Interview with Adam Richard about Gaypocalypse, Spicks & Specks, The Shelf and his busy fabulous life

Adam Richard ended 2013 with a milestone, finishing ten years with Matt & Jo on their high rating breakfast radio show for Fox FM last year. This year he begins a new exciting journey as team leader on the revived and refreshed Spicks & Specks on ABC1. It seemed like a great time to have a chat to him about the past and the future.

At the moment Adam is also busy preparing his new solo Festival show Gaypocalypse  which will be his first in seven years, not to mention all the other things he gets up to. But I will. He and Justin Hamilton have been running the pop up boutique comedy night The Shelf  since October 2011 out of which came the podcast of The Shelf which is like listening to mates having a chat. The live Shelf is also like being audience to some friends getting together and performing for a (rather wild) private party. They pride themselves on being unconventional with a great mix of performers from stand-up to the theatrical. Adam’s other podcast is the Talking Poofy podcast or ‘Poofcast’ with performing buddies Scott Brennan and Toby Sullivan. The podcasts seem to be a bit on the back burner for him at the moment, but will be back hopefully when he finds a pocket of time to pop them in.

Lisa: What led you into the crazy world of stand-up / showbiz?

Adam: There were a combination of factors: I used to go to a lot of gigs with Corinne Grant, so I saw what an exciting medium it could be; one of my old school mates, Katie Pinder, was working for Token (and her dad was John Pinder, who created the Last Laugh) so I was being exposed to some of the best comedy in Melbourne; and my friend Ged was running a comedy room called Elbow Grease that I seemed to end up at every Sunday. These things conspired to convince me to sidestep from spoken word into standup.

Lisa: Who inspired you (comedians or otherwise?)

Adam: I was mostly inspired by the comedians I saw every week, people like Wil Anderson, Meshel Laurie, Corinne Grant, Rove, Dave O’Neil, Brad Oakes, Merrick Watts, Dave Hughes, the late Dave Grant; the people who I was working alongside when I first started.

Lisa: Where & when did you start your live stand up?

Adam: Elbow Grease at Nicholson’s in North Carlton (now a block of flats) December 1996. Ged Wood, who was running it, talked me into it at a party the week before. So I technically started out in 1996, but it was one gig in December, and I don’t think you can really call yourself a comedian until you get paid. That was 1997.

Lisa: You made your TV Debut on Hey Hey its Saturday, was that on Red Faces?

Adam: No. It was my commercial tv debut, I was booked to do standup by the divine Pam Barnes. I had already appeared on the ABC on the Raw Comedy National Final and on Foxtel’s Comedy Channel documentary with Carl Barron.

Lisa: I hear you studied Cinema Studies at LaTrobe Uni for a short time

Adam: Yes I did. Until I came to a realisation during a tutorial where we were talking about Doris Day in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, and I thought “I don’t need to incur a HECS debt for this! I’m a gay man, I can talk about Doris Day at the pub!” 

Lisa: Do you think you perform differently for a gay audience than a straight one?

Adam: I don’t do a huge number of ‘gay’ gigs, but I pretty much give the same performance no matter who is watching. I believe in audience equality.

Lisa: Have you ever had an audience that hasn’t coped with your homosexuality (and/Or) have audiences become more accepting?

Adam: Depends how putrid I’m being. I have had individuals be completely horrified by the fact that I have a voice, and I’m not hiding my sexuality from them, which is what they would prefer.

Lisa: Did being on radio help with audiences knowing what to expect from you.

Adam: Radio audiences are awesome, but chatty! They get so used to participating in the show, being able to ring up and be part of the fun, that if you ask a rhetorical question on stage, they have a tendency to answer you with a story from their own life. You have to politely rebuke them; “you haven’t called thirteen ten sixty, love, this isn’t the fox.”

Lisa: It has occurred to me that your radio persona may have restricted your choices in Festival material. Did you choose your material (often about celebrity gossip) to suit those audiences and will that change somewhat, now do you think?

Adam: Actually, my radio job came out of what I was doing on stage. I did a show in 1999 called Adam Richard in Disgrace which was about gossip mags like the New Idea and Woman’s Day. Talking about celebrities became part of my club and touring routine after that, so that’s what I ended up talking about on Triple J in 2002 and the Today Network from 2003 to 2013. We only really love the kind of gossip about celebrities that we want to hear about the people we know at work and at home; relationship breakups, weddings, babies, death, etc. Those everyday things are what I talk about in my shows, sometimes about celebrities, sometimes about me. That, and zombies.

Lisa: Are you involved with the radio gossip site Scoopla ?  Or is it a clean break?

Adam: No more Scoopla for me. No more Southern Cross Austereo at all! Well, I am still appearing on some of their shows, as well as shows on other networks, as part of my job doing publicity for Spicks and Specks.

Lisa: Has it occurred to you that you have helped pave the way for younger gay comic performers like Josh Thomas, Tom Ballard and Joel Creasey?

Adam: I don’t think I can take the credit for that. I think our society is more accepting of homosexuality than it once was, which has made it easier for comedians to be themselves on stage. If I inspired any of them because they thought they’d be better at it than me, that would make me very happy. A lot of gay men will say to their friends “I’m funnier than him!” but that’s as far as it goes, and it’s easy to say. Getting up and doing the work, day after day, that is hard.

