Award-winning British comedian and now St Kilda local, Jeff Green, caught up with us during the Melbourne Comedy Festival to talk about his new show. Leaping Off The Bell Curve is about Jeff’s swift departure from the world of chemical engineering and his foray into the world of show business. We discuss what motivated this leap, and what advice Jeff would give to those ready to take the leap themselves.
Hi Jeff, pleasure to meet you.
“Hi there. Hey, are you on Twitter? Let me add you. What’s On Comedy, yeah? [Jeff Green is now following you]”
You seem pretty relaxed today.
“Yeah. Not a lot of point not being relaxed is there. I’ll be nervous later, because I’m opening the show. It’s always a duty and a burden, to deal with the [roar].”
Too true, but you must be used to it now, this is your what, 10th comedy festival?
“Who knows, maybe more… Thirteen? Something like that. I’m running out of jokes.”
Speaking of which, how did you get your start?
“I got dumped by a girl when I was 23, and I decided that I would show her. That I’m not just some loser who eats sausage rolls in his car.“
Were you at the time?
“I was eating sausage rolls. They are very messy. The messiest thing you’ll ever do in your life.”
I have some experience in that.
“Then I went to the Comedy Store in London. There was probably only five gigs in the whole of London then. Comedy Store, Jongleurs, they’re still there. I went to the Comedy Store. And saw these acts. Went, ‘This is what I want to do.’”
“I saw this little sign as I came out, ‘New acts, open spots, contact bar staff’ — that sign is still there. So I did. That was in October, they gave me a gig in May. So I started writing jokes. Did the gig in May, went well.”
Ha. Of course.
“I won a competition, which was for swimming. But that’s irrelevant.”
“Went to Montreal Comedy Festival in ’89, and I got a load of gigs. And that’s when I thought I was set enough to give up my job. And just started doing comedy.”
What advice would you give to people just starting out? Like me, I just quit my job.
“I don’t need the competition.”
“It’s tough. You won’t like it. All that drinking beer and being able to tell people to shut the fuck up. Who wants to be a comedian?”
Sounds like a grind!
“I love the fact you’ve given up your job, because you can actually apply yourself. The reason I wasn’t enjoying myself when I was working, was because I wasn’t doing either job well. I was working, but I wasn’t writing enough. I was gigging, but I was tired. And I was tired when I was at work.”
Being able to focus helps, yeah?
“Just follow your dream. And trust and believe in yourself. It’s gotta come from within. And most people have got a good radar for knowing what is the right thing to do. I knew when I gave up my job it was absolutely the right thing to do. And I knew when coming to Australia, that it was absolutely the right thing to do.”
“And when I’ve known, I’ve never let myself down. It’s when I’ve ummed and ahhed and hesitated that I’ve kicked myself subsequently.”
That’s great, thanks.
“But you gotta write an hour a year. Write. Write. Write. Write. Especially as a new comic.”
“That’s the only way you’ll find your own persona. By turning your own material over. Especially as a new comic, you’re changing so much. You see comedians who’ve moved on but are still saying the same jokes. It’s a mismatch.”
I’ve never heard anyone say that before.
“I had that briefly when I was 40, and I still had the act of a 35-year-old, talking about girlfriends, but it doesn’t suit you, and then when I got married, everything settled down. You gotta talk about your now, and you can only do that by turning your material over. And that’s how you’ll get new audiences as well.”
That’s great advice!
“It’s not like fucking Paul McCartney. We are screaming out ‘Sing Hey Jude!’ and he’s going ‘I’ve got new stuff !’ Sigh.”
Definitely. So tell me, what do you love about Comedy Festivals?
“They’re so many comedy festivals, I think I’ve done them all. Although new ones come about, there’s even one in Indonesia.”
And what about Melbourne Comedy Festival?
“What I like about this one is that it’s a comedy festival. But I like fringe, because I’m a bit of a hippie. I like fringe stuff. I like gaffer tape and A4 posters. I don’t really care for international festivals. I like it when it’s a bit grungy.”
Right on. And what about Australian Festivals?
“They’re very much up for a narrative show, not necessarily in need of an hour of club material strung together, they like a beginning, middle and end. And that’s a feature of Australian audiences. I always put them more like the Irish than the English, they’re bit more story telling. They prefer that and because we’re so far from everybody, they want to know what you’ve come to tell them, what news have you brought from the world.”
“And now of course I do it, I tell them what’s going on in my life. Often, when I’ve seen British comics come across, and slightly misfire, it’s because they’ve treated it like a very long club gig. And that’s not different enough to justify you being here. You’ve got to be here for a reason. You’ve come a long way. We’ve got great club comics in this country already, we need something more.”
Thanks so much for talking to us, Jeff.
“Thanks, see you guys later!”