Comedy Chat: Ted Michaels

PuppetUp! and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival finish on Sunday. PuppetUp! is part tribute to the genius of Jim Henson (Sesame Street, The Muppets), part look at how his puppetry works, and part uncensored, audience-driven, adult only improv show.

Stress the adult only. It’s gloriously filthy and the night I went, there was a song about mensuration products and a Rolf Harris joke. Kevin Turner called it a “must see” in his review.

Ted Michaels has performed with the Groundlings in LA, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary of improv and sketch performances and classes. He also performed with Eddie Izzard and has puppeteered characters for MTV’s Warren The Ape and his television credits include roles on The Comeback, Campus Ladies, According to Jim, Girlfriends and Mad TV.


What MICF shows are you most looking forward to seeing?
I’ve become a big fan of the Umbilical Brothers. They’re not widely known in the states, but they should be. Also looking forward to Sammy J & Randy’s Difficult First Album Tour.

What makes MICF different from all the other festivals?
I love that the festival concentrates on comedy; that certainly sets it apart. I have nothing against military tattoos, but that kind of thing can dilute one’s focus.

What’s an absolute must do for you when you visit Melbourne?
I’d never had curry laksa before coming to Melbourne, and it now ranks as one of my favorite dishes. And for people who enjoy Asian food in general, Melbourne’s China Town is paradise.

What comedians/performers have influenced you the most?
I’m partial to the absurdists: Monty Python, Steve Martin’s stand-up, and early Saturday Night  Live are what I grew up on. These days, I’m a big fan of Louis CK, Flight of the Conchords, EddieIzzard, Simon Amstell and Tig Notaro, amoung many others.

What’s advice do you wish you’d been given before your first gigs?
Be practical. If a bit is not working, move on to something else and don’t look back. And just because you think something is funny, doesn’t mean that it’s a bit that will work in front of an audience.

It’s not personal, it’s just comedy.

What’s the best (or worst) thing a review has said about you or your show?
I once had a reviewer call me “versatile” which is a kind of compliment, but it also may have meant they couldn’t remember one specific thing I did.

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?
I once did a show and Tom Hanks showed up with a big group. But the group was too big for the theatre to accommodate at the last minute, so they were turned away. So, Tom Hanks, with a smaller group.

What comedian (alive or dead) do you wish you’d seen live?
I wished I’d seen George Carlin. It’s totally my fault. It’s not like he hardly ever did stand up.

When did you realise that being funny is the career for you?
I never realised it and still want to be lead singer in a tight power rock trio.

What’s the best heckle you’ve received?
You don’t get heckled much doing improv. I don’t think the tickets cost enough for people to feel pissed off that you’re wasting their time.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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