Tommy Little is as upbeat and charming in conversation as his stage persona. The comedian has a reputation for being the life of the party, but now he’s hosting breakfast radio on Melbourne’s Nova, so he’s cut back on the partying. “If I don’t have to be up for anything, I will drink until I’ve defecated in my pants, but unfortunately that’s pretty rare – or fortunately, for those around me. I think I’m charming when I’m drunk. There’s a lot of evidence out there to say the otherwise,” he laughs.
Little’s rise to mainstream prominence – and ubiquitous billboards in his home city – is remarkable for the speed at which it has all happened for him. It’s a point he acknowledges in his latest show, Middleclass Gangster. This time last year, he says, he was barely able to pay rent.
“I’ve done three TV shows and had a full-time breakfast radio gig; I’ve done what could be considered someone’s whole career in the space of a year,” he says. “Sure, it could all end tomorrow, but yeah, literally just before [Melbourne] Comedy Festival last year I was living in a derelict place and I was living week-to-week and it happened really quickly.
“I keep kidding myself that I’m coping with the hours of breakfast radio fine but I’m crying a lot more than I used to,” he jokes. But Little is enjoying the ride. He uses words like ‘great’ and ‘fun’ frequently and there’s no doubt he’s“loving the job”. His Nova co-host, fellow stand-up Meshel Laurie, plays a big part in that enjoyment.
“I love doing it,” he says. “It’s the best job I’ve had and I have the joy of working with the gorgeous Meshel Laurie and she makes life pretty easy. If you’re gonna wake up at this stupid time of day you want to do it with someone you like, and she just makes me laugh every morning.”
At the other end of the day, his live show sold well throughout its Melbourne season, and he’s bringing it to Sydney this month. In Middleclass Gangster, Little talks about acting alongside Claudia Karvan on ABC’s The Time Of Our Lives, but although he trained as an actor it’s stand-up that’s now his passion. It’s also paying him enough to splurge on one particular treat he discusses in his routine as well. He’s still coming to terms with living in the “middleclass” of his show’s title, meaning the novelty of being able to pay rent hasn’t worn off yet.
“It’s honestly a level of comfort I didn’t think I’d have and it’s so nice. People say money can’t buy you happiness. That is bullshit. Money can rent you a nice house that has heating and that makes me happy.”