FOR someone who derides fame, shies away from the limelight and hates his photo being taken, Brisbane’s most famous former Big Brother graduate is making the most of his “accidental” time on the show.
Ben Zabel – otherwise known as Ben from Brisbane – is set to be on stage at the Brisbane Powerhouse as a part of its Wonderland Festival, to perform A Quiet Night In – a series of one-man “gory” comedy shows.
“I want it to be a lesson to the children out there that if you’re going to audition for reality TV, come and see the show first.
“I want to blow the lid off of Big Brother. I wanted it to be a comedy expose on what it is like to be a former reality television show contestant. Brisbane is light on them, let’s be honest.”
Known for his shyness, oddball and dorky demeanour but unavoidable affableness, Zabel is keen for his time on the stage to be his first and last.
“This is my farewell. It’s a ‘thanks for your support’ and ‘ask me anything you want I’ll tell you what you need to know’ moment. Nothing’s off limits,” he said.
“I know the producers are saying that this is more like my ‘hello’, but we’ll see.”
Zabel added that he has always been reluctant to being in the spotlight.
“I would rather chew glass than look at pictures of myself,” he said.
“I generally don’t want to talk about myself, I don’t want to see pictures of myself. I have learnt to accept through medication that it is part and parcel with life and I have to suck it up.”
Zabel described his casting on the voyeuristic show as an accident that resulted from his desire to see the place where he once had a nice risotto.
“At that time in my life I had been dismissed from being a flight attendant, I was unemployed… I was 30, I was down my luck, no messages on Grindr, I had an empty fridge and I was alone,” he said.
A friend messaged Zabel about Big Brother auditions being held at a Brisbane hotel that once hosted his high school formal.
“What interested me was not the show, rather that it was being held in that hotel,” he said.
“I know this will sound weird but you’ve got to understand I’m a bit odd. I was depressed and I just wanted to go back to where my high school formal was and see the place because they were very happy times for me.
“We had a nice risotto there, we danced to Frank Sinatra, we cried to Green Day.”
Producers of Big Brother liked Zabel, who in turn appreciated it.
“It was an accident but I enjoyed the acceptance, they kept calling. At that time in my life I wasn’t getting a lot of calls,” he said.
Agreeing to the producers’ offer to be the only Brisbane representative on the show was a struggle for the 32-year-old, who deals with depression and anxiety.
“I did try to give excuses as to why I couldn’t do the show. On one of the application forms you have to write out your agent’s details and I just wrote ‘lol’,” Zabel said.
“I said no [to getting naked on camera]. I said I’m on antidepressants, I’m on Xanax, I hate enclosed spaces, my brother’s an idiot.
“I said I also said that I’ve been dismissed as a flight attendant from Virgin and that could get icky. I’m a time bomb. I told them I’m not suitable for the show.”
Despite his enormous fan base, he still finds rejection far easier to accept than adoration.
“I deal better with getting kicked in the head than getting a warm hug. It’s very hard for me, I haven’t had a life full of acceptance. I can count the ‘I love yous’,” he said.
“So when people take to me it’s almost uncomfortable. It would be better if they dismissed me because I’ve had more experience dealing with that.”
Zabel hoped his show served as a lesson for aspiring fame-seekers and an opportunity to reveal what being on a show like Big Brother actually entailed.
“I get asked a lot of questions so I want to get everyone in room, charge them, and talk about the good and the bad and the ugly. The best and worst. All in equal measure because there’s been a lot of it,” he said.
“I got to the Logies, I got to go to the ARIAs And I was photographed during a car accident. You know what I mean? There’s been a lot.”
A Quiet Night In runs from December 7 to 11 at the Brisbane Powerhouse. For details, click here.