Ahead of his fourth solo show, kicking off at the Brisbane Comedy Festival next month, Rhys Nicholson took some time out to talk about forward thinking, bowties and how he develops his no holds barred style of comedy.
Catching him on his way to see Into the Woods, sadly Rhys says he has no plans to peruse musical theatre, but we can definitely expect another satirical stand-up show this year from the theatrical showman.
What can people expect from your new show, Forward?
This one’s very different. I’m going to try to alternate every two years, from shows like the llama show, which are a little more theatrical and less jokes. They’re mainly just stories this year and opinions. I think Brisbane gets to see (my shows) every year with the most, “Yeah I don’t know where this is going either.” Brisbane is where I have the most fun performing because it’s not completely locked down yet. And because I do a shorter run, it’s bigger audiences as well.
I called it Forward because that’s the most literal way I can put it - looking forward on things. Looking at all the shitty jobs I’ve had in my life and trying to work out whether I made the right decision to be a stand-up comedian and a lot of stories about horrible things I’ve done. That seems to be the same every year: I write a show about trying to be a better person, it hasn’t worked since last year, so here’s an hour of jokes mainly about my penis! And the bowties - I’m selling bowties, so I’ll be talking about them. That’s most of the show – a sales pitch for bowties!
Was fashion design ever the fallback?
I used to enjoy drawing designs for dresses. I did it for a little while when I was about 16 or 17. Then I did stand up for fun and kind of forgot all about it. I started doing the bowties because I get anxiety. Sewing calms me down - using the machine, sitting quietly and sewing something. And I started doing it so much Kyran, my boyfriend said, “You’ve made a lot of bowties. Maybe you can sell some so we can make a profit on all of the fabric you buy.
How many do you think you’ve made?
It’d be in the hundreds. Because every time I make them, I make about 60. And I’ve done a few runs of them. So I’d probably say five or six hundred. It fills the day. I’ve started selling them at markets now as well. If I have nothing to do on a Saturday, I will do a craft market. I don’t know who I am anymore... I apparently work in show business!
I can see why you call yourself Mama Show Business. Where did that nickname start?
I don’t know. I started thinking it was funny to call myself Mama. I started doing it in my own life. Like, “Mama’s tired.” “Oh Mama’s hungry”, “Mama needs a drink”. Then I had a few friends who started calling me that. Then I did it a couple of times on stage and it got some laughs. Then I started opening stories with, “As a mother…” So I realised that I’m essentially doing Drag. I’ve confused pronouns and I’m wearing an inch of makeup. I’m a Drag Queen!
Who do you go to for honest feedback on your comedy?
My managers are pretty honest and my boyfriend is very honest. He can be adorably harsh, which is good, it’s what I need. Because we’ve been together for three years now, I can’t hide from him. He’s my best critic. He can put (criticism) in the best way without making me feel awful.
I used to be very nervous going up on stage years ago without having anything really locked down properly. And I enjoy it more now. I’m doing trial shows at the moment, trying to piece it together and see what it looks like and I’m having more fun having the premise of the joke and talking it out. It’s coming out a lot funnier than when I sit and agonise over it.
I’ve always had in my head that I’m not a good improviser, but I’m getting better. I’ve got a lot of friends who do improv, and it’s what impresses me the most. It’s fun for me to also be surprised at what comes out of my face (laughs).
So where do you take the show to after Brisbane?
So I’m doing Brisbane, I think I’m doing a night in Canberra – so good luck – then Melbourne then Sydney then Perth and then hopefully Edinburgh again.
Rhys Nicholson - Forward
Brisbane Powerhouse - Rooftop Terrace
119 Lamington St, New Farm
March 3 to 8 – Tickets: Tue to Wed $15, Thu and Sun $20, Fri to Sat $25
P 3358 8600 www.briscomfest.com