ACT News


Are Andrew and Danny Bensley proof they breed them funnier in Queanbeyan?

Local comedians and brothers Andrew and Danny Bensley are a couple of stand-up blokes, writes Bree Winchester.

Danny Bensley cringes as he remembers one of the worst gigs of his life.

He was playing to "one of the toughest crowds there is": a room full of federal public servants, at their Christmas party, in the actual Department of Health office in Woden, with two rows of executive sitting behind him.

"What an awesome corporate gig that was," he laughed.

"I was standing up the front in this starkly lit office and everyone was sitting in their seats.

"I had all of their bosses on chairs behind me - they were just afraid to laugh at anything - so I just started to cut sick on all the bosses.

"I was like 'you guys just don't want to laugh because these guys are here'.


"I had nothing. I didn't get a single laugh. And one of mum's good friends was in the crowd too and I was so embarrassed.

"I couldn't see anyone in the crowd except her, she was right in the middle just stone-faced."

Danny, 27, and big brother Andrew, 29, also a stand-up comic, are used to being surrounded by familiar faces at gigs. Both grew up in Queanbeyan and have spent the past three years honing their comedic talent at open mic nights and gigs across the border and in the ACT. Friends and family are regularly in the front row, and make up some of their biggest fans.

The Bensleys are regulars at upstairs Manuka venue Polit Bar, have recorded popular podcast A Shot and a Beer for two years at upstairs Civic Pub, and spent years testing new material at shows at Smiths Alternative and Queanbeyan's Royal Hotel. They got picked up by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival two years ago and have been invited back every year since - in March they'll host a week of Canberra talent at busy festival hub Melbourne Town Hall.

The Bensley brothers are local headliners at the Canberra Comedy Festival in early March with their new show Three Men and a Baby.

Fellow Canberra comedian and owner of Polit Bar, Anthony Tomic, is the third man, but if you're expecting a baby, think again.

You don't realise you're good at comedy or funny, you just realise you want more attention.

Andrew Bensley

"No there won't be a baby - we'll get an usher on stage to apologise before the show starts," Andrew said.

"But there will be about an hour of some very classic Canberra stories: Anthony's Croatian dad, life in the public service, travel, and, as usual, the super awkward situations we manage to get ourselves into.

"Three Men and a Baby will be a showcase of the three of us as comedians."

Despite often being mistaken for twins, the Bensleys have very different comedy styles. Andrew's all-time man of inspiration is Louis CK ("that's probably the hammiest, most obvious answer but it's true") while Danny prefers the "domesticated white guy" performances of US comedian Bill Burr.

"I'm more of an awkward weirdo, whereas Danny's quite likeable," Andrew said.

"I just have more jokes, and of a much higher calibre, while Danny's more of a storyteller.

"There have been a lot influences for me over the years but I've been re-watching Seinfeld recently I just realised that Jerry's the best there ever was or ever will be."

If Andrew's the Seinfeld, then Danny's the George Costanza.

"My new material is mostly something stupid I've done in life and then I go on stage and re-create it," Danny said.

"So I'll do something dumb and I'll think 'that's actually very funny' so then I have to invent a story where I do the same thing and tell it on stage."

Andrew said, "I talk to Danny and he'll say something funny and then I'll take that and I'll re-say it."

The brothers, who share the same friendship group ("we've got very funny friends - we just steal what they say, weave it into a story, and people pay to come and see us"), manned up to their nerves and started performing stand-up comedy in 2014.

They practised weekly at open mic nights at The Pot Belly in Belconnen and The Front at Lyneham before scoring their first ever paid gig at Civic Pub in August 2014.

"You don't realise you're good at comedy or funny, you just realise you want more attention," Andrew said.

"There's that moment about 10 minutes before every performance where you read over what you're going to say and you're like 'none of this funny, none of this is good'.

"It's a binge and purge relationship with comedy. When it works it's a very good feeling but when it doesn't, oh boy, it's horrible."

Canberrans play a big part in the Bensleys' creative process. The brothers write new material, test it out on each other and then take it to a local stage to see how the audience responds. While they mostly cut the stuff that completely bombs, some stories Danny, in particular, finds it hard to let go of.

"I try my material out on my dog, and then I'll just say things out loud in traffic," he said.

"And my partner's really good at being honest if something sucks.

"Sometimes I do like to hold onto a nugget that's not very good - the audience hates it but I like it - and I've got a lot of those."

