The audio interview of this transcript is available here.
Morry: Greg Fleet is Australia’s bad boy of comedy. On stage and off, Fleety has made a name for himself for pushing the boundaries and living life to its fullest. TV, movies, theatre, breakfast radio, and 29 Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows later, it’s hard to imagine how he had time for his now infamous drug addiction. But he did, because he’s no ordinary comedian. Someone argued that in a sick way this curse made him even funnier. Coincidentally sick comedy also happens to be one of his forte’s as you’ll learn from this episode. And just quickly, if you’ve been thinking of kick starting a career in stand-up comedy, then be sure to visit the School of Hard Knock Knocks website and secure a spot in the next stand-up comedy course. There is still two spots remaining for the July 23 to 27 course with guest comedians Dave O’Neil and Mayumi Nobetsu, but be quick. And now, here’s my in depth interview with the NIDA qualified, Daphne killing, zombie hunting, accidental comedian known as Greg Fleet.
Morry: Good morning Greg, how are you?
Greg: I’m very well indeed, how are you Morry?
Morry: I’m very good. Look, I know this interview needs to be sharp and short because you’ve got an important Footy game to watch later on today.
Greg: Well, I mean, possibly play. I’m still waiting for the call up. I’m sort of on the loose at the North Melbourne waiting to make my debut. Hopefully it will be this week. I’ve been waiting for about 40 years, but that’s cool. They haven’t said no yet. So it’s always possible.
Morry: I know. That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. Persistence. It’s very important. It’s a very long bench, isn’t it? I think you’re on the bench but it’s somewhere near South Melbourne.
Greg: Yeah, it’s long. Yeah.
Morry: Excellent. All right. Well Greg, thanks very much for this opportunity to talk about your life and the excitement that it is because we read about it. You’ve done just about everything. I think you have done everything. You’ve done TV, movies, theater, books, breakfast radio, although I believe that wasn’t as successful as some of the other stuff that you’ve done, and of course you’ve done stand up comedy. You’ve done it all. My question is was that intentional? Did you start off going I’ve got to do it all. That’s my life’s ambition, or did you just roll into the next by accident?
Greg: Absolutely, just rolled. Rolled into the next thing, but very little of it was ever planned. It’s only now, really, that I say to people, if some comics or younger comics, whoever… When I say younger I mean virtually everyone. If they ask, I say look, it’s a really great idea to have, let’s see, in Australia, to have numerous strings to pull if you possibly can or you don’t necessarily need to. I mean, there are certain people who just, you know, a Carl Barron for example, as someone who’s pretty much a straight ahead stand-up and that’s what he does and he doesn’t really do much TV. He just goes around the country doing stand-up and he does incredibly well.
Morry: He’s writing a book though.
Greg: Oh is he?
Morry: I’ve spoken to his agents and he’s very busy at the moment writing a book. I’m not sure what it’s going to be called.
Greg: Oh good. Well there you go. I think it is a good idea. If you’re invested in doing a bit of acting or writing or you can get on radio or TV, depending on what you want to do. Some people want to be a presenter, some people want to be an actor.
Greg: The only thing I’ve generally consciously avoided is being a presenter because I enjoy acting stuff and I think if you get seen as a presenter it might limit your chances to be characters in shows and people go, “No, that’s the guy who hosts Australia’s weirdest hair cut.” Or whatever. So that’s my only objection.
Greg: But, I mean, also with some of the things I’ve done in my life I don’t imagine there’s a whole lot of commercial networks going, “We wanted him to be the presenter. We want him to be the face of the network.” The network would shut down quite quickly I imagine.
Morry: Yeah, right, right. Well Shane Jacobson, I’ve been following his career because I knew him at a very young age. He is getting on to TV like you’re just describing. He was Kenny and now he’s running a show with kids. Little Big Shots it’s called.
Greg: He’s actually good. Yeah, and he’s good with kids. He’s one of those guys who’s very good at easing information out of kids that’s funny. Getting kids to be funny, but he also he did Australia’s, the car thing, whatever that’s called. The one that was with Clarkson and those guys do it in the UK.
