Adam Hills: Joymonger
Benito Di Fonzo
May 17, 2007. Sydney Morning Herald.
The Spicks and Specks host is having a car roof moment.
Adam Hill's deliriously positive dial has beamed at us from ABC's Spicks and Specks and stages from Enmore to Edinburgh. His new show, Joymonger, promises more uplifting humour. Someone once said "never trust a man that doesn't drink or is always smiling", so I decided to find Hills's dark side. What makes him angry?
"What makes me really angry is myself," says Hills, "my own shortcomings."
That's just too nice.
"No, I get really shitty at myself - if I forget somebody's birthday I really take it to heart."
Move over, Satan!
"All this 'nice guy of comedy' malarky is never really something I've cultivated," Hills says.
I remind him that his show is called Joymonger.
"Well, there's that," he says. "I was trying to think of something like 'militant joy' or 'joy warrior,' this idea of living in a cynical, jaded and very frustrating world and therefore trying to dance on the roof of my car."
The analogy, Hills says, comes from a friend in Egypt.
"He told me that whenever there was a traffic jam it was so frustrating - 45 degrees, no one could move - people would get out and dance on the roofs of their cars. I liked the fact that purely out of frustration people would dance on their cars, not because everything is great but because everything has turned so bad that the only way to deal with it is to dance on your car."
Is he sure they were dancing, not jumping? "Pretty sure. I believe in putting positive vibes out into the world and when you're frustrated and angry that's when you most need to put positive vibes out."
Joymonger is partly "improvised joy," such as in Edinburgh where Hills conducted a gay wedding, held an impromptu job interview and became godfather to a three-month-old in the front row.
"I like to create something special that audiences are going to remember," Hills says. "It's not about me showing off, it's about making sure they're enjoying themselves and often that entails 20 minutes of chatting with them because I want to get to know them."
Hills will be bringing his sign-language interpreter for Joymonger.
"I did a show in Adelaide a few years ago for a disability art conference and they provided a signer and two things happened. First, deaf people in the audience were connecting with my material, and second, I was getting laughs out of the sign-interpreter because the hearing people were fascinated. Now I have hearing people who will only book [for signer shows.]"
Hills was raised in Sydney's Sutherland Shire, where he had a "pretty happy suburban life, pool in the backyard, cricket on the road ... I was so happy when I was 10, 12 years old, and the rest of my life is trying to recapture that."
Happy despite the fact that he was born without a right foot, something that makes him feel almost lucky as it pushed him to achieve his goal. Hills has been determined to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian since he first heard Victor Borge on a plane at the ripe age of eight.
"That one person was making a room full of people laugh - I liked that idea. [Also] our family used to listen to comedy on holidays; Bill Cosby, Billy Connolly, Peter Sellers. Comedy was something that bonded our family. I like stand-up because it bonds people; again maybe it's me trying to recapture the happy days of being a 10-year-old."
Hills admits he has been driven to anger, such as when he abused a punter in an Adelaide beer garden who attempted to tell him a racist joke.
"I don't deal well with negative energy," he says, "If something bad is going on around me I wither and freeze up or yell at people inside my own head. One of the points of [ Joymonger] is to find a way of dealing with that."
Also, the man who wrote on disability website Ouch! that he feared becoming a "one-legged Anthony Robbins" does worry he takes life too seriously.
"I think a lot of stand-ups take life incredibly seriously; that's why they do stand-up. [So] I wouldn't say I have a dark side, but I certainly take life ridiculously seriously and I need to lighten up."