The dapper dresser with the filthy mouth is following up his Barry-nominated 'Bona Fide' with a new hour: 'I'm Fine'
Last year, Rhys Nicholson was nominated for the Barry with an hour of stand-up that was secretly about gay marriage, and subsequently got married – twice: firstly to fellow gay comedian Zoe Coombs Marr; the second time to boyfriend Kyran Wheatley. He’s wary of being labelled ‘political’ however. “It’s my job to be funny – or rather, be funny first, then saying something at the same time; not ‘say something’ and then put a joke next to it. I go to so many shows that do that thing two-thirds of the way through where the comedian says ‘And that’s when i realised that…[insert political statement].’” This year, Nicholson is talking about his past eating disorder. “And it’s full on. But the aim of it is to be funny.”
Being nominated for a Barry Award has been a bit of a psych-out for Nicholson. “I’ll be honest, it’s scary. I was happy with the show – I was probably the happiest I’ve been with an hour of jokes before. I know that because I didn’t get bored by the end of all the festivals. But it was weird being at Barry Award breakfast…I genuinely didn’t expect to be nominated; I see myself as a ‘circuit comedian’ – not a ‘festival comedian’. And it has discombobulated me. Annoyingly. Like, last year was a ‘Barry-nominated show’ – am I meant to do that again?”
When we talk to the comedian – in February – the new show is in its final trial phase. He describes his process as writing first, then coming up with a plan for the show (with Wheatley, who directs). “Other people have a plan first and then write towards that. I wrote a bunch of jokes, and realised that they were all naturally leading towards the eating stuff.” Later, he reflects, “I’ve not had the skillset to talk about my bulimia before – and not do that ‘and that’s when I realised’ thing. Hopefully, I do now.”
Nicholson describes I’m Fine as an hour of stand-up “vaguely about expectations” that is structured loosely around him talking about things that led to his bulimia: “like obsession, and high expectations on myself. One of the things that didn’t help, for example, was people saying to me ‘You’re beautiful’. Actually, a better perspective is ‘We’re all fucked. We’re all equally disgusting.’”
This interview ran in the April 2017 issue of Time Out Sydney.