A multidisciplinary performer, Michael Hing has been busy this past year. In between comedy shows, he has also lost his agent, gained a new radio job, and was asked to be the artistic director of the comedy stage at Splendour in the Grass. It’s a year which is the focus of his show this year at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – Much Ado About Not Hing.
You’ve got a pretty impressive resume, which includes producing comedy shows. What has producing taught you about performing?
Haha, there is nothing impressive about my resume. I’m a university drop out who now plays video games and tells dick jokes for a living, nobody’s looking at me as a role model for their career! In terms of producing and performing I actually think they’re really different skills. Producing is all about being pragmatic and actually getting stuff done and for me, performing is a lot about forgetting any and all of your limitations and just doing the thing that you’re passionate about. I guess there is some overlap.
Lots of people will recognise your name from Triple J, but I recognise it because of the poster in the loo at SYN. How would you describe your radio career?
How would I describe my radio career? Haphazard? Not really a ‘career’? Haha. I’m very grateful for the cool radio stuff I’ve had a chance to do. The triple j stuff was always a dream since I was 12 or 13, and it’s the best place in the world to work. I’ve done a bunch of community radio stuff that I’ve found really rewarding. I guess, like, the radio stuff is just all those years of making mix tapes for girls I liked finally paying off. I get to play music I love to all kinds of people and chat about artists I find genuinely inspiring. It’s the best. Also, I’m on a poster in the loo at SYN? I had no idea. I guess I’m just happy to be anywhere.
Ben Jenkins and you also do a weekly podcast in which the two of you and a guest ‘trawl through the classifieds’. What promoted the creation of the show?
It was two things. It was a few years ago when Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post, I read an article about how the internet had killed of print classifieds. And I remembered how much I loved going through them as a kid searching for treasures. I also am obsessed with the missed connections section of Craigslist and find it truly fascinating. Ben and I have been friends for years and I wanted to start a new podcast, so it all just kinda came together. People seem to enjoy it, which is great, but also, like, a lot of the comedy isn’t Ben and I, it’s the weirdos who post crazy shit on places like Gumtree and Craigslist.
Your new show Much Ado about Not Hing discusses things that have happened to you over the past year. How, if at all, does the show differ stylistically from previous years’ shows?
Some comedians find a thing they’re really good at and are able to turn that into a repeating, marketable, reliable, quality show year after year. I don’t know that I’ve done that. I feel like my comedy changes a lot year to year, but maybe I’m the only one who notices because I’m so in the thick of it. Hopefully it’s getting better, but it’s not really for me to say, is it. I started off doing pretty overtly political stuff, stuff about racism and equality, and then last year, well, last year the show was about love and was an hour long true story that spanned like 12 years of my life. This year, the show is just the 6 or 8 funniest things that have happened to me. I think this show focuses more on ‘comedy’ than anything I’ve ever done before, which is a weird thing for a comedian to say, this many years into what you could liberally describe as his career, but here we are.
You’ve got a few comedy festivals under your belt – what’s the best way to stay calm and focused during MICF?
The two biggest things that have worked for me, have been learning to chat to comedians without having to be drunk, and forcing myself to do some sort of exercise during the day. The first couple of years I came down to Melbourne I partied heaps and suffered a lot, luckily I didn’t have to perform because I was producing. Now, I can’t imagine trying to do the show while hungover. Some people are energised by that kind of thing, I am far too fragile, haha. But it’s such a party vibe and you don’t want to be a downer on other people’s festival, so yeah, I had to learn how to hang out with my friends until 3am at the festival without getting drunk. And yeah, running. I try to run a bit before each show, just to get my head into gear and chill out a bit.
In another interview you said one of your favourite things to do during MICF is just hang out with other comedians and eat dumplings late at night. So where’s your favourite dumpling spot? (This is definitely not so our readers can stalk you lot.)
We usually go to Noodle Kingdom, but like I’m open to suggestions?
Finally, you generally don’t shy away from the intersection between politics and comedy – do you think that politically charged comedy is becoming more acceptable? (Thinking Nazeem Hussain, Aziz Ansari, Hari Kondabolu, etc.)
Hmm.. I think stand up has always been political. The tradition we basically come out of is the sort of, Lenny Bruce / Richard Pryor tradition, y’know? People like that pioneered this form, and they were all reacting to their time and their culture, and those kinds of things are innately political because just talking about your life will almost always be political. Often in stand up, you’re standing in front of people and talking, trying to persuade people of a point of view which is like, the same physical act that politicians do, so there’s always going to be crossover.
In terms of its acceptability, I wonder if it ever really went away. I know before I did comedy, I would often find myself appreciate the simplicity and insight with which comedians could and would dissect social issues. Hopefully this is something that never changes. It’s a wonderful thing.
Michael Hing’s ‘Much Ado About Not Hing runs from the 26th March to the 19th April at the Portland Hotel. Tickets start from $15 – get them online or at the door.