Morry: Oh, Top Gear?
Greg: Yeah, he’s Australia’s… He’s one of the three. He was like the Clarkson of Australia’s Top Gear. It was a short run but they had a go at it.
Greg: He’s a man of many talents. He does musicals and does… You know, he’s kind of raconteur, he’s a bit of a stand-up, and a bit of an actor. He’s a talented chap.
Morry: Yeah he is. And I can say that actually acted with him back in the scouts… Boy Scout days, but that’s another story.
Greg: Well, well.
Morry: We’re here to talk about Greg Fleet of course. Now talking about actors, you’ve got a very high caliber entry in your resume and that’s NIDA. You started off I believe… You were born in the US actually, but you grew up in Geelong, and then you got accepted to NIDA.
Greg: Yeah, I got… You know, I went to school here and jumped into acting at school. You know I wanted to be and actor. And in fact I never wanted to be a comedian at all. I mean, I liked comedy, I liked a lot of comedy on TV and stuff but I never really watched a lot of stand-up. I didn’t really… I mean, I kind of knew what stand-up was, but I assumed it would be terrifying and weird, but I liked Monty Python and stuff like that, but I wanted to be a serious actor. I wanted to be like Robert Duval or Robert De Niro or someone-
Morry: But you became the Robert Downey Junior to be honest with you.
Greg: I did indeed, in more ways than one. Yeah, I went to NIDA and that was fascinating. And I didn’t really think I’d get in either. I was under the impression that you had to audition at least once before they took you. Like you would audition one year and they if they liked you they’d say come back the next year and do it again. So I wasn’t really terribly stressed about it because I just assumed it was a formality. And then they went, “Do you want to go?” And I was like, “Oh, God, yeah I guess.” I didn’t know, so I did and I was in the same year as Baz Luhrmann and Nancy. Yeah, it was a great experience.
Morry: And so there you are, you’re in Sydney, I’m assuming at the time because NIDA was only in Sydney at that time. And then it was 87 and someone, one of your mates, says you should try stand-up, I believe.
Greg: Yeah. It was actually… No, I had come back to Melbourne after NIDA, and some people that had been at NIDA were doing this thing called Theatresports, which was improv, and improv was the only thing at NIDA that I really struggled with. I just did not get it. I didn’t know why people wanted me to be a fire hydrant, or a mouse, or whatever, so I kept going, “Why? Why do you want me to do that?” And they’d be like, “Just do it.” And I’d be, “No, not likely.”
Greg: And so weirdly when they said do you want to do Theatresports, I don’t know why I said yes, but I did and found… And just fell into it. I just went, “Oh, this is fun.” And I was also getting laughs from audiences, because it wasn’t a classroom environment anymore, it had lots of people. Hundreds of people, and I said to him, “Ah, that’s all right, I was kind of funny.”
Greg: And then through that met a whole lot of stand-up comedians who are also doing Theatresports. We were kind of more like sucky actors, you know, and we were all very proper and doing warm-ups and all these Canadians are strolling in just smoking cigs and having whiskey and going on and on. And I was like, “Well, that looks like fun.” And that was guys like Tim Smith and Andrew Goodone and they were like, “You should do stand-up.” And I was like “I’d rather, I’d seriously rather shoot myself than do stand-up.”
Greg: I just imagined it would be really confrontational and you’d have people screaming at you and saying you’re not funny and all that sort of stuff. And they kind of tricked me into doing it, and then… They actually got me… I was working at a nightclub and they used to come to the nightclub sometimes, and one night we were all a bit worse for wear, is really the best way to describe it.
Morry: I think the statute of limitations allow you to think it.
Greg: Tripping. We were tripping.
Morry: Okay, there you go.
