Connecting with Dave Hughes took a bit of doing: we had to catch him en route from Adelaide to Sydney for the chance to talk. Comedy’s favourite Great Aussie Bloke says he likes being busy. “I’ve been busy for years. I was doing radio in the morning and television at night, for years every day was bookended like that,” he says.
Now Hughesy is back into delivering straight stand-up after a gap of 12 years, performing every night, and he just loves the freedom to say whatever he wants since quitting radio and TV last December. “On television you’re restricted in what you can and can’t say; onstage I can say what I think’s funny. It’s an absolute joy.”
There’s no danger of Hughes running out of stuff to talk about. “I’m onstage every night with different material,” he says. In answer to the question of whether or not he will ever run dry, he says he’s only onstage for an hour so it isn’t a problem. More than a decade of ad-libbing on breakfast radio means he’s able to find a laugh in anything, usually himself. For most of us, thinking of things to say in public for a minute, let alone an hour, would be a form of torture. But when Hughes says he feels “so comfortable” onstage, you have no trouble believing him.
Hughes is one of those comics who simply presents himself before an audience and talks about everyday things. As a performer, he’s a relaxed and approachable Aussie everyman getting riled up about the mundane. His particular comic gift is his idiosyncratic mixture of ire and good humour – his anger at the ordinary is always inclusive and draws people in through shared experiences. Fans feel like they know him personally; he’s everyone’s mate, delivering observations on life in his distinctive Aussie drawl.
Pointless, Hughes’ new show for the Sydney Comedy Festival, sees him talk about his own world: raising three kids under six alongside his wife, Holly. “I’m ranting on about my life as a minor celebrity and a father of three. That’s the crux of it … My comedy is mostly funny stories about things that have happened to me, and I try to embellish it for comic effect.”
The stories in Pointless, alongside domestic yarns about fridges, washing machines, the family dog and the weird stuff kids say, include his former life interviewing celebrities for Channel Ten’s The Project, co-hosting footy show Before The Game, and of course the years he worked on Melbourne’s Nova with Kate Langbroek. There’s also a mention of being a spokesperson for SPC Baked Beans and an insight into his no-fail jaffle recipe.
The secret to stand-up success, says Hughesy, is no more mysterious than accepting that life is finite and we’re all going to die – the key idea he explores in Pointless. “It’s about seeing the fun in life,” he says. “Life is ridiculous. Life will always be funny. Living is a silly thing to do.”
The pointlessness of life might not strike you as essentially hilarious, but Hughes reckons this awareness is all that you need to be a comedian. So why don’t more people do it? “I think everyone could do it,” he says. “As long as you can see that life is silly … Life is ultimately pointless. Very few of us are going to be remembered 200 years after we die, and even fewer 500 years after we die. So there’s nothing to worry about. We rush around taking life so seriously and that’s what is ridiculous. You and everyone you know will be gone. It’s a good thing to be aware of.”
Hughes’ advice for new talent looking to break into comedy is simple: perform. “Make a lot of mistakes,” he says. “There’s no training for it, you train on the job. Do the comedy rooms, and remember that if you’re not getting a laugh then that will be very funny to many other people.”
It mightn’t be a comforting thought for some of us but it’s worked for him. Hughes adds that getting “in the face” of bookers of comedy events and venues is the way to go. “Annoy the organisers – well, not annoy them but get in their face, prove you’re willing to work. Turn up even if you’re not booked and say, ‘I’m here and happy to go up.’ Horse’s mouth, people.”