It was the first of times, it was the worst of times. But one of the best times we had at this year's Edinburgh Fringe was Josh Glanc's Collections 2023, a joyous selection box of silliness, singalongs and some lovely heartfelt bits, which is now heading for three nights at London's Soho Theatre. So why do this show, this year?
"Well, first of all, thank you," says Glanc. "You are also a joy, and British Comedy Guide is arguably the greatest publication in the free world."
Good start. Do continue.
"Now, to answer your question, I decided to do a sort of 'best of' show this year, instead of a brand new one, because I wanted to give myself more time to write the new show. Also, I have been making a new hour every year since 2017, so I figured there was probably a lot of my earlier stuff people hadn't seen."
Fair point. Tricky to choose the bits though?
"It just felt right to do. And it wasn't hard to work out what bits to include. It was about picking the stuff that I really wanted to do again, the stuff that people had really liked and wanted to see again, and it was also about making sure it all worked well together.
"It was so great to revisit a lot of those bits. I'm not going to change it too much from Edinburgh but I think during the Soho run I may slip in a few new gags here and there. I'm so sneaky sometimes."
And, after that, Glanc will be appearing alongside a fabulous cast of nutjobs in Stepdads Nativity 2, at London's Bill Murray on December 4, in aid of Crisis. Has he any idea what he'll be doing?
"Yes, but it's a secret," he says. "Good thing for you I'm very bad at keeping secrets [I'll be playing the Angel Gabriel. Shhh. Don't tell].
Virgin-mum's the word. Now let's journey back to Josh losing his own comedy cherry, back home in Oz.
This is actually kind of a difficult question. I got into comedy in such a round-about way. Basically, I didn't know that the usual life cycle of a comedian was to start by doing open mics and eventually work up to five minutes of material, then after a few years maybe do a debut hour. I had no idea.
I saw comedians doing one-hour shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and I thought that's how you do it. So, without having ever done comedy before, in 2016 I signed up to do a one-hour show at the MCF. It was a one-man sketch show where I played lots of characters.
I remember the first night. It was just filled with my friends and family. No real punters at all, so basically, I just remember everyone being on board and it being lots of fun. I have no idea how to gauge whether it was actually good.
I was eventually asked to do a spot somewhere and I had no idea what to do. For a long time I felt a lot more comfortable writing an hour than doing five minutes.
Favourite show, ever?
I have a terrible memory for gigs. I'm one of those performers that comes off stage and has no recollection of what just happened. But I remember my televised Comedy Up Late spot (maybe because there's footage!). It was a televised line-up show for the Melbourne Comedy Festival, my first filmed comedy spot.
I was asked to do it and I was still relatively inexperienced, so I was, of course, terrified, particularly because I hadn't done too many gigs yet (see my answer above). I remember that first laugh and just relaxing into it and having a great time.
I suppose it's one of my favourite gigs because the pressure was on to do well and I rose to the occasion. It was and remains a real career highlight.
I feel like I do some pretty ballsy stuff on stage - usually when I'm testing new material. In 2019 I had this idea about coming on stage in a white toga to the song Flower Duet from the opera Lakmé, and as soon as I would enter, there would be some sort of costume malfunction - made to look like a mistake - and the toga would fall off and I'd end up completely naked.
I thought it was a really funny idea - but I had to test it to see if it would work. Also, I had never done full-frontal nudity before (I was definitely not one of those performers that wanted to show off my willy) so I was terrified.
I decided to do it at a new material night that had a mix of live performance and video. A few things happened that night. I was asked to go first, and I wasn't experienced enough to say to the booker that, given my act, that probably wasn't a good idea. Also, the booker doesn't warm up the audience, they're more of a curator, so they come up, say thanks for coming and on comes the first act.
So, in front of a pretty cold audience, I went on first. I appeared in my pristine toga looking beautiful and as I leaped on stage the malfunction worked perfectly and I was standing there completely naked. But no one laughed. People were shocked, uncomfortable and in the moment I thought to myself 'Josh, what the hell are you doing?'. I finished the bit and felt incredibly embarrassed. I just felt like an idiot. I didn't do comedy for a few weeks.
I later spoke to another comedian who was at the gig and they told me that it was really funny and thought that people didn't laugh because of all these other factors at play. I eventually did it again and it was really funny, but I'll never forget the feeling of being naked in front of a bunch of people looking at you like you were a massive creep.
Which one person influenced your comedy life most significantly?
Probably Zach Zucker by bringing me into the Stamptown universe.
And who's the most disagreeable person you've come across in the business?
Is there one routine/gag/bit you loved, that audiences inexplicably didn't?
I don't think so. If audiences hate something I usually get rid of it very quickly. I'm one of those performers that really thinks the audience is usually right and I never really think it's the audience's fault when things don't land.
Sure, you can have quiet audiences and nights where the audience feels 'weird' or sometimes there are other factors going on that have an impact on a bit, but generally, I don't think they are ever really wrong. I like to do stuff that makes them laugh and if it doesn't I either try and fix it or get rid of it.
Are there certain audiences - around the UK, and the world - that join in better than others?
I love UK audiences. My stuff just goes down well over here. It's very British I think - it's stupid and surreal and it just seems to be right up the alley of UK audiences.
UK audiences are sophisticated and they are comedy savvy - they get that you are doing a bit. In Australia you have to really hold their hand sometimes but here you can just get up and get on with it.
Any reviews, heckles or post-gig reactions stick in the mind?
I was doing a work in progress in Perth, Australia, and it was bad. The audience were quiet, I don't think they knew it was a work in progress, and I didn't really have strong enough material to carry the night. The show was a real stinker. I was also a younger comedian then and I don't think I'd get myself into the same trouble now.
Just the week before I had done a completely sold-out run in front of 200 people every night of another show, that wasn't a work in progress. At the end of the WIP a guy came up to me looking really disappointed. He said he had been to my show the week before and liked it so much he brought his whole family to this one.
He didn't know what to say. He turned to me and simply asked "what happened to you?". I replay that conversation a lot.
How do you feel about where your career is at, right now?
I'm really excited about the future and where I am now. I've just moved to London and I love being here. I think it's the best place in the world to do comedy. I've got some pretty exciting projects coming up, including working on a new hour and some film stuff. I'm so glad I didn't quit after that toga incident (but also, I never really would have). I'm made for the stage baby! See you at Soho Theatre!