Greg: And they said, “Are you going to do stand-up?” And I was like, “Yeah, of course.” You know, I was a little cocky, and I’d smash stand-up. And then they rang me the day before the gig and said, “You’re booked in for tomorrow night.” And I was like, “What? No way.” And they said… They kind of fooled me. They said, “It’s too late. It’s been advertised.” And I panicked and went, “Oh, then I have to do it.”
Greg: And in hindsight, knowing what I do about comedy now, who would have cared if they guy no one had ever heard of didn’t turn up that night. But I did it and I really enjoyed it. And I went, “Ah, this is fun.” And someone at the end of the night also gave me 40 bucks or something for doing it, and I was like, “Oh my God. This is the best thing ever.” And suddenly I was getting paid to do this thing that was really enjoyable that was also performing, so it meant I didn’t have to work in… You know, I was working in bars and restaurants and trying to make ends meet. And it meant that I could suddenly make a living from performing.
Greg: So I kind of just fell into it, and very quickly… Well I had always done other bits of acting and other stuff. Comedy just took over, and it became the main thing that I did. And certainly if I had to say, I guess, at the end of my life if someone said what have you done? I’d probably go, comedy because that’s what I’ve done the most of, but it was never my intention, and I think in many ways it made it easier because I never… It wasn’t something I desperately had to succeed in, it just had an ease about it and it went well.
Morry: That’s amazing that your first gig, if I understand correctly, your first gig was also your first paid gig.
Greg: Oh, no, God. I very much feel people who are starting in comedy now, because I know people who are very good. Who’ve done comedy for a couple of years and not ever been paid, or maybe been paid once, or something. It was a very different thing back then. It was a lot less people, I think, for the first year I did it. There was myself and Rachel Berger and this double act called The Empty Pockets, one of whom is now a judge on one of those brainiac shows, but we were the new comics for about a year. There were three of us. Three acts, four people. One was a double act. And we got all the opening spots.
Greg: Every show tended to have a first spot, a second spot, and a headliner, and an emcee. And the first spot was usually someone relatively new, but everyone got paid, so, and for the first couple of years I did comedy I was working probably on average four nights a week and getting paid. And so it was, you know, not only was I getting paid but more importantly I was getting to work most nights of the week and get better because of it, because you’re constantly…
Morry: You train.
Greg: Yeah, and with a lot of new people now, they’re really lucky to work once a month sometimes, or twice a month. And it’s really hard to learn when you’re not doing it that often because you do it once and by the time they do it again they’ve kind of forgotten everything they learned from the last time. Whereas if you’re doing it four nights in a row you can do something and then the next night you go right along and change that and, yeah, that worked or that didn’t work so I won’t do this, and it just rolls. So we had it, in many ways, we had it very easy.
Morry: Yeah, right, right. Well being on stage that often means you have to write a lot of material. I’m assuming that you repeated a lot as well. Where were you and where do you get your material from?
Greg: I very rarely write stand-up comedy. I’ve done 29 Melbourne Comedy Festivals and every one of those I’ll write a new show, so I do that, but as far as week to week getting around the place, I very rarely sit down in front of the computer and write jokes. I just find it… If I try to do that I find it’s very forced, and I find that it’s not very natural for the way I perform, but what I tend to do more than that is just walk around and see stuff and think, oh, that’s a funny idea, or see a street sign, or hear someone say something weird, and go and I’ll think about it, and usually I’ll get to do it on stage within a day or two of that happening and I’ll just try it out. And if it works I’ll keep it, and if it doesn’t I’ll just pretend it never happened.
Greg: So most of my stuff comes from my own life. From things I’m saying, things I’ve done, things that have happened to me. Things people said to me. Just day to day stuff, and funny things I’m saying or just walking down the street. Mostly it’s that kind of… It’s observation I guess, but it’s also personal in that usually it’s based in something real that’s happened to me.
Morry: Well, I have to ask, because you are talking about it. Would you be as funny if you didn’t have that drug addiction? The calamity’s that came into your life? They became part of your material I assume?
