“It’s probably a combination of a sense of childhood neglect and a desire never to get a real job”. As far as reasons for starting in comedy go, Sam Bowden sums up the comedy id in one snappy sentence. It’s an example of his skillful way with words which underpins much of his comedy and is one of the things that becomes clear within minutes of talking to him. Skewing observations with ease to fit his somewhat middle class perspective and the underlying guilt and situations which accompany it. He has a likeable, relaxed persona that’s clear and disarming from the moment he walks on stage.
In a review of his 2015 Brisbane Fringe Festival show Best Friends Gang, Scenestr commented that ”his upbeat charm won the audience over” which is no surprise to anyone who’s seen him perform. Sam describes his comedy as “Relatable posh boy rants / Vaguely political without getting too preachy / Dick jokes sandwiched between poignant satire”. Each sentence in isolation gives you a different side of the man behind the floppy hair and together go a long way to describing what he does. Of them all, he seemed happiest with the last one.
Sam is a graduate of the Actor’s Conservatory in Brisbane. His introduction into comedy wasn’t even his own doing.
“It was my drama teacher. No-one really liked her and I gave her a lot of shit. One of the first things she ever did was to give me an entry form for a high school stand up competition. I thought “Oh yeah, I could do that. I like comedy, everyone laughs at me”. So I did it. That was Class Clowns in 2009 which I did again in 2010. I started doing comedy in Brisbane towards the end of 2011, then took a break overseas, then I’ve been back since 2015 and have been doing it ever since.”
Sam has performed in or produced three consecutive Brisbane Comedy Festival shows from 2011 to 2013 with the last of those achieving a sell-out run. To get a better idea of how Sam sculpted his style, I asked who his comedy inspirations were.
“Obviously a huge Louis C.K. fan. Also Bill Burr. All white gingers because I find them really relatable. I’m really liking a lot of Hannibal Buress at the moment. They’re probably my top three. I also love me a bit of Dylan Moran, Maria Bamford’s new show I’m just loving and Brian Posehn. Last April, when Brian was at the Wooly Mammoth on a national tour, Aaron Pratt and I opened for him.”
In addition to his performances Australia, Sam spent a number of years in Europe performing overseas, with his comedy experiences in Scotland being particularly memorable.
“Edinburgh wasn’t good. There was this one crazy Edinburgh comic called Davy Mitchell and he ran pretty much the one open mic gig that wasn’t a paid spot. It was just a disaster area. He would do twenty minutes between each act as MC every night and not a good twenty minutes. That’s not meant in a bitchy way, I think he had serious problems. Glasgow however, was the shit. It was so good. There was this club called The Yes Bar, it was a comedy club run by a guy called Graham Barry and he was a total pro. I did a few gigs there and at some pop up venues. Glasgow struck me as a great place to do comedy with some really nice people as well.”
Since then, Sam’s comedy career has gone from strength to strength, with comedians and audience both taking notice of his natural ability to win a crowd over. It was only a matter of time before he rose to the top of comedy bills.
“I did my first ever headline show in Nambour about a month ago. Al Gibson was the MC and he did a really good job getting the crowd comfortable and relaxed and gave me this beautiful introduction. When I got up I knew I had heaps of time, I could just relax with it, they were all keen. It was nice, it felt less threatening than having to get up and be funny in five minutes. They know I’m the last guy on, so even if it’s shit they can be like “Well we’re outta here”.”
I asked Sam what his favourite comedy moments to date were or if there were any particular highlights which stuck in his mind.
“Probably Nambour, Posehn and doing five minutes in front of Danny Bhoy at the Sit Down which was wonderful. He was the first stand up I ever watched on telly when I was thirteen. I remember he was on some comedy channel special at my Dad’s house. No-one knew he was on. We were just having a few beers, and then all of a sudden Danny Bhoy waltzes in. I say “Hey Danny, how’s it going? I love your stuff” but inside I was like “Oh my god I think I just shat myself and came at the same time”. It’s one of my heroes! I was so proud of myself because I’ve freaked out and fangirled around so many comics that I love and respect. To just stay calm around the first comedian I ever saw, felt great.”
Sam was an obvious choice for Comedy Commentary Cinema with an affable, hilarious comedy persona, a quick wit and “a degree in screen and stage acting so I make great coffee”.
“I enjoy nothing more than a day at home with some Netflix, some magic cookies and a bottle of wine. I will deconstruct the shit out of any piece of cinema, whether asked to or not. Particularly at gatherings or parties when everyone’s trying to watch the movie, I will bring up strange plot points and Chekhov’s Gun.”
Sam’s opinion frequently differs from the status quo, which became particularly apparent when we got onto the subject of James Cameron’s Titanic.
“If a massive movie that depicts a true tragedy or a horrible event like the Titanic makes it through the first round of reviews, suddenly it’s untouchable and people gloss over the details. Now the hype of Titanic has calmed off and we have the benefit of hindsight, we’re left with this young woman falling in love, getting railed in the back of a car and then pushing this poor boy off a door, which is culpable homicide. Then at the end she’s just this old lady chucking away jewellery. Are you really that comfortable with that depiction of you? We saw you entirely naked. That would make me a little uncomfortable. How we should have ended Titanic is that after it’s sunk it just bursts back out of the water as a battleship that went straight to the planet with the blue people and that was the start of Avatar. Right at the end they should have broken the fourth wall with the captain waving goodbye to the camera. “Thanks for watching everyone. See you next time for Titanic 2. The genocide of the blue people”.”
Come see Sam at our Slumber Party Massacre event at The Milk Factory on Wednesday 6th July. You can buy tickets here.