Anarchic fun from Aussie rocker Steve Hughes
NATALIE HALE talks to acclaimed stand-up, hard-edged social commentator and thrash metal fan Steve Hughes.
Inimitable Australian stand-up and former thrash metal drummer Steve Hughes has one of the sharpest minds on the political comedy circuit and this month he brings his provocative brand of comedy to a sell-out crowd in Bristol.
The acclaimed performer is a paradoxical mix of easy going charm and straight-talking anti-establishment humour, who transgresses into taboo territory with honesty and openness.
Steve has been building a vocal and loyal fanbase across the globe, and now, following sell-out shows at the Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne Comedy Festivals, and stellar performances on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow (BBC1) and Stand-Up For The Week (Channel 4), the comic takes his debut solo tour, Big Issue, out on the road.
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"It's my first solo tour, although I have been performing in the UK for 12 years now," Steve tells me.
"The show will be a culmination of a lot of material I've written over the years covering topics such as the war on terror, global warming, health and safety, political correctness the idea of rights and freedom and God.
"So just the myriad things we all seem to be bombarded with every day by the ruling elite-controlled media hell-bent on manifesting a third world war and global annihilation... but it will still be funny!"
In his native Australia, the wiry rocker was a successful heavy metal drummer in the Eighties and early Nineties, playing in hair-raisingly titled bands such as Slaughter Lord, Mortal Sin, Nazxul and Primordial.
But the musician put down his sticks in favour of stand-up and quickly made a name for himself on the Australian comedy circuit.
Steve says the shift from music to comedy was a natural progression.
"I'd done music for 20 years, played hundreds of shows in Oz and overseas, made albums and put every ounce of my existence into music and bands.
"But frankly, to not have that pressure that comes from being in a band was needed. Bands are a lot of work creatively and are a relationship, and relationships are difficult, as we all know.
"I wanted to be able to work in the world outside of Oz my whole life, so comedy gave me that freedom. Plus, I didn't have to lug a drum kit everywhere – with comedy, you just turn up and perform."
Eager to test his comedy stylings in front of a bigger audience, Steve moved to the UK in 2002, performing around the country and putting on a number of Edinburgh shows.
Thanks to some razor sharp material which comes straight from the Bill Hicks school of comedy, Steve soon had us Poms on board.
"It was a big decision to move to the UK," he recalls. "It's always a big decision to go anywhere from Australia, never a whim.
"I just figured that the worst thing that can happen is that if I'm not good enough then I will just go back.
"Most of the other Australian comics, I found out years later, thought I would be back in six months with my tail between my legs, but I was pretty determined to stay.
"I had seen Bill Bailey perform in a small club in Sydney around 1998 and he was so amazing.
"I just knew I had to be around guys that good to become the comic I wanted to be. The UK has the best comedy scene in the world, as far as I'm concerned; humour is in the culture.
"There's 60 million people on a tiny island who like a laugh – you can't ask for much more, really.
"You can also make a decent living off the comedy scene without being famous. There are a lot of great comedians, famous and not-famous alike; some of my favourites are Ian Stone, Alistair Barrie, Andrew Maxwell and Reginald D Hunter."
For a time, Steve shared a flat with fellow Aussie import and shock-comic Jim Jeffries.
Both perform jaw-dropping material about the time they fell victim to a home invasion that led to them being tied up and held at machete point.
"We both got some great jokes out of a horrific incident, and horrific as it may have been, only stand-up comics would be getting robbed at machete point and saying 'take whatever you want just leave that pad and pen – I've got some great ideas!'"
So at what point did the stand-ups see the comic potential in the situation?
"Not while it was happening, and after I'd gotten over my own feelings of revenge and wanting to inflict satanic violence on them with medieval-like sadism...
"Then I just thought, well, that's not going to happen, so I'll write some jokes about it instead!"
Steve Hughes plays The Comedy Box at the Hen and Chicken pub on Friday, February 17 and Saturday, February 18, at 8.45pm. Tickets have sold out. For returns, call 0117 902 0344