Greg: Oh, yeah, God, it’s been a huge part. I think last… This year’s comedy festival show, which went very well, and I was very happy with and I’m still doing some of the material from. My partner said to me, she went, “You know this is the first show you’ve done in years that doesn’t reference drug addiction.” And I was like, “Oh, holy shit, that’s a good point.” But I think I’d probably still be as funny, but it gave me a whole slant of… A whole way of talking about something that most people probably hadn’t experienced first hand, but they had some… Everyone knows something about being stoned or drunk or out of it or addiction. Whether it’s addiction to gambling or eating or whatever your addiction. So it gave me a thing to talk about and it gave me a kind of, for better or worse, it gave me a persona as the drug addict comic.
Greg: It’s weird because I really… I never had a persona on stage of being druggie. Doing the “Hey man, I’m really out of it.” It wasn’t that kind of thing, but it was talking about some of the hair raising things that happened, and also that combination of kind of working at fairly high end in performing or writing here and overseas and at the same time running a completely contrary double life where you’re working with this sort of high end of creativity but at the same time running around in the lower ends of society. Dealing with some dodgy people.
Greg: Look, it’s a hard question to answer, but-
Morry: I’m certainly not suggesting comedians go out and take up an addiction just so they can become funnier. That’s not my intention.
Greg: We’re not saying that young people. Look, it’s a hard one to answer because it just was what your life was, so for me it’s just what my life was. Though in some ways I think I would have been probably more successful without it, but then again, you know, some of the better things I’ve written, you know, books or shows that I’ve written have been about that thing as well. So maybe I would have had less to talk about.
Morry: Yeah, right. Will Anderson was in the news for having a dispute, which apparently he was completely innocent for, on a Wagga Wagga bound airplane. What I’m saying is bad news is good news in entertainment, so at least you became… You were always relevant because people were hearing about you even if they weren’t necessarily buying a ticket.
Greg: Good thing. And one thing I will say is there’s this old adage, comedy is tragedy plus time. And that’s certainly true for me. I mean, it’s to the point, early on if something terrible would happen it would take me a year after that to turn that into comedy, but now if something bad is happening to me, even while it’s happening… This hasn’t happened recently, but say I was breaking up with someone, or I was in a car accident, or something. I was getting evicted or something like that. 90 percent of me would be going, “Oh, my God, this is terrible.” 10 percent of my brain would be going, “This is going to be good material.” It’s really weird. I can be in a life threatening situation and part of my brain’s going, “Well, if you survive this it’s going to be a great 10 minutes.”
Morry: That’s right. Any disaster becomes a potential increase to your bank balance. Yeah.
Greg: Oh, absolutely. I’m sure Will would spin that into… He’s probably already doing it. He would have probably already started spinning that thing into material.
Morry: Well it’s certainly good for Wagga Wagga, because we now know it has an airport.
Greg: Exactly. Exactly.
Morry: Marketing strategy on behalf of Wagga Wagga Tourism Board. Yeah.
Morry: Well, I do want to go a little bit dark. Not in the heroin or the drug thing, but I want to talk about some of your comedy because I think one of the first sets I ever saw you in… And I can’t recall whether I was sitting in the audience or if it was on TV, but, I suspect I was in the audience. And you introduced, you came up, the first thing that came out of your mouth was, “Sorry, my sister just died.” There was silence across the room.
Greg: Yes, there would be.
Morry: And then you tapped the microphone, you tapped the microphone, and you kind of looked puzzled. “Sorry, is this on? Hello?” Now I lost it. I lost it at that point, but the problem was I lost it about two seconds earlier than everybody else in that room.
Morry: It was a very dark joke, but I was the first one to laugh at it, which made it feel even darker.
Greg: That was good, because it probably made other people feel that they could laugh, once you’d laughed. You had broken the ice. Thank God for you.
Morry: That’s right. I think we share the twisted mind. You’re quite famous for being able to… And I’ve spoken to comedians. I was talking to Chris Franklin actually about you and the way that you just throw in the most despicable and… You’ve sometimes mentioned pedophilia up on stage like a segue into another joke and everyone’s going, “Yeah, yeah, that makes sense.” And only five seconds, 10 seconds later they’ve gone, “Hang on. What did he say.”
