First published on 2 Nov 2011. Updated on 12 Mar 2013.
Greg Fleet lives to perform. Seriously: he’s nowhere near as fond of things the rest of the time.
“I find life much more difficult than comedy,” he sighs. “If all of life took place on stage, I would find it so easy. It’s only the fact that it doesn’t that makes life hard. Seriously, I find the half hour a day of being on stage an absolute breeze and dream and I love it, and the other times I find very awkward and difficult.”
There’s an obvious solution, then… “I thought about that, doing a 24-hour day show. Maybe for the [Melbourne Comedy] Festival, doing a month-long show where I never leave the stage so people can come and go and watch me and prod me into doing something amusing if I fall asleep or whatever. I'll try to work out an angle that would work and involve me being on stage constantly.”
Well, Regurgitator did it once, where they made the entire Mish Mash album in Band in a Bubble. “Yeah, but they have skills. I have no skills.”
Maybe that’s the angle: you can learn violin!
“Well, I do play violin, but I can’t play very well. So what I could do is have instructors come and go and books and stuff like that," Fleet muses. "Just try to become better by the end of the month than I was at the start.”
Maybe. Perhaps it needs an element of peril?
“One idea I had with Matt Parkinson was a TV show called Totally Hidden Snow Leopards. You go into a white room and there’s a white cat hidden in there somewhere and you can’t see it, and your only means of defence is you’re given a honeydew melon. The point would be to avoid it and, if needs be, try to kill it with a honeydew melon. It’s just odd. ”
Sounds like a flawless premise. “True, but snow leopards are very expensive depending on what time of year. Though in winter, honeydew melons are more expensive than snow leopards.”
During summer, of course, you can’t get snow leopards for love nor money. “Exactly. And I offered both to a snow leopard breeder, who was not only repulsed but quite angry about the whole thing.”
Aside from developing the best ideas in television history, Fleet is also set to film his classic stand-up show Thai Die. It was Fleet's breakthough show about the worst holiday a human could ever have, with a night in a Bangkok bar leading to credit card fraud, kidnapping by armed criminals, being threatened with an axe, escaping on foot and finally ending up in a Burmese mountain camp being shelled by the military. You know, as you do.
“It’s an amazing story, and I can say that because I didn’t make it up,” he enthuses. “It’s got nothing to do with me being clever and coming up with a great story, it’s just that I happened to be a really bad tourist. It really broke for me in the UK. A lot of people said incredible things about it. Wil Anderson came out the other day in some publication or other and said that I was the Citizen Kane of Australian comedy, which either means that I’m great or that I’m afraid of my sled.”
So in sort, the worst possible holiday ended up being the making of a worldwide career in comedy?
“Well, yeah,” he laughs. “And it taught me something that anything terrible that ever happens to me, I turn into work. Sometimes while something fucking terrible is happening to me, right in the middle of it happening, I’m going ‘I’ll make money out of this one day.’
"I remember breaking up with someone and weeping and sobbing – I was heartbroken, just absolutely devastated. And at the same time part of me was going ‘this could make a really good show…’”