Farewell To The Funnyman

3 April 2012 | 9:12 pm | Baz McAlister

Justin Hamilton tells Baz McAlister that The Goodbye Guy might be his Comedy Festival farewell.

The Goodbye Guy is all about grief, says Justin Hamilton. About frustration. About the battle to maintain artistic integrity. “The premise is about me working for a comedy website, and my alter-ego Jason Harrington from [my shows] The Killing Joke and Goodbye Ruby Tuesday has bought it, and become my nemesis, through trying to make it into something I'm not interested in being a part of,” Hamilton explains.

Chatting to Hammo about the show, it's definitely a case of 'write what you know'. Recently the comedian has been kicking goals in new areas. His podcasts Can You Take This Photo Please and The Shelfcast (with Adam Richard, which spun off from the show they host periodically at The Toff) have found an audience. He's also been making some headway in bashing out a manuscript – but every year, at a certain time, muscle memory kicks in and he feels he has to start writing a show for the festival, leaving no time for other pursuits.

“Writing a festival show is so obsessive – it has to be if you want to get it right,” he says. “And I honestly don't know what I get out of a festival any more. I've learnt all the lessons I can learn, and you can't make a living from it. So it feels like now is the right time to take on new challenges. So this'll be the last show for the foreseeable future.

“I'm not saying I won't write shows,” Hammo clarifies, “but I doubt I'll do them in the festival. I'll do them on my own terms. I might spend 18 months playing around with writing one, and then when I do decide to perform I'll pick the venue I want, and only do as many shows as I want to do, and take it on the road when I feel like it. That feels a lot more interesting to me.”

Around the end of 2010, Hamilton spent a few months in Los Angeles, and says the lessons he learnt from seeing how things are done there spurred him on to break out of his comfort zone.

“There's a lot of fear in Australian artists,” he muses. “We like to talk about new things, but to actually do it, we have such a small market we're afraid. Like the ABC show Outland – it was good, but they really dropped the ball on marketing it. If something doesn't fit into a natural category, rather than try to work out how to think outside the box, people just go 'Ah, um ... oh, too hard' and walk away from it. Why work with those people? Find your own way.”

And indeed Hamilton has, transforming himself through grit and boldness into an artist actively chasing that frisson of fear.

“I'm up for a roll of the dice,” he says. “If I wanted a safe life, I'd get a 9 to 5 job. Definitely I'd feel comfortable heading off to do a novel for a while. I just want to be in control of things, and if they fail, they fail because of me. I could write a book and not make any money from it, and at least I'll have a pile of Christmas presents to give away. You can't do that with posters and flyers for a comedy show. I've tried. Won't make that mistake again.”