Peter Helliar's penis isn’t the first thing I expect him to start talking about. Hellier’s always been that somewhat goofy, likeable, homely (without that being an insult) kind of comedian. A comedian you could take your nan to see and it wouldn’t be too confronting.
But here we are talking about his penis.
“I decided to have a vasectomy,” he says, “and it got me to thinking about facing up to responsibilities and how there comes a time in your life when you have to put on your big boy pants and just get on with it.”
Big Boy Pants is his latest show and he’s bringing it to Canberra as part of the 2019 Spiegeltent line-up, talking about how there comes a time in every man’s life where things change.
“I remember a time when nobody was interested in anything I said unless it was about comedy or football or the movies or something,” he says.
“And then you start working on a show like The Project, and as much as it’s my job to bring levity to the show, people can forget that and sometimes I get asked my opinion on all sorts of issues.
“I've had to embrace it a little bit, rather than running away from it all, I've had to ask myself what do I think about some of these things.”
Not that the night will be about Helliar voicing his opinions to a captive audience.
“There has to be a laugh in it. I'm not interested in going out there and giving my opinion on topics without a joke at the end of it.
“I've always thought comedy should be a reflection of what the comedian is doing and living through. It’s like when comedians have kids, there's this internal dialogue about whether you should talk about your kids but I find it ridiculous if you don't.
“They become the biggest thing in your life, there's this enormous shift in your personal circumstances and to not reflect that on stage seems crazy.”
Helliar’s kids are 16, 14 and 10. Three was obviously enough. It was around the same age where he started to toy with the idea of stand-up comedy as being something he could do.
“I remember enjoying getting a laugh very early on, making people laugh, my family, my classmates, I can't remember that not being a thing with me.
“I remember in Year 9, my humanities teacher allowed me to host the class oral presentations, Tonight Live was a thing, Steve Vizard, I loved watching that, and I hosted this day in class thinking I was on Tonight Live.”
He “pushed the boundaries” during speeches at school and in the student newspaper, earning himself several talkings to.
“But the first time I remember getting up in some kind of set format was a comedy night at the football club.
“I was into watching stand up, I was getting into the idea of how it worked.
“For this night I wrote some original material and all the other guys were just up there telling popular jokes.
“My witty observations didn't go too well. I was about 16 and the guy who won bought me a beer.”
Fast-forward several decades and there wouldn’t be too many comedians who could pull off blue fluffy rave pants as their big boy pants, let alone that wig.
“They were just too good to say no to.”
At least they look like they’d be comfy around the area that was the inspiration for the show.
Peter Helliar: Big Boy Pants. 6.30pm, April 20. $40-$45. The Spiegeltent, Canberra Theatre Forecourt. canberratheatrecentre.com.au