Greg: Yeah. And hopefully by then you’ve moved on. And they’re like, “Ah. I probably just misheard him.” No, I enjoy that because I enjoy seeing that myself. And sometimes I really get it wrong too. Sometimes I’ll think, “Oh, this is hilarious.” And I’ll say it and it would just be… The audience will be like, “No, mac, that’s not on.” And I’ll be like, “Okay.” But I love seeing comics do that kind of stuff and go to weird places, and often dark places. As long as they get out of it, as long as it’s not just taking people into depression and then leaving them there.
Greg: It’s kind of a thrill too, to do that. You know, whether its… I’ll often do things about my parents dying or about disease or death, and if you tried explaining it to someone. Sometimes some people will go and you write your material out, what you said on TV, and you’d write it out and you’d go this is really terrible. This is probably about the most depressing.
Greg: But I find laughing at that really dark stuff is cathartic and good. And the one thing I generally, for all of the… I will go to dark places in stand-up but I really try not to make a group or an individual the victim of my comedy. I’ll talk about myself and I’ll talk about… I’ll paint myself as being a weirdo or I’ll laugh at death or disease or whatever, but I don’t laugh at someone who has that disease, but I’d laugh at that… You know, sometimes I’ll do stuff like that and it can be a trick because in a cool inner city comedy club where people are really used to watching comedy and maybe they know you and stuff, they’ll go with you on that stuff and they’ll go, “Oh yeah, what he said about that stuff, that’s really cool.” And then I’ll take that to another gig.
Greg: I’ll take that to a corporate gig or a gig just somewhere else where people just… And for all I know maybe someone in that community has just died of cancer or maybe someone’s… Something that I don’t know about and I bring up this thing and I think it’s hilarious and I also think, stay with me because I’m about to get to the funny bit, but people are just like, “No mate. No. No. That’s not on.” And you never get to the funny bit and you just seem like a total asshole. It’s a slippery slope. I can understand why a lot of comics don’t do it.
Morry: Yeah. I guess some self selection is part of comedy. Once you get a name, like you’re a famous name in the comedy circuit, people who buy your tickets know what to expect. They self select to the comedy level. But you’re right. In that corporate environment where no one has… The audience hasn’t necessarily bought the ticket, or maybe some of them don’t even know who you are.
Greg: Absolutely. And often they don’t, you know, or they’ll vaguely recognise you, but they’re watching. The other thing that can be dangerous, I would say, for corporate gigs. My hit and miss ratio is probably 50 50 or, I’ve had some horrific things at corporate gigs. Quite often what happens is someone will ring you up and go, “Hey we want to book you for this event or this corporate thing and it pays really well and I love your comedy. This is great. You’re a great comic.” “Yeah, cool. This will be great.” And then you get there and you walk in and you suddenly… I can tell the minute I walk in the room. I go, “Whoa, this isn’t right.” And then I realize, oh hang on. The person that’s booking this gig loves me and no one else in this room does. You know, all right, you’re the weirdo in the office who just happens to love stand-up comedy. No one else here likes stand-up comedy and they certainly, if they do like stand-up comedy, they’re not going to like my version of it.
Greg: And sometimes I’m wrong. Sometimes they really enjoy it, but… And you know, I’ve had some great corporate gigs and stuff too, but sometimes you go… It’s set up on the wrong premise. “I love you, you’re great.” “Cool.” And when they say that you read that or you hear that as everyone that’s going to be there loves you and thinks you’re great. Rather than, it’s a whole lot of school bursars, or financial controllers for primary school. They don’t even want to see stand-up comedy, or if they do they want it to be fairly gentle and innocuous. They don’t want to be confronted by someone on an existential death trip or something. So, it can be very hard to predict.
