Interviewed by J.W Denholm
Greg Fleet is Australian comedy royalty, an Actor and a radio presenter. This week we got to spend some time with him to discuss comedy and his upcoming new book These Things Happen. Fleet is currently touring Perth delivering his one-of-a-kind brand of funny. This is what we chatted about:
How did you get started in comedy?
I started in 1987. I got started, well, I’d been to NIDA and I had some friend from there that came back to Melbourne. We started doing theatre sports together. Through theatre sports I met a whole lot of comedians. I’d loved Monty Python and that sort of thing but, the first time I’d ever been to a stand-up comedy venue was the first time I performed stand up.
Three comics that I’d met through theatre sports turned up to work, and I was tripping, they said to me “Hey do you wanna do comedy?” I only agreed to it because I was high. When the gig came around I tried to back out. But they told me it was too late, it’d been advertised. Looking back that didn’t matter, they could have sent out a Dalmatian wearing a raincoat and said, that’s Greg Fleet, nobody knew. But I believed them at the time. The first two gigs went well so I kept doing it.
Has comedy changed much since you started?
Now days every week there will be 10 or 15 new comics starting. Back when I started there was probably 3 new comics for the whole year. We were it. So whenever there was a spot at the beginning of a show it was ours.
After three or four gigs, I remember, someone came over and handed me $40. These days it’s months or years before you start getting paid. Getting paid was crucial for me. It meant I could stop working at restaurants and bars and just start doing comedy.
Do you have one rule, one philosophy about comedy?
When I started there were a few people who’d being doing it for a while, guys like, Trevor Marmalade, Russell Gilbert, guys like that who had some good advice. One of the best bits of advice I got, and I don’t always apply it, was: Start with your second best bits and end with your best one. Everything in-between is almost irrelevant.
Another good thing, and I don’t often do this either, is if you’re back stage, do something physical, do ten push-ups or dance around. While you’re doing it just think ‘I’m going to make these people have a good time.’ The thing I believe about comedy more than anything is, if you’re having a good time the audience will have a good time. If you’re stressing out of your mind the audience will stress out of their mind.
Where did the idea for the new book (These Things Happen) come from?
Just from having lived that life, which is a life of drug addiction mixed in with high-end entertainment. I did this TV-show years and years ago which was on TV called 10 years in a long sleeved shirt. But the thing was I was still doing it, the show was me saying I used to be a drug addict, but I still was. People really loved that show.
But the book is a much deeper look at the lies within lies within lies and what that meant. It’s just about my life. I had a lot of strange things happen. My father fakes his own death, so there’s a lot of stuff in there. But it’s funny too. It deals with some heavy things like heroin addiction so it gets deep but it’s done in a very funny way.
It sounds like it might have been almost therapeutic writing the book?
It was bizarrely, without wanting to be a wanker. I mean I have been to therapy and to rehab. But the book was the best therapy I have ever had. Every day I’d write a chapter and all I’d do is go, OK, think about the time this happened or when I first took LSD in Kings Park or this happened or that happened.
Through doing it, it made me ask myself things. Like why did I do that, or how did that happen? Or I’d realise that, gee, that probably had more of an effect on my life than I thought it did. Some of the stuff that my family did, at the time I just thought, that’s how things were. But in hindsight I thought, yeah that’s probably a reason someone would want to hide behind pain killers.
Can you give us some examples of what type of stories we can expect in the book?
There is a story of my first girlfriend dying in a car accident. There is a harrowing story of the person I first started taking heroin with pretty much dying and then coming back. And there’s a lot of stuff about my father, and that whole scene, I mean it’s also funny but it was a pretty fucked up thing to do to a kid.
One of the funnier stories is about the time I almost got stabbed when I was scoring in Glasgow once. All of a sudden the main guy in the group went “hey, were you in neighbours.” So because I’d been in neighbours it pretty much saved my life.
It was an absolute pleasure talking to Greg Fleet. The official release for the book is August 25th and you can find all the details here. Fleet still has some dates around Perth and is always touring. You can find him at @thegregfleet on twitter to find out where he is next.
If you liked these words why not check out the author on twitter @jwdenholm? He is a comedian and writer, you might enjoy what he has to say.