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January 29, 2023

The largely overlooked, largely great, larger-than-Life Austen Tayshus

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Austen Tayshus is coming your way in January and this is a show not to be missed – really!

By Larry Buttrose 

One afternoon in 1983, I returned to the Surry Hills home in Sydney, my then partner Mandy and I shared with rock magazine editor Donald Robertson. 

Donald came rushing downstairs clutching a radio saying, ‘Listen to this! It’s Austen Tayshus, doing Australiana. It’s out as a single and people have been calling in all afternoon getting the DJ to play it over and over.’

I listened and instantly recognised the basso boom of Tayshus, a comedian I’d seen once or twice onstage. The ‘new comedy’ was suddenly everywhere in those days: Los Trios Ringbarkus, Mary Kenneally and Rod Quantock, Funny Stories. I’d found Austen Tayshus big, brash, and full-on, but that was his shtick, the act after all, and I enjoyed it, and we later became friends.

Australiana came out soon after the election of the Hawke government in 1983 as a new wave of Aussie nationalism was sweeping the country. Australiana surfed that nationalist wave. Penned brilliantly by Billy Birmingham and honed in performance to dazzling timing and inflection by Austen Tayshus, it was a sensation, the biggest record of 1983. 

But after that, Sandy Gutman started to find the going harder. Other singles and videos failed to repeat the success of Australiana, and Austen Tayshus gradually slipped from the radar…

These days he finds himself in his latter decades, touring hard across the country, to sometimes lukewarm responses from his often-meagre audiences on the night. There’s little place for a shit-stirrer and professional ratbag in the Culture of Correctness of the Australia of 2022: Hannah Gadsby, Courtney Act, and Joel Creasy are the fashion of Now; Tayshus was Then. 

Comedy truly of the edge is an endangered species. Sandy Gutman is literally beating along the fringes, forever trying to wrench laughs and provoke some response, anything, from stray punters… a Sisyphean task. 

The question then is does Austen Tayshus have any relevance or appeal today? Is his day done? After all, he’s insulted bookers, club and hotel managers, and audiences across the length and breadth of our wide brown land. His base is diminishing. So? you might ask – what did he expect?

Austen Tayshus sees Australia as having a lot of dunces. He delights in violating not so much social mores per se, as does his audience members – whom he sees as emblematic of stupid and tedious convention. He’s not afraid to play the man either, or woman, and the phrase ad hominem is Greek to him. He’s a hurricane on stage. He can start slowly enough, rather measured, almost gentle, but once he crosses his own Gulf of Mexico and builds up his puff and bluff he can whack an audience with the force of Katrina. 

Can you handle the force? Austen Tayshus is coming your way in January and this is a show not to be missed – really!

Monday 9 January, 8pm Byron Bay Services Club.

Tuesday 10 January, 8pm Currumbin RSL.

Wednesday 11 January, 8pm Bangalow Bowling Club. 

Thursday 12 January, 8pm Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club.

Friday 13 January, 8pm Federal Hall. 

For more information, visit: mandynolan.com.au.


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2 COMMENTS

  1. GREAT ARTICLE Larry – we need him sorely to laugh at ourselves and wake up, especially with ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes” woke syndrome being the norm at present.

  2. I attended a free performance by Austen Tayshus in Murwillumbah a few years ago. It was massively over priced.

    A better name for him would be Bob Noxious.

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