Funny business

English comedian Andy Zaltman.

From US President Donald Trump’s brain, to Brexit, to the carry-on in Canberra, popular British comedian Andy Zaltzman has a load of laughs in store for local audiences. Performing at this month’s Sydney Comedy Festival, he talks to Jackie Brogel.

MAKING people laugh has always come easily to acclaimed Jewish comedian Andy Zaltzman. 

Yet while the seasoned funnyman – coined the UK’s master of satire – doesn’t usually suffer from stage fright, there has been one notable exception. It was the night his young children, Matilda and Horace, were in the audience.

“They came to see my show in Edinburgh last year,” he tells The AJN by phone from his home in London. “At the time, they were aged nine and seven. The first thing my daughter said to me afterwards was ‘Daddy, you swear too much!’

“At the time, I just had to try and ignore the fact that I could see these two little faces peering up at me. It was certainly strange to have them there.”

Zaltzman, who lives in London with his wife Miranda and the children, was speaking before heading to our shores to perform at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival – where he is currently performing – and the Sydney Comedy Festival, which opens on April 24. 

It is the 42-year-old’s third trip to Australia and this time Zaltzman – also the host of the relaunched global hit podcast The Bugle – is delighting audiences with his new show Plan Z, in which he claims to devise a complete solution to all of the world’s problems.

“My comedy is a mixture of satire, nonsense and contrived sporting analogies,” he says. 

“This show is about the global political situation currently, which has clearly been in something of an unusually volatile state. There’s a bit on Brexit, a bit on Trump and some on Australia’s politics, as well as some incredibly high-tech technology.

“I’m hoping to be able to do a -cell-by-cell re-creation of Donald Trump’s brain on stage and see what we can make it do!”

Whatever happens, one thing is certain. Zaltzman will always manage to reveal the hilarious side to the worlds of sport and politics. 

“I’ve been obsessed with sport since I was about six years old, and I’ve inevitably found parallels between political things and sporting things,” he says.

“It’s always fun and interesting doing comedy in other parts of the world to where you’re from. It challenges you to make a different audience laugh, and it also gives you something of an outsider’s perspective, which is always an interesting angle.” 

On this Australian tour Zaltzman is bringing his family along for the ride.

“They’re coming out for most of the tour,” he says. “We’ll be based in Melbourne, but I think we’ll have a few day trips and try to explore. They want to see penguins, so Phillip Island is definitely on our list. 

“We’ll also try and catch a footy game or two. I love to expose them to sport in different places.”

How would Zaltzman feel if his children were to follow one day in his comedic footsteps?

“A lot of comedians’ children seem to be doing that now, so that could happen,” he muses. “I guess whatever makes them happy. I don’t want to be prescriptive as a parent, and I also don’t know what the comedy circuit is going to be like in 10 years or 15 years.”

As for himself, Zaltzman reveals he’s seen the funny side of life for, well, decades. 

“I probably started trying to make others laugh when I was a teenager,” he says. “I think I may have been quite a serious young child, but then I became progressively more childish – probably in rather reverse proportion to my age. That seems to be continuing!

“I’ve no idea why that has happened,” he concedes. “I think I’d have to sit down with a psychologist for an hour or so to find out. But my father was always clowning around a little bit when we were kids, so perhaps I’ve partially inherited that. He’s a sculptor, so I guess he couldn’t really turn around and tell me to get a proper job like some fathers would have done. He’s always been very supportive of what I do.”

Zaltzman’s wife Miranda, whom he has been with for more than 20 years, is also a huge support to the comedian. But can he still make her laugh?

“Intermittently, yes,” he replies with a chuckle.

Zaltzman never takes the rewards of his profession for granted.

“One of the great privileges of doing comedy is being able to travel around to other parts of the world, such as Australia,” he says. “I’m really looking forward to visiting again.”

Andy Zaltzman’s Plan Z  is at the Comedy Store as part of the Sydney Comedy Festival from April 24-27. For tickets,

go to www.sydneycomedyfest.com.au