At the outset of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, The Bedroom Philosopher proclaims there is nothing more boring that hipsters and moves on from Northcote with a new comedy show ‘Wit Bix’, which is all about wanting to kick start some conversations.
“I like a pun,” muses the Bedroom Philosopher aka Justin Heazlewood, a revelation which will surprise no one familiar with his work. “I think the name Wit Bix sums up the show because it’s a segmented show, a series of short witty bits. I’ve been self obsessed for 30 straight years so I know myself pretty well and I can say that I am witty.”
With several Triple J hits under his belt, an ARIA nomination and a plethora of TV appearances earned during his years of slogging it out as Australia’s sole representative of indie folk comedy, Heazlewood is more optimistic than ever, a state reflected in Wit Bix, though a proclivity for self-depreciation hasn’t entirely lost him.
“I’ve been the king of whimsy in the past, and there are expectations that I’ll do this awkward, indie shambolic style of comedy,” he says of the assumptions that he brings with him now. “Wit Bix has a lot of wordplay, but it’s more angry and political than I’ve been before. There’s a song about Australia and how much I hate it being conservative, xenophobic and dumb written as a jaunty John Williamson bush ballad. Good comedy has to be original and surprising, because essential comedy is a surprise and laughter is a tiny scream. You’re being attacked by a concept you didn’t see coming, and as times goes on it’s harder to be shocking and original. My usual criticism of things I don’t like is that the writing isn’t intelligent enough, I adore wordplays and juxtapositions.”
With a sideline in writing for Frankie, J-Mag and The Big Issue as well as several websites, Heazlewood gets a lot of room to experiment with language and wordplay which any subject he touches is rife with. However, 2011 sees him moving further into the realm of television with recent appearances on In Gordon Street Tonight and a forthcoming, if overdue, appearance on Spicks and Specks. “TV makes you relevant in Australian comedy and this is my TV year. I’m also doing the Channel 10 Comedy Gala, which I guess is a sign of some success,” he states with a blithe defiance before sighing despondently. “It’s such a confusing dynamic for someone as self-deprecating as me, so I’m handling it by being really cynical. I’m a musician and a comedian simultaneously, but music is more fashionable than comedy so I’m actually trying to turn into a massive rock star. Everyone in Aussie comedy is so polite and supportive of each other, I want to be like Liam Gallagher was in interviews because if I have to read one more interview with a polite indie band not really answering the questions they’re asked and dropping the right words I’m going to shoot myself.”
As a writer, musician, comedian and cultural commentator, multitasking is something Heazlewood clearly excels at. “I’m Gen Y so I’m naturally born with the ability to do four things at once,” he says breezily. “I play music and write so therefore I’m like every second person in Melbourne, plus, I’m a Gemini so I’m already split down the middle. I was born in a bogan town to down to earth country folk, so I’ve got this no bullshit perspective, but after 10 years in the big smoke wearing vintage clothes, I’d like to think I have the ability to be insider and outsider at the same time.”
With more multiple dualities than an episode of Twin Peaks, Heazlewood finds these roles an eternal font of frustration and inspiration, or, as he puts it: “with music, people only want to hear your old stuff and in comedy you have to have new material, so in musical comedy they cancel each other out.” The Bedroom Philosopher, occupying a niche no one else in Australia has attempted and predating the Flight of the Conchords by several years, depicts this state as “the clown and the balladeer punching the shit out of each other. I’m a frustrated musician turning tricks because audiences like it,” he confesses, “and because it really annoys the indie community. I’d argue the music scene has never taken itself so seriously and that my sort of music has its place in that. It’s just awesome how angry people get when they can’t put you in a box,” continues Heazlewood with glee. “I’m the King of Hipsters, I’m the biggest one there is. Northcote is the most hipster thing a hipster could ever do, it’s basically the last word in hipsterness. I’m also the first to admit that it’s old now, and you’d be struggling to find a more tedious conversation at a party than trying to define a hipster. You’d bore everyone stupid, get awkward silences and the only thing left to do would be to call a taxi.”
After the success of last year’s album Songs from the 86 Tram, its accompanying tour and ARIA nomination, Heazlewood was glad to return to subjects that used his improvisational skills and spontaneous wordplay.
“86 Tram was a writing exercise to make myself disappear,” he says keenly. ”Before then I’d been banging on about my own neuroses and issues for about 10 years but for that, I didn’t even want to be in it. Wit Bix is back to me again only now I’m more confident. I hit 30 and got angry which was a great source of jokes. The show is me making fun of men, I talk about how much I hate going to stand up comedy nights, not being happy with Australia, and about how awkward we are about Aboriginal issues and how no Gen Y person will go there to the point of racism itself. This makes it one of the freshest sources for comedy, I acknowledge that too. I like to think there are jokes to be found in any topic and I think I’ve found quite a few as well as making valid statements about how we’re stuck in an awkward silence. All art is a conversation of some kind and I just want to kick start some new conversations.”