HOW does a boy from Perth get to work with Joan Rivers in New York before he is even 25?
Enter Joel Creasey (pictured): a mix of talent, risk-taking, confidence and the support of a loving family.
The comedian — who is currently on a national tour with his Rock God show — explained it was on old radio trick that had been played time and time again, so he just wanted to put it out there that they should not do it to him as he was terrified of snakes.
Months later, he was pranked with a snake live on air when he came face-to-face with his biggest fear.
“Oh, I turned. They had their finger on the dump button expecting me to swear,” Creasey recalled.
“Great radio, but. I did take it up with the producer at the end of the show because it wasn’t as we agreed.”
That moment sums him up: honest enough to talk about his fears; self-assured enough to set boundaries with others; trusting enough that others will work within those agreed boundaries; pragmatic enough to know that some people will play with your fears if it helps them; and confident enough to protect his position.
At the age of 17, Creasey decided to try his hand at RAW Comedy, a national talent search run by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, which filters hundreds of would-be comics each year over a series of short lists and finals. Those finalists then head to MICF to perform to a televised audience and a packed Melbourne Town Hall, where they have five minutes to give their material a whirl, as well as a chance to win a trip to Edinburgh and take home the coveted chicken statute. MICF then hand picks four comics to come back to their Comedy Zone the next year, helping them to transition to the big league of full-hour shows.
Not only did Creasey make the finals in Perth and head to Melbourne, he was also invited back to the Comedy Zone. It was a huge coup for an 18-year-old unknown from the west coast. It gave his career the perfect start.
However, unbeknown to the Comedy Zone producers, Creasey had already booked a room to go straight into the hour-long show before they had even decided on their acts. Most of his shows before that were less than 10 minutes. He knew this was a gamble.
“This was a real risk. (It) could have really backfired. But I took a chance,” he said.
“My parents were really supportive. Dad was great and knew first hand what it was like to be young in the entertainment industry.”
He adds: “I know I should avoid the casino as I would have a gambling problem and I would happily take a risk.
“They’re calculated… to an extent. I will overthink everything, including things that are out of my control.”
Sure enough, the gambler broke even and his first full-hour show lost money, but a career was born and it’s been on the rise since.
Creasey’s shows always have some gay humour, so the support from his family also suggests they were supportive about him making his sexuality comic fodder — although he did confess he would like to sanitise his show if his mum were around.
Recently, Creasey returned from New York where he opened for none other than Joan Rivers. It can be taken that it went well, as she had said: “He’s a fucking star. I love him.”
“The tradition for Australian comics is to go to the UK,” Creasey said.
“I have been there but it does not interest me that much. A lot of my references in my show are to do with American pop-culture. I am dipping my toe in the states. I really love it over there.”
Melbourne is arguably the centre of Australian comedy culture, and commercial comedians can sometimes be snubbed by the establishment set, who can prefer those that are edgy, hipster-esque or politically-engaged-chique.
But not Creasey. He was open about the business of comedy: “I am not into whimsey. Someone has paid money to see my show and I am here to make them laugh. Some comedians write their material for the back of the room. I am not a comedian’s comedian.
“I am a very commercial comedian and I am so fine with that. I am not that interested in what other comedians think of my show, but care about what the audience wants. If someone has bought a ticket I will make them laugh. Give me a joke and give it to me now.”
And with that, the Joan Rivers light bulb shines. Despite her lifetime career, many industry types have found her as that crass, commercial broad that is more known for her “work” than her “talent”.
Creasey explained what he liked about her: “I saw her show and it’s 90 minutes of the best hilarious jokes. She does not try to be groundbreaking. She is just funny.”
When asked how Joan Rivers got to know about him, let alone invite him to open for her, he quipped: “I’m still sore.”
The reality was that a talent agent in the US showed Rivers his material and she offered him the gig.
“She is my hero, it’s in the gay handbook and she was amazing,” Creasey said.
“She’s a perfectionist. I don’t think you get that sort of longevity if you are not.”
The agency that connected Creasey with Joan Rivers has also booked him for New York Fringe.
He said he was chasing the US partly because of an affinity he has with the place, and also because it fit with his ambition.
“I like a challenge,” he admitted.
It was also as much about the cultural connection that had America calling him.
“I like the scale of things in America. The audiences over are there are so awesome… They’re rooting for you. They give you a chance, which is different to other audiences where you have got to get them onside, which is crazy. It’s like, ‘why aren’t you on my side, you have paid your money, you know I can do this. Let’s have some laughs’.”
Joel Creasey is at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival until April 20 before he brings Rock God to the Sydney Comedy Festival.
(main photo credit: Miles Heffernan)