Australian comedian Wil Anderson has had a busy year. So busy in fact, that our conversation is squeezed in between a seemingly endless succession of club dates and plane flights.
“I’ve been in the US for the last kind of five or six months,” he tells us. “I’ve been touring this show, Wiluminati, which I started in Adelaide on the 1st of March. I’ve been touring it around the US – I was in Chicago last week and I was in Cleveland the week before that. That’s kind of what my life is at the moment – five to seven shows at the local comedy club in a different city every week. During the day I get to explore the city a little bit and at night I get to tell dick jokes to strangers in clubs held together by other comedians’ photos. It’s been quite lovely, actually – I’ve been enjoying myself.”
That does explain Anderson’s absence from our TV screens of late. In fact, Anderson is on an extended break from all his television commitments, including the lucrative and popular Gruen franchise, as he goes on to explain.
“It’s one of things where anyone who knows me and anyone who’s around me knows that this isn’t a surprise. In fact, what surprises most people is that it’s taken me this long to do it. I started working at triple j when I was 25 and I’d been doing comedy for, I guess, four years at that point. I always wanted to go back to being a full-time stand up comedian. The whole idea was to do other things and just make sure that at some time I could go back to being a full time stand up comedian. But, you know, then triple j happened and The Glasshouse happened and then MMM happened and Gruen happened and suddenly it’s 15 years later and I’m turning fucking 40 and when am I gonna have this year when I do the one thing I actually enjoy doing more than anything else?
“So I thought, you know what? I’m gonna give myself a 40th birthday present. None of us at Gruen expected that, when we started doing that, seven years later, we’d still have to make decisions about that show. So I thought it was time for some long service leave and I went to the ABC and I said to them, you know what? I’d like a year off . I’d like a year where I can get up every day and think about comedy and work on my comedy and travel the world doing comedy. And they were generous enough to – well, to be honest they weren’t too excited about the news, but they were generous enough to kind of see that I was being genuine – that I wasn’t asking for more money or playing games, I was just telling them what I wanted to do. They said to me, well, how about we give you a year off and you can go and do that and maybe you can come back and do the telly again in 2015?”
Thus, 2014 has seen Anderson on the road, going back to the thing he loves most. Although he is, by any measure, a veteran comedian, this seachange has certainly not been without its challenges. “The fact of it is that, realistically I’ve been a full-time stand up for, well, I’m in my 20th year. I’ve done a new one-hour special at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival every single year and done a national tour for the last 16, but there’s still a difference between that. Let’s say for the last five to seven years I’ve done 200 shows a year. That’s reasonably full-time. But there’s still a difference and that was a real surprise to me. There’s a difference between doing 200 shows and doing 500 shows.”
Wil Anderson performs Wiluminati at the Perth Convention And Exhibition Centre on Friday, November 21, and Saturday, November 22. For tickets and session times, go to Ticketek.com.au.