Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Allison leaves the Gold Coast in stitches

When the Gold Coast Arts Centre started presenting ‘Comedy in the Basement’ every Friday night, the usual suspects jumped to the public mind’s eye.

Gracing television networks on a weekly basis, superstars Dave Hughes, Wil Anderson, and Jimeoin were among the many familiar celebrity Australian comics to get attuned audiences interested.

What no one expected was the sellout crowd for relative unknown Australian standup comedian Steve Allison.

As he walks on stage with a friendly, casual approach he commands attention and the constant, thunderous roll of laughter shows he’s got it.

After a week in Papua New Guinea, Allison is bursting with energy, pumped for his first show back on Australian shores.

In the beginning

As an only child Allison was born into show business, his parents The Allisons were Australia’s top sight act for over 30 years.

“I grew up on P&O cruises,” he said.

“As a kid I would be standing with the comedians holding me off stage…they’d be talking to me going ‘don’t tell your mum I told you this joke’.”

It wasn’t unusual for Ugly Dave Grey, Bunny Gibson or Graham Kennedy to be floating around the house with J.A.K singing songs in the corner.

“I had a guy named Col Elliot and John Garfields, an old comic legend, teaching me from day one,” he said.

“They were mum and dad’s best friends.”

Thus Allison’s steady accumulation of rotten jokes would immediately unravel at the school yard.

“I learnt the power of comedy early,” the 43-year-old said.

A self-confessed skinny little redhead, Allison knew that as a kid at school it was easier to make them laugh than fight them.

“I’d have six guys standing in front me saying ‘leave the redhead alone…he’s funny’,” he said.

Allison’s friend and supporting act, Mad Mike Bennett, describes Allison as an icon.

“Looking at Steve and the family he came from…that’s experience straight up and it’s not easy to emulate,” he said.

“He’s an inspiration, just knowing him and watching him work…you know he’s hitting 90 to 100 per cent all the time; it’s just laughs, laughs, laughs.”

Soaring to success

Holding a reputation of ‘never dying in a comedy club’; Allison places his success in his ability to adapt to an audience.

“I try to write things that will last the test of time,” he said.

“When I’m 60 I’ll still do: I was the first man at the birth of my children…”

Facing restraints of new-age comedy, Allison found himself constantly changing his entire comic style.

“Corporate scenes where it’s black tie and black suits would often go as far as no swearing, no racist jokes, no sexism and no homophobic stuff because one of the bosses is gay,” he said.

“It’s really difficult to change as you go through but it’s what you have to deal with.”

As a supporting act, Bennett said the pressure is on to step up to the mark with Allison headlining.

“Coming through the ranks and learning from your peers is really important and a lot of comics forget that it is a team sport,” he said.

“Steve’s a comic that won’t put you down…he’s a surfer of comedy and a surfer of the ocean – he makes us make the wave and he rides it at the end; and he’s brilliant at it.”

A fork in the road

Entering the Melbourne stand-up comedy circuit Allison worked alongside Dave Hughes but said the difference between a TV career and stand-up came when he realised he didn’t want to sell his family out for money.

“I don’t need the constant fame hit,” he said.

“It’s a lifestyle choice.

“I’m making a living at my home in Currumbin near the beach…I’m watching my son play football and I’ll be doing it again tomorrow.”

Not resisting the temptation for a new joke, Allison turned misfortune on its head by pulling open his shirt to reveal the deep scar running down the centre of his chest.

Only a year after triple bypass surgery following three separate heartaches, Allison can’t help but see the lighter side.

“Even with my heart attack it’s just something else to talk about,” he said.

“When I meet the maker and he says ‘why do you deserve to get in here?’ I can say ‘because I made a lot of people laugh’.”