“I like the idea of potentially being a part of someone else’s escapism” – an interview with comedian Tommy Dassalo

Tommy Dassalo has a lot of stuff going on. He’s got three podcasts on the go, runs a comedy room on Tuesday nights in Fitzroy, and continues to produce new stand up comedy shows every year. At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Dassalo’s solo show involves an audience-read-along, with a picture book designed and drawn by the artist himself, which is pretty damn exciting. He’s currently testing out the show down in Tasmania, but he kindly took a moment to respond to some questions about comedy.

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What’s it like running Catfish comedy alongside Ben Vernel? Would you ever run a room alone?

It’s great! I don’t know if I could handle running a room alone. Stand-up is already a pretty isolated experience, especially at a Festival where you do your show by yourself every night, and have no one to confer with if it’s good or bad. My favourite thing about running a gig is that I get to hang out with my friends every week.

What are the major differences you’ve found between The Little Dum Dum Club and Filthy Casuals (or any of your other podcasts, for that matter)?

So, for context, The Little Dum Dum Club is a podcast that I do with Karl Chandler, where we interview comedians and just dick around. It’s not really about anything. Filthy Casuals is a podcast that I do with the aforementioned Ben Vernel, and Adam Knox, and it’s about video games. So Filthy Casuals is way different because I can talk in depth about a specific subject that I’m really interested in (video games) and because we’re reviewing and discussing the medium, I’m a little more relaxed if it’s not always funny – as long as it’s at least interesting or informative.

What’s the strangest thing a listener of Dum Dums has ever done?

Someone just recently made these incredibly detailed talking dolls of Karl and I and mailed them to us anonymously. There’s a lot of things that happen that are fundamentally just nice things – e.g. a few years ago I talked about wanting to go to Japan, and a listener posted me a bunch of brochures and guidebooks from when he went – but that still feel strange because it’s like, I’m just talking about this thing in my living room and I forget that people hear it and are interested and want to contribute.

What’s the strangest thing an audience member has ever done at one of your gigs?

About three years ago during my Comedy Festival show, there was a guy in the third row, in a suit, by himself. He was laughing a lot for the first ten minutes. Then he went ‘ooooh!’ at a joke that was not even close to being racy. Then he fell asleep for the rest of the show. After the gig he came up to me and said ‘mate, that was one of the best things I’ve ever seen.’ I think that he maybe he had a dream about some wild Cirque Du Soleil shit and thought that it was a part of my show.

Live podcasts can be notoriously raucous, with technical difficulties and drunken revelry. What’s the best thing that didn’t get recorded properly (drunk casts not included!)?

We’ve only ever done one episode that didn’t get recorded properly. We used to record in a radio station and we had Wil Anderson on the show. It was a really great episode. Karl got a call from the police and answered it in the middle of the show. Really great stuff. When we finished recording, we couldn’t find the file on the system. This had happened before, about six months earlier, with Shaun Micallef, but someone who worked at the radio station found the recording buried deep in the system. We thought maybe the same thing might happen with the Wil episode, but alas, it’s gone forever.

How do you feel about your listeners? What kind of relationship do you have with them? (Do many hit on you? Do you get creeped out by how much they know about you? Do they come up and complain about some specific offhand thing you said two years ago? That kind of thing)

All of that happens except for the hitting on me thing. It’s weird when someone comes up and yeah, they know all this stuff so to them it’s like this intimate relationship, but you know nothing about them. And I get it, I’ve been on the other side of that with podcasters and writers who’s work I really like. It is a weird relationship though. I’ve had a lot of major life stuff happen to me in the time that we’ve done the show, and I’ve talked about nearly all of it. I have close friends and family members who find out more about me from listening to the podcast than they do from me directly.

How is it working with Karl every week for over four years?

It’s good! That’s the thing about doing a podcast: you’re not contracted together or anything. If we didn’t like doing it, we wouldn’t still be doing it. We’re like an old married couple at this point.

Why do you do comedy? 

I don’t really know. I know that when I was a kid I liked playing up and I liked attention so I’m sure that’s part of it. I guess there’s a lot of negative bullshit in the world and for me I’m really happy when I’m listening to music or reading a comic or playing a game that I really like, where I can just forget about everything else that’s going on. So I like the idea of potentially being a part of someone else’s escapism or distraction or whatever you want to call it.

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What drew you to drawing (and animation)?

Again I can’t really remember a clear point. I just always remember drawing. My dad’s an architect and he paints a lot. He reckons I get it from him and maybe he’s right. I was in hospital a lot when I was a kid and drawing is an ideal indoors activity, so it really helped me through that. Doing heaps of drawing and studying heaps of illustrated books over that time period is probably really what solidified my interest in it.

If you got given funding to make whatever the hell you want, what would it be? (Would it be particularly different from what you’re doing now, or just a similar project with more extravagant production values?)

That’s a great question. I’ve always wanted to have my own animated show since I was kid, so maybe something like that. Or I’d use it to make more episodes of Fully Furnished, which is a pilot that I made with Tom Ballard (you can watch it online here). I love working with Tom so I would love to make more episodes of that show.

What’s the most difficult thing about the Melbourne International Comedy Festival?

Trying to keep your head down, focus on your own shows and not compare yourself to your peers.

Where’s the best place for a sneaky post show snack?

Well, my venue is right near some of my current favourite places to eat: 8 Bit Burger and Belleville – 8-Bit does great burgers and Belleville has a poutine that me and my friend Talia are obsessed with, as well as being a really great bar. Also I’m sure I’ll be putting in a lot of time up at Kokoro Ramen during the Festival as well. I’m gonna get so fat this year.

What’s the best bit of guidance you’ve been given about comedy festival shows?

That thing that I said before about not comparing yourself to others! It’s the best advice and also the most difficult to follow.

Finally, of course, which shows are you making time to check out during the 2016 MICF?

Kyle Kinane, Chimp Cop, Anne Edmonds, Becky Lucas, Aunty Donna… but I’m on at 8:45 so I’m probably going to miss everything.

 

Little Golden Dassalo is on at the Downstairs Lounge at the Grand Mercure Hotel from March 24 until April 17 every day except Mondays at 8:45pm. Tickets range from $19 to $25, and are available online, at the door, and at the MICF box office outside the Town Hall. 

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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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