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Captain of Entertainment: Justin Heazlewood (aka The Bedroom Philosopher)

Justin Heazlewood, or as he is known in more polite circles, The Bedroom Philosopher, isn't just a funny guy on the streets. He’s a regular contributor to Frankie. magazine, where he never shies away from baring the oh-so-relatable (and, at times, cringe-inducing) moments of his life for our entertainment, and his comedy show, Songs from the 86 Tram, won a 2010 Green Room Award (which is apparently a Melbourne thing for performer types) and even spawned an offshoot album. If you’re an FBi or Triple J listener you’ll almost certainly have heard the single Northcote (So Hung Over) during the past few weeks. Like most things that come out of this guy’s head, it is seriously f’ing funny.

Justin’s first foray into the world of entertainment began in his hometown of Burnie in Tasmania, where at the fresh age of 15 he won the populist vote at his high school talent quest for a satirical examination of Home & Away. His classmates loved it – the judges, however did not. After being typecast as the gay / bisexual / naked guy in pretty much every play put on by Canberra Uni, Justin finally tasted success in 2000 with a set that included an acoustic rendition of Rockafella Skank. Most notably, Justin holds the world record for the continuous performance of John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice”.

In light of his upcoming Sydney show, Justin sat down with Side Street Sydney and responded politely to our grilling.

What do you put under ‘occupation’ on your tax return?
‘Captain of Entertainment.’

We non-comedians have a suspicion that you’re all sitting around in green rooms telling all these seriously funny jokes to each other. What really goes on back there?
Imagine a waiting room in a clinic for self-obsessed men. There’s magazines, some water and the white-eyed glare of those who have ingested well above the recommended daily serving of nervous energy.

What has been your proudest moment in defeating a heckler?
Up at the This Is Not Art festival in Newcastle there’s an iconic character called Shock who we refer to as Serial Pest. He infamously gatecrashed Michael Hutchence’s funeral and has been arrested for running onto football fields a few times. I was MCing a comedy thing and he was up to his old tricks, wandering around in the crowd with his cat, asking if he could get on stage. I knew that yelling at him wouldn’t work, so in a moment of inspiration I remembered I had a kazoo in my guitar case. I grabbed it and started playing a merry tune, pied piper style. Serial Pest was spellbound and followed me up on stage, where I was able to lead him out of the venue to uproarious applause.

What have you had to sacrifice to achieve so much?
I suppose I’ve had to sacrifice quality of life. Pretty much any spare money I have goes toward the next project. Often I’m rushing off to some gig, heart pounding, eyes burning, running for the bus and I’ll look across the street and see some people kicking back having afternoon beers and dinner and laughing away all carefree and I’ll feel a pang of jealousy, and for a moment want to swap places with them, and have the rest of the night off and not have anything to think about other than which movie I’m going to see that night. Instead, I’ll be dashing off to put myself through the ringer for another bare-all self-referential, soul mining satire extravaganza followed by long trip home and obsessive checking of emails and frantic planning for the next day. The payoffs are worth it though, that’s why we do it. When something goes right it’s a firework of gold in your chest.

I think you know if you’re an ambitious artist or not by what’s going through your head when you sit down to watch The Simpsons. If you’re an artist you’ll be feeling slightly guilty and quietly plotting your next move – if you’re not you’ll just be sitting there going ‘I’ve seen this one twenty times. Ah well, one more won’t hurt.’

Last year you had your worst gig of all time in Darwin. What went wrong?
The gig was booked at a bar/restaurant. I was to come on around 9pm, theoretically after people had finished their meals. The owner of the venue was supposed to set up a door person so I could charge $10 per person and make money that way. Come 8:50pm and he rocks up, (a scatterbrained half German, half Swiss alcoholic), hands me an ice bucket and says, ah, just pass that around. He then goes up on the mic and makes a quick plea for people to put money in the bucket. With no backstage and nowhere to get ready, I hand the bucket to my friend and stroll up on stage. The crowd hate me and everything I do. Being Darwin, they’re still eating dinner and processing information from the day before. My rapid-fire irony songs are like rocks thrown at corrugated iron. Not getting any laughs makes me implode with derision and I start to rock out even more because I know they’re hating it. Just when it can’t get any more tense, the owner comes out ringing a small dinner gong saying ‘enough, enough.’

What are your favourite words; the ones that as a writer you just can’t live without?
Turquoise. Bereft. Sequential. Dextrous. Cusp. Linen. Rodriguez. Cordial. Maelstrom. Hexagon. Lilt. Flannel. Abacus. Slurp.

You’re a big proponent of getting down and dirty with a therapist. What’s the best advice you can give to people who are too chicken to bare it all?
People tend to think going to a counsellor will cause them to open up a big scary can of worms that they might not be able to control or grasp. It’s just like going to the gym for your soul. Yeah, the first session will hurt like hell, but eventually your muscles will get used to it, and by the fifth week you’ll be like, ‘yep, better out than in’ and walking away feeling lighter. I love how people run to the doctor or the nutritionist or the gym or uni to improve facets of their lives, but the idea of doing something for your emotional state is preposterous! Why do you think everyone’s so fricken aggressive and weird? Less drinking more talking, people. Seriously.

You recently cut your Facebook friends list down “from 480 to a more manageable 80”. Many people seem to be saying the same thing. What is it about social media that we get so into it at the beginning but in time it becomes a burden?
I resent how a privately run, commercialised interface like Facebook weasels its way into our lives and becomes a default currency for the way we interact with each other. There’s something so very high school about switching it on and seeing this news feed telling me completely unnecessary things, like when one of my friends says something on another friend’s wall. I suppose for someone who shares so much of themselves through their writing and music and has his life story up on his website, I yearn for a certain level of privacy and intimate contact. To me a Facebook isn’t a symbol of friendship; it’s a tokenistic icon that promotes competitiveness, like how many comments did I get on my status, how many friends do I have, and makes patronising suggestions to write on your friends walls – what am I, fifteen? I’d like to write on Facebook’s wall – fuck off.

What’s the dream? What are you aiming for next?
The dream is I’m in my nan and pop’s backyard with Tina Turner yelling at me and I’m wearing a wetsuit made out of bananas. Oh, sorry, artistic dream… okay… I think I would like my own TV show like Demetri Martin. I like the format of mixing sketches, songs and live stand-up in a stylish way. I will attempt to improve my artistic output and raise my profile in this country to the degree that television production companies would take my pitches seriously, while also seeking international industry attention by doing a solo show at Edinburgh Fringe. Then a tell-all memoir. Cookbook. Computer game. My own line of menswear. Drug dependency. Sports car. Run for parliament. Marry in Vegas. Hep C. Rehab. Children’s book. Online poetry website. Busking. Death.

Justin is performing at The Vanguard tomorrow night (Thursday, April 29). Tickets are $15 at the door, but we have a double pass to giveaway! Oh my goodness. Who wants it? Raise your hands in the air. On second thought, just email us at explaining why you want to go in 100 words or less and we’ll get back to you by the end of today!

words: Kristen Hodges


October 14, 2016 at 11:10 PM said...

I've heard so many of his song and I can tell you that he is really talented. Follow the link if you want to listen to all his works.

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