Fringe Interview Quickies – Ben Russell from ‘Ben Russell in The Tokyo Hotel’

Interview by: Freya Hall

We know what you want: interviews that are short, sweet, and to the point. In order to satisfy all of you insatiable Fringe fanatics we devised these interview quickie questions and shot them off to the smartest and brightest that the festival has got to offer. Lap ’em up.

In this instalment we bring you: Ben Russell, who will be performing ‘Ben Russell in The Tokyo Hotel‘, a voyeuristic, comedic journey through LA’s oldest and most infamous hotel, at the Blue Room Theatre this January.

To be frank, Perth is blessed to have Russell return home for Fringe; he is fresh from an international tour with The John Conway Tonight Show, has five years of experience working with the sketch comedy institution The Second City in Chicago, has been featured on ABC Fresh Blood, and is currently a cult favourite within Australia’s best comedy rooms.

So we suggest you buy a ticket.

Is this your first time at Fringe? 

I took part in the 2014 Fringe right after I came back from living in Chicago for 5 years. It was such a beautiful feeling to come back to my hometown to see such a vibrant festival. I was a regular stand up guest on John Conway’s chaotic “Drunk Show” in the Garden and was a supporting actor in the Blue Room show “These Guys”.

What is your act all about?

Nothing lasts forever in The Tokyo Hotel. The Hotel was a hot spot for movers and shakers in the 40’s and 50’s but has now fallen into disrepair. A shadow of it’s former self, desperately clinging to something that no longer exists.

The audience is guided through the hotel and introduced to its guests as they are checked in to the finest suite in the house. From inventors to famous writers, the audience is guided deeper and deeper into the surreal world of madness and faded glory. There are no mints on the pillows or towels in the bathroom. But we have curtains and a whole lot of personality.

What acts do you want to see most at this year’s festival?

Chimp Cop: Dumb, fun and guaranteed laughs. Their last show was a cult hit of last years MICF and I am eager to see what they pull out next.

The Man and The Moon : A collaboration of very talented local Perth artists to create a unique and beautiful musical experience.

Clara Cupcakes, Hot Patootie: She’s an incredible performer, her last show was amazing. Another fabulous talent from Perth doing great things in Melbourne.

What do you think of Perth? 

I grew up here so I have seen it go through some pretty crazy changes. I left just before the mining boom so to come back and find the changes to the skyline and the city bulging at the seams with people was pretty jarring. Since then it seems to have really settled into its own thing.

Perth continues to be a unique and thriving place for performers. FringeWorld itself has found a real sweet spot in terms of size. It’s big but not too huge so that shows can find their audiences without risk of getting drowned out by the big budget commercial acts. The vibe is a more relaxed and happy Fringe with plenty of sizzle in the air. Personally, I can’t wait to sit out on the balcony of The Blue Room Theatre and enjoy a cold beer in that sweet Perth summer evening air after my show.

And finally, why should people come and see your show? 

The show is everything that I love. It’s been a cult hit in both the MICF (getting nominated for the best alternative comedy) and Edinburgh Fringe. It’s character based sketch that works to build a world and take the audience on a tour of a truly unique and surreal world. It’s a stupid, sad and rich world the likes of which I don’t think has been seen here in Australia.

This show is my first solo show after returning home from studying and working with companies like Second City in Chicago (see Tina Fey, Bill Murray and other SNL heavyweights) and I am eager to perform this show that I am so proud of to my hometown in the theatre where I first began my career.