Theatre Haus spoke with comedy wunderkind David Rose this month, undoubtedly one of Australia’s sharpest comics. Grab a cuppa and hear from the funny guy himself ahead of his Australian Tour this year:
How has your comedy evolved since your debut?
I did my first gig when I was 18 years old; I’d never been in a relationship, hadn’t moved out of home, hadn’t started (or finished) my university degree, and had only recently kissed a girl on the lips. I was a gangly kid that wanted to tell jokes, with no life to inspire those jokes. Now I’m older, smarter, a little heavier than I’d like to be, and much more engaged with life. I finally have a perspective, and I’m excited to share it with other people. When I was younger, people looked at me onstage and rolled their eyes. Why would anybody willingly listen to an 18 year old? I’ll be 30 this year, and hopefully people are ready to listen.
What inspired the title and theme of your new show ‘A Jerk in Progress’?
Well, that’s life, isn’t it? We’re all constantly in progress, constantly trying to better ourselves, and constantly failing to live up to our potential (unless you’re Taylor Swift). That’s the real message of the show, I think: I’m an asshole, but so are you, probably. Let’s talk about that!
As the great-grandson of Julian Rose, in what ways do you feel his legacy has influenced your approach to comedy?
When I was a kid, I used to worry a lot about my need to make jokes. I used to be genuinely troubled by it, as if there was something pathological going on. Maybe I had a brain tumour? After I learned about my great-grandfather, a very famous comedian in the early 20th century, those worries faded away. I realised it’s just a family trait, and out of my control. I’m also a lot more aware, and proud of, my Jewish heritage. My upbringing wasn’t religious, so I never felt a connection to that part of my identity. Watching Julian’s material and reading about his love of Judaism and Jewish culture made me much more appreciative of my cultural inheritance.
You aren’t afraid of social commentary. How do you tackle offensive humour in the age of cancel culture?
I never really understand what people mean when they talk about “offensive humour”. Offensive to whom? The world is an awfully big place, even though the internet can feel small sometimes. What one person finds hilarious, another person finds distasteful. Art is in the eye of the beholder, and hate speech aside, I think that there’s more than enough room for all points of view.
That’s my artistic perspective, at least. You want to know the real answer? I’m nowhere near famous enough to worry about cancel culture. People at my level don’t get “torn down” because we’re already on the ground floor. If enough people buy tickets to my shows, then I’ll have the luxury of worrying about cancel culture.
Can you walk us through your process of creating a new comedy set?
Sure. It starts with an idea – something said in conversation, noticed in a shop, or imagined in one of those fake arguments we all have in our heads. I take that idea and flesh it out in a Google doc or on my phone. When I think there’s enough there to warrant telling it to a crowd, I go to one of the dozens of open mic gigs around Melbourne and talk it out into a microphone. If it goes well, I take it home, revise it, and go to another show. Wash, rinse, repeat. After about 30 gigs, it’s normally pretty robust and ready to be filmed or performed to a large audience.
How does audience reaction online compare to the immediate feedback you get in live performances?
Having material blow up online is a strange experience, because it’s exponential. You can almost see the algorithm working in real time. Once you hit a certain threshold – say, 50k views – it can double very quickly. Before you know it, there’s a very large number on your screen and a handful of bizarre missives in the comments section. In real life, jokes either work or they don’t. There’s not a week-long delay in-between saying a joke and learning that the audience likes it. They’re different games for different purposes. In a real-life setting, you want as many laughs as you can get. Online, you want followers, reposts, and so on. So the material ends up being more tailored to those goals. I prefer the live environment much more.
Your comedy appeals to a wide range of audiences. How do you navigate such a diverse fan base?
My goal is to have a little bit of stuff for everybody, and not enough to satiate anybody. “Leave them all hungry”, that’s my motto! I don’t know how much navigation there is to do, honestly. I’ve been on the internet for most of my life and I’ve seen fanbases and creators come and go. The first thing of mine that got a million views is on a website that no longer exists. I just try to make stuff I like, and hope that people out there enjoy it.
You often share personal stories. How do you balance personal privacy with authenticity?
Not well. I’m a pretty private person in reality, and I don’t relish sharing my life outside of my work. I know it’s de jour to do that at the moment, but I need a lot of encouragement to share the offline parts of life. Can’t people just be happy with the jokes? Won’t somebody think of the jokes?
Apart from ‘A Jerk in Progress,’ are there any other projects or new directions you’re exploring in your comedy career?
I’d like to start writing more long-form pieces on Substack or Medium, I think. My first love is writing and it’d be nice to be able to explore ideas without feeling the pressure of a punchline every 12 seconds. If anybody is looking for a writer, shoot me a message.
Theatre Haus is the “home of theatre”, so we always ask, where/who/what is home to you?
I grew up in the middle of an arboretum, so home is wherever there are eucalyptus trees. I miss the bush now that I live in the city and wish there was some way to bring the bushland to Melbourne. One day when I’m rich and worried about cancel culture, I’ll build myself a private forest in Docklands.
The Wrap Up
Get ready for a laughter-filled start to the year with David Rose’s ‘Jerk in Progress’ Australian Tour 2023! The tour kicks off in Perth on January 19th at The Main Room at Hyde Park Hotel, followed by shows at the Upstairs Room at Balmoral and the Upstairs Comedy Club at Guildford Hotel. Then, it’s on to the Adelaide Fringe from February 27th to March 3rd at The Squeaker at Gluttony – Rymill Park. The tour wraps up with a series of performances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 27th to April 21st.
Tickets are on sale now, so don’t miss your chance to see one of Australia’s finest comics live in action. Visit DavidRoseComedy.com for all the info and to secure your tickets!