‘I’m an impostor’: Jimmy Rees’ confession

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Despite playing to packed houses, and having to extend his last national tour from five shows to a whopping 39 shows, Jimmy Rees says that he still feels like an impostor in the stand-up comedy world.

His recent stint on Channel 10’s Taskmaster alongside stand-up veterans including Julia Morris, Luke McGregor, Nina Oyama and Danielle Walker, made Rees realise how unusual his journey to standing behind a microphone in front of a room full of strangers was, and also how much he had to learn.

“I sometimes feel a bit of an impostor when I’m around some of those comedians and they’ve gone through all the circuits and everything to get where they are,” Rees says from his base on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. “It’s not like any way is wrong, but I do feel like I can learn a lot from them.”

Whereas many of his contemporaries spent years in dingy clubs honing their craft in front of tiny and sometimes hostile audiences, Rees arrived on the big stage in an entirely different manner.

First there was his 11 years as children’s entertainer Jimmy Giggle, opposite a puppet owl on the long-running and much loved ABC Kids show Giggle and Hoot. When that was wound up in 2020, just as the Covid pandemic began to take hold, he transitioned into more adult-focused online sketch comedy.

Jimmy Rees is hitting the road on this Not That Kinda Viral tour.Jimmy Rees is hitting the road on this Not That Kinda Viral tour.

His panoply of characters including The Guy Who Decides, Jason and the Brighton Ladies – and their comedic takes on everything from border restrictions to parenting – brought joy to locked-down Australians, helping him amass hundreds of millions of views around the world and more than 1 million Facebook followers, 1.3 million on TikTok and 470,000 on Instagram.

It was that built-in audience that helped Rees make the transition to the stage for his Meanwhile In Australia tour last year, which was also released as a BINGE comedy special. He reasoned, correctly as it turned out, that if he could reproduce live some of what had made him a roaring success online, then the audiences would follow.

Planning it and doing it, however, were two entirely different things. His online comedy relied on multiple versions of himself talking to each other as different characters, necessitating some tricky editing, technical innovation and lightning fast costume changes in the live arena. While plenty of practice and trial and error produced a slick, successful show, things didn’t always go to plan – and that was just fine.

“Every edit is so fast and I can’t change costume that fast but it turns that out half the fun of changing all the costumes and doing that live is it going wrong,” Rees says with a laugh. “People seem to enjoy that almost even more, as opposed to it being online.”

Rees is promising to up the ante even more for his just-announced second tour, Not That Kinda Viral, which will make its way around the country between August and November. He promises the show will be “bigger and better”, with plenty of what audiences already know and love but this time with added Jimmys as he ponders the events of his life and the state of the world over the last year.

Jimmy Rees says he still feels like a bit of an impostor in the stand-up world.Jimmy Rees says he still feels like a bit of an impostor in the stand-up world.

“I’m thinking of some other interesting ways to have multiples of me on stage at once using technology and some sort of stage trickery as well,” he says. “Hopefully that will be a bit of fun.”

Given his background as a kids’ entertainer, Rees is at pains to point at that while he prides himself in not being overtly crass, his live shows are aimed squarely at older audiences. But the message doesn’t always get through and he says there were a few times on his last tour that he questioned some parents’ choices after spotting some younger faces in the audiences.

“It’s advertised that it’s not for kids, but they have got their Hoot doll ready for me to sign and I’m like, ‘I don’t know – I think your parents are going to be putting your hand over your ears a couple of times’,” he says.

Rees says he has tried to make all of his comedy as accessible as possible, noting that some of the kids who used to watch Giggle and Hoot are now watching his online offerings. For their sake, and his own, he tries to keep things reasonably clean and bright.

“They’re in their teens so they don’t need this person who is saying all sorts of swear words and being really crass and dirty and nasty,” he say. “That’s not me anyway. We’re not going into all sorts of random issues and getting dark and sweary. Although the show will be advertised to adults, it’s still palatable to a younger audience.”

Jimmy Rees says he’d love to revive Giggle & Hoot for a milestone or special occasion – if he can still fit into the costume.Jimmy Rees says he’d love to revive Giggle & Hoot for a milestone or special occasion – if he can still fit into the costume.

Even though it’s been more than three years since he last put on the costume, and he lightly roasted the character in his last tour, Rees looks back on his Jimmy Giggle years fondly, as do the parents who children he helped raise.

“People still come up to me in the street and say ‘you put my kids to bed every single night’,” he says. “Those kids are now 18, which makes me feel very old, but nonetheless, it was such a sweet and nice show. It’s not like I was on MAFS and people come up and say ‘I hate you – why did you leave her? You idiot!’. I don’t cop any flak because it was such a nice show.”

And would he game to reunite with his former owl buddy for some kind of special event?

“Oh, absolutely I would go back for an anniversary,” he says. “That would be wild fun. I think there could be definitely a little reunion of some sort – but I don’t know if I’d fit in that costume. I was in my 20s for the main duration of it and sometimes they had to adjust the pants as I put on a little bit more weight. Then I’d lose weight and have to put them back together again, so I don’t know how I would go.”

Jimmy Rees, Not That Kinda Viral, tours Australia from August to November. Dates and details at frontiertouring.com. Tickets on sale May 10. Meanwhile In Australia is now streaming on BINGE.

Originally published as Jimmy Rees on keeping it clean, impostor syndrome and why he’s up for more Giggle & Hoot

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