The English standup comedian saunters into the Manning Great Lakes to entertain the audience with his revered brilliance and wit…
Ross, we’re looking forward to welcoming you back to the Manning Entertainment Centre.
Thank you. I do like Taree. Troy Bayliss is from Taree, and I’m a massive Troy Bayliss fan. I don’t know him; it sounded like I was going, “Yeah, of course Troy is from Taree; so I’ll be calling in to see him!”
To us mortals, we just assume you famous people all know each other and you hang out in your famous club drinking famous cocktails.
Yeah, we do. We all live in the same house. In fact, Troy and I live in the Big Oyster together.
So that’s what’s going on in there! Ross, help me with a puzzle. Why do people at your concerts throw shoes and muffins on the stage?
It’s so much more than just shoes and muffins! What’s weird is that in the UK, it’s got out of control. Here in Australia, it hasn’t – and I’m quite happy about that, because I’m not having to deal with all this rubbish that comes up onto the stage.
There was one night, the best thing, and we actually ended up putting it on the DVD. Somebody made me a suit, a full suit with lapels and everything, out of bubble wrap. An actual bubble wrap suit! It’s a brilliant invention.
When people leave stuff on the stage, if they’ve put a lot of effort into it, that’s amazing. When they just chuck something up there, like one night somebody just left some ketchup sachets on the stage, and I thought, “You’re not even trying.”
Of all the famous people that you’ve met, who is the person who made you pinch yourself?
Well, people who are big heroes, like meeting any of the Monty Pythons or Billy Connolly or any of those people that you just idolized growing up. Mind you, Terry Gilliam did tell me to F… off at one point. He was very drunk, and I asked him to sign a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas thing, and he just told me to F… off straight away.
Elton John was absolutely the loveliest man you could ever meet. You might expect him to be throwing a tantrum, but he was just the nicest man. This is turning into a very bizarre interview! Yeah, myself and Elton John hang out in the Big Oyster with Troy Bayliss.
Sounds like the start to a very good joke.
Actually, it’s funny, because the people that I get really star struck about are people that wouldn’t necessarily be big Hollywood stars. It’s great to meet those big stars, but they’re just actors like anyone else; they just happen to be very, very famous. Whereas the people that I get absolutely in awe of are people like Troy Baylis, Dougie Lampkin (12 times World Trials Champion motorcyclist) and David Knight (3 times world champion Enduro rider).
There are people who you wouldn’t expect to be starstruck by; like Kerry Anne Kennerley came to my gig in London, and it was one of those things where I was really excited. I was like: “I can’t believe Kerry Anne’s come to my show!” Especially in London, you know?
Nobody else in London would have known who she was …
Exactly! And that made it even better. I mean, what was doubly weird, while we’re going off on this tack of weird famous people, I did the gig and afterwards at the bar I went up there to see who was around, and from that night I’ve got this photograph of me, Kerry Anne and, get this, Salmon Rushdie.
What? Not three people that you would expect to ever see together!
Exactly! That is the weird thing, you know, when you meet people and they know your work – I find that quite freaky. Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown in Back to the Future) came to one of my shows. I’m a huge Back to the Future fan, and just the very idea that Doc Brown is watching your show is, you know … Oh, another night there was a guy in the audience who had a very, very long ZZ Top-style beard, and I was like, “Bloody hell, who is this bloke?” And it was Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top.
I hope you didn’t start paying out ZZ Top before you knew …
I very nearly did that once. There was a big fat guy with a baseball cap on, and I was very nearly like: “You look like that Michael Moore.” And it was Michael Moore!
Can I just say, this is the most name dropping I’ve ever done in my entire life.
No, I’m really impressed, and I want the entrance to the secret famous club where you all hang out. Now, when most comedians tour, it’s with a microphone and a case of beer, but you go the extra mile when you tour. What can we expect this time?
Ah, you’re going to love this set. What I’ve done is I’ve gone back through all my previous shows and DVDs, and I’ve filled the set with everything you can imagine. It fills the whole stage. There’s a giant octopus, there’s a few little silver balls in there, there’s a duck, um, just random stuff … pianos, a big telephone with spikes coming out the top of it.
We’ve got a film thing that runs at the start and there’s a big silver curtain that we project onto and, I’m ruining the magic now – it falls away to reveal the set. It gets more and more elaborate as we go on.
You’re just coming up with ways to annoy your touring crew. They thought they had a simple standup tour, and you keep throwing things at them.
Yeah, exactly. But you know, I love all that big, sort of Iron Maiden style stadium thing. What I’d really like is when you see big Rock bands and they have all that scaffolding they can run along at different levels.
With the fan blowing up from underneath.
Oh, yeah. I love all that. So I try and do a bit of that. I mean fair enough; standup is just a person talking, but it’s nice to make it a proper show. Have some great music, a bit of a light show, projector and all that. You want to make it a proper show; you want to give people a night out – a theatrical experience.
We’re looking forward to seeing it at the Manning Entertainment Centre on 28 March. Last question: what is your secret skill?
Hmmm. Well, I can drive a tank.
Yeah, I bought an old British Army Tank, and I drive that around.
This interview has completely changed my whole vision of you. ‘Yes … I’m hanging out with Kerry Anne Kennerley and Salmon Rushdie as I’m driving my tank down the street …’
To be honest, it isn’t until you’ve just said that back to me that I’ve realised just how cool my life is.
Interview by Jeremy Miller.