude of always trying to look good and moral, not only to the world but also to itself. Australia in my opinion, always embarrasses itself in front of the world by trying not to embarrass itself. It’s lack of honesty about its past, formation and true identity makes it a conservative, conformist even childish environment where real art cannot survive and will not be recognised. This is why most Australians have never even heard of, let alone seen the film Wake in Fright.

What do you look forward to about performing in front of an Australian crowd? I like the fact that Australians, if they like it, laugh from their guts. No bullshit. There’s a rawness to it that I like.

Who are your top five local or international comedians? Well that’s a hard one to answer as I like comics for different reasons. I love comics who speak from their heart,  have an opinion and not care about who likes them, like Glenn Wool, Jim Jefferies and Chris Wainhouse. I also like mad eccentric comics like Paul Foot (UK) who is doing his first ever performances in Oz right now. I like Tommy Tiernan who is amazing as is Stuart Lee, who is a master.

Thanks Steve. Thank you for the interview. Hail the Gods.

Apr 27 – 30, Enmore Theatre, 118-132 Enmore Road, Newtown, $34-$39, 9550 3666, enmoretheatre.com.au


Comedian Matt Iseman is 190cm tall, a trained doctor and is the host of a home makeover show in the States. So the man can fix anything around the house, save your life and make you laugh while he’s at it. Ladies, we speak to the man who seems a tad too good to be true.

For Aussies who don’t know you, can you tell us a little about yourself? I used to be a doctor.  Now I tell jokes.  I am the go-to guy on Clean House (television show on Style Network) which means I’m good with a hammer.  I host Sports Soup and American Ninja Warrior which means I love sports and ninjas.  I am an all-American guy who loves his friends and family and thinks classical music is the hair metal bands of the 80s.  I could eat breakfast three meals a day, especially because it’s the easiest to make.  I am pretty much a guy who is looking to enjoy life to its fullest.

You chose comedy over a medical career but is there anything you miss about being a doctor? I miss better parking and being able to give people drugs to make sure they laugh at everything I say.  Other than that, I really haven’t ever looked back.  Sure, I’m not saving lives now, but I love going to work.  And I rarely get sued anymore.

 

 

You seem to have had many different jobs. Which was the worst? I worked at Taco Bell for one day.  Then I found out what they put in the tacos.  Considering I had eaten there almost every day in high school, that was a rough job.

 

What are you looking forward to seeing/doing in Australia? I’m not sure if boxing a kangaroo is legal anymore, so I guess I’m just looking forward to meeting the people. Everyone I meet from Australia seems to be friendly, easy going and capable of drinking enough beer to get a blue whale drunk, so I want to meet them on their home turf and experience the world the way they do.

Mar 24 – 26, The Laugh Garage Comedy Club, cnr Elizabeth and Park Sts, CBD, $15-25, 9264 1161, thelaughgarage.com

As promised, my interview with Arj Barker. Published in 3D World, Brisbane & Gold Coast

Comedian Arj Barker chats to KOMI SELLATHURAI about his dance skills, a case of halitosis and repeat complaints from audiences about his stand-up show, Let Me Do The Talking, coming soon to the Brisbane Comedy Festival.

 

Maybe it’s his drawl or the way he takes his time with the answers as if he were smoking a spliff in between questions, everything Arj Barker (eventually) says sounds funny. And that’s why Aussies can’t get enough of Californian Arjie Barjie. We love him here because he is so deadpan (I can hear his poker face over the wire), he makes colleague Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords look like a Hi-5er.

Taking inspiration from the Conchords song, I ask Arj what he’d do if there were “too many dicks on the dance floor?” “Leave or go to another club,” he says without hesitation. Are you a good dancer? “I can be when I am inspired. Once in a while I can really get in the zone. When I’m not in the zone, I’m really shit because I’m awkward and my heart’s not in it”.

Ironically, it is especially his awkwardness that makes him so endearing. On stage in Sydney last year, he lost his cool and then his momentum over a heckler. He walked around on stage uncomfortably only to be cheered on riotously by a crowd that obviously adored him. Yet, he received some serious complaints about his show, Let Me Do The Talking.

