“I’d probably be a tree surgeon”: Penny Greenhalgh on POP POP

You’ll probably recognise Penny Greenhalgh as “one of those girls on the Checkout”. It’s true – she is a regular cast member on the ABC show, as well as 2013’s election special the Hamster Decides. But she’s also a physical comedian, a stand up, a writer and director. Her debut solo show Pop Pop is on at the Forum during this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival. So we interviewed her about that.

You’ve got an eclectic and impressive background, from the world renowned clown college L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier to a regular cast member on a whole host of the Chaser’s shows. How would you describe the kind of comedy in Pop Pop?

Pop Pop is a big mix of all the things I like. It’s a bit weird and non-linear, it’s fun and idiotic, there are sketches, it’s kind of clown-y, maybe it’s slightly absurd. Mostly it’s just funny.

What television show is your style most like?

I really don’t know. I’ll sound like a jerk if I say Broad City because Abbi and Ilana are queens, but I’m really into the way they’re silly funny. They are a big pair of idiots just being their joyful selves, and that’s what I’ve tried to do with Pop Pop.

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If you could open for any comedian, who would it be?

Kirsten Wiig if she ever did a live show.

How has L’Ecole Philippe Gaulier changed you as a performer?

Big time. It’s made me really brave and unapologetic. I take bigger risks now and don’t freak out so much when the audience isn’t into it, just take the hit and keep going.

Philippe’s biggest thing is that you have to bring the joy. Having fun and sharing the fun with the audience is what matters most, more so than good material or good costumes or whatever. Learning that has definitely made be a better performer.

Does your writing process change much between writing something for the stage, like Pop Pop, and writing for the screen, like your short film?

I have no idea what I’m doing when I’m trying to write something. The process is never the same, I just make it up as I go along. For Pop Pop, I had a couple ideas of the kinds of things I wanted to do, then I spent 10 days holed up in the woodshed on my parent’s farm filming myself being an idiot. At the end of that I had a good idea of what I thought was funny, but absolutely no idea if I was right or not. It was only after I had performed it for an audience for a couple of weeks in Adelaide that I felt like I was getting the hang of it, and even now the show is still evolving from night to night.

If you weren’t doing comedy, what would you be doing?

Probably being a tree surgeon or something.

As a Sydneysider, what’s your favourite thing about the Melbourne comedy scene?

The super convenient public transport situation.

Which acts are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s comedy festival?

Helen Duff Vanity Bites Back, Barni Duncan Calypso Nights, Tessa Waters WOMANz, Jon Bennett It’s Rabbit Night, Zoe Coombes Marr Dave, Eddie Sharp Magnum Opus, Josh Ladgrove Dr Professor Neal Portenza’s Catchy Show Title and Alice Fraser Savage. For starters.

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Til Knowles

Writer, radio maker, aspiring academic (read: student). Geeky for comedy, podcasts, science fiction, books, comics, television, film and theatre. Til is the Melbourne editor of Popculture-y.

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