Fresh from ABC TV’s Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane, Sammy J is wheeling his keyboard back to Adelaide and busting out his favourite tunes. After performing at sell-out crowds around the world and at this year’s Fringe Festival with his purple pal, Randy, Sammy is back with a solo act and will be as smart, witty and entertaining as ever in The Sammy J Songbook. As one of the most exciting performers in the Australian comedy scene, GLAM had a chat with Sammy about his absurdly wicked style, writing for TV and stage, and how abandoning a law degree was his best move.
This “classic nerd who didn’t know how to fit in” found his purpose in life when he made classmates laugh in primary school. From those first innocent days to sell-out crowds and five-star reviews from shows in Edinburgh Fringe, Montreal Just For Laughs, London’s West End and our own Adelaide Fringe, Sammy J has become one of Australia’s most fascinating and successful names.
As he tried his hand at university, Sammy earned some dollars on the side with back-alley shows with the dream of making just enough to live. With inspirations heavily featuring Australian comedians like Shaun Micallef, Lano and Woodley, as well as the works of UK’s Monty Python, it’s easy to see how these theatrics inform Sammy’s endless creativity.
“I always like watching the people who have done consistent work for years … it’s not quite as sexy, but I find stability and financial security inspiring.”
After massive success overseas and around the nation, Sammy hasn’t let the fame turn him into an “arsehole”.
“There’s the public face of it, then there’s the reality. The TV show was so fun and is what I’m most proud of, but you release it then sit back and wait. It’s not like someone drives a truck of money to your door and says, ‘hey you’ve made it!’”
Alongside his live musical-comedy performances, Sammy has composed countless original songs for his first taste in TV with Ricketts Lane. It’s this ability to create art that lasts which has Sammy dabbling off-stage.
“It’s really fun creating stuff that lasts. Live stuff obviously comes and goes, but to make a TV show was really cool and I can show my kids that, whenever it’s appropriate.”
Sammy jokes that he’s now hit his peak, but with such an incredible talent for the absurd and melodic genius, it’s hard to imagine a time when this comedian will be slowing down. “For me, comedy is all about surprising the audience, that’s why I mix it up. I’m never sure what the next thing may be, but I always want it to scare me. If it’s worth doing, it has to have that risk of succeeding or failing woefully.”
The comedian’s ability to adapt for diverse demographics is one of the strongest elements in his live shows, whether solo or with Randy, and now for the screen. “My true love is being on stage, with the direct connection with people and you can take your time. In TV there’s not a lot of room for subtlety … it’s a very different muscle to flex but it’s a fun one.”
“I make a point of writing solo differently, on my own it’s quite a different tone – I talk about my real life and exist more in the real world and the real me, which is fun and again, a different headspace.”
The Sammy J Songbook will follow the evolution of Sammy’s musical journey; one he started as a kid trying to make his mark, to now, writing with more depth, though still obscene of course. “It’s a really fun show for lovers of musical comedy or skinny men combined. It’s either that or sitting by the Torrens having a picnic, so people should really come see me.”
The Sammy j Songbook is part of this year’s Adelaide Cabaret Festival and has two shows (Sat 18 and Sun 19 June) at the Space Theatre.
Bookings can be made by clicking here.
Interview by Hannah Lally