Morry: Which makes it so surprising that you decided to do the Zombie flick. Me and My Mates versus the Zombie Apocalypse. When I heard that you were starring in this slap stick, to be honest. Slap stick comedy. I was like, this is not the Greg Fleet that I know of. So for those people in the audience who don’t know that you’ve starred in this zombie flick. A comedy zombie flick, go see it. Tell us a bit about why on earth you decided… I mean, it’s good names. Jim Jefferies of course is one of the main guys, and Alex Williamson in there as well. What on earth made you say, yeah, that sounds like a great idea?
Greg: It was probably mostly, and even though it was a kind of a low budget Aussie horror film and all that entails, there was some great things in it and some great… There’s even some really moving bits, but it’s a kind of light zombie film, but it’s probably because the way it was put together.
Greg: My then manager, Andrew Taylor, also manages Alex and Jim Jefferies. Well Jim’s stuff in Australia anyway. And he said, “Look, these guys want you to do this film.” And I probably would have said yes anyway, but the fact that those guys were involved in it, I kind of went, “Oh, this will be fun.” And, you know, usually in films or TV dramas or whatever, if I’m in them I’m probably going to have a decent role, but it’s not like a deep, deep, deep role. It might be like 10 things or something. But this I was in all the time and all the way through it and it was kind of like the lead, and I was like, I said yeah.
Greg: And it was a great idea, the idea for the story, and they let us rewrite a lot of… Alex and I rewrote a lot of the dialogue. It was a bit stilted, it was a little bit… You know, I said all that too. We were going, “Oh, stone the crows, what’s going on there?” And so we just made it the way we would talk, you know? Because we did that we found it really easy to deliver because it was in our voices, so it was just a bit of fun, but I was kind of pleased with the way it came together, and it’s certainly not in my top 10 films of all time, but…
Morry: They didn’t dress up his zombie as Daphne from Neighbors did they?
Greg: I should have.
Morry: Just for an insider joke?
Greg: That would have been great.
Morry: They should have because, again, for those that don’t know, your character, I don’t know the name of your character, who, in a car crash killed Daphne. Is that right?
Greg: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Yeah. In Neighbors in the… So, killed Daphne. Drove her off the road and killed her, and then in true one dimensional Aussie TV style, came back to the town and taunted everyone. Rather than just lying low and going, oh, we got away with that, came back and caused trouble and yelled at her grieving husband and baby and stuff. You know, just one dimensional bad guys. And then got into a fight with most of the cast of Neighbors, which was pretty cool. But once I had Kylie Minogue punching me, and Jason Donovan. I was punching Jason Donovan. And in the end it was Guy Pearce came to the rescue because apparently his character did karate, so he came and kicked us and bashed us and we were done. But we got off in court too.
Morry: Oh you did?
Greg: Yeah, we got off, which was heartbreaking for fans of Neighbors, but I’d always said to people if you’re going to be in shows as terrible as that then you should at least kill one of the main characters for the people.
Morry: I’m surprised that’s not on your business card. Not many people have that claim to fame, but also Daphne didn’t come back to life again later like a lot of Neighbors cast that die.
Greg: I know. I think she really definitely… I think she honestly… We were talking about that because I went to… Not long after I’d done that, it was the first time I went to the UK, and not really understanding how big Neighbors was in the UK, I was walking down… They had been using it as publicity to get people to the show because they liked it. And I remember walking down the street in London and this guy just come up to me and “What’d you do it for, man? What’d you do it for?” And I’m like, “What the hell. This guy thinks I’ve just robbed a shop or something.” You know? And it was that. He was really quite angry. For a minute I thought he was going to punch me. He was angry because I killed Daphne. And I had to turn and explain that I think she didn’t want to do the show anymore. And that confused him no end.
Morry: Yeah. The cast aren’t on ad lib, then I just can delete the whole episode, right? I’m just going to kill a character now.
Greg: Just a group of people that happened to live on those streets. It’s a docker.
