“Too much busy head lately.” That’s how Sam Simmons describes his mental state from the back of a cafe somewhere in Sydney. The comedian, known for his eccentric performances and his full embrace of the absurd, is back in Australia for an encore run of his festival show A-K.
Premiering back in January with a sold-out run at the Sydney Opera House, Simmons has performed the show both nationally and internationally to his now-standard bevvy of five-star reviews and packed rooms. Simmons describes the show as a change of pace, focusing more on himself rather than a fictionalised character and a string of non-sequiturs.
“I’ve really enjoyed doing A-K, because it’s a lot more stand-up oriented than my previous shows,” he says. “I feel like the audiences have been liking it a lot more, too, because it’s just me up on stage. I’m not giving them all these concepts and stuff to process – which is the stuff that I love more. For Joe Blow from the general public, though, I can see why this show is a lot easier. I don’t know… I felt like it would be good to do a show that’s just a little bit more personal; about having the baby and stuff like that. It’s a document of that whole year before they were born – I started doing it a month after they were.”
Luna Jinx Simmons is Sam’s first child with producer Rosyln Durnford, whom he married at a live-streamed Vegas wedding in 2013 ordained by an Elvis impersonator (completely true). The family have travelled between Australia, the UK and the US as Simmons has continued to tour and to work on new projects. At the time of the call, though, Simmons is back in Australia by himself. “I flew in to Perth over from LA, and the rest of the family will be over here next week,” he says.
The reason for this is so Simmons can complete work on a new project before performing the final A-K shows at Sydney’s Yack Festival, held at the acclaimed Redfern theatre Giant Dwarf.
“I’ve just had a few days to myself to try and finish up a script I’m working on – it’s pretty hard to do that when you’re continually distracted by baby stuff,” says Simmons.
“This one’s been in the works for awhile – it’s a thing for [US cable channel] FX, and I’ve been working on it with this guy Phil Burgers. I can’t say much about it, but I can tell you it’s about fruit. It’s nearly there – it’s just taken forever to get finished because my co-writer has been pretty busy with other projects. I hope it gets signed off on soon – I need to get it out of my head.”
Sam Simmons at the 2017 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Prior to his appearance at the Yack Festival, Simmons performed A-K at the Fremantle Festival. Having flown in directly from the States, jetlag was a very eager co-star in Simmons’ performances. “I did two of them back to back,” he recalls. “By the time of the second one, it was the equivalent of about 5 am back in LA. It was an absolute mind-fuck.”
Away from finishing the tour of A-K, Simmons has also been hard at work in the acting world. A recent filming gig in the States saw Simmons put to perhaps his most intense workload in his entire career – and that’s no small feat for a man who is touring and performing for most of the year. “I just shot something over in LA which was pretty full-on,” he says.
“I just shot something over in LA which was pretty full-on,” he says.
“I don’t know if you know how filming works, but a normal day of production usually covers seven to ten pages a day. That’s called a page-count. If you were really pushing it, it’d be something like 14 pages. For this shoot, we were doing 41 pages in two days. Oh, and I was starring alongside Jacki Weaver – so no fucking pressure, right? It was a total headfuck. I’ve had that rattling around in my head for weeks – learning it, rehearsing it – and then I’ve kind of had to dump it all out so I can finish working on this draft. It’s just weird how your brain works, isn’t it.”
Soon, however, Simmons will be free. “Fucking home free,” he adds with delight. After taking part in the Yack Festival – “Make sure you go and see the Kates, McLennan and McCartney,” he imparts to anyone who may be reading – Simmons will be taking a much-deserved break over the Christmas holidays. After that, it’s time start work on his next festival show – and Simmons is ready to get weird. Maybe even weirder than ever before. “I’ve already got a great title, and I think it writes the show all by itself,” he reports excitedly.
“The show’s going to be called Sam Simmons in: Radical Women of Latin-American Art, 1960-1985. I got the title from an exhibition at the Hammer Museum in LA. I was really fascinated by it, so I looked at all of the artwork and it’s just beautiful. I think I’m going to just write and present a really fucking weird lecture. I’m really excited about it – it’s probably the first idea that I’ve had in a long time that I’m really, really into. I feel like it’s going to be really old-school me.”
YACK FEST SHOW DATES
Thurs Nov 16
16 November 2017
8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sat Nov 18
18 November 2017
8:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Sun Nov 19
19 November 2017
7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
LOCATION: The Giant Dwarf