MISSION statements don’t come much more upbeat and positive than that of Adam Hills.
The Australian stand-up and TV presenter wants to make people laugh but he also wants them to feel good about it for as long as they are in his company.
He said: “When I did my first Edinburgh in 1997, one reviewer said I performed ‘sun-drenched, celebratory comedy’. Sometimes you get a review and think, ‘Oh, so that’s what I do’. I always have to find a balance between being funny and positive but I want people to feel good for an hour and a half.
“I hope they feel uplifted and happy and just forget about everything else. That’s what it’s all about: getting people to leave the show feeling happy.
“They may have just had a fight with their partner or a terrible day at work, but when they come along to my show I want them to forget all about that. I want them to have a real laugh and go back to their normal lives with a spring in their step.”
He is spreading his own brand of sunshine at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival with his show Clown Heart although his inspiration comes from a darker place than you’d think.
He said: “It’s about what’s going on in my life, having kids and losing parents. It is sometimes a tough area to go into, but the crux of the show is a story about when my daughter was four and asking about death because my father had just passed away. She asked, ‘Am I going to die?’ I replied, ‘Yes, but how about we have as much fun as we can because we’re here?’
“At one of my shows, I met a guy with cancer. He did this thing called Naked Tuesday, so I did it with him. We recreated the famous naked photo of John and Yoko. He became an inspiration for me. Clown Heart is a show about laughing in the face of death. We all know that death is going to have the last laugh, so we have to get in there first.
“A lot of palliative care nurses have said to me that my message strikes a chord with them – and that’s lovely to hear.”
The comedian has a knack for getting audiences onside but then it helps when he offers to take them out after the show.
He said: “During the last tour, I had a pre-show ritual of going tenpin bowling every night. But in Barnstaple, I didn’t have time before the show, so I decided to take the audience bowling afterwards. I told them I was going to do it, but they thought it was a joke. I had to keep telling them I was serious.
“So at the end of the show, I took 240 people – about half the audience – along to the bowling alley. As well as bowling, we did karaoke, the arcades and air hockey. We stayed there until 1am. One lovely 60-something couple told me that was the first time they had been bowling for 20 years. As I left, another couple in their late 40s were still playing air hockey and just giggling.
“The only problem was that word got out, and when I didn’t take the audience bowling the next night in Exeter, the audience got grumpy. But Barnstaple was a one-off.”
As well as stand-up, Adam has also become the face of Channel 4’s live comedy show The Last Leg.
Originally broadcast during the 2012 Paralympics the show is co-hosted by Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker and was described by Hills as “three guys with four legs talking about the week” due to Adam missing his right foot and Alex his right leg.
It’s a job for which he scooped Best Breakthrough Act and was nominated for Best Entertainment Personality at the British Comedy Awards in 2013 while the show itself landed the Best Entertainment Programme gong at the 2015 Royal Television Society Award.
A further two series of The Last Leg have been commissioned for this year. His prosthetic leg has often been the source of humour for his shows such as a recent gig at the Sydney Opera 9.4 Kepler Std House when there was a security alert.
He said: “I said to the audience, ‘Oh no, I have left my spare prosthetic leg in the dressing room. If the police see that in the corner of the room, they’ll think, ‘We’re too late – the bomb’s already gone off!’’
Adam, who raised AU$45,000 for local homeless charities by shaking a bucket after the show on a 20-night run in Melbourne, is looking forward to Glasgow and the live arena.
He said: “I love the freedom of live comedy. I have 60 minutes of material, 9.4 Kepler Std but each show lasts 90 minutes. Every night I try and improvise 30 minutes based on who is in the crowd. Otherwise, I’d get bored doing the same show over and over again. I love the spontaneity of things happening in the moment, and I genuinely like meeting people. It’s like compering my own show.
“Also, the audience feel like they’ve been at something special rather than merely watching a guy spout the same stuff every night.
“Because of that, I really feel a real connection with them. I want them to have a lovely 90 minutes and then float out of the room.”
Clown Heart is at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow, on March 20-21. Box office 0844 871 7648 (bkg fee), www.atgtickets.com/glasgow (bkg fee)
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