Morry: Oh, I used to live around there actually, because it’s filmed in Nunawading. I used to live in the next suburb over. To be fair, we did live like that. Well fantastic. Well, now, getting back into comedy and the people that listen to this podcast are newbies. Some of them have actually done lots and lots of open mic gigs, they’re just not getting traction or they’re newbies thinking of getting started in the industry. What’s some of the advice you’d give to those people who today, in Australia, obviously very different than when you started.
Morry: But you’d know what the scene’s like still?
Greg: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And I do a lot of… I do and have done, since, well since the beginning really. I’ve always kind of done quite a few open mic gigs and kind of kept in touch to some degree. We were trying to do a few workshops and stuff. It’s important especially if I mean to stay doing gigs in Adelaide or Brisbane or Perth or something. I do the same thing in Alice Springs. The local community. All the people. Those gigs are usually run by people in the industry and ask do I want to do a workshop, and yeah, why not. And the thing I say to people is… There’s a whole lot of things.
Greg: The one is do it as much as you possibly can. Do as many gigs as you can, and even any gigs, really, when you’re actually starting out. They don’t have to do all these streamlined amazing gigs. I think you learn a lot more from a bad gig then you do from a good gig. I think you do. I still have bad gigs. I think all… Well I don’t know if all comics do, I mean, no, in fact, not all comics do, but I do every now and then. I get too cocky or get lazy and then I do a tough gig and then the next few after that are always really supreme because I’m always really focused, but you have to do as many as you can, and there’s a whole lot of…
Greg: One thing I definitely say to people is if you’re really nervous, or really stressed, or really tense, which is quite normal, either hide it or acknowledge it, because there’s very… When I’m watching a comic, you know even as long as I’ve done comedy, having watched a comic on stage, and if they’re really stressed my hands go to my throat. Literally, physically I start grabbing myself because I feel for them, and it makes me really uncomfortable to watch someone being really uncomfortable, because I feel terrible for them. And I think audiences are like that, you know? I think most audiences don’t want to see you do badly. They want to see you do well, and if your really stressing out it stresses them out.
Greg: Whereas if you’re having a really good time they’ll have a really good time. So, what I found, what I used to do is either… I got to a point where if I was really stressed I could act like I wasn’t, which is a good thing, but the other thing that I would say to people, and I used to do myself is just acknowledge it. Just go, “Oh, I’m really nervous.” And it takes the edge of it. The audience goes, “Oh, of course you are. Of course you’re really nervous you’ve done this three times, or 10 times, or whatever.” And then they kind of feel like you’ve shown them a truth about yourself, and they feel connected to you, and that’s a good thing.
Morry: Well it certainly works for Luke MacGregor, the Tasmanian comedian, doesn’t it?
Greg: Yeah. He’s very… And that’s almost his shtick now, you know? A couple of things I got told when I first started, which was… The one video class I remember very clearly coming from a couple of people. The fabulous Russell Gilbert and the wonderful Trevor Marmalade, I remember them both saying… They were kind of like the big experienced guys when we started, and they’d probably been doing it for a couple of years longer than us, but they knew what they were doing. And Glen Robbins. But they used to say, “Start with your second best thing and end with your best thing.” And that… It’s not necessarily something that I apply all the time now, but it’s such great advice when you’re starting out, because if you’ve got… If you start with your second best thing it’s usually going to be pretty good. And people go, “Oh, this is pretty good.” And then if you end with something even better than that they’re going to go, “Oh my God, that was even better.” And it’s almost like anything that happens in between those two things is kind of irrelevant. As long as it doesn’t go for 40 minutes. Most people starting comedy are only doing five minutes anyway. So it’s a really great theory if you’re starting out.
Greg: The other thing I’d say is hang out with comics. We lived in each others pockets. As we got older and people started having families and getting other interests and things like that we kind of drifted a bit. I mean I still hang out with a few comics. I’ve got a couple of comics coming over for dinner tonight, but I don’t… I used to live and breathe comedy. We all hung out together, we all lived in the same suburbs, we all had breakfast together and had coffee. Do gigs together and talked about comedy and that’s a really good thing to do, and it’s a really… Because it’s a community and your contemporaries are the next generations. Comedy. So hang out with those people and spend a lot of time talking about it.