“It’s a great show from beginning to end. I’ve been working really hard on it but I’ve had a lot of complaints since the start of the tour and it’s always the same complaint.” What’s that, I asked concerned. “People say their faces hurt from laughing. If you get a chance to see it, you should. I can honestly say it’s a very funny show, probably my best show yet.”

Arj likes to take the piss and he enjoys the occasional prank. So when I confessed that I Googled his name and was surprised to find a picture of him in his birthday suit, he said, “Yea, that. It was meant to be a practical joke. I was house-sitting and I thought it’d be funny if I took a picture naked with his guitar. And when he sees it, he’d be like WTF were you doing in my house. I guess that picture got leaked.”

Oh well… He seems like someone extremely comfortable in his own skin. Does he laugh at his own jokes when he watches himself? “Well I don’t watch myself, only when I’m helping with the DVD editing. But I don’t really sit around and watch myself. I leave that to other people.” Maybe he’s a Johnny Depp type, far too critical about himself. “Well, I don’t need to. I know what I’m gonna say,” he says laughing.

And if you do get your hands on his latest DVD, Forever, you’d get a sneak peak into his previous dabbling in Flash animation, Arj and Poopy – a series starring himself and his cat Poopy that speaks in farts. “I’ve had a coupla cats but Poopy is not specifically based on any one cat,” he says as I ask him if the series was based on a cat he owned or how about a dog. “No, but I’m sort of an uncle to several dogs.”

Besides, with Arj’s lifestyle, it may be a little difficult to own pets. He’s been in Australia now for more than half a year. “I have a lot of friends here and I don’t differentiate good friends and family.” Despite his semi-residency in Oz, he flits around state to state in a manic nomadic way. Flying all the time can’t be fun.

“I sat next to somebody with not the freshest breath in the world. I generally don’t chat too much until we’ve landed. Because if you start talking in the beginning, you may have to chat with them the whole ten hours. And if they have halitosis, that can be a real problem.”

Oh Arj, just a little compromise for having made it as a comedian. What would have happened if he wasn’t a comedian though? “I think I’d be a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. But I think business would be tough since the internet came out.”

There’s never a dull moment when you are in a conversation with the Arj. He is the people’s comedian, in this case, the Australian people’s comedian. The kind you’d want to have a beer with after the show. But even the most likeable, easy-going people must have regrets or unfulfilled dreams. So I ask my final question: What did you believe in when you were 18 that you wish you still believed in today?

“Santa Clause. I was really gullible so I didn’t find out till I was 19.”

Mar 15 – 20, Brisbane Powerhouse, $39-$44, briscomfest.com

Ladies and gentlemen, the stand-up comic from New York who called Fox News “a festival of ignorance” to their face, (drum roll) Lee Camp.

We in Australia don’t know much about you. Who is Lee Camp? I’m a former Playboy playmate and competitive eating champion who moonlights as a dock master. No wait, that was a lie. I’m an activist, writer (The Onion, Huffington Post), cultural commentator and reluctant actor. But first and foremost, I’m a stand-up comic. I feel like I’m a very funny politician who’s perpetually campaigning with insane ideas. For example, children are getting dumber every day. To solve this problem, we need to make Lego popular again. When Lego was popular, we only had smart kids because Lego choked the dumb kids. Vote for me. I’ll make our kids smart again.

What can the audience expect at your show? I try to make people laugh first and then think, but if either one is missing, I’m not doing my job. They should expect to hear a lot of making fun of America and the American culture. At times they’ll disagree with me, but that’s all part of the fun. That’s the great thing about comedy – you can disagree with every word I say but still enjoy yourself. You can’t do that everywhere. Can’t do that at a Neo-Nazi rally.

Did you plan on calling Fox News a “festival of ignorance” before you were on? When Fox News asked me to come on their national morning show and tell jokes, I had two thoughts. One was “Go fuck yourself” and the other thought was “Maybe I can use this opportunity for good rather than evil. So yes, I did plan on saying something but I wasn’t sure what. In that same clip I asked why they weren’t reporting on the million dead in Iraq (this was two years ago by the way). And despite what some people think, I never thought it would go viral and get millions of views.

