"It's quite a challenge to talk about hardcore depression and make it funny. Especially when you're depressed."
It's hot in Adelaide, and Steve Hughes has slept in. Despite background noises that suggest he's fixing himself a much-needed cup of tea, he's in a pretty chipper mood.
"The shows are great, the audiences have been great. It's the first run of this show so there are always a few things that need to get ironed out, but it's a lot easier to do that with responsive audiences."
Hughes hasn't performed any festival shows since 2014, during which time his life was turned on its head. "I've written a show about it. I figured I could bullshit and tell everyone that I've been on holiday. That's the thing about comedy, you can talk about stuff."
"For my entire life I've never had a beer at home. It's because beer doesn't really taste that good!"
Those changes include a severe breakdown and subsequent plunge into deep depression — "it wasn't just depression that I was suffering, it was adrenal fatigue; burnout" — a serious car crash and a broken heart. "It's quite a challenge to talk about hardcore depression and make it funny. Especially when you're depressed. But it seems to be working."
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Contrary to the stereotype of the thrash metal drummer-turned-international comedian (admittedly, it's not a common career path), illicit substances weren't the target. "I wasn't even ever that fucking bad. I hardly ever drank, I sometimes do drugs. I've had friends who have been addicted to drugs; that was never an issue for me.
"Booze was never an issue either. If I had six months off, the idea of drinking wouldn't cross my mind. For my entire life I've never had a beer at home. It's because beer doesn't really taste that good! Not without company, anyway. I'd prefer tea. Juice is much nicer than beer! Soda water is nicer than beer."
Despite his temporary absence from the comedy festival circuit, there was no debate about whether he'd perform his shows in front of big crowds. "I despise small crowds. They're filled with mums and dads who are there for a festival, so it's like sticking fucking Bill Hicks in front of a church hall.
"I've done my time of pushing through gigs where people hate me. I've done hundreds and hundreds of gigs where I just push through, but now I'm at the stage where I say 'I'm not doing this. No one wants me here, I don't want to be here.'"
So far, so good. There's no sign that Hughes will be putting himself out to pasture yet, although as he's recently discovered, there'd be a pretty good argument to step off the circuit and embrace mundanity.
"A lot of people say 'Steve, you've got a great job. My job's boring, the 9-5, five days a week.' The thing about those jobs, though, is at least there's structure. I've come to realise that the body loves structure. That's why you see these people in the countryside who live to be 100 years old, who get up at five in the morning, go to bed at 8pm, have lunch at the same time, the body loves it."