Local comedian Nadia Collins is set to make her Perth Comedy Festival debut this week with two shows on Friday, April 27 and Saturday, April 28 at the Regal Theatre. It follows an acclaimed run at the Melbourne Comedy Festival which earned her a nomination as the Best Newcomer for 2018. But her new show The Big Thingy is a departure from her previous work, offering something a little lighter, more fun and otherworldly. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to Nadia Collins about being a person playing an alien, wanting to know how to be person, her advice for humankind and more.
You’re back in Perth now after being at the Melbourne Comedy Festival where you were nominated for Best Newcomer. Was it actually your first time there or do your different costumes in each show help you out with that?
Okay, you got me. The truth is I’ve been going over there every year and cleaning up. I’m flabbergasted that nobody’s even cottoned on until now. Even last year – and this is no mean feat – I hedged my bets and did two shows, dressing up as some characters I’d created; “Aaron Chen” and “Angus Gordon”. Bizarrely, I jointly won Best Newcomer as both characters. Accepting the award was particularly challenging, but luckily I have an improv background, and the ceremony played out like an hilarious French farce.
I heard you were trained in the comedy craft in Paris under the mentorship of a French master clown? How was that experience? It sounds like some modern comedy version of The Karate Kid or something…
That’s actually exactly what it was like. For the first three months, he just made us bake cream pies until our fingers bled, and then he’d make us carry them up and down this long staircase while he pranced around naked and we all said “Wow Emperor, what beautiful clothes?”. It was humiliating really.
But finally we understood how small and irrelevant we were, and then we were ready to have the cream pies catapulted at us as he’d say, “The clown has a good spirit and a good fun to make the audience laughing.” Jokes aside, it’s not far from the truth. He is a bizarre man, and if you’ve seen The Karate Kid, then you understand. But he is the best and if he doesn’t know what he’s doing then I’d be even more impressed.
Your new show seems a little lighter than your last one Virgin Bloody Mary. Was that a tough one to follow up?
Yes, much lighter. There’s no fake blood, and I might not go directly to hell for The Big Thingy. Also yes, VBM, as I affectionately acronym-ise it, was, and I don’t think that I’m being modest here, a finely tuned work of art. Not unlike the Mona Lisa – you know, Da Vinci worked on that for ages. Or, Dr Dre’s first album.
But then you’ve produced one Mona Lisa or The Chronic, you can either start busting out works of art mass-production style, or becoming highly experimental, like The Beatles. Sorry, did I just compare myself to Da Vinci, Dr Dre and The Beatles all in the same breath? I did didn’t I? I’m the next Kanye West or something… I should stop now.
So sure, style-wise if you’re a die-hard Nadia Collins fan – and I know you’re out there – you’d have to think of this as the yang to the ying, the Jedi to the Sith, or, just the second show I am making. It’s got space and light where the other one had nice fail-safes like a narrative arc or planned payoffs or tech cues – all comfort zone stuff.
And so this new show The Big Thingy… can you sum up the premise in human speak?
I’m an alien and I learn what it means to be human from the audience. They teach me how to interact, everything, and by the end of the show, the aspects of human nature I reflect to them are those ones they have shown to me. This show is different each night. I don’t know what will happen from the moment it begins and it scares the shit out of me. But it’s got a 5 star review, just saying. You know. All of my shows have 5 star reviews. Coincidence? I think not.
So following your in depth analysis of the subject, what do you think you would find most surprising about humans if you were an alien just arriving from outer space?
Humans are very brave, as they are surviving the remaining days of their apocalypse with seemingly good spirits. While they mostly shrink from social interaction, they have somehow evolved to form romantic and seemingly reproductive relationships with robotic computer screens, even though some of the screens are very small. I have deduced that the robots must be acting as parasites, draining their life essences to power up some sort of a mothership. Their Queen is called “Beyonce” or “Yonce” and I suspect that she may be the Mothership which is draining power from them. Perhaps, when the time is ready, a select few will climb aboard the Mothership Yonce and fly to one of the other host planets.
And what about Perth in particular?
At first glimpse, it looks just like other earth cities like Melbourne or Sydney and so on. But on closer inspection there are differences. There is less of what I would call “public transport pollution”, which can really blight the aerial view of a city with train and tram lines going everywhere all the time.
I prefer to see lots of automobiles, as they are more uniform and shiny. The humans in this city live mostly atop large structures known as “cranes”. Perth reminds me a lot of space, because there are less humans and more space, just like space. Even the bars are excessively vast, not unlike the inside of those big Area 51 hangars where the US government lets us do testing on human volunteers.
Most of the World Leaders are based here in Perth as it seems there are many palatial mansions here, including the Taj Mahal, which I have seen many times from space, although I admit it looks disappointing up close, and I think that they have really let the place go. The fountain out front is really more of a river, now that I think about it.
And is there anything you actually have learnt about what it means to be human in the process of doing this show?
Honestly, I’ve been surprised by how alarmingly willing people are to go with me to bizarre places during the show. I think once they see I’m this helpless, naive alien, they become open and trusting. and I like seeing that nature in people, it reminds me that we’re all cute little buddhas deep down.