“It’s been a wild couple of years!” exclaims Gabbi Bolt, the Aussie comedian whose song was performed on Broadway early last year in Ratatouille the TikTok Musical, a crowdsourced show based on the Disney/Pixar animated film that came to fruition thanks to an enthusiastic fan base of creators on TikTok.
The former serious musician called it a “batshit situation” and says she feels lucky the artist who sang her lyrics was American TV host and comedian Wayne Brady, of How I Met Your Mother fame, whom Bolt has admired for a long time.
Bolt has been making and performing music since the age of 12, but her rise to fame as a comedian began when she started posting musical-comedy videos on TikTok when the pandemic hit in early 2020. Her viral videos include a singsong version of journalist Andrew Probyn and prime minister Scott Morrison’s back-and-forth at a press conference, and a duet with former prime minister Kevin Rudd about his petition for a royal commission into media bias.
Reflecting on her childhood in Bathurst, Bolt says that her mother always allowed her to be opinionated: “It really helped me feel the need to be my own person… Being allowed to have that space to be able to share my opinion freely [was a] privilege”.
Bolt has always been an avid music listener, going through rock, pop and emo phases, and her latest single from 2021, ‘What Am I To Do’, is a sincere romantic ballad. However, her singer-songwriter career has been put on hold for the moment as she develops her personal brand of sarcastic socio-political musical-comedy.
“When I’m writing a serious song, I don’t really think about what I want it to sound like… with comedy, I think you have to be a little bit more creative.”
I’d never in a million years thought I’d be able to fashion it into a stage career
Bolt leads the list of a whole generation of comedians whose popularity was boosted through social media in an age of social distancing and seemingly unending lockdowns. Her TikTok account @fettuccinefettuqueen has around 158,000 followers and 3.2 million likes at the time of this article’s writing.
“I’d never in a million years thought I’d be able to fashion it into a stage career, into a real-life comedy career,” says Bolt when asked about her rise on TikTok.
“I basically got a job at The Chaser through making stupid TikToks… my entire TikTok account started as a way to distract myself from the fact that I lost a bunch of work, so it was really kind of full circle how it serviced me in the end.”
Gabbi Bolt isn’t the only ‘TikTok comedian’ who will be performing at this year’s packed Sydney Comedy Festival. There’s Samantha Andrew (@samanthaandrew1) and Alright Hey! (@alright.hey), who both have over 200,000 TikTok followers, and Christian Hull (@christianmhull), who has amassed 1.6 million followers.
Bolt says that “a lot of people on TikTok, particularly now, are people whose creative industry shut down for two years… It was a place of complete expression and getting things off your chest when there wasn’t really a space to do that."
@fettuccinefettuqueen Looking at the federal budget like 👀Melbourrrnne! Tickets to my #MICF show are selling like a good cup of coffee on a cold day but there are still some on sale! Get em now! In my bio #melbourne ♬ original sound - Gabbi Bolt
Samantha Andrews believes that TikTok culture has influenced the way she makes comedy; “I definitely play to the rule that the first five to ten seconds of my video/sketch/song has to include something that grabs the viewers’ attention… I definitely make more nostalgic content than I would like as people are always asking me for it, but aside from that I am pretty good at trusting my gut and pumping out content I would personally enjoy watching on the app”.
“I blew up mostly because I made a lot of dumb videos guessing paint colours on TikTok,” says Christian Hull. “No idea why they did so well, but it was zero effort content, and next minute I was getting millions of views. I don't understand the internet at all.”
According to Sydney-based YouTuber, former drag queen and comedian Alright Hey!: “TikTok has the power to make anyone a viral sensation overnight. The algorithm is something we've never seen before, and it has the ability to put your content in front of an audience who actually wants to watch it.” The self-professed “glamazon” had already built a platform through Instagram, but TikTok opened up a whole new audience.
@alright.hey I’d say I’m going to hell for this, but I already had a one way ticket. #hillsong #exposed #youknowyoureaustralianwhen #alrighthey #hepickedmeup ♬ God So Loved - Live - Hillsong Worship
Being a star TikToker is hard work, as evidenced by Melbourne-based comedian Diana Nguyen (@realdiananguyen), who spent hours scrolling the platform to understand its tricks: “I also studied one dance move and repeated for 30 videos. Different backgrounds, different clothes, same dance move."
On the other hand, Lizzy Hoo (@lizzyhoo) is not too concerned about how her videos track on TikTok: “I don't really create content [specifically for TikTok]. There are lots of comedians doing really well on socials creating content, and that's so great! I like to put my stand-up clips online, but that's about it.”
Bolt’s latest live comedy show, I Hope My Keyboard Doesn’t Break, will be performed at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville (voted the tenth coolest neighbourhood in the world by Time Out voters in 2020) on April 28 and 29. This will be the biggest venue this show has travelled to so far.
“It is hopefully going to be really unhinged,” says Bolt. “There are songs about feminism, there are songs about climate action, there are songs about meditation and meditation apps… There’s a song about my hometown as well, so if you’re from a regional area you’ll probably really love that song.”
“If you’re going through your mid-20s and thinking ‘What if all of this chaos I’m experiencing right now was a musical?’, I feel like you’ll like this show.”
As for advice to fellow up-and-coming comedians, Bolt’s suggestion is simple: “Do what you want and make what you like to make. It may be slower at first, but the audience will gravitate towards you if you like that, and then you know you have a loyal audience.”
The 2022 Sydney Comedy Festival runs from Monday April 25 to Sunday May 22. Check out our top picks.