A Little Laughter

19 June 2012 | 10:52 am | Jake Millar

Jake Miller chats to comedian Tommy Little about using comedy to break down taboos.

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Comedy has always come easily for Tommy Little. And at times perhaps even a bit too easily. “I originally wanted to be an actor, but to be honest I kind of sucked. I would try to do serious monologues and people would just end up laughing,” Melbourne-based Tommy Little admits of his early – if unintentional – comedic gifts. “But comedy was something I'd always thought about doing. I grew up watching Eddie Murphy and I was really fascinated by him. For someone like me who has no natural singing or sporting ability, it was an amazing prospect that you could actually get a job making people laugh.”

And laugh they have. Little has been working as a comedian for the past five years and he's soon to take part in the No Laughing Matter Comedy Gala for the second time. Joining Little on the festival program are Mikey Robins, Greg Fleet, Akmal Saleh and The Umbilical Brothers. The gala, which was initiated to get people talking about suicide prevention, is a cause Little is passionate about. “I became an ambassador for them a couple of months ago and it's such an awesome way to support a charity, particularly something that's such a heavy issue. It's just one of those things that if you don't laugh, you cry. One of the goals of the charity is to remove the taboo around the issue and what better way to do it than to get ten guys from the telly in a room and have a laugh?”

On stage, Little draws as much from his everyday experiences as he does from current events. “It's mostly observational stuff. It's equal parts cock jokes and political commentary... I'm scribbling ridiculous thoughts down all the time, but I also find generally stuffing up in day-to-day life is a pretty solid groundwork for comedy material as well.”

More recently, Little's found the world of politics to be a particularly rich source of comedy gold. “Five years ago I would have said I don't care at all, but as I've got older I've become more interested in it. Even just seeing them in parliament is ridiculous. They're grown adults sitting in a room yelling at each other, while a guy essentially wearing a dress and wig tries to control them. It's hilarious.”

Despite clocking up a fair bit of time on radio and TV lately, Little says he's always keen to get back on stage. “All those things at the start of my career that I thought I liked about my job – the travel, working nights and so on – the longer you go on, the less you enjoy them and I've found I really just love performing and making people laugh.”

For anyone looking to become the next big stand-up success, Little's advice is simple. “Just do it. So many people say they've wanted to do it for years, and the longer you put it off the less likely it is to happen. People worry about whether it'll go badly, but I've had some terrible gigs over the years. If you just work out why it went so badly and try not to let it happen again, you'll get better. And if you don't, hey, maybe comedy's just not your thing.”