Q&A with the legendary Glenn Wool, prior to his Comedy Store residency. See him whenever you get the chance, he’s brilliant.
Dom Romeo: By the time I first saw you live – in Edinburgh in 2003 – you had already established a reputation as a great comic, even though I didn’t get to see you in Australia for a few more years. How did you come to comedy?
GLENN WOOL: I was always funny as a human, and I thought, ‘I’ll make some money off of that!’ So you go to open mic nights and they tend to laugh or not laugh. Thankfully, they laughed.
Dom Romeo: Did it take going to the UK to establish yourself, or were you already a known quantity before that?
GLENN WOOL: Not really. I was doing road gigs in Canada and was just sort of learnin’ my chops but it was good to come to the UK with no expectations – I could really blossom over in the UK. I sort of count myself as half English and half Canadian because it was so much of becoming man – it was over here, you know?
Dom Romeo: Why was that? Why didn’t that happen back in Canada? Canada does have the Montreal Comedy Festival, after all. Why did it seem to take Edinburgh to make you?
GLENN WOOL: I didn’t get to the Montreal Festival until three years ago. Canada’s a great place to learn your trade, but you kind of have to leave; it’s hard work, trying to make a living from comedy in Canada. England is definitely the place to be for the International Comedian. It’s just got so many gigs. I mean, I’m standing outside of a gig called ‘Old Rope’ here tonight, and it’s just f*cken wonderful. We had guys who are doin’ theatres and stuff just tryin’ out new material… it’s a really positive scene and everybody really supports each other. Not that they don’t in Canada. It’s that the upside to doing well in the UK is bigger than the upside to doing well in Canada. So I came here. But I’m moving to America soon, anyway, so we’ll see what happens there.
Dom Romeo: Why is that?
GLENN WOOL: I got signed to CAA, which is a big agency, and they said, ‘Come to America, my friend! Give us your poor, huddled masses, and we will make you a STAAAAAAR!’
Dom Romeo: Since I’ve known you, or known of you as a comic, Glenn, you’ve always looked like a Fabulous Furry Freak Brother to me. You know, the hat, the moustache.
GLENN WOOL: Hahahahahahahaha. I’ll take that!
Dom Romeo: Are you going to California?
GLENN WOOL: Yeah, man.
Dom Romeo: You’re gonna fit right in.
GLENN WOOL: I know! I’m going to try and start a Crosby, Stills & Nash cover band, and play all the roles myself!
Dom Romeo: The person you are on stage doesn’t seem to self-censor. Are there any limits to what you can or will talk about?
GLENN WOOL: No. I don’t think there is any subject matter which is out-of-bounds. If you’re going to talk about a subject matter which has a possibility of offending somebody, you better be saying something about it. I don’t like to be gratuitous, you know? If I talk about something, there’s going to be a joke there and an angle and a point of view. If I can keep all those things together, then no, there are no limits. Don’t get me wrong – on stage, off-the-cuff, I’ve said things that I don’t agree with, that I wish I could have back, but that’s the beauty of the live performance – that you always have the possibility of doing something like that. And in the end, if people really want to get offended, well it’s a comedy gig, and I’ve always said this about offense:
If you can understand the joke, if you can understand why somebody thought it was funny, it means that in your head, you could have thought of that yourself. So really, when you get offended, you’re actually offended by your own brain. Which is never a strong stand-point in an argument.
Dom Romeo: Looking at your material – hilarious, clever – there are times when, if I’m to be honest, it can be reduced to ‘difference between men and women’ or this religion versus that religion. Of course there’s so much more going on – because you’re bringing your experiences and your unique world view into play…
GLENN WOOL: I try to not bring up a situation and then have the joke be, ‘so you could imagine what I would do in that situation…’ unless you actually have a structured joke and punchline. You can put your persona into a joke, but I always like to keep an actual joke there. You have to write a lot if you’re gonna be a stand-up, and a lot of the time it’s one of the lazy traps other comics can fall into. Me myself: I’ve got jokes I can’t stand that get a laugh, so I keep them in. Not that I think they’re offensive – I think they’re beneath me. But the crowd likes them, so f*ck it, you know? You give it to ’em.
