By the average person's standards, Ben Pobjie is doing quite well. He has performed comedy shows at several comedy festivals, is a newspaper columnist, a frequent guest on national radio and is the author of three – three – books. Some guy called The Bedroom Philosopher even once described him as “Probably the funniest person in Australia.”
Most ordinary people would be happy with any one of these fine achievements under their belt. But is it enough for Ben Pobjie? Noooooo.
His new show – Smackweasel: A Memoir – takes a look at Mr Pobjie's lust for the real stuff – Fame. Apparently it's comedy, it's spoken word, it's a little music and a little puppet.
Smackweasel? I have never heard of Smackweasel? Noun? Verb? Adjective? What is Smackweasel?
Smackweasel is a word that drifted unbidden into my mind some years ago. It took me a while to figure out what it meant. On one level it is a beloved children's TV character, teaching kids about important things like smack. On another level it is a state of mind – believing that redemption is possible and rock bottom is just a starting point for reaching rock top. It's also a weasel.
But what's a weasel? I don't know what a weasel is. I'm picturing meercat. Or am I completely off the mark here?
Weasels are members of the family Mustelidae, cunning hunters, great with kids. They make wonderful pets, but are forever harassing poor Mole, Badger and Ratty. Not to mention Mr Toad! Wow, he had some problems! But that’s another story really.
They’re different from meerkats because they’re not as cute as meerkats. This is a metaphor for my own career, as despite my many tangible virtues, I am neglected, as the humble weasel is, because I’m not as cute as Cal Wilson.
Your show is about fame... what are your thoughts about fame?
I am desperate for fame. It is a sickness that consumes me. Every day I go without fame kills a piece of my soul, and everyone who is more famous than me is essentially my enemy. There are two reasons I want to be famous: it would mean I am succeeding in my chosen career; and it would inflate my self-esteem in the absence of a healthy psyche.
Desperate? Just how desperate are you to be famous? What lengths would you go to to be famous?
I think we have to be honest – becoming a comedian is a pretty extreme step in and of itself. Comedy is a terrible life choice, and I think if I had a healthier attitude to fame I’d never have done anything so stupid.
If you feel comedy has failed you so miserably in your dream to be famous, what would you like to be famous for?
I wouldn’t mind being one of the people on those World’s Sexiest People lists. Being sexy seems like a pretty good job.
Can't you be content with just being A Pretty Funny Guy and being Reasonably Well Known? Really, what is so good about fame?
I don’t know because I don’t have it. I guess I’m just really curious to find out.
Say you woke up tomorrow and found that you were famous. Properly, disgustingly famous. How do you see you first day of Proper Fame panning out?
First of all, I think I would lie in bed laughing hysterically to myself for about an hour. Then I’d go out for lunch and be incredibly gracious to people asking for autographs so that when they went away they’d tell all their friends “Oh my god, he’s just a regular guy, he hasn’t let it change him AT ALL.” Then I’d go to one of those big famous people functions and on the red carpet someone would say “who are you wearing?” and I’d say “Some guy I found in an alley the other night, great skin” and we’d all laugh. Then I would win several awards for something. Later in the evening I would stop at Hungry Jack’s for a late-night snack and the other patrons would be amazed. Then I’d go home and laugh hysterically a bit more.
Who are some of your most favourite famous people and why do you have such a crush on them?
Shaun Micallef, of course – do you even know how great he is? He is funny, and he is smart, and he has perfect taste in everything, and he makes me feel all gooey. He is pretty easy on the eye too. For similar reasons, Seth MacFarlane – obscenely talented, he makes some of my favourite shows, and he sings like an angel. Also Megan Follows, because she was Anne of Green Gables so DUH. And Abbi Jacobson from Broad City, who is much younger than me and almost obscenely good at what she does.
Do I know how great Shaun Micallef is? Let me just say that if you and me and Shaun were in the same room at a party, I would fight you quite enthusiastically for Shaun's attention. Do not stand between me and Shaun. What other man crushes would you like to talk about?
David Mitchell is one. I think we’d have a really great time together, just sitting around eating cheese, maybe playing Balderdash. And both Fry and Laurie. I think I could host a really great cheese and Balderdash party with Mitchell, Fry and Laurie. Then there’s everyone’s number one man crush, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
And who do you regard as some of the biggest stupids in the fame game?
I’m really sick of James Brayshaw. I was pretty sick of him the first time I ever saw him. And Meghan Trainor, a cautionary tale about giving your kids too much self-esteem. And, obviously, Rebecca Gibney.
Hmm. As far as global fame goes at the moment, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian would have to be right up there. Is this the kind of fame you aspire to? Do you ever see yourself hanging with the Kimyes?
This is my fatal flaw. Too much integrity to literally do anything for fame; not enough integrity to not want to be famous.
I was about to ask you another killer question but got distracted by your shirt. It's a very nice shirt. How would you describe your shirt?
There are many ways to describe my shirt: two-sleeved, large, cottony, wearable. But I think the most apt way to describe it is "unironed".
Have you ever thought about the possibility that it's the fact that you don't iron your shirts that is holding you back from achieving fame? I can't think of many famous people, off the top of my head, who don't iron their shirts.
No famous people iron their shirts. They don’t want anyone to know, but they don’t. It’s one of the greatest secrets of world history. About time we stopped the lies.
Who is the most famous person you've ever seen in the audience at your shows?
Either the British comedian Alexis Dubus, or Alice from Masterchef. Mind you, there might’ve been more famous people up the back – usually the lights are in my eyes.
Finally – there are a lot of famous comedians appearing at the MICF. Why do you think we should come to your show?
Because they don’t care – if you don’t come to their show, they won’t even notice your absence. Whereas if you don’t come to my show it’ll cause me to suffer a total nervous breakdown. I do hope you don’t want to be responsible for that.
Ben Pobjie's Smackweasel: A Memoir is currently playing as part of the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Details»