- Simon Piening
Russell McGilton is a bald 42 year old Melbournian who has spent his life wandering the fields of performance creation, from public speaking, playwriting, screenwriting, and lately, to solo performance and comedy.
As he downs a coffee and decimates a chocolate brownie, he tries on some new jokes. “I can’t understand why people don’t find clitoris jokes funny. Dick jokes are great, right? So why don’t we like the clitoris??” He admits that his shows get pretty filthy but shrugs, “that’s my humour, and it’s never likely to change.” He then does an impression of the Clitoris Morse Code.
Soon after his foray into solo territory, McGilton experienced his worst show night ever at the Edinburgh Fringe. The night before had been fantastic, a great audience, standing ovations – performers’ heaven. The next night he had a palpable sense that the 20 audience members hated him, like, really hated him. During an impression of a humping monkey, he slipped and fell into an audience member, but kept the show going by humping her. Good idea? Her boyfriend didn’t think so, and promptly kicked Russell in the backside.
Having survived this and many other less than ideal performance situations, McGilton’s one piece of advice is not to take the piss out of a reviewer at your show. The ensuing terrible review still exists thanks to the staying power of the internet.
McGilton is a fairly open guy and is, shall we say, comfortable with his body. He wanted the front cover of his first book, a travel autobiography, to have a picture of himself cycling naked. Sadly, the publishers vetoed this. They also renamed the book from Bombay to Beijing by Bicycle to Yakety Yak – then were surprised it didn’t sell. So instead, McGilton turned the book into his first one man show, and took his naked bum where no book could go – to the stages of the Melbourne and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. Following its success, he moved into comedy with his second show, Accidents are Prohibited on this Road, which he has taken to the Adelaide Fringe.
Both his solo shows have been based on his experiences at 20 when he fled Australia to escape a bad relationship. He also hoped that travel would cure him of his ADD – Attention Dickhead Disorder – by making him more cultured. Instead, he ended up travelling with the kind of Aussies that give us a bad name to the rest of the world. We all know the kind. Wayne from Woy Woy was unforgettable; he wore tiny footy shorts with nothing underneath, and thought it was a good idea to pretend to have a gun at a border town. Together they survived being shot at, then a bus crash, but barely escaped the local women.
Originally from a writing background, when McGilton found himself frustrated with the Howard Government in 2007, he wrote a live radio play entitled Seditious Delicious - A Portrait of John Howard, an inversion of The Picture of Dorian Gray in which Howard’s portrait got better looking and he himself became uglier with every wicked deed he committed. Cursed to suffer his own policies, Howard was then dressed as a Lebanese man and bashed at Bondi Beach, sent to Christmas Island then back to Pakistan, caught by Americans and thrown into a Guantanamo prison with David Hicks.
In Andrew Bolt’s review of Seditious Delicious, he asserts that McGilton has mental problems. With a straight face, McGilton tells me his next play will be entitled The Man with 1000 Assholes – a Tribute to Andrew Bolt.
Now in his 40s, McGilton is going strong, still passionate about loving performance, and hating cars. His other passion is cycling, and he has ridden in Nepal, Pakistan, Ireland, New Zealand and, of course, from Bombay to Beijing. His short film, Autogedden, sees the world end by cars, and he informs me seriously that more people have been killed in car accidents than the two world wars combined. He thinks Melbourne would be the perfect city if they just got rid of the 4-Wheeled-Death-Machines.
Russell’s hair started disappearing when he was 19, and by 30 it had deserted him completely. During his brief stint in Neighbours as the tough-man manager of a nightclub, he was sworn at by the lighting crew for reflecting too much light off his shiny crown. He retorts, “It’s just part of my star quality”, then grimaces at his own lame joke.
Russell McGilton performs in Accidents are Prohibited on this Road, 1-12 March, 9:30pm at The Loft in the Adelaide Casino, North Terrace, Adelaide (not Sundays or Mondays), or at Nexus Gallery, Monday March 7, 6pm, at the Lion Arts Centre, Cnr. Morphett St & North Terrace, Adelaide. Further details»