On the Couch with Ben Russell

Ben Russell oncWho is Ben Russell?
Stand up comedian, improviser, character actor, writer, narrator, puppeteer, impressionist and lover of the absurd and stupid. As a kid I wanted to be a voice over artists for cartoons and loved Robin Williams. I grew up in Perth but moved to Chicago where I studied and performed with the behemoth sketch comedy companies, The Second City and iO where many of my heroes started. I moved back a year ago and have since toured a show with my friend to Edinburgh fringe, London’s Soho theatre and a strange tropical island off the coast of Africa. I daydream constantly. I’m a massive butthead that loves junk food. I’m Ben Russell.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
There was a couple years after school that I ran off to live on an island off the coast of Western Australia. It was fun but I didn’t really do anything except pull beers and surf. Actually scratch that, that was a great time. I guess I would tell my younger self to stop worrying about trying to make people happy and just focus on trusting my own “funny” so to speak. If you build it, they will come.

Who inspires you and why?
At the moment I am hugely inspired by some local Melbourne comics. There seems to be a lot of people making their own work and putting out some wonderfully unique stuff at the moment. If we are talking on a grander level, I am a massive sucker for Steve Carrell, Steve Martin, Kristen Wiig and the late great Robin Williams.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
If I could reduce patience into a serum I would give it out freely to everyone, like a vaccine against being a jerk.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My family are from the States so while I’ve explored much of North and South America, I’ve never really got to get lost in Europe. I have a fixation on heading to Norway and travelling around that region of the world in the direction of Croatia (I’m not great with direction). I’ve got real good at travelling on a shoestring and I got some great walking shoes.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Couple places I gotta go. I am a sucker for the Victoria Markets. I live real close to Gerald’s Bar in Carlton North which is both a blessing and a curse. Last but not least I love some Belle’s Fried Chicken.

What are you currently reading?
Between DC’s Batman Eternal and The New 52: Future’s End. I am currently freaking myself out by reading The Cipher by Kathe Koja. I love a good scary story.

What are you currently listening to?
Right now I am listening to Brenton Wood’s Oogum Boogum on repeat.

Happiness is?
Doing what you love and being with the people you love. I’ve spent a large part of my life poor because of it. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. Family and friends and finding something you are good at. It’s there, you just got to give it the time it deserves.

What does the future hold for you?
It’s excitingly busy with some project with some of my favourite people, but mostly it’s the monster of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival looming overhead. I’m returning with Always Working Artist for a second instalment of our successful improvised family comedy, Improvilicious – which will be at Melbourne Town Hall during the school holidays and I’m also working on my own late night show, The Tokyo Hotel for the entire run of the festival. It’s my first solo project and I get to put in everything I love, which happens to be wonderfully imperfect characters and absurdity with a great big heap of dumb. Please come!

Ben Russell is a comedy writer, director and actor and performs stand-up regularly around Melbourne. He’s lived in Chicago, toured Edinburgh Fringe, and has performed at The Soho Theatre in London.

He’s improvised with greats like Colin Mochrie, TJ Jagodowski and Susan Messing, opened for Martin Short and drank whiskey on the beach in the Seychelles by himself. He’s done other cool stuff too but you can ask him about it if you want to. Ben also wrote this bio!

Ben will be appearing in Improvilicious: The Improvised Guide to High School (28 March – 12 April) and The Tokyo Hotel (25 March – 19 April) at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For more information, visit: www.comedyfestival.com.au for details.

Image: Ben Russell