In uncertain times, having a laugh perhaps feels more important than ever. But in the face of self-isolation and social distancing, comedy festivals and gigs are off the table for the foreseeable future.
Which is why Amazon is releasing a series of stand-up specials featuring 10 Australian comedians for those needing some light viewing at home.
Stellar spoke with five of them to gain insight into what they’re doing with their unexpected free time, and why “watching some self-obsessed comedians talk about themselves” is just the remedy for this cultural moment.
Some people in the entertainment industry probably think I started the coronavirus deliberately so there would be no Logies.
I didn’t know if the Logies would happen. I was trying to be upbeat about the whole thing before it was cancelled. I think in these tough times positivity is in short supply. [Pauses.] OK, I’ll give you the inside scoop. I did start the virus. It was me!
Actually, this is like becoming retired at 45. I was about to do the biggest run I’ve ever done and was running hot. I was in the middle of a national tour that was absolutely killing it, I was doing the Adelaide Fringe and selling out every night, I won the award for Best Comedy and had all these things to do.
Then my two shows in Hobart and the Melbourne Comedy Festival got cancelled. So it’s been an adjustment from doing that and feeling very important… to just being at home twiddling my thumbs.
Comedy is escapism and this comedy special is perfect timing. I’ve left all the heckling and ad-libbing in, and there’s even a special little nugget at the end of my show, so even if people have seen my show Joy around Australia, there is something at the very end that I’ve never done before – except in this performance.
If you put it on at home, have a few drinks and turn down the lights, you can pretend you’re at the gig.
What we’re living through now is the weirdest thing I’ve ever gone through in my 52 years of life. In fact, it was my birthday just over a week ago, and obviously I didn’t end up doing an awful lot for that…
Some people are choosing to watch documentaries like Pandemic and movies like Contagion during this time – I am not one of those people. I might become one of them, though.
I’m all for distracting yourself when you can, and I think we all know a really good way of dealing with tragedy is with comedy. My advice would be: why not distract yourself from the sh*tstorm that is currently going on and just laugh at my life for over an hour? Or Celia’s, or Dilruk’s, or Tommy’s?
If you want to distract yourself from the horrors of the world, then just watch some self-obsessed comedians talk about themselves, and hopefully that will make you forget.
And, of course, the other thing is we should support artists, whether it’s buying music or merchandise or paying to listen to a podcast by a comedian – please do it.
I’ll leave you with a joke. Knock, knock. Who’s there? No-one – stay inside!
There are good days and bad days. And I’m allowing myself to feel the bad days without shaming myself because it’s a new world. But what I’m trying to make sure of is to not have back-to-back bad days. So if I feel like crap but want to stay in my PJs all day and eat some gelato, I’ll do that.
I bought myself a guitar, an electronic keyboard and drum kit, none of which I play, by the way. I bought some juggling balls – I can’t juggle. I bought a book about learning how to draw because I’ve always thought I’d be good at it.
So I’ve set myself up for a lot of things, but haven’t done any of them yet because I’m still sitting here in shock.
The central theme of my show for this special is about how I navigated my fear of death, and it’s basically a concept of “this too shall pass”. I try to enjoy the sh*t – pardon my French – out of everything, so if it all goes away, at least I know I’ve made the most out of it. And the flip side is that no matter how bad it is, it will pass. We will adapt.
Oh, and another thing I’m doing is installing [dating apps] Bumble and Hinge to plan for some dates – 12 months from now when we can meet face-to-face.
It’s weird I thought being in a reality dance competition would be the most intense thing in my life because it’s actually the most comforting thing in my life right now. [Pacquola won last week’s finale of Dancing With The Stars.]
What’s really weird is that when we first started DWTS around two months ago, we were going through the bushfire crisis. At the time, it felt frivolous to be dancing. Now, it feels good because maybe watching people in sparkly outfits doing twirls makes it seem like everything will be OK.
I know that sounds really earnest, but I only say that because of the messages I’ve been getting. It’s from people saying, “You gave me a smile,” or “I’m having the worst time, but this cheered me up.” So I’m really happy to be doing something useful.
My Amazon special coming out was filmed when the biggest thing going on in the world was #MeToo. Go back and watch old stand-up and it’s really refreshing – it’s like, “Wasn’t it great when we were worried about Y2K?”
That’s a good message because there will come a time when we look back on this and joke about what’s happening. Not now, of course, but there will be a time.
I can’t wait for when we can look back at this time and say, “Look at what we got through together.”
I just watched a video of a kid sitting, shoulders slumped, in front of his birthday cake, candles ablaze. It should be the most joyous image ever, except this child looked forlorn behind his surgical face mask that we are now all too accustomed to seeing.
This visual was beautifully juxtaposed with a joyous rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ being sung by his family with gusto. At the end of the song, to avoid any saliva transfer, the little boy brings a small electric fan up to blow out his candles.
I laughed for five minutes. I checked the comments, more than 4000 of them, and found people all cackling madly like me and tagging their friends, encouraging them to do the same.
I’m assuming this child made a wish after his candles went out and I’m assuming it was something along the lines of “I hope next year is different” – and so do I – but that won’t stop me from laughing along the way.
Clive James once said, “A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing,” but what does that mean in a world where everything we knew as “normal” or “common” has been thrown out the window? It doesn’t mean we can’t laugh. Hell no! I think it just means we have a whole lot more to dance with.
The Amazon Original stand-up comedy specials will be released every week from April 10 on Amazon Prime Video.
Originally published as Tom Gleeson on the Logies being cancelled