Sammy J's Major Party is on at the Canberra Theatre

Sammy J comes across as being surprisingly pleasant, straightforward and normal for a comedian.

Sammy J has been working in comedy since he was 19. Picture: Supplied

Sammy J has been working in comedy since he was 19. Picture: Supplied

Unlike some of his breed, while being interviewed he's not belligerent, or neurotic, or hung-over, and he doesn't treat the occasion as an opportunity to do an impromptu comedy routine.

Being married and a father probably helps to ground him.

It's tempting to think Samuel Jonathan McMillan - to use his full name - simply finds an outlet on the stage.

But this level of pseudo-psychoanalysis is probably unnecessary - after all, he's a comedian.

He wants to make people laugh and, sometimes, think.

McMillan coming to Canberra - a most appropriate location - as part of the tour of his new show, Sammy J's Major Party.

The double meaning in the title is no doubt intentional, alluding both to politics in the content and pleasure for himself and the audience.

Not that the 35-year-old is planning a bid for office in order to become Australia's answer to Ukrainian comedian-turned-PM Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

He's happier being, as he calls it, "the jester on the sidelines".

And political ambitions might not be considered appropriate for a man who shows little reverence for our political institutions and procedures: he snuck into Malcolm Turnbull's final press conference as prime minister to eat a chocolate bar.

He also became the first person to lick every state and federal parliamentary building in Australia, which might have dispelled any taste for higher political aspirations.

Why did he decide to give all these buildings a licking?

"It was a silly idea," he says.

No deep, symbolic meaning intended, then. And once he'd licked one - for a satirical photo - he decided to make a personal commitment to lick them all.

Well, a person has to have goals.

And, over a couple of years of show touring and travel, that's exactly what he did.

For Canberra's federal Parliament House, he made a special effort.

"I licked it on the flagpole - the central base, made of concrete.

Sammy J as the Government Coach. Picture: Supplied

Sammy J as the Government Coach. Picture: Supplied

"It was a glorious moment for democracy."

He was pursued by a security guard, but managed to escape. Whether the matter is taken up again when he re-enters the ACT remains to be seen.

Irreverence aside, why would McMillan even want to subject himself to the stresses of running for office?

Politics in recent years has been a comedian's dream - reality has sometimes overtaken satire.

There's been a passing parade of prime ministers, colourful characters, vicious vendettas and egregious events (remember the so-called "bonking ban"?) - and much else - from which to draw material.

It's a rich and never-ending source and the fact that the show will be on in Canberra after the federal election will only add to the stream of subjects (and, no doubt, topical references).

Rather than simply do his usual stand-up and songs this time, however, McMillan is taking another approach.

For one thing, he will not be teamed with Heath McIvor's puppet Randy Feltface, a regular comedy partner.

And there's often been a strong autobiographical element in the past - drawing on his schooldays, for example - but not, apparently, this time.

McMillan says Sammy J's Major Party is "very different to the previous shows I've done''.

"It's the first time I've been touring with some of the characters I've been playing on ABC TV for the past year or two."

One of the weekly TV segments that will be used on stage is Playground Politics. This is a Play School parody in which the host (guess who?) uses stories, craft activities and songs to examine issues of the day.

He has related the sad story of Average Voter, who's seen all the prime minister he's voted for tossed out of office mid-term.

Then in Barnaby On Ice, former National Party leader "Humpty Barnaby" competing in the the Winter Olympics, skates on thin ice with moves like the Double Standard Double Axle (defending traditional family values while having an affair) and the Downhill Career on Mount Integrity trying to Outrun the Story.

Naturally the climax is a Great Fall and ends with, "And all the king's horses and all the king's men/Gave thanks to Lord Murdoch/For not outing them."

And the PP host has also explored the burning issue How to Make a Faustian Pact, looking at how Turnbull set aside all his convictions - like favouring an Australian republic - in order to become prime minister.

More seriously, he dropped the satirical comic jabs and used the segment to talk about the March terrorist shooting in an episode called Monsters.

Another TV character he'll bring to the stage is the Government Coach, a motormouthed motivational force for politicians - full of sports terminology and cliches - advising them on their words and actions.

Government Coach refers to MPs and leaders as "players" and "captains".

He does a running commentary on the "Wentworth Match", in which the Liberals lost the "unloseable match" and Scott Morrison ignores his advice to blame candidate Dave Sharma and not compare the Liberals to the contestants in the Invictus Games.

"It's difficult to win a women's comp when you don't have enough women on the field so that's a key lesson for us, moving forward. Julie Bishop can only kick the ball to herself so many times," is one of his "post-match" admissions.

And Government Coach tells Kelly O"Dwyer during an appearance on Insiders, "I want you evasive, I want you agile - duck, weave, just do anything except answer the question."

Then there's the mellow, encouraging ("You're beautiful!") instructor in Natural Yoga who describes politics - and other phenomena - in terms of "flow designs" of various positions he proceeds to demonstrate.

