Fox Klein is playing the Laugh Garage this week. I took the opportunity to chat to a comic I’ve known for years but never quite gotten around to interviewing.
Dom Romeo: So
tell me about going to LA with a script.
FOX KLEIN: ‘Going to LA with a script?’ What are you referring to?
Dom Romeo: Didn’t you go to LA and have a script commissioned?
Dom Romeo: I thought you’d already been there and had a nibble on something you’d already put up…
I’ve got a few things though – I’ve just
finished an animated Family Guy style
script and I’m gonna start shopping that as soon as it’s fixed up – spelling
errors, stuff like that.
Dom Romeo: What took you to the States in the first place?
Dom Romeo: I know that some of your heroes when you were coming through were American comics, rather than the ones we grew up with here, or the British model of stand-up comic.
Dom Romeo: Why are you ‘Fox’ Klein? Do you talk about that? Do you prefer it not being spoken of?
Dom Romeo: I can only think of Redd Foxx and Jeff Foxworthy, off the top of my head.
Who inspired you when you were starting out? Who made you go, ‘I’m going to do this thing’?
FOX KLEIN: This is going to sound weird, but the first comedian that I listened to that made me do stand-up was Bill Hicks, and I’m a million miles from his biting political and social commentary type of stuff, but that’s how I got started and I was attempting to do that kind of comedy when I started.
Dom Romeo: But if you were just another stoner conspiracy theorist, we’d probably never hear of you; all the ‘Bill Hicks’ clones disappear unknown unless they develop their own voice, at which point they’re no longer Hicks clones. You’ve clearly developed your own voice. How did that happen?
FOX KLEIN: I’m not very political myself, so I
couldn’t sell it. It was just bullshit. I was just trying to do what Bill Hicks
was doing. Then as I got more comfortable and widened my scope of comedy, I
found my voice and I didn’t really… it’s not that I didn’t have a message, it
wasn’t my agenda. I just wanted to have fun, let my audience have fun, and
entertain, is the bottom line.
Dom Romeo: I haven’t seen you in ages, but one of my favourite bits of yours is about wanting to learn martial arts – finding a teacher. Were you into kung fu?
FOX KLEIN: I did tae kwon do for years. There are a
couple of embarrassing photos of me doing the splits Van Damme style on chairs,
out there somewhere. They’ll resurface some day that will surface some day and
embarrass the shit out of me, I’m sure.
Of course, that story’s from my childhood. I love hung fu, I love martial arts, I love old films and it’s become part of my material like a lot of that stuff does.
Dom Romeo: What was it like doing gigs in LA?
FOX KLEIN: Totally different ball game to over here.
We don’t really realise how good we have it here in Australia. It was actually
a nightmare, but that’s mostly because of where I was, which was bang in the
middle of Hollywood where there are only three big clubs and about five
thousand comedians all vying for stagetime. It was horrible. It wasn’t a
pleasant experience at all, but that’s not true of everywhere in America, of
course, but particularly where I was, it wasn’t fun.
Dom Romeo: What did you do? How did you get stage time?
FOX KLEIN: I got stage time. There were a lot of little rooms around, but nobody bothers going to them because they’d all rather be at the bigger clubs where the celebrities would turn up.
So when I got back to Australia, I was really looking forward to it because the week that I got back, I jumped up at the Lounge and did 20 minutes in front of 500 people.
The contrast was surprising: I’d supposedly been at the mecca of comedy in America, but really, back home is where you get the proper opportunities to perform. The contrast was surprising.
Dom Romeo: Are you back for good? You’re not chasing summer the way most expat Aussie comics do, ’cos you’ve come back for winter…
FOX KLEIN: No, I’ve actually negotiated a new contract with a new management team. The reason I came back was because I was ‘glamoured’ by Hollywood assholes. Which is fine. Apparently, you’re supposed to go through all that before your career actually starts to happen.
Dom Romeo: Right. I won’t ask for details.
FOX KLEIN: I’m happy to talk about it. It was just someone who totally misrepresented themselves and basically lied about their position and what they were able to do. Which was fine, because I went over there and made a lot of contacts, so it didn’t really matter and led to something bigger and better, which is why I’m heading over in a month or so.