Greg: Even putting on your own nights. If there’s not enough work put on your night. And it doesn’t even have to be in front of an audience. If you’ve got 10 comics who are all starting at around the same time, you’re all friends, find a place. Be it a church hall, be it a comedy venue that’s dark that night, or whatever. Do shows for each other and get feedback from each other. Just work. Work as much as you can.
Morry: No, that’s good. That’s good advice. Well, at the moment if people want to see you on stage or meet you in person or watch you on stage, because you do theater as well, what have you got on the plate? How do we get to see more of Greg? Or Fleety?
Greg: Well I always do festivals, and I’m usually running around the country doing things. Did you hear, can you hear that noise? Did you hear that sound?
Morry: Oh it was like groaning sounds?
Greg: Yeah, that was actually the app on my phone going, “In about 15 minutes the football…” It was like a football timer. It goes off. That was beautiful. But I’ll get to watch North Melbourne get smashed yet again.
Greg: Look, I’m quite often, when I’m in Melbourne, working in Melbourne doing The Comics Lounge or the rooms with gigs around town. All those kind of gigs. I’m writing a book at the moment for Penguin. Another book. This ones a novel. It’s a bit less self obsessed, and a play. I wrote an adaptation of MacBeth set in Australian politics, which has just been… It did well in Adelaide and Perth and it’s just been accepted in the British Fine Arts Festival. We’re going up to do that in September.
Greg: But look, I’m always around and at gigs all around the country. I spend, kind of, three months in Perth, three months in Melbourne, three months Perth to Melbourne, but, you know, like I’m going to New Zealand on Tuesday for a week to do gigs. I just been in Adelaide doing gigs. I’m always jumping around the country. I just don’t have a geek guide, but if you want to contact me I reckon the easiest way is just Greg Fleet on Facebook. Just send me a message on Facebook, and I look at that stuff daily, so it’s not like it won’t be sitting there for weeks without an answer.
Morry: Oh perfect, perfect. So if someone’s out there looking to cast another actor in a zombie movie or they’ve got a character that needs to be killed off in a TV show, Facebook. Excellent.
Greg: Absolutely. And it’s hilarious, it’s truth. If you want to be successful live with me for a while. Because I’ve lived with Benny Mendelsohn, I’ve lived with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. I’ve lived with Stuart Laing. Yeah, it seems to be if you live with Greg Fleet you have an international career.
Greg: And of course I don’t necessarily but that’s not my job. My job is to just… I’m a gateway. I’m a gateway comedian.
Morry: You’re the John the Baptist. You’re John the Baptist of Christianity.
Greg: Exactly. I didn’t want to take on sort of a biblical title but you’re quite right. That’s who I am. Yes.
Morry: Well, mate, thanks very much Fleety for your time. We’ve really gone into some depth and this has been a lovely chat and I’ve learned some things as well.
Greg: Oh, thank you very much. And I really like what you’re doing. I listen to Tim
Morry: Yeah, Tim Ferguson.
Greg: Tim from the Doug Anthony’s, and, yeah who has another outside career as an educator, I guess, in a way.
Greg: But it was a great thing to listen to and it certainly hooked me into doing the gig. Anyone that asks me, I’ll highly recommend they do it because you’re good at what you do.
Morry: Perfect. Well I won’t keep you any longer because I know that the Kangas are going to start the game.
Greg: Yeah. They’ll start the game. They usually start well and then it’s a slow horrific plunge into depression.
Morry: Exactly. You can’t be more…
Greg: Shit is what you’re going to say. They can’t be more shit than what they are now.
Morry: Shit. Yeah, yeah. They can’t be more shit. Disappointed. I was going to say you can’t be more disappointed at this point. Beautiful. Well, cheers Greg. Thanks for your time.
Greg: Thank you very much Morry, it was really enjoyable.
Morry: Thanks again.