For most journalists transcribing an interview is usually a tedious part of the job, however after interviewing comedian Des Dowling it was another chance for a laugh. So many backhanded comments from Dowling’s quick wit that I got to experience again. As one of Australia’s most professional and established comedians, in 2008 he started Funny Guys to help other Australian comedians and live performers find regular work.
RM: You started out as a journalist?
DD: Yes, in Albury I started out in newspapers and then I went to ABC TV and worked in current affairs. I learnt a lot doing TV but being a tabloid foot in the door reporter was never really me.
RM: Has this experience helped you as a performer?
DD: I was probably just going the safe option doing TV. I really wanted to try stand up a long time before that, but like a lot of comedians it takes a lot of time to get the guts up to start. That is the hardest part!
RM: Being a comedian is such a unique career choice. Were you a funny kid?
DD: I guess I liked to get laughs. I think like a lot of comedians, I was quite shy when I was a kid and being funny was a bit of an in. When you’re funny people like you and you get on with all the other kids at school. Some kids are good at sport, where as with comedy… everyone loves to laugh.
RM: When did you decide you wanted to do this as a career?
DD: At the start you just want to do it, try it. You don’t really think of it as a career until you realise it’s going okay and you’re making a living. To make a living your really have to get on radio or TV. I had a couple of years on radio and the odd bits of TV here and there but I also realise there were other ways to make a living out of comedy, so I started Funnyguys.com.au. Basically we organise comedy nights for sporting and social clubs as well as supply comedians for corporate events which has been great. With my background as a journalist I also work as an MC for corporate events and conferences.
RM: What do you define as your first gig as a comedian?
DD: The hardest part is getting up there the first time. I did an adult stand up comedy course which is a bit embarrassing, but it was advertised saying there was a performance at the end of the six weeks. I almost backed out of the performance at the end, I really did. It was in a portable classroom and there was 13 people in a semi-circle watching and I stood up there and talked, and they seemed to laugh at the right spots. The teacher said if you can get laughs here you can get them anywhere. A few weeks later I did a proper gig at a pub in North Fitzroy just around the corner from my home, it went really well, I was booked again and away I went.
RM: Most people would agree there wouldn’t be many jobs that are more challenging than stand up comedy.
DD: I don’t know if you have done any brain surgery lately, but it is pretty difficult!
RM: That was the first thing that came to mind, but this skill is learned. The technique, you study and you learn from previous examples. Stand up comedian is a very unique career choice.
DD: Yeah, a little bit but people who generally want to do stand up, feel they have a little bit of a calling for it. Being Australian you don’t say I think I could be good at this, you say I won’t tell anyone, I will try it and I hope I am good at it. If you really want to be a comedian you probably will be but you really have to be driven. We’re not brave, we’re not soldiers. It’s confronting. If you have a bad gig you wonder why you do it but there are a lot of rewards to it as well.
RM: Did you ever have any career concerns?
DD: It took me until I was 31, so there was something that was terrifying me about doing it. I remember seeing a Jimeoin interview and he said he didn’t want to wait until he was 40 to try it. That sort of galvanised me into action.
RM: How does your previous work relate?
DD: Probably not at all (laughs). No it does. It was a great experience being a journo and I worked with a lot of great people. It gave me the
confidence to give comedy a try. Doing a live cross from a breaking story was ten times more daunting to me than getting up on stage and trying to be funny.
RM: What are the challenges or misconceptions about being comedian?
The biggest challenge is continually trying to write new material and challenge yourself not to stay too long in the one place, professionally speaking. I guess the biggest misconception is that we are “on” all the time. Most comedians aren’t. Often they aren’t really anything like their on stage persona. Sometimes people are a bit disappointed that you’re not cracking gags non-stop. I imagine its much worse for the big names like Hughesy and Carl Baron. I’m sure some fans want them to be exactly like they are stage which would be pretty exhausting.
RM: What is the best part?
DD: It’s just great to be able to make people laugh for a living. Seeing how happy people are after a good show is a great feeling. You also get to travel a lot and no matter how you look at it, working for 30 minutes a night is a pretty cool job.
RM: Do people assume you are funny when they find out you’re a comedian?
DD: They either presume you are funny or that you are some sort of tragic Robin Williams, somewhere in between these guys. I have noticed that sometimes when people find out what you do you suddenly become a lot funnier than you were before they knew.
RM: You mix comedy up with corporate events and TV?
DD: Yes we do. It pays the bills and also gives people an option if their budgets don’t allow them to hire the big names. There’s lots of other great comedians who can give them a great show.
RM: When did you start the
DD: I timed it as close as I could to the GFC, so when the financial world collapsed we were trying to start a little business (laughs). But it was just a website, a mobile phone and away we went.
RM: You are still writing and working on TV as well?
DD: I love writing and working on a variety of shows. In that past twelve months I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with Manspace (Ch 9 Go), Troy Kinne’s hilarious sketch show “Kinne” (Ch 7 Mate) and hosting a real estate show called “Look at Property” (Ch 7’s TV4ME).
RM: What Australian comedians inspire you?
DD: Carl Barron is amazing for a guy has become one of the biggest names in comedy without doing much regular TV or radio. Lawrence Mooney, Dave O’Neil, Jimeoin and Judith Lucy are all favourites. There is a lot very good comedians in Australia and it’s been a great privilege to share a stage with most of them at one time or another.
RM: What about international comedians?
DD: Tina Fey is brilliant. Ricky Gervais, Billy Connolly and Louis CK are right up there. As a kid I used to love listening to Bill Cosby tapes and watching Fat Albert.
RM: How does this career work in with family life?
DD: It’s really good, I have two little girls and a boy on the way in March, you get to spend a lot of time at home and most gigs are just overnight. We live out in the country so we do a lot of bush walking, I do a bit of running, lots of family stuff at the moment.
RM: What’s on the cards for the next six months?
DD: I’m doing another series of the Troy Kinne show on Channel Seven I believe there is another series of Manspace on the cards which will be great. And I presume I’ll be changing a lot of nappies.
Funny Guys – Is the place to hire a comedian for any occasion! They “bring the funny” to all corporate and social events. They know what it takes to make your next event a great one, and will work closely with you to make sure it happens. They can provide comedians for hire all across Australia.
Go to funnyguys.com.au
or call (03) 9696 0202