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Australian comedian Asher Treleaven, a self-styled dandy who doesn’t look out of place in a three-piece cream suit, attracts more abuse than most – and most of it when he’s not even on stage.

Australian comedian Asher Treleaven, a self-styled dandy who doesn’t look out of place in a three-piece cream suit, attracts more abuse than most – and most of it when he’s not even on stage.

“Usually it’s just people screaming ‘faggot!’,” he tells TNT down the phone from his home in Sydney.

“It’s usually homophobic stuff. In Adelaide, a guy drove past me shouting, ‘nice hat faggot!’. It was an Akubra – the kind of hat your grandfather would have worn to work.

“[The abuse] made no sense, like it would have made more sense if I’d been wearing a cork hat, like a drover’s hat but if, instead of corks, it had tiny penises hanging down which would be brushing up sensually against my mouth and lips – now that would be a gay hat!”

Treleaven chuckles, as well he might.

Obscene sex talk

It is this kind of absurd humour which has helped him turn these homophobic fusillades into an award winning show, entitled Secret Door. The show was a hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe culminating in an Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nomination for Treleaven and is coming to London for the first time.

His performance, Treleaven explains, is part “satirical attack on some poisonous personalities I dislike, part obscene sex talk and part attack on herd mentality, the macho culture which I think is very prevalent in Australia.

“I kind of wanted to look at why men react aggressively when they don’t understand something. What’s the big problem? Why are men so easily spooked?”

A tedious pain in the arse

Treleaven, who takes his sartorial cues from cult director John Waters, grew up in  the sleepy, hippy town of Mullumbimby, where he showed early promise as a shit-stirrer by being expelled from his Year 8 drama class.

“I was a tedious pain in the arse. Can you imagine the seed of a stand- up comic inside a 14-year-old boy?!”

Ironically, he didn’t pursue comedy straight out of school and chose to study at Melbourne’s National Institute of Circus Art before moving to London to become a street performer in Covent Garden. More recently he was part of burlesque troupe Le Clique before launching himself as a comedian in 2006.

He likes to keep audiences guessing with his geeky, camp persona. “This show questions my sexuality a lot too. I like that – when you feel confused about the nature of what you’ve just seen.”

He is also very sexually explicit, a move he describes as being “very deliberate ‘cos no one was being dirty,” he says. “I want to talk about sex and fucking and eating pussy ‘cos we all do it – what’s the big deal?”

The Edinburgh nod is not to be sniffed at – even if he didn’t take the ultimate prize. “It was massive,” he concurs. “A couple of days before I was in the bathroom yelling at myself in the mirror. You want so much for [Edinburgh] to be a big success and if you’re not going to make any impact whatsoever you just freak out.”

Twitter revolt

Apart from some absurd little vignettes, Treleaven doesn’t have much of his comedy online which lends his work an air of mystery. “I don’t feel like every little thing I do I have to put out there,” he says.

“Everyone’s got to have your Facebook, gotta have your Twitter. To quote a friend: ‘when did social networking become the job of a comedian?’.”

Yep, you’ll just have to see the show.

» Asher Treleaven will be perform at Soho Theatre, 2 W1D 3NE 
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
020 7478 0100
Dec 2-4. 9.30pm
Tickets: £12

 

- Alison Grinter


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