Interview with Austen Tayshus

2020 Vision with Mandy Nolan & Austen Tayshus

2020 Vision with Mandy Nolan & Austen Tayshus

Monday, 6 Jan – Byron Services Club  |  Wednesday, 8 Jan – The Regent Theatre, Murwillumbah  |  Thursday, 9 Jan – Evans Head RSL  |  Friday, 10 Jan – The Saraton Theatre, Grafton  |  Sunday, 12 Jan – Lennox Bowlo  |  Tickets $30

This January, Austen Tayshus joins Mandy Nolan for a swag of gigs, up and down the coast. The Echo caught up with Austen, the comedic provocateur who’s had people laughing, shouting and running from the room for almost four decades.

You are best known around the country for Australiana – why do you think that hit such a chord?

When the record was released in June 1983 there was a great deal of National pride around. This included Men at Works’ incredible successes, The America’s Cup triumph, Paul Hogan’s tourism campaigning and the likes of Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Jingoistic fervour and Aussie pride were everywhere. Australiana was just a part of the Zeitgeist. And it was hilarious. Everybody seemed to know the routine and you couldn’t go to a gathering without some Austen Tayshus ring-in reciting it as the entertainment. It was number one on the Aria chart for 13 weeks and became the biggest selling single of the year and subsequently the biggest selling Australian single ever.

How did your life change after that?

Life changed for me overnight. Suddenly every celebrity was my mate. Michael Hutchence was at my house. Barnsey and Glenn Shorrock were my mates. Everyone couldn’t understand how a funny punny monologue could be so successful. Since then I have released many records, to less acclaim, but Australiana has enabled me to have a four decade career. I have loved every minute.

How has the comedy landscape changed from when you started, to now?

I was a comedy pioneer. I performed with the biggest bands in the country, doing a 40-minute routine before Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel, in front of thousands of rock and rollers. Nobody cared what you said. Comedy was about pushing boundaries, shaking things up, challenging social mores. I was never interested in pleasing a crowd or working to the lowest common denominator. I always tried to lift the bar, which often was misinterpreted, and I had to run away from many gigs. Comedy was alive and exciting. It has become dull, and attracts people who want to be famous rather than to be genuinely funny. Barry Humphries has always been my hero.

What are the topics that you like to touch on at a ‘Tayshus gig?

My shows are predominantly free flowing and improvised. Because I am a big reader they are up to date on current affairs and politics. The shows are aggressive and highly provocative. People leave. Irony is not a form that is widely understood. Sometimes no one is left in the audience at the end of the show.

Audiences are often scared to sit up the front. Should they be?

Most scared people now know not to sit up front. Because of the interactive nature of my shows I love to involve everyone in the room, starting with those in the front. Usually those who are offended, come to be offended. I aim to please.

You have an adversarial style that provokes – why do you like to give your audience a hard time? Do they always get it?

My shows are very theatrical. Whatever can happen is welcome. Pushing people adds to the unpredictability, and the danger makes me salivate. Exciting, outrageous, crazy and hilarious. I am always investing in what can happen. To draw on everything in the moment and encouraging chaos is what I do. It’s all about an experience that people will remember.

What do you love about being a live performer?

Live performance is tremendously rewarding. I have been involved in filmmaking, which is exciting, but the buzz is tempered by the amount of time it all takes. I can have an idea, try it out immediately and get a response straight away. Like a line of cocaine. I am impatient, so stand up suits me. I stumbled upon it, but it has certainly worked out.

What can we expect for your local shows?

My shows will be shocking, funny, moving and hilarious. If laughing out loud upsets you, don’t fucking come.

Local shows are at the Byron Services Club on Monday, 6 Jan, and Lennox Bowlo on Sunday, 12 Jan – all shows $30 at the clubs or from

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Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

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