Never let the truth get in the way of a good yarn. It’s a philosophy that worked for Mark ‘Chopper’ Read, and is getting some extra mileage with observational comedian Daniel Connell.
“A lot of my material starts from hearing someone say something, or seeing something on the news…so there is a truth element to some of it,” he says.
“I’d say 40 or 50 per cent is true – but I always put ridiculous endings on the stories, or just make up the ending and see if it’s funny.”
Connell’s anecdotal approach to joke-telling has occasionally left his audience wondering where the line between truth and fiction can be drawn, however.
“I had a joke I was doing last year about a milkshake fetish – I said that I got involved in it and people always asked me after that, ‘Do you really do that?’ Because it’s quite gross,” Connell recounts with a laugh.
“I do like to leave people hanging sometimes – maybe it is [real], maybe it isn’t.”
We may be taking a leap of faith by accepting the truth of Connell’s autobiography, then, wherein he recounts watching a lot of television comedy as a teenager: Jimeoin, Full Frontal, Fast Forward, Hale and Pace.
“I used to really enjoy the sketch comedy stuff, and from there I got interested in stand-up … [but] I didn’t attempt it until I was 25, it took awhile to get the guts to get up and have a go.”
In the interim, Connell worked as a chef, first in Jindabyne, then in Canberra – where he quit after a week on the job.
“I was over cheffing, I don’t know why I did it in the first place. I just needed to stop,” Connell says.
The time was right to finally dive into the daunting world of stand-up comedy, where he earned his stripes – and in 2009, first place – in the Canberra heats of the Green Faces comedy competition.
“I would say [Canberra is] one of the best places in Australia to start off,” Connell says.
“If you’re in Sydney or Melbourne trying to start, going to a room and telling them you’ve never done comedy, it’s very hard to get a spot … Here, you can take your time and maybe have a couple of failures, and the guys [running the rooms] don’t really put any pressure on you.”
In 2010, Connell decided to try his luck on the competitive Melbourne comedy circuit.
“It took awhile – it was like starting all over again when I moved. I didn’t know anyone. I thought the first five minutes that I had here were pretty good, and then I went down and it wasn’t really that good at all.”
Connell went back to the drawing board, refined his material, and learned to string jokes together in a cohesive sequence.
His persistence paid off, with Connell now performing regular gigs around the city and debuting his solo show, Likeable Enough, at the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
Connell returns to the capital tonight to perform as part of Must See Comedy, which stars British veteran Jeff Green.
“He’s a top quality comedian, we’re pretty rapt to have him on the tour,” Connell says. “He was touted as the UK’s funniest man, and he’s done galas and festivals all around the world, so it’s pretty cool to have him on board.”
Must See Comedy doubles as the launch for the Canberra Comedy Festival, which is set to make its debut in March with British comedy champion Stephen K Amos as the main headliner.
“It’s great, it’s absolutely fantastic, it’s just what the doctor ordered [for] Canberra comedy,” Connell says. “It’s nice and small, just five days, 16 shows, so it’s not overkill, they’re starting nice and boutique –and then build it as the years go on.
“It’s in the perfect week between Adelaide and Melbourne [Comedy Festivals], all the comedians are available – so if they hear good things, they’ll come.''
MUST SEE COMEDY
With: Jeff Green, Daniel Connell, Tom Siegert, Smart Casual
When: Tonight, 7.30pm
Where: Canberra Casino
Tickets: $25 at the door