Comedy Fest Chat: Thomas Jaspers

Thomas Jaspers’s MICF show is God, Save the Queen. It’s about him growing up in a nursing home where most of his friends were little old ladies who taught him to fall in love with the Royal Family.

He chats with Anne-Marie Peard about how he loves flyering and how he’d love have a drink with Camilla Parker Bowles after his show one night.

Thomas Jaspers
Thomas Jaspers

What MICF shows are you most looking forward to seeing?
Miss Itchy! I am so glad they are finally back in the festival.

What makes MICF different from all the other festivals?
I think it’s the sheer volume and diversity of performers. One night you can go to the Melbourne Town Hall and see a major international act with thousands of other people and the next night you are watching a silent slapstick piece held in a broom closet with two other people and they are both hilariously entertaining.

What’s an absolute must do for you in Melbourne?
There is a dumplings place in China Town called Shanghai Dumplings it’s disgustingly filthy, the staff yell at you and you never get what you ordered. But the food is amazing and I love sitting there watching the people running around, it’s like a live dinner show of Faulty Towers.

What comedians/performers have influenced you the most?
John Inman, Alan Carr and Adam Richard they all have a fabulous, unashamedly ‘I am what I am’ quality about them, which I hope is something that also comes across in my show.

What advice do you wish you’d been given before your first gigs? Have confidence; imagine that they think you have done this a million times before, because they won’t know any different. And if you stuff it up, give them a different name at the end of your set.

Do you do still your own flyering? Can you tell us something great or horrific that’s happened to you when flyering?
Yes! I love it. It’s a great way to warm up before the show. Last year I opened my show in drag, and then got undressed throughout the show, so I did all my flyering dressed half in drag and half as a boy. There is this horrible man who likes to stand in the city telling people that all gay men will go to hell, so one night I popped on a pair of heels and went down and stood in front of him with a hand full of flyers. I didn’t say a word, just smiled and stood there. People were so lovely, they gathered around me cheering and actually came up to me asking for flyers. That night was my best crowd of the festival!

What’s the best (or worst) thing a review has said about you or your show?
When I got my first ever review I was so nervous, I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing. I scrolled down to the last sentence and thought I’ll just read that and if it is bad I will just have to change my name and move to Alice Springs. The last sentence was “Jaspers has crafted a fantastic, hysterical yet touching debut, which we can only hope for more of in the future.” I was so relieved, I burst into tears, called my mother and opened a bottle of wine all at the same time.

If you could invite anyone to see your show (and you know they would come), who would it be?Camilla Parker Bowles I think she would enjoy my jokes about the royal family, and we would get hammered together after the show. Most comedians can drink, but I reckon she would drink most of the festival club under the table.

What comedian (alive or dead) do you wish you’d seen live?
No question, Phyllis Diller, what a camp, fabulous woman. Last time she bought a girdle US rubber went up 8 points. Amazing.

When did you realise that being funny is the career for you?
When I was in primary school I wasn’t very popular, but on Grade 6 camp they put on a talent night and I wrote a hilarious parody of the ‘But wait! There’s more!’ commercials. I was very well reviewed and I was quite radical (that meant ‘quiche’ in 1998), even if it had worn off by the end of the bus trip back to school.

What’s the best heckle you’ve received?
I sometimes perform a parody character of Rhonda Burchmore (aptly named Rhonda Butchmore) where I wear a ball gown and make fun of celebrities. I was playing Rhonda on stage in a little pub last year and a drunk guy walked in having no idea what was going on and yelled “Yerrr a f**king ugly woman, but I’d still go ya!”, which was quite flattering. He mustn’t have liked my jokes though because he’d left when I tried to take him up on his offer after the show.

Is there anything you’re not prepared to joke about?
Ricky Gervais once said “Never confuse the subject of a joke for the target.” I’d like to think that, if it is well written, there is no topic that cannot be covered in a comedy show, so long as the subject itself is not being made fun of.

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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