Fox Klein is playing the Laugh Garage this week. I took the opportunity to chat to a comic Iâve known for years but never quite gotten around to interviewing.
Dom Romeo: So
tell me about going to LA with a script.
FOX KLEIN: âGoing to LA with a script?â What are you referring to?
Dom Romeo: Didnât you go to LA and have a script commissioned?
Dom Romeo: I thought youâd already been there and had a nibble on something youâd already put upâ¦
Iâve got a few things though â Iâve just
finished an animated Family Guy style
script and Iâm gonna start shopping that as soon as itâs fixed up â 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 âFoxâ 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, âIâm going to do this thingâ?
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 Iâm a million miles from his biting political and social commentary type of stuff, but thatâs 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, weâd probably never hear of you; all the âBill Hicksâ clones disappear unknown unless they develop their own voice, at which point theyâre no longer Hicks clones. Youâve clearly developed your own voice. How did that happen?
FOX KLEIN: Iâm not very political myself, so I
couldnât 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 didnât reallyâ¦ itâs not that I didnât have a message, it
wasnât my agenda. I just wanted to have fun, let my audience have fun, and
entertain, is the bottom line.
Dom Romeo: I havenât seen you in ages, but one of my favourite bits of yours is about wanting to learn martial arts â 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. Theyâll resurface some day that will surface some day and
embarrass the shit out of me, Iâm sure.
Of course, that storyâs from my childhood. I love hung fu, I love martial arts, I love old films and itâs 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 donât really realise how good we have it here in Australia. It was actually
a nightmare, but thatâs 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 wasnât a
pleasant experience at all, but thatâs not true of everywhere in America, of
course, but particularly where I was, it wasnât 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 theyâd 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: Iâd 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? Youâre not chasing summer the way most expat Aussie comics do, âcos youâve come back for winterâ¦
FOX KLEIN: No, Iâve actually negotiated a new contract with a new management team. The reason I came back was because I was âglamouredâ by Hollywood assholes. Which is fine. Apparently, youâre supposed to go through all that before your career actually starts to happen.
Dom Romeo: Right. I wonât ask for details.
FOX KLEIN: Iâm 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 didnât really matter and led to something bigger and better, which is why Iâm heading over in a month or so.
Dom Romeo: Itâs a bit of an initiation process in showbiz, though â being suckered in by someone who says they can do something for you when really theyâre trying to get you to do stuff for them.
FOX KLEIN: Absolutely, and instead of being bitter and negative, itâs 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 Iâm going back prepared, eyes wide open, with a proper management agency.
Dom Romeo: So whatâs planned for this next visit? Will you get to play one of three big venues in Hollywood?
FOX KLEIN: The company that Iâm going across with is based in New York, Nashville and LA and Iâm doing the college circuit when Iâm there. Iâm staying away from the comedy clubs this time. The moneyâs good, everythingâs cool
You have to excuse me, Iâm on a treadmill. Iâm doing an incline of 10.
Dom Romeo: Whatâs the workout like when youâre being interviewed and have to talk and think on the treadmill?
FOX KLEIN: Itâs good. Itâs 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 â you can play to anyone, youâve got the experience; but youâre clever enough that youâll 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 heâs fairly dissed in the industry, but the one thing that heâs great at doing is performing to a large crowd. Heâs very entertaining. Thatâs what Iâve moulded my style on. There are a lot of comedians who can only do small rooms because thatâs all theyâve ever done. When they do eventually get to a bigger crowd, they donât know how to perform to it or handle it. Not a lot of them â 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 donât really dis Dane Cook because heâs hugely popular, but rather because heâs hugely popular and an alleged joke thief. My problem with him is, when I listen to his CDs, he doesnât make me laugh. But now I want to watch a DVD to see if heâs funnier to watch than listen to.
FOX KLEIN: Absolutely. Heâs very energetic and his stage present is incredible. Thatâs what I try to emulate. The weakness of his performance is the material â heâs not the greatest writer â but when youâre watching his facial expressions or his actions, it adds to it. Performance wise, as an entertainer, I donât think thereâs 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, itâs a huge story and is all over the internet. But Iâve actually compared the material that heâs actually accused of stealing. He has 10 to 15 hours of material; the jokes heâs actually accused of stealing is about two minutes. At some point, material is going to cross over. Iâve 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 youâve been back?
FOX KLEIN: I donât really have a new American attitude or anything like that. Iâm just doing gigs as much as I can. Iâm still performing. Nothingâs really changed. Iâm writing as much as possible. Iâve 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 â Antennae awards. Now itâs 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 donât want to spend time writing jokes for other people. Itâs a little bit selfish, but Iâd rather write for myself. The showâs got enough writers.