The year 2015 marked 35 years in the business for standup comedian and satirist Austen Tayshus. There are comedians on the circuit who haven’t even been alive that long.
But the big man behind the Ray Bans isn’t tiring. ‘I am loving it more and more,’ he says.
‘I have done around 100 shows this year. I have travelled widely throughout Australia and upset just a few more than 765 people.’
That’s probably conservative. An Austen Tayshus show isn’t for the faint-hearted. He pushes his crowds to the brink of their comfort zones, and in some cases he drives them screaming to the bottom. It’s something he’s become famous for. He’s topical, passionate, and he’s not up there to give you warm fuzzies. He wants his crowds to think, to dissect the zeitgeist.
And yes, he ALWAYS get hecklers.
‘I provoke the crowd, so I expect hecklers. But if you are heckling at my show, be prepared for me to crush you to the point where you will be screaming for Jack Kevorkian (American euthanasia activist), the Armenian Dr Death. I do push people’s buttons, but so like the Gypsy Jokers, and in the end we expect casualties at all shows.
‘Being a standup comic gives one a huge amount of freedom and a modicum of responsibility. My shows are very interactive and I love fucking with people. After all it is fairly innocuous. I often get people overreacting, unnecessarily, because it’s just a show. It’s not Anzac Day!’
Our cultural identity and the notion of what it means to be Australian has always been the core of Austen’s comedic rant. Ironically his satirical Australiana is what he is perhaps most well known for, causing crowds to think that somehow he celebrates good old-fashioned Aussie jingoism; in fact its quite the opposite it. It’s exactly what he’s out to annihilate. Subaru recently took the big fella on board for their Outback model. Even more ironic considering the Armani suit-wearing Austen is not an Outback sort of guy. He’s definitely inner-city chic. But tongue in cheek, or should I say tongue in chic, is what what he does best.
‘The Subaru Outback commercials have reinvigorated my career. They have had more than a million hits on YouTube. Any sponsors who have similar interest in my longevity please call my agent without delay. Unlike my hero Richard Di Natale, anything goes.’
So now in his 36th year, what advice does Austen have for emerging comics in 2016?
‘Like Cary Grant, I don’t like giving advice to other entertainers, but I do believe in reading constantly. Current affairs, good literature, biography etc. Maintain your curiosity.’
So what is the perfect crowd for Tayshus?
‘A perfect crowd is loose, hip and out for a laugh.The more switched on the better. Not a Geraldton crowd. That is the dumbest town on the planet.’
And his take on the latest PM?
‘Malcolm Turnbull was at Sydney University at the same time as I was. He was doing Arts Law and I was smoking marijuana and great hashish.
‘I see Malcolm around from time to time now and I think that anything would be better than Tony the Fuck! Time will tell if he will make a great leader and my only advice to him is to be kind to the battlers, and give everyone a fair go. Malcolm is pretty straight, but if he could chill a bit and smoke some weed he would probably kick arse.’
And his favourite pope?
‘The best pope was Jean Paul II because he let the Jews off the hook. Christianity did us a lot of harm and he changed the world dramatically for us. A powerful imam could do some good now too by being sensible. Where would the world be without the Jews? No Bob Dylan for a start. And definitely no Austen Tayshus.’
Austen Tayshus performs at the Byron Services Club on Monday with Mandy Nolan. Tickets are $25 at the club or can be booked by calling 6619 0529.