Dom Romeo: It’s a bit of an initiation process in showbiz, though – being suckered in by someone who says they can do something for you when really they’re trying to get you to do stuff for them.
FOX KLEIN: Absolutely, and instead of being bitter and negative, it’s actually been a blessing because it opened my eyes to the whole business, and it got me over there. I got a lot of contacts and met a lot of great people and now I’m going back prepared, eyes wide open, with a proper management agency.
Dom Romeo: So what’s planned for this next visit? Will you get to play one of three big venues in Hollywood?
FOX KLEIN: The company that I’m going across with is based in New York, Nashville and LA and I’m doing the college circuit when I’m there. I’m staying away from the comedy clubs this time. The money’s good, everything’s cool
You have to excuse me, I’m on a treadmill. I’m doing an incline of 10.
Dom Romeo: What’s the workout like when you’re being interviewed and have to talk and think on the treadmill?
FOX KLEIN: It’s good. It’s distracting. I hate working out without something to do. I want to do all interviews at the gym.
Dom Romeo: The college circuit is cool – you can play to anyone, you’ve got the experience; but you’re clever enough that you’ll appeal to students.
FOX KLEIN: I know this will get me a lot flak from a lot of people, but one of my heroes is Dane Cook. I know he’s fairly dissed in the industry, but the one thing that he’s great at doing is performing to a large crowd. He’s very entertaining. That’s what I’ve moulded my style on. There are a lot of comedians who can only do small rooms because that’s all they’ve ever done. When they do eventually get to a bigger crowd, they don’t know how to perform to it or handle it. Not a lot of them – just a handful of them, who only seem to do the boutique rooms. I think you need to be able to do both for your own professionalism.
Dom Romeo: Indeed, and for the sake of being able to make a living. But people don’t really dis Dane Cook because he’s hugely popular, but rather because he’s hugely popular and an alleged joke thief. My problem with him is, when I listen to his CDs, he doesn’t make me laugh. But now I want to watch a DVD to see if he’s funnier to watch than listen to.
FOX KLEIN: Absolutely. He’s very energetic and his stage present is incredible. That’s what I try to emulate. The weakness of his performance is the material – he’s not the greatest writer – but when you’re watching his facial expressions or his actions, it adds to it. Performance wise, as an entertainer, I don’t think there’s anyone better.
Dom Romeo: Is it true that President Obama models himself to him?
FOX KLEIN: I heard that. I heard that he studied all the great speakers, and Dane was one of them. But regarding the joke-stealing thing, it’s a huge story and is all over the internet. But I’ve actually compared the material that he’s actually accused of stealing. He has 10 to 15 hours of material; the jokes he’s actually accused of stealing is about two minutes. At some point, material is going to cross over. I’ve got jokes that are similar to people here and vice-versa. But when you compare it to someone like Carlos Mencia, who is well-documented, practically word-for-word doing Bill Cosby jokes, it pales in comparison. So the whole joke-stealing thing just sounds like an excuse to hate on him, you know what I mean?
Dom Romeo: And have you noticed a difference in your performance since you’ve been back?
FOX KLEIN: I don’t really have a new American attitude or anything like that. I’m just doing gigs as much as I can. I’m still performing. Nothing’s really changed. I’m writing as much as possible. I’ve got a whole heap of material.
Dom Romeo: Last year you were doing stuff for a show on Channel 31 in Melbourne.
FOX KLEIN: Studio A. it was organized by Ged Wood, who used to work for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It was a Rove-style talk show format that Dave Thornton was hosting and myself and Karl Chandler and Tommy Dassalo and a few others were writing for the show. It was a good show and we won a couple of awards for it – Antennae awards. Now it’s in its fourth season, I think, and Tommy Little is the host.
Dom Romeo: Are you still involved?
FOX KLEIN: I had to drop out close to my leaving for LA last time because I was spending too much time writing for the show and not for myself, and it was effecting my stand-up. Stand-up will always come first. I don’t want to spend time writing jokes for other people. It’s a little bit selfish, but I’d rather write for myself. The show’s got enough writers.