Rhys Nicholson is Ahead of the Game

Rhys Nicholson_2015_Photo Credit Zak Kaczmarek

Comedian Rhys Nicholson is returning to Perth with his brand new show ‘Forward’. Rhys chatted to us about the evolution of the Australian comedy scene, touring around the world and what he thinks of your mum (coming to see his show).

A husky-voiced Nicholson spoke to OUTinPerth from Sydney, where, like many of his peers, he was recovering from a full month of shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. “I managed to keep my voice for an entire month and now it’s just starting to wain a little bit. But that’s alright. I’ll be ready for Perth.”

In Nicholson’s new show ‘Forward’, he ponders what kind of legacy his generation will leave behind. “I think every generation has been thought to be the most useless one so far. I reckon that people were born in the fifties were looking at the people that were born in the seventies and thought that they were going to be end of the world. I think the people that were born in the seventies are doing the same thing to us. I mean also we are also pretty useless as well. But luckily there are the nerds among the useless ones that are going to fix it, hopefully. Also there’s just a lot of dick jokes in there, mainly.”

Nicholson’s trademark filth appears to be earning him a varied following. “For some reason people seem to be able to trust me to talk about really horrible things. Like people bring their parents to my shows. I have no idea why. It horrifies me that they do that.” He said himself and Perth export Joel Creasey frequently get younger members of the queer community bringing their families to their shows. “They certainly go to his more than they go to mine. Mine’s a bit more the er, physical side of it that maybe you don’t want your parents to hear about.”

Creasey and Nicholson teamed up to perform a show in Colac, a regional town that had previously been the centre of a homophobic scandal. The adventure was recorded in the ABC2 documentary ‘Gaycrashers’. In his regional touring, Nicholson has met a number of queer youths that perhaps don’t enjoy the same levels of visibility as their inner city peers. “There’s always a moment where we’ll be talking to people after the show… I’m like the gayest thing they’ve ever seen and they’re not out yet. In that kind of situation you want to be like ‘It’s okay!’”

When it comes to queer visibility, Nicholson said it’s a line of questioning he’s grown accustomed to. “People keep asking me ‘What is it, the rise of the gay comedian?’ and it’s like ‘No, we’ve always fucking been here. It’s just people are more comfortable to talk about it now.’ But no I think the token gay thing doesn’t really happen any more. Even in five years or six years I think it’s changed a bit.” Nicholson partially attributes this change to the growing accessibility of comedy in Australia. “You used to only be able to watch comedy at the Gala, or at one comedy club that was in Melbourne, and now you can watch it all over the place.”

Comedians are now able to more easily find a niche audience, something Nicholson believes can pay off better than appealing to the mainstream. “If you’re doing your mainstream kinda comedy, within the community at least you get called a hack. Being different is the new black.”

The comedian himself has also undergone something of an evolution since he first entered the comedy scene. “I was just very aggressive and very vulgar and very angry and very offensive, like not in a funny way. [Laughs] I found a set list for my show and I was very like ‘Eurgh, no’. And then two or three years ago I looked at all my jokes that I spent the last few years writing and just kinda started again, and I’m much happier now, it’s working out much better now. It’s amazing when you don’t do really horrifically offensive and borderline misogynistic jokes, and when you don’t say ‘cunt’ every second word, things start to work out! It’s so weird!” he laughed.

“I think I’ve changed a lot. Also, I used to do short joke kinda things and now I tend to tell long stories and I’m just less angry at everything, which is kind of ok.”

Nicholson is bringing his trademark wit to Perth alongside a treasure trove of bow ties available for sale after his shows. Craft is something that he said keeps him sane on the road.

“I’m quite looking forward to Perth because my boyfriend’s from there originally so all his family and stuff are there. I mean you guys need to have an exchange rate of some sort because a dollar does not mean a dollar over there. Jesus Christ. No, I’m quite looking forward to it. Maybe I’ll go over there and just go insane again. Maybe I’ll just go back to my old self. You don’t know. Maybe I’ll snap after this phone call and think ‘What am I doing with my life? I’ve got to be angry again.’”

Catch Rhys Nichsolson in ‘Forward’ at the Mount Lawley Bowling Club as part of the Perth International Comedy Festival from April 30th to May 3rd. Tickets available from www.perthcomedyfestival.com

Sophie Joske

Image: Zak Kaczmarek

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