THERE’S been an awful phrase going about during the current comedy boom that suggests stand-up is the new rock ‘n’ roll.
Looking a little like a Hell’s Angel armed with laughs you probably won’t get motormouth Aussie Steve Hughes agreeing – not least as he’s actually been in rock bands.
In fact, the comedian – who completes a South Yorkshire hat-trick of gigs with a Sheffield City Hall shift on March 29 – reckons he began the thrash metal scene down under with a band called Slaughter Lord.
“If you look it up on the internet you’ll still find it,” says the comic who used to be a Last Laugh regular.
“It’s still quite well known on a cultish level and an American band and Swedish band have just done a cover of their songs.” Steve later played in the better known Mortal Sin and in 1990 toured some mid-size British venues which probably figured on his tour with Reginald D Hunter last year.
Before commiting his mic to comedy, Steve figured in a band called Presto, who released two albums, and extreme black metal outfit Nazxul.
“I was always just funny, though,” he recalls. “In 1995, between bands, I thought I’d got to do something else creative so I started comedy.
“After three years I’d met a lot of English acts that had come out to Australia.
“I knew Andy Parsons, Stephen Amos and Bill Bailey, who I saw in a Sydney pub.
“And I thought ‘I’ve got to go to England and be around blokes that good to get better and now I don’t need a band I can just go, the worst thing can happen is I’m not funny and I go home’.”
A British passport-holder courtesy of his dad, Steve landed 12 years ago and has been causing hysterics here and beyond ever since with intelligent, provocative and profound observations of us Brits and life in general.
His straight-talking social commentary and original hard-edged style have recently landed him high-profile TV slots on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Live At The Apollo and Stand-Up For The Week.
By turns brash and highly opinionated, Steve’s also erudite and philosophical, a paradoxical blend of laid-back charm and acute caustic anti-establishment humour.
But he reckons he’s not typical of Australia.
“It may be straight-talking in a sense but it’s still far more conservative than Great Britain, I’ve discovered, especially since 9/11.People think Australians are hard-talking and rough round the edges but the country is very conservative, conditioned psychologically and politically.
“There’s a greater depth of understanding of musical, poetic and comedic culture in Europe than in Australia. But Australians are a good audience; if they don’t like it, they don’t laugh.”
Steve’s debut solo tour takes him to some familiar places – “I’ve been everywhere, more than British people, Penzance to Aberdeen, most comics have” – so he’s in confident mood.
“The show I did at the start in London doesn’t exist now. A lot of the material I did is there but it’s been moved around, linked up better, new jokes invented.
“It’s changed all right.
“You write new material on the road, heaps of it. Agents say ‘save it’ but you can’t.”
And, as he contemplates releasing more music under the name Eternum, Steve reckons he’s not offended anyone yet.
“People are getting it. They’re not yelling at me or freaking out and walking out. Comedy can be devastatingly cruel, there’s nothing wrong with that, I find that’s the point of comedy in a sense. Britain just likes comedy.”