LIKE so many others, Ben Elton is itching to have the live entertainment sector recover and return to its former glory.
The comedian, screenwriter, author and playwright will launch a 19-date stand-up tour next week that includes a stop in Bendigo. It follows on form his 2019 UK tour that saw him return to stand-up comedy for the first time in 15 years.
Bendigo is one of nine extra shows added to the rescheduled 2020 tour.
"Originally I wasn't going to do these extra gigs but we've all been sat inside in our state boundaries for so long, I wanted to grab the chance to be a part of live theatre arts again," Elton said. "I miss it and I think other people have missed it, so I want to get out there and do it again. I'm really pleased this tour taking me a few places in Australia and New Zealand that I have never done before.
"I spent most of 2019 working on this show. I hadn't toured in 15 years and did 90 dates in the UK and Ireland, all of which were a warm up for the Bendigo gig. We were about to come to Australia and COVID hit (but) I had already done immense work on material."
Elton said a year spent restricted due to coronavirus meant some of his material might need tweaking but emphasised the show wasn't about COVID-19 or lockdowns.
"Of course it needs tweaking because the world has been through this convulsion," he said. "But I don't think people want to me to do two hours of lockdown, watching Netflix and making sourdough. The show is about the world we live in today.
"We weren't made to sit separately, people like to come together. I don't want to put too much emphasis on two hours of sweary, Pommy comedy but I'll certainly be bringing some entertainment on the stage in Bendigo with a new routine. I think I visited Bendigo on book tour once but the chance to get out in to rest of Victoria is great."
Elton is most well known for writing classic television comedies The Young Ones and Blackadder (series two to four). He has also written 16 novels, six of which were bestsellers, and created the Queen musical We Will Rock You.
He is married to an Australian and spent a large part of 2020 in Western Australia where he lives. He said as soon as people could return to live shows, they did.
"I went to semi-professional production of We Will Rock You and it was immense feeling of joy to be back in a theatre, sharing a cultural experience," he said. "I think it is something people do crave, that's why towns build beautiful theatres and people get out there and get involved in community arts."
On returning to the stage, Elton said it seemed the audience had aged with him.
"When the late, great Rik Mayall and I first toured together, we were young and audiences were young. We were rock and roll and hip," he said.
"Of course things have changed. I'm a venerable act now and there are more grey heads in audience and one on stage. Plenty of young people into their comedy come and everyone feels young at heart - I do when I'm on stage - I even do a routine about being 21 at heart.
"But since I first got on stage in 1981, I have always done it for myself. I say what I think is funny, explore ideas I think are interesting and, to use a grim modern phrase, I 'speak my truth'."
Elton said pleasing yourself and writing and perform what you want is the best way to approach a creative career. He said his life and career were fortunate because he landed a paying job in writing quickly and there was a big enough audience for him to make a living on it.
"Never start by thinking 'how can I make people love this?' You have to love it yourself,," he said. "Write what you want to write, paint what you want to paint. Art is about self expression.
"You hope people appreciate what you have done but you can never manage that by second guessing. That's why most Hollywood sequels are crap. Not all, but most. They're trying to reinvent something that originally was alchemy, an improvisation. That rarely works.
"For me, my life and career are an improvisation, I do what I feel like doing. I've been lucky to make money since I started, my first professional gig was The Young Ones, so I was earning money as script writer straight out of uni.
"I'm lucky to write what I feel like writing because there is a big enough audience for me to make living out of it. Even if you hate what I do, you can be sure I wasn't hypocritical about it. I was trying to please myself."
Ben Elton performs at Ulumbarra Theatre on April 21. Visit www.bendigoregion.com.au/arts-culture-theatres/event/ben-elton-live-2021 for more details.
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