If comedians get to be political, should politicians attempt comedy? In a way, yes. I think that the times Obama has appeared on The Daily Show have been great. However, for the most part it’s tough to see people with true power joking around about it. One notorious example is when Bush made a comedy video of himself “searching” for weapons of mass destruction. It included a moment in which he looks in his underwear drawer and goes, “Nope, not in here.” A lot people were justifiably disgusted.

Can comedy save the world? Comedy can help save the world by informing people. Nowadays with the speed information travels, getting a piece of information or a meme to go viral can have a huge impact on what people think. And comedy is often a shortcut to that goal. Comedy helped sink the presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin. Parody and satire were used to define Palin before she could define herself to the American people.

Do you fear the issues you address may not be taken seriously because they delivered with a sense of humour? I feel my job is to impart information through comedy and then let the facts influence people. For example, I have a rant about the death penalty and even though people are laughing at the jokes, they’re also receiving facts – such as the fact that the number one determinant of whether a murderer gets the death penalty in America is race of the victim (more often people get the death penalty for killing a white person than killing a black person). After I’m done with the bit, the audience can’t un-know that fact. They’re stuck with it. What they do with it is up to them.

Click here for the full interview.


Jan 20-22, The Laugh Garage Comedy Club, cnr Elizabeth and Park Sts, CBD, $22, 9264 1161, thelaughgarage.com

[So, I’d promised you guys an interview. Sorry to still tease, but here is part of it. And a great clip of Arj and Poopy, Arj’s Flash series]

Arj Barker has come a long way from working at a deli. Not only is he getting paid to tell jokes, he’s going to get paid to test drive his new material on a guinea pig audience. A pretty sweet gig for Australia’s favourite slacker comedian. We chat about a less glamourous employment history with the Flight of the Conchords alumnus as he prepares to get up close and personal with his loyal fans at the Old Fitzroy Theatre.

Do you remember working at a 9 to 5 job? Yea, I had a couple of them but I never stayed long. I worked in a computer shop. Actually, I don’t think I ever had a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 job. When I started doing stand-up, I was working with a wallpaper company. I was there whenever there was work. I’ve never had a flat-out 9 to 5 job.

What was your worst job? I think my least favourite job was in high school when I had a clean-up shift at a deli. I think I worked two hours a day. All I’d do was clean up gross stuff that collected throughout the day. The worst was this chicken rotisserie, with all the fat and gross stuff dripping down into this thing that you had clean up. And the boss wasn’t very nice, I was afraid of him.

How old were you? Seven.

Seven? Yea, fake ID.

Uh huh… Nah, I was like fifteen I think.

If you weren’t a comedian, what would you be? I think I’d be a door-to-door encyclopedia salesman. But I think business would be tough since the internet came out.

Jan 23 – Feb 12. Old Fitzroy Theatre, cnr Cathedral St & Dowling St, Woolloomooloo, $25-$35, 1300 438 849, rocksurfers.org

A Sri Lankan girl meets an Anglo-Australian boy. They fall in love. Then come the sceptical parents. Will they live happily ever after? And more importantly, can they have curry for lunch? A cross between Sidney Poitier’s Guess Who’s Coming for Dinner and Ashton Kutcher’s Guess Who, co-director Maddy Butler’s (pictured above) latest play is a sprinkle of sugar, spice and all things interracial.

What was your inspiration behind writing a play about an interracial couple? I wanted to write a piece which promoted the notion that an Australian can be of any background – it is a culture, not a race. I felt that this could be demonstrated through an interracial couple. I have been in interracial relationships (my first boyfriend was Indian) and having grown up in a suburb with a large subcontinental community, I am familiar with the interaction between Australians from different cultural backgrounds.

What role does humour play in this production? Humour plays a strong role, in that it alleviates the seriousness of Jason and Ashwini’s situation. It brings out the funny side of the families’ cultural differences through the ways the different characters interact with and respond to each other.

