Comedian Wil Anderson was in town last week for his “Work In Progress” show – a test run of new material before his nationwide Critically Wil tour begins. I met up with him at The Cupping Room to talk about his time spent at UC and his comedy career.

The full interview with Wil can be heard through the SoundCloud file in this article.

 

Wil Anderson has always been known for his sharp-witted observations centred around the Australian political landscape, but his story may have been different if not for stopping past Canberra.

What many people don’t know about Wil is that he graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Canberra, and cut his teeth observing through the eyes of the press before ever setting foot on stage.

While Anderson came out of high school wanting to study journalism, he never expected to end up in Canberra – at that point just a back-up plan.

“I realised that I was probably more interested in political journalism, then I was in regular journalism. I entertained the idea of being a sports journalist for a while and RMIT [in Melbourne] made sense to me.

“But I decided between when I applied and when I got in that maybe I was more interested in news and politics.

“In the same way I thought that if I wanted to be an AFL reporter I’ll live in Melbourne, if I wanted to be a news and politics reporter I should live in Canberra.”

While politics drove his decision to move to the capital in 1992, he also realised that the opportunity to live in a new town would allow him to grow as a person.

“I suddenly realised that I had known the same people all my life, and I thought it was a good idea to go away somewhere where I didn’t know anyone at all and see who I was when I wasn’t surrounded by people who had expectations of me.”

Canberra is clearly a favourite of Wil’s to come back to and perform, and he thinks that it remains as a perfect location for a university education.

“Firstly, Canberra is a great if you’re a country kid as a transition city. Secondly, it’s a college town.

“Canberra didn’t quite have it back when I went there, but it’s there now. You have good restaurants, great coffee culture. Because you have a political class, a public servant class, and a student class, they want the cool things and it’s a good mix. And it’s small enough that you know everyone.”

Despite his career since, Wil threw himself into his journalism during his time at UC, rather than student politics, theatre, or comedy.

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An opportunity arose for the top students in his class to work with the Parliamentary Press Gallery, and Wil snared the role, working with the Australian Financial Review for two years on top of his coursework.

“I was able to do less work in my journalism studies because often things I was doing in the Press Gallery would be things that I could do for my uni assignments.”

And it was this experience that would help Anderson with research, critique, and analysis in his comedy; to cut through to what’s really going on in the world.

“One of the real skills of journalism is to see between what’s real, and then to look at what the public perception is, and trying to find the truth through the middle. That’s a really important skill in comedy too.

“Whether you’re having a good day, bad day, whatever, journalists have to produce content. Similarly, to be a professional comedian, you need to be funny when the red light comes on.”

Since starting his comedy career, Wil has had great success in the Australian stand-up scene, and has slowly working his way across American clubs in recent years.

His popular personality has also led to opportunities in television as host of The Glass House and various iterations of The Gruen Transfer on the ABC, while also working in radio as the host of Triple J’s breakfast show, and the drive program Wil and Lehmo for Triple M Melbourne.

This success is a double-edged sword for Anderson, who sees the diversification of his crowd as another challenge when he’s writing his shows.

“When I first started out on Triple J, and I’m performing for kids who listen to Triple J you can talk about things that are specific to their interests. But now I go to my shows and there are people in their 70s and 80s, and there are kids who weren’t born when I first started doing comedy.”

“Now you are just trying to go ‘Well, how can I present something that makes it feel like we’re all friends, even though we’re all different?’”

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Admitting that the one thing in common his fans have is a love for his comedy, Wil has come to terms over the years with the fact that people will love some things he does more than others.

Aside from his stand-up and broadcasting gigs, Anderson currently hosts four regular podcasts (TOFOP, FOFOP, AFL-themed 2 Guys, 1 Cup, and Wilosophy) and these have given him time to learn, move forward and have contextual conversations without receiving the instant feedback of social media.

“What I love about that [podcasts] is nuance. I think we live in a world where panel shows invite two people with completely different opinions on to shout at each other for half an hour and achieve nothing. In a podcast, you can have a nuanced conversation about something.”

But while Wil has been reaching a greater audience through diversifying his career and travelling abroad there isn’t an end goal in sight yet.

“I don’t really think about it a lot of the time. I’m so busy that all I’m thinking about is project to project to project.

“I feel with comedy, it’s so unpredictable. So, it’s often just about: what do I need now? For a while I needed to get in the US on the road because I wanted to prove that I could do it, whereas now I’m just as good as I am at home.

“I don’t want to put a cap on what I’m capable of. But the only thing that I have control over is seeing what I’m capable of.”

Anderson’s latest show Critically Wil touches on issues of the US election (and He Who Must Not Be Named – no, not Voldemort) and how scary a post-truth world might be. Whilst he has his own thoughts on where the world is headed, he doesn’t expect the people he knows to agree with him.

“I don’t know anyone who has all the same opinions as I have. My style is to look for points of connection rather than points of difference.

“That’s why it’s so ridiculous when people talk about ‘bubbles’. That’s what my podcasts are. Here’s my bubble.”

With no plans of slowing down, it’s great that the Wil Anderson bubble – via the University of Canberra – will provide us with ideas and opinions to make us laugh for a while yet.

 

Wil Anderson is performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from March 29 – April 23, and at the Sydney Opera House for two shows on April 8.

You can find his four podcasts on iTunes by clicking on these links: TOFOP & 2 Guys, 1 Cup (both with Charlie Clausen), FOFOP & Wilosophy (both with rotating guests)