There's the Libspill with its One-Seat Majority where you feel your Core Beliefs before letting them go by breathing out, resulting in Humilating Policy Backflips.

Another is Trump Flow - a warm up by Inflating Your Ego - breathing, blowing out all self-doubt - going into Midnight Tweeting, transitioning into other moves like Crooked Hilary and then feeling Dividing the Country through your mid-terms. Eventually it ends into the Democrats' Foetal Position, which they assume before sobbing quietly until 2020.

McMillan says the stage show "won't be anything vulgar ... For 15 years I've been nothing but vulgar. Progress!"

But he also says, "I like to push boundaries" so make of that what you will.

I licked it on the flagpole - the central base, made of concrete. It was a glorious moment for democracy

Sammy J

How did all this begin?

Sammy J, a self-described nerd, has been interested in politics since his teens. Picture: Supplied

Sammy J, a self-described nerd, has been interested in politics since his teens. Picture: Supplied

McMillan grew up on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne.

"It was a fairly quiet area."

He did his best to change this, though, becoming a performer as a child and continuing through his years at Peninsula Grammar.

"I became the class clown in grade 3 and things snowballed."

Things took off when he was in high school.

"That's really when I got into music and performed in school productions."

It helped build his confidence in a fairly sport-focused school. But he discovered his niche.

"I found my people in the drama room."

After leaving school, McMillan began a law degree at the University of Melbourne and was heavily involved in the Law Revue.

He was also a member of United Nations Youth Australia and edited its newsletter in 1999 and 2000.

Despite that uncharacteric foray into seriousness, some things never changed.

He continued to be the class clown at university and one lecturer suggested he was in the wrong course.

Eventually he took the hint, abandoning law after two and a half years.

He did, eventually, graduate with a Bachelor of Arts (Media and Communications) in 2006.

After quitting law, McMillan decided to take up comedy full time (he had started doing gigs at the age of 19).

Sammy J's new show is based on the characters he plays on the ABC. Picture: Supplied

Sammy J's new show is based on the characters he plays on the ABC. Picture: Supplied

"My sense of humour never changed - I like surprising people but I like to do it creatively in a different way."

He adds, "I love to shock but you've got to pick your moment."

In 1999, he performed on Hey Hey it's Saturday, singing a song about being a nerd (some people were probably shocked, or at least mildly perturbed).

Six years later, his nipples were revealed again on Let Loose Life, and in 2011 they came out for a third time on Good News World.

Will we get to see them in Canberra, live on stage?

We'll just have to wait and see.

Whether he was shocking or not, others enjoyed what he did.

McMillan was named best newcomer of the 2006 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Since then has had a successful career in Australia and internationally, performing in Edinburgh, Montreal and London and starring in the Netflix sitcom as Sammy J & Randy.

He's also won the (since renamed) Barry Award for best comedy show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, among other awards.

But despite his many achievements - including a novel, The Long Class Goodnight - and his career longevity in a difficult industry, admits to still having some of the insecurities that plague performers.

However, he does so in such a matter-of-fact it doesn't come across as whiny or self-indulgent.

Nobody is entirely self-made, and among his influences he cites Australian comedians Lano and Woodley, Shaun Micallef and the D-Generation.

Others include the long-running US animated sitcom The Simpsons and the satirical singer-songwriter Tom Lehrer as well as the British comedy team Monty Python.

McMillan never undertook formal piano studies, teaching himself to play "just enough to make people laugh" at his humorous compositions.

Sammy J as the Government Coach uses sports jargon in his political commentary. Picture: Supplied

Sammy J as the Government Coach uses sports jargon in his political commentary. Picture: Supplied

While McMillan is generally forthcoming, there are a couple of exceptions.

He doesn't want to reveal his wife Hannah's occupation, because he's concerned it might affect her professionally, which is fair enough.

More interestingly, for someone who's so fascinated by politics he's made a TV series and a whole stage show about it, he seems a little uncomfortable talking about his own political leanings.

"I wouldn't call myself a swinging voter," he says.

"I like to think that what I personally believe is irrelevant to the joke ... I like to think I'm open-minded."

He says he likes to point out the faults and hypocrisy of all sides of politics in his comedy, so he doesn't want to be pigeonholed.

"Whatever I say would probably take away from the comedy."

It doesn't matter anyway - he's been described as biased, whatever he's said, done or satirised.

But that doesn't seem to bother him too much, given where the accusations have originated.

"I've been accused of being a Labor tragic and a Liberal Party stooge."

If he's being criticised from both sides, it sounds like he's doing something right.

But the most common description he applies to himself is "nerd" - perhaps still feeling something of the outsider status he experienced at school.

"I don't drink a lot or egg people," he says.

"I'm un-Australian!"

However, given his comedic longevity - his popularity shows no signs of declining - his healthy scepticism towards all things political, and his willingess and ability to send it up, that's one Sammy J statement that is perhaps, open to doubt.