Illustration: Sam Griffin
Discovering that you just don’t cut it as a stand-up comedian must be one of life’s tougher lessons. Wil Anderson is thankful this never happened to him, but he has learnt a trick or two on his journey from the Canberra Press Gallery to a theatre near you.
Interview by Jodie O’Keeffe
There’s no school of hard knock-knocks.
There’s no humourversity, there’s no Comedy 101. You learn on the job. And, the weird thing about comedy is, on your first day you’re doing the exact same job as someone like Jerry Seinfeld. In most jobs, they won’t even let you use the photocopier by yourself on the first day.
The audience is always right.
I can write a joke, I can run it by comedian friends, I can think this is a nicely formed joke, I’ve written this well, all the elements are there. With all my experience I bring to the table, this is definitely a funny joke. I can tell the joke to 400 people who see comedy twice a year. If they don’t laugh, that wasn’t a joke, it was a sentence.
There’s always room for improvement.
I’ve never walked off stage and thought, okay I’ve nailed every bit of that. I was lucky enough to speak to Billy Connolly a couple of years ago and I asked, “Does it get easier? Is there a point where you go, ‘Okay, I know this is funny now’? He just looked at me and went, ‘Nah’.”
If Shannon Noll has another shit album, I can buy a pool.
My job has no financial security. I wanted to buy a house, so I asked the bank manager for some money. He asked how I was going to pay it back. I said, “Well I’ve got this awesome bit about Paris Hilton being a bit loose…”
Your act is your best friend.
It pays for food, it keeps the house, and it introduces you to women. Writing my own material and doing stand-up, that’s my skill. If I look after that, I’ll always be able to pay my bills. Plus it’s indoor work, there’s no heavy lifting and I can drink on the job.
Don’t listen to Mrs Brown.
My high school careers teacher said to me, “Look you’re not that funny and you’re never going to make a living being funny, so why don’t you do something else.” I ended up doing journalism and working in the Canberra Press Gallery, but I never wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to be a stand-up comedian. I should have listened to my dad. He said, “Find something that you love to do and you’ll find a way of conning people into paying you for it.” I just bought a house in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney by telling people jokes for cash.
Wil Anderson hosts ABC-TV’s The Glass House and writes a regular column, Sunday Roast, in The Sunday Magazine. He is touring his new stand-up show, Wil Communication, until the end of November. See wilanderson.com for details.