Lisa: I adored Outland

Adam: Thank you!

Lisa: Have you ever thought about doing standup or even a comedy show specifically about your not-quite-so-secret-anymore nerdy side? Do you think there is a comedy audience for that?

Adam: Gaypocalypse will be dealing with some of that. There are zombies on the poster and in the show. Many references to The Walking Dead, for instance. There is a big thread of upheaval and change in my show, so it might seem like a regeneration episode of Doctor Who.

Lisa: Has The Shelf helped you deal comedically with all of that?

Adam: What Justin and I talk about on The Shelf podcast are the kinds of things we’d talk about on the phone, or at a cafe. Well, maybe not entirely, because we have a tendency to get into a shock spiral when we’re alone, where all the most horrendous thoughts and ideas come out and we egg each other on until one of us says “too much.” Which almost never happens.

Lisa: Has The Shelf been a rewarding experience for you? (both live & podcasting)

Adam: The live show is one of the best things ever. I absolutely adore it. I had grown quite fatigued by seeing comedians deliver their tightest material to every single audience, as if the comedy circuit was some kind of bizarre ongoing audition process for a tv show that isn’t on anymore. Those rooms are great for that, and I love playing them, but rather than occasionally subverting the paradigm of a room that is functioning really well as is, it seemed there needed to be a room where comedians could blow off steam whether in a chat, or a sketch, or in the case of Claire Hooper, bizarre arts and crafts. Justin pretty much programs the room, because he does so much more standup than I used to, and he sees who is out there who would relish a chance to do this kind of batshit crazy comedy night.

Lisa: Will your podcasts/poofcasts keep going?

Adam: I don’t have access to the radio studio anymore, but hopefully I can work something out. I haven’t done a solo show in 7 years, and I have never done a weekly TV gig, so I am just sorting out how much time all of that takes before indulging in what is, essentially, vanity broadcasting.

Lisa: Will Festival performing become more difficult (do you think) because of the Spicks n Specks workload. Or will it be easier for not having to be up at godawful o’clock?

Adam: Getting up at 4am is easy. It’s like ripping off a bandaid. It’s the afternoons that are hard. Your brain turns to mud some time after 2pm and you can’t function. You fall asleep around 8pm and your social life is nonexistent. Festival is going to be punishing, because I am working 22 days in a row without a break, doing three stage shows and one tv show all in front of live audiences. I just hope I come out the other end not looking like Hairy McClary.

Lisa: Will you acquire a different audience because of being on the ABC do you think?

Adam: I don’t really know. I was on Spicks and Specks as a guest a number of times, so I don’t know that being on the show every week will make that much of an impact in whether people come to see Gaypocalypse. I am really proud of it, as a show, so far, and I have done a lot more work on it than I would have been able to if I had breakfast mudbrain every afternoon, so I at least hope people come and see what I can do when I’ve had a decent night’s sleep!

Lisa: Are you prepared for the Aunty fan club backlash (they seem to vociferously HATE any change to any aspect of the ABC)

Adam: Weirdly, that fear of change is one of the core themes of Gaypocalypse. The fear our society has that if we allow asylum seekers to have refuge here they will somehow destroy our way of life; the fear that allowing same sex couples to marry will somehow destroy our way of life; the fear that broadcasting a music quiz show without Adam Hills will somehow destroy our way of life.

Lisa: Now we’ve all seen Spicks & Specks on the telly, it looks like a whole heap of fun. Has it been that much fun to do?

Adam: More! It was always a fun show to do in the past, and it is just as fun now. Josh, Ella and I are the only new kids on the block. Everybody behind the scenes has been there for years, and worked with Adam, Myf and Alan. We are in very safe hands, so we just have to turn up and have fun, to be honest. It’s like going to work at an awesome party every week.

Lisa: Do you think this will put you on a different plane or level of fame in Australia?

Adam: Fame should not be a goal, because it is a not an end in itself. Fame doesn’t pay the bills, and fame isn’t something you can list as one of your skills on a CV. Kim Kardashian is famous, but what does she do? I have a job, I enjoy entertaining people, I love making people laugh, if fame is a byproduct of that, and it gives me the freedom to do even more work that I love, then I’m not going to shun it, but I’m not going to chase it around you end up looking like a puppy chasing its tail.

Lisa: What is Gaypocalypse going to be about?

Adam: Gay zombies. Fundamentalists have been predicting apocalyptic disasters if marriage equality is permitted what if they’re right? What if gay marriage will lead to gay zombies wandering around Bunnings, terrorising Aussie battlers? What if gay marriage actually means the end of gay culture and gay society? Will it be the ultimate irony if achieving marriage equality is the thing that makes us all go away?

Lisa: Is this a more politically motivated show than you’ve done before?

Adam: Like all my shows, it’s ultimately quite personal. It’s about my own private Gaypocalypse, and the destruction of my world that was necessary to bring about a new and better one.

Lisa: Will you always be Fabulous?

Adam: Given the meagre budgets at the ABC, I will now insist on being billed as The Affordable Adam Richard. 

Adam Richard – Gaypocalypse is on at The Adelaide Fringe Festival in the Rhino Room from March 4

Adam Richard – Gaypocalypse will also have a season at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival from March 28