(PLEASE) VALIDATE ME Seeking your approval

Benjamin Maio MacKay is one of FRINGE WORLD’s darlings. Incredibly sweet, caring and totally accessible and helpful to other artists, this year sees him bringing his solo show (Please) Validate Me to Home Economics at Girls School from Friday, January 17 to Sunday, February 2. On the back of his very successful podcast Benjamin Maio Mackay’s Talk 2 Me! it promises to be utterly delightful. NATALIE GILES had a chat with Ben before he lands here for Fringe, and he’s definitely worthy of your validation and love.

You’re known as a super nice guy. What are your thoughts on that, given the bad press on “nice guys” online?

Am I known as a super nice guy? That’s wonderful, it wasn’t something I ever purposefully set out to be labelled as. I just don’t think it’s particularly useful to be mean or negative. If you can help people why not? The bad wrap about nice guys online I think is typically about guys who pretend to be nice for their own gain, that’s not what being nice is actually about – so ill-intentioned nicety from asshole men deserves to be called out.

I did run this question by my closest friend, who’s answer I think is also of some value: “The wisest and most attractive person I know, whom is also my idol, tells me, ‘It’s nice to be nice’.”

You say you’ve been through some shit. But hasn’t everyone? What about your past makes it unique? What have you learned from it?

I’ve learned that because everyone has been through some kind of shit it makes my show a lot easier to relate too. I’m not necessarily sure my experiences have to be that unique in order to craft a (hopefully) good show from them. I talk a lot about being bi and coming out (or struggling to) and also about chronic illness and pain. Both of these are issues I know other people have struggled with, and hopefully (they) get some peace hearing someone else talk about them too.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned and only quite recently, is you’re only able to accept the love you feel you’re worth. Heal yourself before looking for too much actual love from others.

Gorgeous! Do you prescribe to the belief that going through difficulty makes you a better person? Are you a better person?

I’m not sure if it makes me a better person, but I firmly believe it has changed me. I’m certainly a stronger, more resilient person. I’m also a more cynical person – which makes it a lot easier to do comedy and make light of previous situations. I think I’m also a happier person, primarily as a result of learning to laugh at myself – and others. Without adversity I’m sure I’d be on a very different path.

Your show asks for your audience to like you and validate you. What makes you fulfilled? How does your audience validate you?

I feel the most fulfilled on stage or working in any capacity – I love my job and it makes me whole. I’m very ride or die about the arts. Audiences validate me by listening to my mad ramblings (and singular song) and sharing the journey with me. I actually talk in my show about the role the audience plays in my mind when it comes to validation, so to get a proper answer to this question I guess people will just have to buy tickets!

Tell me why Perth peeps should choose your show among all the others on offer this show. Sell yourself to us…

It’s a very personal show to me, it’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. If you’re a fan of honesty, laughs and a some emotional moments, this is a show for you.

But why do a solo show now?

I think because I finally felt at peace with a lot of the stories and material that I cover – if I’d done this a few years ago it wouldn’t have been nearly as open (and) honest. Having a primarily theatre background I spent so long living other people’s stories and feeling their emotions that I found it initially very difficult to be comfortable with my own stories and truths. It was either do this or pay for therapy.

Is there a particular story in the show you love?

As much as I love the emotional aspects, they’re still more challenging for me as both a human and performer. My favourite lighter bits to do are about how human behaviour in hotels is ridiculous and also my absolute favourite is the story I end the show with about being propositioned into a threesome by a married couple in Perth. It was a time.

You’re touring this show for months across Australia and New Zealand, how do you stay sane on the road?

It’s difficult and at times even though you’re surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people it can feel really lonely. I’m lucky on a number of counts this year, firstly I’m producing Andrew Silverwood who’s doing the same festival circuit, so we have each other. Secondly, I travel with a few little things, (a photo, a magnet, a rock, a glitter lamp and a soft toy) that all hold significance to me, which reminds me I have people. And finally I’m so lucky (and I don’t deserve this) that my best friend is flying over to Perth from Adelaide to visit me for a weekend and will also see me during the comedy festival in Melbourne, so having that to look forward to helps with my sanity. Then again, I dedicated the show to them – so least they can do!