A Twenty Something Human: Rhys Nicholson
“Look, I have no idea what I’m doing, but people seem to be liking it regardless.”- Nicholson
Do you ever wonder where comedians find the courage to get up on stage and literally put themselves under a spotlight for hundreds of thousands of people to watch, judge and hopefully, laugh? Can you imagine the sheer terror of telling a joke and no one in the room is laughing? You’re standing there on stage and it’s so quiet that you can hear a women in the back row say, “I think it’s time to leave.”Ouch.
Rhys Nicholson has done it all. He started from the bottom (Newcastle, obviously... but I can say that because I used to live there too) and now he has just finished traveling all around Australia and Europe, doing one-hundred solo performances of his show, ‘Eurgh’. He’s fun, cheeky and a little bit crude, but hey, sex sells right? After landing back home from his latest show in London, Rhys Nicholson spoke with us here at Twenty Something Humans about how it all started for him, his advice for budding comedians and what lies in the future for him.
Can you briefly explain your professional journey so far? How did it all start out for you?
I have always been obsessed with comedy. In the house that I grew up in, I’m pretty sure there are still boxes and boxes of Melbourne and Montreal Comedy galas taped onto VHS’s from when I was a kid. When I was 17 I did my first gig and realised it was what I wanted to do.
After I had been in the Grand final of Raw Comedy for the ABC, I saved up as much money as I could, working at Grill’d, and moved to Sydney. Then I was shit broke for 3 years. Now here I am. Still shit broke, but in a suit.
What’s the biggest hurdle you’ve had to overcome so far in your professional development?
I guess the biggest hurdle is the same every comedian has had, trying to make it into a living. It’s a tough industry. Especially at the moment because there is this big boom in comedy. Lots of people are trying to make it as a comic, so there isn’t much room. It’s also taken me quite a while to work out what kind of a comedian I am.
When I started I was very, very aggressive and rude on stage. This meant I could never really do TV or big gigs. In the last couple years I’ve gotten my shit together and things started to get better.
Do you have any embarrassing gig stories?
Oh, lots! No matter how successful you get, there will still be awkward gigs at times. The hardest I have ever bombed was like, two years ago. The MC brought me on to a 12 people audience as “Ryan Nichols”. Then I started my joke to which the crowd stayed absolutely silent for 20 minutes. At one point I, and the rest of the audience, heard a lady say “I think i ready to leave now.” Soul destroying.
What does a day in the life of Rhys Nicholson look like?
Almost all gigs are at night and I try and perform at least 5 nights a week. I try and keep busy and do work at home during the day. Most days, I get up at about 8am. I write as much as I can. I spend most of the day trying to work out how I can trick people into giving me money for things.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished the run of this years show. I did 100 solo shows over 5 festivals in Australia and Europe which finished by filming a DVD of it in Sydney. Now I have to start all over again on a new show that opens in a couple weeks.
Who or what is your creative inspiration?
I like anyone who isn’t afraid to be a bit filthy. People like Sarah Silverman and the film maker John Waters are amazing. My two favourite comedians are Paul F Tompkins and Maria Bamford.
My comedy is nothing like theirs, but they make me laugh the most.
What advice would you give to people that were hoping to enter the comedy field?
It’s a cliche, but work hard. It’s a difficult industry. It could take you years to break any ground. Also shower. Backstage rooms are very small and no one like a stinky comedian.
Do most of your jokes come from personal experiences?
I like to do a mix. I mainly do personal stories, but I will often wildly exaggerate things. I’ve spent a lot of time explaining to my parents that the way that I talk about them onstage is just jokes and it’s not really about them. (It is about them. They’re mental)
Do you get nervous before you go on stage? If so, is there something you do to calm those nerves?
Yeah of course I do. I think it’s unhealthy not to get nervous. That would mean you don’t care anymore. I’m a lot better than I used to be. When I first started, I couldn’t go on stage without being absolutely hammered. I almost never drink before a show now. But afterwards, all bets are off.
Anything else we should know about?
Not really. I’m available for kids parties?
Also, he sells some pretty cool things at redbubble.com. Ever wanted a phone case covered in different Meryl Streep faces? Of course you do.