Never work with children or animals has been an age-old entertainment industry mantra for good reasons, but for Jimmy Rees a.k.a Jimmy Giggle, working with both is a dangerous liaison that has paid off in spades. OK, Hoot The Owl may not be a real animal along with the other characters on ABC’s Giggle and Hoot, but I think you can understand where I’m coming from.
We caught up with Jimmy to discuss the popular children’s show touring Live On Stage in April, and weren’t surprised at all to find out that the nice guy on TV is even nicer in person. Being the parent of 2 young boys, I’ve become well familiar with Giggle and Hoot on a daily basis, so it feels like I’m talking to an old friend over the phone. The recognizable voice that occasionally drops into the high pitched Jimmy Giggle character is ever enthusiastic, and speaks with a child-like wonder himself at how his fortunes have changed over the past few years.
The next big thing in Children’s Entertainment is soon to be a father himself, and we wondered if his role on Giggle and Hoot has prepared him for his next big challenge as a dad. “I love kids and have a couple of nephews, and of course meet a lot of the fans so I have a lot of mum’s with small babies going ‘here, hold it’, so I’m often thrown in the deep end (laughs). It’s given me good experience for sure.”
Rees landed the role of Jimmy Giggle out of a whopping 5000 candidates, and has been riding the waves of success ever since, leaving his ‘other’ career behind in the process.” When I got the role I was working in a restaurant on the Mornington Peninsula and not doing much acting wise, but I knew I wanted to do something drama related (which he’d done in school) but I didn’t know how. There was an open casting call to audition for a different role with Studio 3 so I sent in a video application and the person who viewed the video sent it through to the ABC for the Jimmy Giggle role. It came out of nowhere but it was amazing and I think I got the better job in the end.”
The rest is history as they say, and he’s now a household name. “Opportunities don’t come by that often so when you get one you have to go for it, I’m glad I did and I’ve been grateful for that. We’re doing things like going on tour now and lots of other great things, I’m appreciative of the opportunities that Giggle & Hoot has given me, and who knows where it will go? I’ll ride it as long as I can.” And let’s hope that it’s a long journey, as Jimmy is adored by a legion of young (and old) fans each day.
On that note, there’s this Facebook page that was set up by mum’s who are smitten with the dashingly charming Jimmy Giggle. Then there’s the story of the mum who tried to pass on her phone number to Rees after a show, not realizing it was his wife that she’d handed the slip of paper over to. Thus is the reach of children’s television, extending not only to the little ones but also to the mums and dads that share their children’s journeys through the things that they watch.
Most of the show is heavily scripted for time and content reasons, but Rees has at least a portion of creative input on the studio floor.” If there’s something that’s not quite ‘Jimmy Giggle or Hoot’, or we have doubts about something, then we run it by the Director. Also, if we want to add something we’re free to suggest it and at least give it a go. It’s a team effort and we all put our heads together to make it as best as possible, and the Director makes the call as to whether or not it will work. That’s the great thing about the show, it’s collaborative and we’re ultimately there to have (in his best Jimmy Giggle voice) a Giggle and a Hoot!” We both laugh.
Getting back to the ‘working with children and animals’ reference, I had to ask the question as to whether or not anything has gone pear shaped whilst performing. Rees shares a few stories but one in particular catches my interest regarding a wayward cockatoo. “We had a bird handler on set, and this cockatoo was on my arm sitting perfectly still. It was sitting there nice and calm but during the take it unexpectedly decided to jump up onto my shoulder. It scared the heck out of me and the look on my face showed absolute terror, and it was that take which ended up making it onto the show.” If there’s one thing that he’s learned being on the show thus far, it is to expect the unexpected. And that also goes for the kids he meets in public who say the darndest things. “One little fellow came up to me at a shopping centre and asked if I was a cartoon or real. I had to laugh, it was so cute.”
On how he’s handled the transition from being an unknown into one of the biggest names in kid’s entertainment, Rees’ response is one of humility and gratitude. “First of all, I never expected anything like it and I’m so grateful. I mean, some aspects of ’that’ Facebook page are amusing and make me laugh on occasion, but I really do appreciate the love.”
And so do we Jimmy, so do we!
Jimmy Giggle, Hoot, and Hootabelle will be off on a giggle-icious adventure with their friends Bananas in Pyjamas and Hoopla Doopla’s Zap, Mimi & Jango next month and will tour Perth and Adelaide. Be sure to take the family to enjoy a wholesome, fun-filled adventure with laughs and characters galore.
By Darren Hassan
Dates and details below:
Sat Apr 4 Regal Theatre, Perth. 10a.m & 12:30pm
Sun Apr 5 Regal Theatre, Perth. 10a.m & 12:30pm
Sat Apr 10 Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide 10a.m & 12:30pm
Sun Apr 11 Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide 10a.m & 12:30pm