Just A Fully Naked Encounter is what comic Harley Breen is promising Sydney Comedy Festival audiences. Only he’s fibbing – there will be no gratuitous male nudity; Breen says he’s only exposing himself in the figurative sense.
The Australian stand-up reckons the idea of ‘climbing the comedy ladder’ might too simplistic when it comes to his career. “If it were that easy, if there was a ladder to climb, I’d have climbed it by now!” he says. His comedy is based on everyday life – specifically his own. “I don’t branch out much further than my involvement in life and my interactions with humanity.”
So what exactly is it that makes Breen funny? “A combination of nature and nurture. Most career comics have some kind of dysfunction. My life is fairly funny, being the son of a preacher man. Growing up in organised religion, which I have nothing to do with now, meant that I watched my father perform for 20 years.
“I lost interest at an early age,” says Breen of his Methodist background, “but didn’t back out till I was around 22. It’s taken me the last 13 years to shake it off.”
Does he have a go at his family in his routines? “No, I show them mercy. When I tell my story, it’s all my own journey.
“Christianity is based in narrative, so it makes sense that you might start life as a storyteller. My stand-up is narrative; I don’t try to put jokes into my stories, I just tell them.”
But that’s about where the links between religion and Breen’s comedy end. “It’s pretty bloody blue,” he says. “I really hop over the barrel … I got a wonderful review from the Adelaide Fringe that said, ‘Harley doesn’t just cross the line, he ignores it.’ I tell stories about being a single father, about being a positive role model for my little boy, who’s four, and the difficulties of living a debauched life when you’re a parent. You have to organise your partying. Doing stand-up is not a job that’s conducive to raising a small child.”
Still, Breen hints that there are some areas his comedy won’t venture into. “My job is to make the audience entertained, to make them laugh, not to shock them for the sake of it. [But] you can’t appeal to every person. If you try to do that you’ll be the most bland and beige comic.”
As a rising artist, Breen admits some envy for performers higher up the food chain –“everyone with a stable income,” he says. “People who get to plan their holidays, have them paid for, people with a super plan and sick pay.”
Not that Breen is in it for the money. He was drawn to comedy because he’d had enough of doing everything else. “It’s the last bastion of the idiot,” he says.
With his star still rapidly rising, one of Breen’s career highlights thus far was being compared to a young Billy Connolly. “I am very, very humbled by that remark,” he says. “I adore the guy, as a man and as a performer.”
Harley Breen’s Just A Fully Naked Encounter, as part of Sydney Comedy Festival 2015, is on at Enmore Theatre, Tuesday April 28 – Saturday May 2.