Alex Hines Takes On Comedy As A Survival Skill

Alex Hines
Grace has been singing as long as she can remember. She is passionate about the positive impact live music can have on community and championing artists. She is an avid animal lover, and hopes to one day own a French bulldog.

Life has always been slightly absurd for Alex Hines.

Her sincerest attempts to fulfil a lifelong dream of serious acting and theatre-making continually thwarted by prestigious awards and accolades from a world as far away from grand Shakespearean stages as one can get – the ineffable world of comedy. Or perhaps the worlds aren’t that far apart at all.

In 2021, Hines won a Green Room Award and numerous Fringe awards for ‘Wilde Night In’, a show just as absurd as Hines’ own life. And yet, under it all, critics saw the powerful narrative of Hines’ storytelling; it’s tastefully subtle, the opposite of her wild onstage antics. Her sold-out show ‘To Schapelle And Back’ won the prestigious Golden Gibbo in 2022, and Hines began to accept her calling. Shakespeare would wait.

“I've always been the funny kid, cause that's just growing up fat with cystic acne from a broken home,” Hines divulges playfully but honestly. “It's a survival skill. When you go to an all-girls school, your currency has to be either that you're really good at drugs, you're really hot or you're really funny, so with my looks, my hand was forced. I used to be obsessed with the 'Rove Live 99' DVD, and think ‘that would be so fun’. And I remember loving Judith Lucy, but I never thought it was something I could do. So I got into acting and theatre-making.”

“Then when I was having a breakdown and planning on fleeing the state, I thought, why don't I do stand-up before I leave? So I did RAW Comedy in Brisbane, the first time ever, and I had no idea what I was doing. I ended up getting through to the state final, which was hilarious. Then I thought, ‘what about my breakdown?’ So I fled the state and moved to Melbourne. There's been little times in my life where I’m like ‘I'm supposed to be doing comedy. No, better do another 'Macbeth'.’ Then I made ‘To Schapelle And Back’, and won the Golden Gibbo, so I ended up being sucked back into the comedy world. It all fell into place at the right time. I’ve always just touched comedy. Like when you're in a pool and you just touch the bottom of the pool and then keep swimming. But now I'm both feet planted on the bottom of the pool. I love how much autonomy there is in creating your own stuff.”

One of Hines’ most developed characters is the problematic pop-satire Juniper Wilde, who even has her own hilarious 'WAP'-themed music video on YouTube. When asked if Wilde would ever make her TV debut, Hines responds positively.

“Would simply love, but it would require funding. That's the dream, to make a supernatural mockumentary as this satirical pop star in Australian suburbia. That would be iconic. It’s this oscillating thing between doing live stuff and doing filmed. The thing with film that I love is that you have something to show for your work. Live performance is great because of the energy, but it's so ephemeral and it's gone as soon as it's finished.”

The film clip is worth revisiting, a psychedelic brainchild of creative necessity during a dark time.

“My boyfriend and I shot that film clip in two days in Stage Four lockdown, him and I running around the botanical gardens and our house. I was so creatively depleted and depressed. I don't know where it came from, but it was this glimmer of weird little creative hope that got me through. It’s almost like somebody else made it, because it was such a strange lockdown baby born out of this crazy psychosis of Dan Andrews, Brett Sutton and Uber Eats. It's a bizarre memory. It was for Fringe, who did this 'Eurovision' parody show, this baby of psychosis, which a lot of my work is, of course. It was a weird time. I feel like everyone became a different person, and then when lockdown finished, they're like ‘I'll shed her like a snakeskin’. But I'm still rocking around in the skin, acting like I'm not.”

The question prompts a reflection on the current state of Australian television, which perhaps isn’t what it could be, and TikTok, which is perhaps more than it should be.

“Australian television is still at the same speed as network broadcast television from 5-10 years ago,” Alex says. “Television isn’t dead, look at all the huge TV shows. TV's the new movies. But Australian television isn't. I would love to see camp, fast-paced, kaleidoscopic crazy worlds reduced into Australian suburbia. I feel like there's gatekeepers in Australian television that are keeping it old school. It's been a long time since I've watched something amazing and gone, ‘wow, yes, Australian television’. There's no reason why television needs to be dead.”

“But what I love about consuming stuff on TikTok and Reels, it feels so dirty when you get trapped in it, but it is that dopamine hit. And it moves quickly enough to keep your attention.”

Hines’ new show, ‘Putting On A Show’, will be premiering at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in mid April, and while it displays Hines’ usual penchant for the absurd and straight-up wacky, it retains an exploration of basic human elements like doubt, self sabotage and trauma, in a choose-your-own-adventure-via-emotional-depth way.

“There was a time where angsty drama school and acting training was really therapeutic, and when I look back, I feel so much secondhand embarrassment that I wish I could hold my breath for seven minutes and never return to the world of consciousness,” Hines divulges. “Now I feel. . . I don't even know how to talk about it without sounding wanky, but it's to explore things, stuff that's personal. I don't know if the audience will know. I’m choosing what to show and what not to show. A lot of comedians talk about personal things, but frame it like, ‘I'm okay with laughing at this, I'm a tragedy. You can laugh’. Which is what I’m like as a comedian, but dealing with things below the surface, I am more careful how I present it to the audience. Sometimes, it's more enjoyable to create something that is an experience and the audience can be like, ‘why are we here? What is this surreal world? Why is she in this inflatable Grimace suit?’ To me, it's something else. The audience might know, they might not know.”

Hines continues on using comedy therapeutically while still entertaining a crowd.

“Comedy is a survival skill. You either deal with your things by laughing at it and being like ‘I'll never think about that again until I'm like 42 and my kid talks back’ and you laugh at painful things. Or you repress it and get a real job. I've chosen the first one, unfortunately.”

“If you're going to trauma dump on an audience, it better be well-crafted. There's a point where trauma became a plot point for, not just comedy, but a lot of theatre. Sometimes it can serve a purpose where people identify with it and grow through it, but it's the crafting that's important. I would hate people to come to my show dreading it like ‘it's gonna be about trauma’. Yeah, maybe, but you won't know, because it's some weird interpretive dance. That’s why I love absurd comedy, because it allows you to explore things in ways that seem bizarre, but in my world, are linked to reality that makes sense to me.”

Hines has found a home at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, after winning the Moosehead Award for 2024.

“It’s given to realise ambitious work. As a creative, things like that are so few and far between, I'm so grateful. A big part of being a creative is community, and even outside the festival, so many comedians, we're all freaking out together in this shared state of dread and excitement. I love the access to different types of comedy, local and international. Club nights and things like that allow you to perform for people that you admire, that's always so exciting. I like that I can be in a big festival and then come home and eat a sausage on my carpet. That's nice.”

Shakespeare’s loss is our gain.

Alex Hines plays The Malthouse – The Tower (Melbourne International Comedy Festival) 9-21 April.
She'll also hit Factory Theatre (Sydney Comedy Festival) 1,3 May, and Brisbane Powerhouse (Brisbane Comedy Festival) 9-12 May.

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