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The existentialist

Apr 24th 2012 | Sam Hobson

If there's one thing that Rhys Nicholson brings to gay comedy, it's a sense of fascinating, no-holds-barred existentialism. Now, that sentence may seem like it ends in a clunker, but hear me out. Nicholson talks about the very essence – be it lavender, be it white and globular, be it the universal and atomic essence – of being gay. He talks about it in a way that's funny – duh – but from a constantly evolving, experiential standpoint. To call him a 'conduit' into that world for us rigid straight-walkers would be to patronise; no, Nicholson is an incisively intelligent and uproariously provocative commentator; he's a man on the inside, not afraid to pull out for a sec and let everyone know exactly what it feels like. The good and the bad.

“My show's kind've got a loose, kind've vague through-line about moving from the smallish town that I grew up in, to Sydney,” Nicholson starts, “but it's mostly just me talking about my own problems, and what I think is wrong with everyone else. It's just kind've a mass exodus of all my issues with everything. There's a lot of swearing, a lot of awkward sexual stories; [particularly] a lot of those two.

“And I feel like your first show has to be an introduction,” he continues. “In a kind of 'you don't know who I am right now, so I need to tell you all of this stuff' sort've way.”

And, as the imperative above would suggest, yes: his show's rather an 'introduction by fire'. A purging. And, not censoring himself in his shows, Nicholson says, is the most effective way of getting across the reality of everything he's saying.

“[It's] exactly that, but in a kind've douche-baggy, wanky kind've-way,” he quips. “When I first started, I wanted to just be the opposite of what a lot of gay comedians were, which, at the time, was just a stereotypical 'talk about celebrities' caricature of [gay people]. I tried to [say] 'no, that's not what we're all like,' and 'I'm going to tell you really hardcore stories about my life' and not mention Britney Spears at all.”

But, because he's smart, he doesn't make being 'affronting' or 'taboo-breaking' his MO, or the singular focus for his show. He's also careful to never get too serious about what he does.

“I think – and every comedian says it – 'oh, comedy's just like therapy', it's not necessarily that, but it's a way that you can publically get things out of your system. It's the most wanky, arrogant profession that you can do, which is ironic because we're all self-loathing people. But that's why it works. Happy comedians, I don't trust.”

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