Wil Anderson’s been doing the rounds on the comedy circuit for over a quarter of a century. The award-winning comedian, writer, presenter and podcaster chats about some pretty heavy themes in his shows, all delivered via his signature style of comedy genius.
This month, he’s hitting the Top End stage for a big night of laughs. Tierney Seccull caught up with him to chat about his nail-biting career. And about his not nail-biting.
Can you tell us a bit about your new show, Wiluminate?
I can! Well, I kind of can. The truth of it is … the thing I normally say about comedy is, if you wanna know what I thought the show was, you kind of have to come on the first night, because that’s the only night it’s 100 percent what I thought it was gonna be. Then after that, it becomes a collaboration between me and the audience, you know? They decide which bits they like, which bits they don’t, and I tend to adjust based on that.
I get it – you bounce off the audience and, because it’s live, no two shows are the same based on how your audience interacts with you, right?
Yeah, that’s right … I think that’s what’s great about live stand-up comedy. It’s better to come and see it live than to watch it at home on TV, if you can, because that night will never be replicated again. It’s the idea that we are all here together, tonight, sharing an experience. I do a lot of improvised shows … and the great joy of those shows is that it’s never gonna be replicated again.
Totally get that. Are there any themes for Wiluminate?
The biggest thing that I’m grappling with is that, last year was my COVID show, it was my here’s-what-we-just-went-through show, you know, living in Mullumbimby and dealing with anti-vaxxers, and some strong thematic stuff. You don’t wanna re-tread where you’ve already been. But if you look at the world – like the major themes that are reflected in my show and in my book are COVID, climate change and inequality – you’d probably say those are still the main things affecting the world at the moment.
When you’re a comedian – I was gonna say artist, but let’s go with comedian [laughs] – when you work in the arts, producing a yearly piece of work, sometimes the world hasn’t changed substantially in a year, but our attitudes to living in the world might have. There’s still a lot of people affected by and dying from COVID … but we’re trying to live with it and trying to normalise it, you know? And so, that’s very interesting to me as a theme, because as a comedian, you’re always looking for that gap between what people say or do, but what the reality of the situation is. It’s in that gap where the comedy is.
It feels like the way we are dealing with things this year is very different to last year, and that feels inherently comedic and interesting, if I can unlock exactly what I’m trying to say about that!
You’ve been in the game for over 20 years, so I’m keen to ask how it feels to still be doing what you love, all these years later?
It’s funny isn’t it? Sometimes you just feel, well when I go to the Melbourne Comedy Festival, I still just feel like a kid doing the Comedy Festival for the first time. I still feel very much like every other act that plays that festival, that’s one of the things I love most about comedy … comedy is very collegial. All that matters is, are you funny?
Being able to do it for that long, well, it’s nice. It’s nice to do a job you love at that level ... The funny thing is, I’m nearly 50, and I’ve been doing this for more than half my life, and it doesn’t even really feel like I’ve started.
How good is that? Being the start of a new year, many of us look to bring in some changes – have you got any New Year’s resolutions?
It’s funny you ask that, because if you asked me any other year over the last 25 or 30 years, I would have absolutely told you that, no, I don’t – it’s not my cup of tea! But I’ve bitten my fingernails all my life and I’ve never been able to stop it, like it’s just a nervous habit. I’ve done hypnotherapy, I’ve done everything.
And the nail polish that tastes gross so you don’t chew them?
Yeah, I used to wear nail polish just to try and stop myself from biting my nails, but I was just a really chronic fingernail biter. Even during COVID – wearing a mask and the fact that we were trying not to f--king touch our faces and get germs – I still couldn’t stop. I was so frustrated with myself. This fingernail thing, I felt like, this thing has just got control over me.
So anyway, I read this book and the guy basically says, you’ve gotta wake up and say you’re not a person that bites their fingernails anymore … So January first rolls ‘round, I wake up and I decide to see if this thing’s gonna work. [Since then] I’ve had to get a manicure, I’ve had to learn how to file my fingernails, I’ve been accidentally scratching myself constantly … The dogs are very happy about it, they’re getting lots of scratches. So, not normally one for resolutions, but this year I have one and so far I’ve kept it.
Keep up the good work! My husband has the same resolution, and keeps showing me how long his nails are and makes a bit of a check-me-out face when he has to trim them [laughs]. So other than definitely not biting your nails, because you’re simply not someone that does that, any plans while you’re in town?
I will say I always have a good time when I’m in Darwin, but then I s’pose that’s not an uncommon story when people come to Darwin [laughs]. One night we ended up at a nightclub, Tom Ballard was supporting me at the time, and we ended up at, I think it was called Throb? There were some girls on a hen’s night and they had a giant inflatable penis, so they got a photo with us and it got in the NT News.
I won’t lock anything in just yet, these days I’m much more of a go home immediately after the show kind of guy, but you never know!