Dom Romeo: Is it too much to ask for one example of such a joke that gets a laugh so you keep it, even though it’s beneath you and shouldn’t be in the routine?
GLENN WOOL: Don’t do that to me, man; this ain’t a trial! I don’t want any of my jokes to know which ones I don’t like. They’re sensitive, and they’re like my children. They are my children; I don’t have any children.
Dom Romeo: There’s a moment that comes up, time and again, when hanging out with certain friends, when a quote comes up: ‘I don’t care that the Jews control the milk!’…
GLENN WOOL: Hahahahahahahaha. I know what you do with your friends.
Dom Romeo: You know exactly what I’m talking about.
GLENN WOOL: Yes I do, man, oh yes I do!
It’s funny. It’s jokes like that, that are really fun to tell because people come up afterwards and are just happy that somebody’s talking about that sort of thing and not demonising the person. Yeah, we’ve all got vices; we’ve all got problems. Or maybe it’s not a problem; maybe it’s just something we do, and we can just laugh at it and go, ‘that’s observational about a new sort of thing that people are doing’. They’ve always done stuff like that, you know; it’s like old jokes about booze.
Dom Romeo: Well that’s another example of you taking an old topic and turning it into something spectacular as a routine: the Drunk Glenn/Sober Glenn routine.
GLENN WOOL: Yeah. That is an Australian favourite because I did that on the Melbourne Comedy Festival Gala.
Dom Romeo: Yep!
GLENN WOOL: And I’ve had Aussies all over the world pulling over in their cars and going, [in broad Aussie accent] ‘Is that sober Glenn or drunk Glenn?’
I was back in Vancouver visiting a mate – kind of the guy that, when I started out in comedy, he sort of tutored me. He’s a great dude. It was a really weird experience: I was just walking through the mall with him. I see him every once in a while, but I was saying, ‘I’ve got so much to tell you… so many things have happened. I’ve been all over the world…’ and this dude came out of nowhere – he was working in the shop – an Aussie kid with big dreadlocks. He was like, [Aussie accent again]‘omigawd, you’re Glenn f*ckin’ Wool, I never knew you even came here!’ To me, it looked to my sort of ‘teacher’, ‘you see, Teacher? It seems to be going well.’You’ve been to Australia a lot. Have you been to Sydney before?
GLENN WOOL: I’ve been there. I’ve never done a show there. I’ve got an old buddy from high school in Canada. He actually now lives in Sydney. I was able to go fishing with him. Did some rock fishing with him. He was like, ‘yeah, yeah, it’s fun’. Then I heard the statistic: [Aussie accent again] ‘you might get pulled out to sea’. I just thought, ‘that looks dangerous, but there’s other people here fishing’. Little did I know…
Dom Romeo: Well – that’s part of the job, isn’t it? Doing something dangerous and then talking about it onstage after surviving?
GLENN WOOL: Yeah. I was just talking to Eddie Byrnes about it last night. We were talking about writing new shows, and we were saying you just wait for bad shit to happen, you know? That’s how you write a new show. Sometimes, instead of going home and watching a movie, you have to stay out and hope that something humorous might take place.
Dom Romeo: When you come to Sydney, are we gonna see the best of what’s been, or are you working up material for next year’s Festival circuit?
GLENN WOOL: You’ll see the best of what’s been, but a lot of it won’t have been on the net or on television because it’s from my Edinburgh show this year, and that has not been performed at all in Australia. I’ll probably throw in a couple of the old classics just because people like to hear them, but it should be a pretty new show.
And that’s the other thing, too: if you want an entirely fresh show, stay off the internet. I get people going, ‘I saw that on the internet!’ I’m like, ‘yeah! For free! So pay this time, you prick!’
Dom Romeo: Last time I saw you in Melbourne you were selling a very good DVD.
GLENN WOOL: Yeah man, I’ve just about sold out the run of that one. I’m about to shoot another one. And I’ve got an album coming out in the States in February. It’s through Stand Up Records. Make sure you print that, they’ll be happy with me that I’ve mentioned it.
Come try and work out which of Glenn Wool’s hilarious jokes might be beneath him at the Comedy Store - until October 10.