Comedian Adam Hills brings the laughs at no one’s expense.
Elissa Blake | Brisbane Times | 30 June 2013
Stand-up comedy isn’t synonymous with the nice-guy persona. Angry guys? There are a lot of them. Cynical guys? Get to the back of the line. But Adam Hills has made a career out of bucking the trend and it’s paying off handsomely.
After almost 25 years on the stand-up circuit and with successful TV shows in Australia and Britain, Hills has reached light entertainment’s top shelf with his reputation as an all-round good sort intact.
His new stand-up show is called Happyism. Funny, that.
“‘Happyism’ is my vague philosophy and a reminder to myself to do positive comedy whenever I can,” Hills, 42, says. Playing the negative card just isn’t his thing. He has the scars to prove it.
"I went on an American TV show called Chelsea Lately a couple of years ago and they wanted me to be mean, because that’s what they do, they specialise in dissing celebrities. Well, I tried it and it was awful and it backfired and it was one of my worst experiences ever," he says. “I won’t be asked to go back.”
It took a lesson from the Muppets to put Hills back on track. Seriously?
"I learnt a lot from the Muppets," Hills says, laughing. “Last year I was asked to go on stage with the Muppets in Montreal and I watched the joy that was in the room because of the sheer amount of positive energy they were putting out.
"It was a reminder that, for me, being happy is being positive."
Since making his debut in the Sydney Comedy Store when he was 19, Hills has built a multifaceted career on stage, radio and television. Originally, he wanted to be a journalist, he says. “I went to Macquarie Uni to study but when I left, I went to Channel Nine as a stagehand because I thought that would be a better way to break into the industry.”
After success as the host of the ABC’s music-trivia quiz show Spicks and Specks, and the burgeoning popularity of his talk show Adam Hills Tonight, Hills could have settled into a TV presenter’s armchair and lived a very comfortable life. What compels him to continue to venture in front of a live audience?
"It’s still a buzz. You never feel like you completely have it nailed," Hills says. “There’s no ticket to say you’re a funny person and no proof you can show to the world that you know what you’re doing up there. And there’s always the fear that you’ve been faking it all along or that you’ll be unmasked. I think all comics have that in them - the need to stand in front of a room of people and prove yourself.”
His brand of comedy is mostly chatting with the audience, he says. At a recent show in Brisbane, he chatted for 40 minutes before the actual show started. “They seemed to be liking it,” he says sheepishly. “But it is also a proper stand-up show with stories and jokes. It’s not all chatting.”
He says he loves it when something weird happens in the audience. “There was a woman in Brisbane who called out, ‘I love you Adam,’ and I said, ‘That’s nice, are you here with your boyfriend?’ She said yes, and I said, ‘Well, I’m about to get a black eye or a threesome,’ and she came back straight away with ‘Both!’ I love that. It was a great one-liner. Audiences never cease to amaze me.”
Nice guy he may be, but Hills says his act has become harder-edged over the years.
"As I’ve got older I’ve found I can be a little harsher on-stage and have a few more opinions. I think I’ve earned the right to get a little bit grumpy at the world."
Happyism plays at the Enmore Theatre, July 12-14. Tickets $50, bookings 13 28 49 or Ticketek.