First published on 8 Feb 2012. Updated on 21 Mar 2012.
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 and hard to do.”
He’s now able to perform in your own home, thanks to the DVD of his classic stand-up show Thai Die. It's all about the worst holiday a human could ever have, with a night in a Bangkok bar leading to credit card fraud, kidnapping, being threatened with an axe, escaping from armed criminals 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 said that it was the Citizen Kane of Australian comedy, which either means that I’m great or that I’m afraid of my sled.”
So how did the events recounted in Thai Die unfold?
“Basically, I went on my first trip overseas by myself. I got to Bangkok and was befriended by these very clever scam artists as soon as they had ascertained that I had a credit card. So they looked after me, got me out of a bit of hairy scrapes that they in fact had set up so it looked like they were saving me, and then they asked me to help them, and basically it ends up with them holding me for a couple of days threatening me with an axe.”
“It’s a weird thing when you’re thinking you’re going to die,” he cheerfully explains. “Like you almost got hit by a bus or something, and for a second you get that horrible rush? I knew that I was going to die for a couple of days so for a couple of days I had that feeling and it was exhausting, terrifying, bizarre. To know for a fact that you are going to be murdered is a very weird feeling.”
Clearly that didn’t come to pass. “Yeah, eventually I escaped from those people. I ended up joining this group of students who were fighting the government so I ended up with them in this sort of mountain camp being shelled by the Burmese military. There’s also a bit of a love story there because I ran into a girl I knew from Melbourne, and if you think someone’s sexy, if you see them in a war zone, they’re ten times more sexy. When you think any minute you can die, it's very Casablanca you know?”
So in short, 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’m going to make this into a show.' 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…’”
Thai Die is out on DVD Thur Mar 1 through Punchline