For a couple of years, I had a sweet gig writing the Six Burning Questions column for The Sunday Age newspaper. When I say sweet, I mean I loved it, because it ticked all my work boxes: it was fun, it was good for my cred and it paid well. Very rarely does a job tick all three, and I loved it. Of course it had its down points (dealing with difficult or elusive subjects, explaining the ‘burning’ thing, having to edit down interesting conversations to 300 words and six questions, getting the paper on Sunday to discover the piece I had written wasn’t published) but it was a wonderful thing, because I got to talk to such a range of people, and have it printed in the paper. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy interviewing people, and I’m quite good at it.
As well as the famous actors, musicians, artists, athletes and chefs I spoke to, I also managed to slip in the odd column with one of my friends who was doing something that people could go to (that was the thing about SBQ: it had to be connected to something going on at that time that people could attend). One of those people was Dave Quirk, a good friend, fellow skater and comedian. Here is an interview I conducted with him over the phone, when he was in Adelaide, in June 2014.
Do you feel any burning this morning?
No, I’m healthy. My new show is really raw at the moment, though.
Does your show change much over the course of a season?
Absolutely. It’s okay to show up with a bag of ideas. My last show was about cheating and Slash, and this one is more about towels and death, and paedophilia and animals.
Not exactly standard comedic fare. Do you like to find comedy in uncomfortable things?
The show’s called Career, Suicide. I had a lady come up to me after a show recently and she was disappointed because I didn’t talk about suicide enough. I asked her she’d seen my older shows, because one of them was basically all about suicide. But now it’s about towels. She asked what I could talk about with towels and I said, well that’s the point. What kind of idiot would use towels as an overriding point in a show? That’s suicide to me.
Maybe it’s all in the pause between points – where the audience can put themselves in your place and find that funny?
I remember being told at uni that we’re all driven by an unconscious fear of death. It’s why we buy a new car, why we do anything, because we’re all going to die. It’s a pretty big motivator. What I don’t agree with is that it’s unconscious. We’ve all thought about death; some of us at length. What I do believe is truly unconscious is a strong towel-based desire.
‘What kind of idiot would use towels as an overriding point in a show?’
You’re breaking up a bit Dave. Are you moving around?
I’m in a terrible black spot – I don’t mean Adelaide in general.
Is all your material based on your own experience?
I’m worried that my imagination is almost zero, so I have to have had an experience that’s made me write.
Why do you always write stuff on your hand? [I’m not sure if Dave heard this question properly]
A guy I was speaking to at a bar was talking about having kids and I said that I don’t have kids and I’ll do my best to never have children. I thought that was so negative to talk that way, but he said, ‘yeah, but you don’t need them. Most people have children as their legacy, but you’ll have your work’. It’s an interesting way of looking at it.
Having children is quite selfish, in a way.
Maybe doing comedy is a substitute for the children I’ll never have.
Do you have to have a healthy self-confidence to do it, or does that grow as you perform more? How does that work with being a bit vulnerable?
Yeah but I lose it. You need to have an ego, whether it’s healthy or not I’m not sure. It’s amazing that stand-up comedy works, that people pay money for it or take it seriously.
There’s a bravery to it.
People always say to me, ‘I could never do that’. But anyone could do what I’m doing. They’re just words that I’m standing there telling you. In a way that’s true, but in a way we all know that it’s not. You need some sort of mettle to do it.
Is comedy just being honest to an audience?
For me it’s the set-up. If it’s been talked about that comedy is happening, and then you’ve decided to be particularly honest, then yes, but there’s an agreement that it needs to be funny. Lying is good too, though.
Do you think your comedy is particularly Australian? Do people in other countries get it in the same way?
In Mumbai I played to predominantly local crowds, doing 40 minutes where I got into pretty weird material. They were laughing and I thought, ‘this is good’. I was concerned by the amount that they rape currently, but I didn’t talk about that.
Do you have any more TV appearances coming up?
I shot a pilot last year in LA with Sam Simmons. It’s still in purgatory. I’m not sure what’s happening there. It’s being judged.
Did the Piece of Wood award you won at last year Melbourne International Comedy Festival give you a lot of confidence?
It was really cool. There is something about that award because it’s a peer-based thing and people I admire have won it in the past. It’s a nice legacy and it does make me want to keep going.