You mentioned in a previous email that “We don’t see many opportunities for non-Anglo actors on the Australian stage”. With Australia’s growing South Asian community, why do you think this is? Many people are still stuck in the mindset of a white Australia. Also, the productions that involve Australia’s South Asian community often come from within the community itself and thus these productions and those by the Australian mainstream culture remain separate.

Your play is an encouraging sign for non-Anglo actors. Was it difficult to cast the Sri Lankan characters? It was quite a difficult process to find the Sri Lankan actors. We had an overwhelming response of actors applying for certain Anglo parts but not for the Sri Lankan parts. One of the reasons we had such difficulty was that we were casting Sri Lankan-Australian parts and needed actors with Australian accents. We were lucky to find the three talented actors that we did!

Do your non-Anglo actors struggle with getting hired? Absolutely. Our non-Anglo actors say that there are not many opportunities for non-Anglo actors and people often tell them to “not give acting a crack”. The roles that do exist for non-Anglo actors tend to be based on stereotypes as well.

What would you like the audience to take away from Curry for Lunch? At the end of the play we’d like the viewers to have an appreciation of interracial relationships and recognise and embrace that Australia is multicultural. That people can be from any culture and still be “Australian”.

Jan 27 – Feb 6, TAP Gallery, 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, 9361 0440, tapgallery.org.au, curryforlunch.com

Get It Into Ya!

Tom Gleeson is the resident ginger ninja (name of his previous stand-up show) on television shows The 7PM Project and Good News Week. Now redheads, let alone balding redheads, don’t have it easy but Gleeson chops and kicks with his self-deprecating humour that’s made him one of the country’s best-loved comedians. He reels you in with his great stories and throws in a punch line like a real ninja. I’ve seen Gleeson live twice and he never fails to impress. Here’s my email chat with the man himself:

Get It Into Ya! What exactly is the audience getting into?

I find it hard to describe my own show, so this is what The Age said, “Gleeson delivers an impressive, solid hour of straight stand-up. He doesn’t even bother with a theme – the title of the show is just another punchline.”

Should redheads rule the world?

Only if the Country Independents let us.

Do journos try to be funny when they ask you questions?

All the time but what is more annoying is when journos ask you the same questions you’ve been asked a million times like, “What do you do when an audience doesn’t laugh?”

What do you do when an audience doesn’t laugh?

It’s not a problem I suffer from. In fact, last weekend in Brisbane I had a woman in the audience who was laughing too much. She wouldn’t stop and it started to ruin the show because it was distracting. So I decided to not do anything funny until she stopped laughing but it made it worse.

Can you tell us something about the panel from The 7pm Project we don’t know?

Charlie Pickering and I had a big night in Romsey, the country town I live in and we finished the night by lying on a bridge and looking at the stars. I think we held hands for a bit. It felt natural.

10 – 21 Nov. The Comedy Store, Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park. $25-$35. 9020 6966, comedystore.com.au



The Boy at Heart and Boy

Director/actor/writer Taika Waititi (Eagle vs Shark) and first-time actor, 11-year-old James Rolleston were in Sydney recently to promote their film Boy, which has been hailed the highest grossing Kiwi-made film in New Zealand. If you haven’t seen the film, I highly recommend watching the trailer (below) before reading the highlights of my chat with the very talented duo.

Taika Waititi

Do you prefer working with kids or adults?

Block your ears for a second, James. Adults. I don’t really mind but it is harder working with kids. (To James) You can unblock your ears now. You have to go at their pace. If a kid has a meltdown and doesn’t want to work, you can’t force them. You’ve just got to stop and wait for them.

Do you like telling stories through a child’s eyes? Why?

They were memories I had as a kid. You know those formative years where you are just finding out who you are and the things that happen around that time, the people you meet – the older you get they hold more significance. The film is quite personal in that I shot it in my hometown in my grandmother’s house. But the stories were completely made up. Using those personal things was important to me just to make it authentic in my mind.