Andrew: "That's like 70 per cent of your act."

Danny: "Well I just enjoy telling it and I really think it's quite funny."

Andrew's partner is less friendly when feeding back on his new material.

"I'll say 'is this funny?' And I'll perform something and she's an accountant - so she has a computer brain - and she'll just be like 'well that just doesn't make any sense' and I'm like 'yes, but is it funny though?

"Girlfriends are a tough crowd."

The brothers launched live podcast A Shot and a Beer in December 2014 with first-ever guest Greg Kimball. They've had more han 30 guests on the show since then, and score hundreds of downloads each time they go live with a new episode on iTunes. They describe the podcast as a learning process.

"There were many awkward episodes where we had nothing to say and it's very painful to listen back to - but we're starting to get the hang of it," Andrew said.

"We generally perform separately too so we're getting used to being on stage together to do material - so I'll get up for 10 minutes before a podcast and tell a story and usually Danny jumps in with jokes so it's semi-rehearsed."

Danny said, "We discovered last year that having Canberra comedians on the podcast got a way better response - so the up-and-coming dudes who have like 20 minutes of materials up their sleeves tend to bring a bigger crowd but also because we know them a bit better it's funnier and more relaxed."

Both brothers agree their passion for comedy started in the family home as young boys. Mum Vicki ("she's very absurdist - she loves the weird little thing out of nowhere like a karate kick to the head for no reason") and dad Peter ("he's more sarcastic and dry") passed on their wit. But they reckon their little sister Rachel, 24, has it all over them.

"Rach is easily the funniest Bensley - she kills it," Danny said.

"We have a family group WhatsApp chat and she's just in there slaying all day long.

"She's the least awkward one too, she's so sociable and normal, whereas you put me and Andrew in a room and it's just awkward."

While Danny is out and proud with his public service co-workers about his comedy talent, Andrew tends to keep the fact he's funny from colleagues at Dendy Cinemas.

"Some people try to keep it under wraps but I won't shut up about it," Danny said.

"I talk to everyone about it - then in December my boss's, boss's, boss called me into her office and asked me to perform at the Christmas party and I was like 'noooooo, definitely not, absolutely not.'

"There'd be too many restrictions - I mean I'm trying to push the envelope here!

"I reckon once people know [you do stand-up] they're more likely to laugh at what you say."

Andrew said, "I'm the opposite. I don't tell anyone I'm a comedian. I hate when people know because there's the expectation that you're going to be funny and I just cannot live up to that.

"When my work colleagues found out they would laugh at anything I said. I'd just be like 'hey guys, how you going?' and they were like 'oh oh oh - he's on! He's on now!'

"Or I'd be like 'is that popcorn machine turned on?' and they'd just be there knee-slapping."

Despite their popularity in Canberra, both comedians feel that they've hit a bit of a ceiling here in the ACT. Andrew made the move the Sydney last week in the hopes of performing stand-up more regularly, and has The Comedy Store and the Enmore Comedy Club in his sights.

"I've just moved to Sydney for a straight up change of scenery and to get more experience," he said.

"There are shows on every night in Sydney as opposed to here where there are shows once in a blue moon.

"All the comedians who've moved away, whether it be Sydney or Melbourne, and then come back to do spots here and you can see it in how they perform, they're so much more confident and so much better."

Danny plans to move to Melbourne at the end of 2017 to gain more exposure to stand-up, but would rather be sailing the seas.

"Unless you're Carl Barron or Wil Anderson it's hard to just live off comedy," Danny said.

"And a lot of guys say they don't want to do the cruise ships and that kind of stuff - like it's selling out maybe - but I'd love to do it."

And how do they describe their brotherly bond?

"We've got to look out for each other because if Drew does badly, it reflects badly on me," Danny said.

"So if he's doing unfunny stuff I'll be like Drew, mate, you've got to reconsider that - actually everything up until this point you should seriously reconsider."

Where to catch the Bensley brothers:

The 5.30 Show, as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Thursday 30 March to Sunday 9 April 2017, 5.30pm, Melbourne Town Hall. Tickets from Ticketmaster

Three Men and a Baby (with Anthony Tomic) as part of the Canberra Comedy Festival, Friday 24 & Saturday 25 March 2017, 8:15pm, Civic Pub. Tickets through

A Shot and a Beer podcast available on the iTunes store.