Top comic is coming to Colchester Arts Centre

How comedian Adam makes a living by messing around

How comedian Adam makes a living by messing around

First published in Arts & Leisure Essex County Standard: Photograph of the Author by

Adam Hills really is the nicest man in comedy.

It even says so in his press release and, after missing our first chat, he is so apologetic he offers me a drink after his gig at the Colchester Arts Centre this weekend.

“I’ve heard that nicest man thing before,” he laughed, “but I didn’t know they had put it in the press release.

“I had a manager who came up to apologise to me because he once told me at the start of my career I was far too nice to make it in this business.

“He turned around to me and said ‘every time I see you now, I think, ‘wow, I obviously don’t know anything about comedy’. I think I made a point.”

Adam Hills is one of Australia’s most talented and widely respected comedians, but it was as a seasoned stand-up on the UK comedy scene that he first made his name.

And more particularly at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where Adam has performed sell-out shows every season from 2000 to 2004.

Not only that, he has been nominated for the prestigious Perrier Award three times and was the winner of the inaugural Nokia Orange Best of the Fest Award in 2002, and the Forth One Fringe Award in 2003.

That UK fame is now more than replicated back home, thanks to his slot as host of the successful Australian comedy music quiz, Spicks and Specks.

It’s also the reason Adam is making a “quick hit and run tour” of the UK before heading back home to prepare for a stage tour of the television show.

“It’s a bit mad,” he said. “I’m promoting my new DVD, so I’ve done two weeks at the Soho Theatre in London and there’s another 15 dates around the country.

“I’ve also got to fit in appearances on Mock the Week and Ask Rhod Gilbert. Then it’s back home to rehearse the Spicks and Specks Farewell Tour. I’ve also just done six weeks in LA. Not that I’m complaining,” he assured me, “It’s all been a hoot.”

Thankfully, there’s not too much new material to prepare as the premise of his new show is that it’s entirely improvised, well almost.

Entitled Mess Around, it shows Adam at his spontaneous best, feeding off stories taken from the audience, one-liners and a theme that evolves throughout the show’s run.

During its sell-out 2010 Edinburgh run, Mess Around saw Adam hold a staged wedding with a member of the audience, raise more than £8,000 for a children’s hospital in an impromptu charity drive and enlist the help of comedian friends to hold a charity auction involving Jason Byrne’s underpants.

“There’s about 20 minutes of material in there if I need it,” Adam confessed, “it’s just that I never really had to. The thing is I have so much fun ad-libbing with the audience that the show has become just that.

“I think the improvised stuff does come with experience but, even when I was 19, I remember a comedy club promoter back in Australia taking me to one side and telling me to ditch the material and do more ad-libbing.

“There’s always going to be things that you want to say as a stand-up, but the more I do the messing around, the more I’m thinking of keeping it that way.”

Especially when it means organising a fake wedding.

He added: “That was in Edinburgh. This couple had decided to get married during the day and come to my gig in the evening, which I did point out at the gig was just a real cheap way of getting me to play at their reception. Anyway, I ended up re-creating the wedding so I could do a drunk uncle speech.

“They must have enjoyed it because they came to see me at the Soho Theatre a few weeks back and sent me a bottle of whisky back stage as a thank you.

“I brought it on stage to thank them, but then ended up getting some glasses from the bar and gave everyone on the front row a drink.”

Adam Hills: Mess Around is at Colchester Arts Centre,Church Street, Colchester, on Sunday at 8.30pm. Tickets cost £12 and are available on 01206 500900.

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