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The absurdist comedian tells us about his Old el Paso inspiration, the dangers of audience participation and why old ladies love him and sometimes hate him.

Your show Meanwhile has a lot of musical interludes and a trolley fullof props – what’s the inspiration?
I was in Edinburgh last year and I had to get up at an improv comedy night and make something up on the spot. My prop was an Old el Paso taco kit, and that was it – I went, ‘I am going to write a show around that.’ And it has been pretty well received, and nominated for a big award at the Edinburgh festival. If people go with it, then it’s a really fun show, it’s heaps of fun, unless you are a group of 70 dentists, that is.

Seventy dentists …?
At one of the early shows in the run, there was a group booking of dentists for their Christmas party and the problem with that is it becomes their night. It was the night from hell!!

Your show can be quite divisive…
It was more divisive that night than usual, but it can be one of the best things to attach yourself to the villain. I love a villain in comedy, in cartoons, like a Dick Dastardly or Skeletor, so I was trying to recreate that. But why would so many people come and see an absurdist comedian and sit there and be apathetic?

Meanwhile has a lot of audience interaction – does it ever go wrong?
It has only gone wrong once before, but that is part of the show, making fun of audience interaction. I think making fun of someone is quite lazy comedy. You know – ‘Where are you from? Germany…oh no!’ That sort of thing. So I try to play with that.

Do the public surprise you?
I normally pick them out before the show, I look through the curtains because you can tell from someone’s face if they are
gentle or not, and more often than not it really does work.

Do you ever regret your stage choice of blue vest and matching pants?
No, it’s fine, and it helps because it gets hot and I bound around so much. It’s not like I wear tiny shorts in every single live show
that I’ve done. But in this one the combination is hysterical.

There is a lot of material crammed in to every moment of your show, there is little room for pause …
I like that because what I do is different and not really comparable to other stuff going on. I have worked hard to do that, I don’t want to be a straight stand-up. I want to do something innovative. But because it’s different if I give you a moment to stop and think, maybe you’ll stop and think it is a bit shit. So I pummel them with stuff so they haven’t got time to doubt.

Do people have expectations of what an Australian comedian will be?
Over here, there’s a bigger thirst for absurdist comedy. But UK audiences expect an Australian to be straighter, not to be absurd, to be more like Brendan Burns or Adam Hills, so it confronts them seeing an Australian being an idiot.

When did you decide you wanted to be a comedian?
I kind of fell into it. But I’d never call myself a comedian.

What do you consider your job title?
Broadcaster, because of my radio stuff. I was nearly a zookeeper back in Australia, I only had a couple of months left to study, and it is something I want to return to. It’s a necessary life skill, rather than being a professional clown.

Do you get some weird reactions to your show?
I have had old ladies give me standing ovations and old ladies stand up and boo. I have run the gauntlet of all audience reactions.

What ideas have you for the next show?
I am trying to write it right now. I have been hanging out in galleries and museums and looking at taxidermies of animals, that sort of thing. I was home a few weeks ago trying to construct an Ikea flatpack coffee table, which was a source of much frustration, and I thought it might be interesting to stand on stage and try and do that. But then again … I haven’t stopped in about two years.

Is it true you have a goat tattoo on your arse?
Yeah, it was to raise money for the charity Wires [Australian wildlife rescue organisation] which helps a lot of the livestock and native animals threatened when there’s a bushfire in Australia. I said I’d get the tattoo if we raised $10,000 and we raised more than double that.

Sam Simmons: Meanwhile runs until Jan 7 at Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, W1D 3NE


Interview: Sam Simmons on absurd comedy, taco kits, audience participation and why old ladies love him
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