Back for its 11th year, Just For Laughs Sydney will bring a week of comedy around the city.
The LOLs will be felt all over the place, as venues like Sydney Opera House, Qudos Bank Arena, Aware Super Theatre, State Theatre, Enmore Theatre, Factory Theatre and Comedy Store host talents from here and abroad. It's set to be as hot as Sydney's summer.
Whether it's the All Star Gala, Just For Laughs Australia: Live, or a solo show, there'll be no shortage of good times to be had.
The line-up features Gabriel Iglesias, Dara Ó Briain, Catherine Cohen, Phil Wang, Nina Conti, Russell Kane and more, plus Urzila Carlson on hosting duties for the All Star Gala and Melanie Bracewell hosting Just For Laughs Australia: Live.
Before all the Just For Laughs (JFL) fun kicks off, we sat down with a few of the comedians taking to stages around Sydney for the event.
First, for those unfamiliar, how would you describe your style of comedy?
Oh how I pity the unfamiliar! I do stand-up and perform original, comedic songs. I would describe my work as confessional, glamorous, and gently grotesque. It’s for girlies (of any gender) who want to enjoy their lives for one single second.
What inspired you to cover what you’ll be covering in your show ‘Come For Me’?
I wanted to explore what it feels like when you turn 30 and ostensibly 'have your sh.t together', but still feel an existential yearning, a deep need for more. . . What does it mean to be a modern woman online, in love and eager to freeze her eggs?
Do you have any plans for downtime while you’re in Sydney?
I can't wait to just wander around, see some pals and feel small beside the ocean. . . I'm sure I'll do a bit of shopping as well. I can't help myself.
This is your debut tour. What’s been the most important thing you’ve learned about touring life as a comedian?
You must sleep! I need 12 hours. . . I wish I was kidding! and three litres of water a day. Boring answer, but it's the truth. . . My body is my instrument, darling!
What excites you most about being included as part of our Just For Laughs Festival?
When I first started doing comedy, I used to dream about going to JFL one day, so it's a dream come true really! I'm excited to meet the other comics I admire and see a bunch of shows.
How would you describe your style of comedy to someone unfamiliar?
High energy stand-up with heart and belly laughs.
What will you be bringing to audiences this November?
A whirlwind full-on-funny observation show about the stuff we’ve just lived through.
You’re playing as part of the ‘All Star Gala’! How does it feel to be labelled as an all star?
Yes. Like most stand-ups from my background I am still a welfare bogan who has managed to fool everyone that he has a skill. I imagine I will be snorting Imodium on the night.
What is your method for presenting a set in a gala/showcase? How do you pick what material to eliminate and keep?
I don’t usually. I look at audience and judge it on the night. I improvise a sh.t-load too. I do lots of live television. I like things fresh.
Who else are you looking forward to seeing in the Gala?
My wife and my daughter. Sydney Opera House is amazing. I’m bringing them to the rehearsal so we can all get pictures and make everyone jealous!
What’s your favourite thing about Sydney?
I genuinely love Sydney! The inner city beaches are genuinely the best in the world and I love running along the waterfront. I also stole a key to the city from the mayor's office when I was last in town so I am looking forward to visiting the zoo after hours and winding up the animals.
Without being too cruel. . . How about something you’re NOT so fond of when it comes to Sydney?
I don't like how everyone puts on Australian accents whenever they talk to me. Just relax and use your natural speaking voice please!
Does performing in a television show in front of an audience play out differently to preparing your average stand-up gig – if so how?
It changes everything! There are about four or five spots where an audience member would usually sit that are suddenly occupied by cameras. The hardest part is remembering not to do crowd work to the cameras, as they are not people so it is hard for them to respond.
What are you planning to bring audiences when you take to the stage for Just For Laughs Australia: Live?
I am planning to perform a lot of Chris Rock's material from 'Bigger And Blacker'. It is tried and true material that won a GRAMMY in the year 2000. It will be interesting to see how it plays when performed by me, in modern times.
Why should audiences check out this particular line-up of comedians?
Nazeem Hussain is so funny and charismatic, Michelle Brasier is a born entertainer with a phenomenal voice and Dan Rath has probably the best jokes on the circuit. And as I said before, I'm going to be doing Chris Rock's material.
You’re playing Sydney Opera House for a special one-night-only show. What are you most looking forward to?
I’m excited to play such an iconic location. I haven’t filmed a special in a few years and I have a lot to say. I love hanging out with funny Australians.
You’ve been in stand-up for more than 30 years. Where did your love for comedy come from?
I come from an extremely funny family. Comedy was our family’s connection. I got a huge kick out of making my mother laugh. She was the funniest person in the world, most of my material when I first started was really just repeating things she said.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome, when building your career in the arts?
I wouldn’t call it a challenge but after my daughter was born I took a lot of time off the road and focused on jobs that didn’t take me away from her. In the last few years, I’ve really gotten back into stand-up now that she’s old enough.
You’re covering quite a bit in your show ‘I Identify As A Witch’. Can we have any hints about the reasoning behind the title of your show?
One big hint is I played Aunt Hilda on 'Sabrina The Teenage Witch', the only difference between me and Aunt Hilda was hair and makeup. I grew up in a very mystical, magical family where everything other worldly was the norm. Our house was haunted, we had a ghost and my mother was psychic. It was all considered to be the average Canadian family.
And you’ve got a few outrageous stories to tell, including meeting Taylor Swift! What else can audiences expect?
I like to think that my shows are like improvisational dinner parties, I know what I’m serving and the audience is the secret ingredient.
Have you been to Sydney before? What are you most looking forward to about your time here?
This is my first time in Sydney. I spent a month in Melbourne at the comedy festival when Ava was little and many of my best friends live in Australia and I can’t wait to see them.
You’ve already sold out shows in America and the UK this year. What’s it like to have that kind of a reception?
It feels really good, but it’ll never fill the hole.
What’s your favourite thing about stand-up?
I just really like delayed flights.
What was it like to be selected as part of Just For Laughs Sydney?
A lifelong dream. Actually, I found out about it six weeks ago, but it seems cool.
Have you been to Australia before? What are you most looking forward to about playing here?
The easy commute.
You’ll be playing your solo show while you’re here. What can you tell us about it?
I wish I could. It’s a secret. A secret amazing show. Guess you’ll have to buy tickets.
What are you going to be getting up to while you’re here?
Getting a pic with a koala for Instagram, and then staying in my hotel until showtime.
Just For Laughs Sydney Comedy Festival is on from 12-21 November.