Did you see your father as Boy did in the film?

A little bit. I think everyone sees one or both of their parents in that fantasy. They start understanding that their parents aren’t who they think they are. They aren’t as incredible. That’s what part of this is about, changing of someone’s perception of their parent. They are people we think we understand but they are strangers as well. There are so many mysteries about them. There’s no way you can really tell what your parents’ secrets are or what their hopes and dreams were before you were born.

Explain what an egg means?

Egg? It’s a small, oval receptacle. (laughs) It’s just an insult from the 80s. We’d call each other egg or spoon. It’s just like calling someone a dork.

How did you feel when you were told you were nominated for an Oscar for your short film, Two Cars, One Night?

I was quite speechless…

Is that still a dream?

I’m not sure. I’m quite happy doing my thing. It would be really nice to get another nomination but if that was the reason for making films then I’ll be pretty clouded in my judgment.

You decided to write, direct and star in Boy. Did you not trust anyone else to do the job right?

In the end no, actually. I only cast myself about two months before the filming. I didn’t want to baby sit another actor on top of the kids as well.

Why are stories about New Zealand important to you to tell?

I guess because nobody else is telling them. Well the stories I want to tell, I don’t think anyone else is going to write or tell properly. Especially for us Maori. Traditionally, it is one of our strong points. We come from an aural culture and I hope it will encourage other Maoris to tell their stories and get better at it.

Was this your chance to show the Michael Jackson dance moves you’ve been practicing in your room?

Oh most definitely. I was a huge fan, still a huge fan.

Were you devastated?

Yes. We were just editing the film. I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t want to believe it. I was hoping it was one of those hoaxes.

James Rolleston

Did you know about Michael Jackson before Boy?

Yea!

Were you a fan?

I wasn’t as big of a fan as I am right now.

Do you have a favourite song?

Ooh… I like Man in the Mirror and Beat It.

What was it like working with this guy?

Mean-ass.

You were the hero in the film. What did you think of your performance?

I don’t really know because it was my first time acting. I don’t really know what a good actor looks like.

Are you a bit famous in New Zealand now?

Yea, big-ass. And I am shy-ass.

Signing autographs?

Just taking photos really. That’s the new autograph.

In cinemas 26 Aug

Kitty is a lot more cautious about what she says than she appears. While she jokes around like a friend with certain questions, she also just as easily draws the line with succinct answers that say “move on” when need be. The comedian who started out doing sketch shows here on Full Frontal and in the UK on The Sketch Show is now a regular presenter of “99% fact free humour” on The 7pm Project. Her stand-up show Charming & Alarming returns to say one last good bye after debuting at the Sydney Opera House last year before it toured the country. Here are the highlights of my chat with the intelligent, funny and big-haired comic goddess.

Tell us something about The 7pm Project panel we don’t know.

I can tell you something I don’t know either. I don’t know why Charlie Pickering is doing that to his hair.

What’s the strangest thing a fan has done for you?

I don’t have fans as such. But that’s very kind of you. Besides, I wear so much make-up on The 7pm Project, people probably think: “oh that looks like quite an ugly version of that woman on television”.

What are your thoughts on Catherine Deveny’s dismissal from The Age after the Twitter-Logie incident?

I’m not on Twitter and I don’t really have an opinion.

Is the industry harder for women to break into?

I don’t think the industry is harder for women to break into. I know that’s what most people say and probably think but there are not that many women in the industry so you tend to get noticed a lot faster. There are obviously elements to the job, like when you walk out on stage and people immediately assume women aren’t funny. You have to quickly prove that you are. When a man walks on stage, people will actually assume that he is funny. When you are funny, they are very happy for you. They come up and compliment you: “oh we hate women but you were good!” Most of the female comedians I know have had that.

You’ve done television, stand-up, copywriting and film. Is there anything you won’t do?

Oh god you make me sound like a whore there Komi. Yea! I do have standards, you know.

13 – 21 Aug. The Playhouse Theatre, Sydney Opera House. $34.90-$44.90. 9250 7777 or sydneyoperahouse.com