Comics team up for pre-Christmas laughs in Coffs

IF you are still seeking the perfect Christmas gift for that special person in your life, why not get in early and go out for a night of belly laughs together?

Tom Gleeson and Pete Helliar will be serving up a platter of humorous platitudes in Coffs Harbour just before Santa pays everyone a visit so if even if your year wasn't a memorable one, you can at least have a laugh with friends and put it all behind you.

Gleeson, one half of the comedy team, said he too was looking forward to having a gig so close to the big day.

"Pete and I both have families so it might be a nice little reprieve in the lead up for us anyway," he said.

"Travelling around without them at this time of year on the coast will be a bit of a thrill for us. I'll be able to go to the beach and actually read a book. It will be our last show for the year so we will be in a good frame of mind."

Gleeson said while it was a busy time of year for most, the December 21 performance could be a welcome reprieve.

"They can enjoy a couple of hours of not wrapping presents up," he said.

Gleeson and Helliar are good friends and that rapport is obvious when they perform together.

"We started doing stand-up within a couple of months of one another in 1996, Pete started in Melbourne and I started in Sydney," Gleeson said.

"We were always well aware of one another in the early days. Later on he ended up doing Rove and I often appeared on that show and then we went onto doing Skithouse together. That's where we got to know each other and from then on we have been doing festivals together every year. Our paths have crossed a lot over the years."

This latest reunion sees the pair hit the road together for a double bill of laughs and while they will be armed with their razor-sharp wit and humorous anecdotes on whatever takes their fancy, they will be travelling light.

"There's no entourage, it's just the two of us on tour," Gleeson said.

"The great thing about stand-up is you don't need any instruments or anything like that. We just turn up the theatre and do a couple of headline shows."

Both comics will perform 45-minute sets with a break in between.

"Sometimes I go first, sometimes Pete goes first. We usually toss a coin," Gleeson said.

Gleeson said the great thing about touring together is that after the show he and Helliar are able to provide feedback on their respective performances.

"We have bit of chat about how the gig went and possibly give each other a few lines here and there. We always watch one another's shows," he said.

"I just recorded a DVD in Sydney a few weeks ago and I said to Pete I reckon about three really good jokes in there were from him.

"He saw my act and said 'you should say this...' so I just slotted it in. We often give each other tips like that."

Gleeson said both comics have topics they are planning to cover in their shows but nothing is set in concrete.

"I haven't thought about what I'll be doing in Coffs specifically but it will be new material as I've got a lot of new stuff I'm working with at the moment," he said.

"Sometimes I wait until the day. We'll be flying up on the day for the Coffs gig so when I'm on the plane and I'll start thinking 'mmmm what will I be doing tonight'. Things can change too so there's no way I'll have it set in my head at this stage. It depends what's going to happen between now and then."

While his approach may sound a little daunting, Gleeson has been honing his stand-up routines at the festivals for more than 10 years.

"I've got a lot of material to draw upon," he said.

"I just have to decide what it is. Stand-up is a spoken medium so it's best performed by having a collection of ideas in your head and just to say them on the spot. If you've learned them off by heart it can sound a bit robotic or contrived. Also you have to be prepared to change mid stream. You can be telling a story and you might feel the audience's enthusiasm kind of drop off so you finish that up quickly and jump into something else. If you get a good reaction you extend it from there. It's a bit like sailing and catching the breeze. There are some tactical decisions to be made while you are up."

While this will be Gleeson's first performance in the Coffs area as a comedian, he has graced the stage here, sitting behind the drums in a band he started at Sydney Uni with a few mates - Andrew Hansen (from The Chaser), Cameron Bruce (Paul Kelly) and James Fletcher who now works for BBC world services in London.

"We were called The Fantastic Leslie. That was about 15 years ago now around 1999," he said.

"We played Coffs, Sawtell, Yamba and Byron.

"We had a friend called Leslie who we all really liked so we'd often say 'oh, the fantastic Leslie' and we thought what a great name for a band. Our keyboard player also used a Leslie amp so it had a double meaning."

While it has been a few years since Gleeson has seen the Big Banana, he reckons all the jokes regarding the tourist icon have probably been said before.

"It's not as big as the name implies really but the modest banana doesn't really have the same ring to it does it," he said.

  • CATCH Tom Gleeson and Peter Hilliar live at C.ex Coffs on December 21. Tickets are $45/$40 and are on sale at the club or online. Under-18s are permitted with a parent or guardian as the show may contain adult content.

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