STAND-up comedy is meant to be one of the toughest gigs in town, but award-winning funnyman Xavier Michelides doesn’t buy into the idea.
“Firefighters have hard jobs, they walk into buildings that are on fire,” the Melbourne comic says, deadpan.
“Scientists, they have hard jobs. So it puts it in perspective.”
That’s not to say crackin’ wise ain’t scary.
“It’s kind of like you get up there and you’re saying ‘I’m the funniest person in this room right now, so you all listen’,” Michelides laughs.
“And people can rightfully judge that... but it’s not that hard... I tell jokes.
“You do get nervous (though), it’s just you. You don’t have any backup and if your jokes don’t work, you’ve got nobody to blame.
“It’s my fault completely if it doesn’t work.”
Originally from Perth, Michelides first had a stab at stand up on Triple J’s Raw Comedy Competition, back in 2001. And after moving to Melbourne three years ago, he’s earned some big-name gigs, supporting the likes of Steven Wright and Weird Al Yankovic, and writing for Good News Week, ROVE and ABC3.
But there’s been some horror gigs along the way too.
Listening to Michelides describe a comedian’s working environment, comedy seems a bit like cooking, and without the proper ingredients (like the right crowd, lighting, vibe, not to mention jokes) the souffle doesn’t rise.
“I’ve done gigs where you’re just out of your depth, you don’t know the audience and you don’t relate to them,” Michelides says.
“Sometimes you do a corporate gig, and you’re surrounded by these big suits, and you’ve got nothing in common with them.
“And you walk away going ‘It’s nobody’s fault, there was nowhere in the venn diagram we crossed’.
“The worst is when the audience is good and for some reason it just doesn’t work.”
It’s a situation that obviously breeds insecurity; a characteristic common amongst comedians, Michelides says.
“You want a whole bunch of strangers to like you, so you must be a bit insecure,” he laughs.
“Off stage, we’re not as funny, usually.”
Despite appearing in five Melbourne International Comedy Festivals (his critically acclaimed Future World show was nominated for a Golden Gibbo Award last year) and three Melbourne Fringe Festivals, Michelides says it’s hard to make a full time living out of making people laugh.
“There are a lot of gigs (in Australia), but it’s not like New York or London where you could live off just gigs,” he says.
“You have to supplement with other stuff.”
So how did his comic journey begin?
“I did lots and lots of theatre at school, but I was obsessed with stand up, I used to watch it all the time,” Michelides says.
“Any stand up on TV I’d tape, heaps of different comedians.
“I always wanted to do it, and I guess I was pretty funny at school, but I always wanted to do stand up.”
Xavier Michelides plays the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow at The Capital on June 29.