When we first met Anthony Jeannot way back in 2014 with his show Unaccept-a-bubble, it was clear he was going places. The bubbly, affable story-telling comedian clearly had talent, charm and a whole host of excellent jokes (we saw more proof of it in Rage Against the Man Child). We just didn’t think his going places would mean going to, well, London. Luckily for us, Jeannot is back in the country (and in Melbourne specifically) with his latest critically acclaimed show. And even luckier – he’s recording it. We caught up with Jeannot to chat about why he moved, what’s changed, and what his 14 year old self has to say.
Like many comedians before you, you moved to the UK! Was this a personal choice, or a career choice?
It was an everything choice. I guess I kind of felt stuck in all facets of my life and wanted a fresh change. Some people get a new haircut, I decided to move to the other side of the world, where people sun bake in the park lying on aluminum to attract the sun on 13 degree days.
What’s it like, being an Australian comedian in the UK in 2019? What translates, what doesn’t? How does the scene in London differ from the one here in Melbourne?
The first thing you notice is just how punchy everyone is over here. I think Melbourne is very festival-centric, so you get amazingly gifted storytellers with deft little jokes building up to one big one, but it does ask for a lot of trust (or patience) of the audience. When I moved over Iearned pretty quickly not all audiences have that trust here…and as a result, most comics are rapid fire with gags and there is less storytelling. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t translate, it just means that doing anything more long form is a bigger risk, because if it tanks it really tanks.
The second thing is just how god damn big the scene is you can gig for months without really seeing the same face twice. If, as a comic, you ever want to ruin your delusion of being special for getting up on stage, come to London. Every second person is a comic, singer, poet or theatre performer.
You also had your first Edinburgh Fringe experience in 2018. What was that like, as a UK-living Aussie? What advice do you have for any up-and-comers thinking about doing their first fringe show?
Fringe is bloody massive, you’re competing with around 4,000 different shows. It makes Melbourne Comedy Festival look like a Wodonga Arts and Crafts fair for size and scale. You will be flyering a person to your show, and a magician will be flyering alongside you doing crazy magic tricks, and then they’ll make the person who you’re flyering disappear (not with skill, people just hate magicians)… I think coming from Australia, most people with experience going to Edinburgh are established acts. Living here in the lead up I got to talk to other new acts about how to tackle fringe as a new act. I also was lucky enough to work with John Gordillo, who’s a director who works with new acts but has previously worked with some really big names (inc Dylan Moran and Eddie Izzard, clang). It was super helpful and gave me confidence that the show could hold up.
This show is based around a letter you wrote yourself when you were 14. You’ve been incorporating the idea of your 14 year old self into your shows for a few years now (since Rage Against the Man Child in 2016). What draws you back to that time in your life?
I think our generation is in the Goldilocks zone of being slapped by past generations. In that every generation before us grew up with a better quality of life than the past generation, and we were told the same would happen. And it didn’t. The zoomers now, they grew up knowing they’d have it tough, but we had the absolute cruelty of hope, a quality of life was on the horizon and then taken away. I think the comparison of expectations of us as a kid to the reality of us as adults reflects that pretty well. Like, we won’t own a house, but brunch food got heaps better so swings and roundabouts.
This show does use the letter from Rage Against the Man Child in 2016. It also borrows themes from the three shows I’d done in Melbourne before relocating. Essentially, I took all my material, and said ‘what am I trying to say here’ and then went and arranged and wrote the best show I could around it.
Do you think there’s anything we could learn from 14 year old boys?
Boys specifically, no. I do think, as cliche as it may sound, for the most part, teenagers have a naviety that lends itself to idealism that makes sense in theory. Which is one of the many reasons why the school strikes have inspired the first mainstream climate change activism. On the other hand, 14-year-olds are directly responsible for Limp Bizkit and Fred Durst in general, so they can’t really be trusted.
If there was one thing you could tell all the 14 year old boys in the world, what would it be?
The boring serious answer is that there isn’t really a universal bit of information that would be useful for any demographic at any age… But I guess, when it comes to 14-year-olds in general the truth is, you’re probably going to hate your current taste in music when you’re older.
Your show has been described as “a hilarious haunted house of existential angst”. How do you find humour in angst, and why do you think it’s so relatable to audiences?
I think in general, my comedy is kind of like me holding up bits and pieces of things I’ve learned or been through and going ‘looking at this, what in the f… is this? Why?’ and kind of manically looking for meaning in the mess. I think it’s generally relatable for people in our generation because as I said earlier, we’re kind of the first generation to have the carper pulled from under us, and we’re trying to make sense of the reality of it in our adulthood. Hearing other people’s experiences is carathatic in way. I’m sounding super self-indulgent at this point. Come to my show, I’m a shaman and healer (I’m not, I’m just an idiot, with a microphone saying some things. I hope they’re funny).
The show looks at change – how people change, how dreams change. How have you changed as a performer since we first met you (on stage) in 2014? Has living and performing in the UK changed your approach to comedy?
Not as much as I’d like is my answer. And I think the answer most people should give but not enough do.
What prompted you to come “home” to record this special?
It’s a show I was really proud of, I was always planning to record it, but I actually had no plans to perform it in Australia. But then, when I booked my trip in (originally for my sisters wedding) I thought, why not record the special at home and have the opportunity to perform something I’m really proud of at home.
The show is nearly sold out! Where will people be able to buy and watch the special once it’s done?
Spotify, Bandcamp, Youtube, iTunes, Soundcloud. For me, I just want as many people to see the show as possible. So I’ll be posting short clips everywhere with links to the full show. But at the time of writing there are still 20 or so tickets, so buy them first, there’s nothing like being in the room.
Anthony Jeannot is recording his stand-up special at Caz Reitop’s Dirty Secrets on Sunday 13 October 2019. You can still buy tickets via trybooking.com, or follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyJeannot to find out when you can stream it.