Lanky Sydneysider Tom Walker is singlehandedly proving that going to clown school isn’t actually a waste of time. After showcasing the acclaimed Beep Boop at last year’s Adelaide Fringe, the comedian went on to perform a run of incredibly successful seasons in Melbourne, London and Edinburgh, where he attained enough four-star reviews to construct a small hypothetical galaxy. In between touring, Walker featured on the first Australian iteration of classic comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? alongside names such as Cal Wilson, Rhys Darby and Steen Raskopolous.
Hot on the heels of a quick run at Perth’s Fringe World Festival, Walker is bringing the follow-up to Beep Boop, ingeniously titled Bee Boo, to The Garden of Unearthly Delights this Fringe. The performance will showcase Walker’s unique amalgam of mime, improv and outrageous physical comedy. Basically, if you’re looking for a show that will give you minor anxiety about wetting yourself from laughter as you desperately clutch your ribs to prevent them from dislocating, Walker is your guy.
I caught up with the comedian in a quiet moment to discuss how to stay moderately functional during Fringe, what it was like to be on Whose Line, and his dream to create a Wil Anderson tribute show.
[after an awkward minute of silence] Hello?
Ah! You’re here! I was waiting for someone to answer. I could hear some strange noises, I wasn't sure what was going on.
[laughs] I’m glad that you said something or I would’ve been here for an hour.
Ha! What have you been keeping busy with lately?
Just trying to get this show up, hey. I keep making something and then entirely scrapping it. Which is good, it feels good to be like, “no, this isn’t the right direction”.
So, you were on Whose Line Is It Anyway. That’s pretty sick! Did you enjoy it?
Yeah, it was really fun. I was on there with people I’ve been performing with for ages mostly. Four of the cast of six to seven performers were old friends of mine from uni and such. I got into improv with these people, so yeah, it was sick. It was nice to meet and slightly alienate Rhys Darby, but now I think we’re cool.
How did you get into the show? Was it a big scary audition process?
A strict meritocracy! Nah, an audition, which was the most nerve-wracking fucking audition because you’re going in there with only improv so you’re like, “well, this could go terribly. Maybe I’ll just clam up.” There’s always that fear with improv, it’s like, "oh god, I hope I don’t just start asking for mother. I hope I go into the part of my brain that says funny shit rather than the part that is a mewling little boy".
Tell me about what viewers can expect from Bee Boo.
I think I wanna just keep going with the playfulness that Beep Boop had, while also trying some other things. Right now the plan is to mix what Beep Boop had with slightly more traditional sketch through a bunch of ways, which I won’t [share] here because I may cut some and it’ll be a disaster. That’s the good thing. When I came to Adelaide last time, the show changed so much over the course of its run. By the second week, it bore almost no semblance to the show I brought down. I cut so much and made so much during the process, and that’s why I love the Fringe.
And I think because everyone expects performances to evolve as they go along, people that come to see it in the first week will get a totally different experience to those that see it in the second week, and it’d be cool to see how that process comes along.
The great thing about Bee Boo is that it’s now 100% kettle impersonations. Different brands.
Can you chuck a toaster in as well?
Oh yeah. Did I tell you I was thinking of doing a toaster?
No, you didn’t.
During Adelaide Fringe [last year] I was trying to figure out how to do a backbend into a horizontal position and push toast up through the little gap in my armpits. So that might be in this year’s show, if it turns out to be funny. The toaster impression might be coming.
Yes! So I’m just wondering, will next year’s show be called Be Bo in memory of the famed social media platform?
Well, not in memory. But the current plan is to go from Beep Boop, to Bee Boo, to Be Bo to B B to (untitled) and then to Wilarious. I think Wil Anderson has the best show titles in the business. I’ve really wanted to use some of them myself. It’s been my dream to put together a cover show of Wil Anderson. Like get a transcript of one of his old shows and just put it on with a bunch of different performers, kind of like the Bob Dylan biopic.
Like a tribute show to someone who’s still very much alive, kicking and doing shows?
Yeah, which he will not come into because he’s much too busy. I think that’d be funny.
That’s incredible. I’d like to see that, I’m holding you to it.
Okay, okay. Well, if there’s one thing that a show titled Bee Boo has demonstrated is that I really commit to harebrained ideas that might damage my career.
It gives you a unique flavour. I’ve never really met a Fringe performer before that has asked me to draw on a flyer of them with the most outlandish image you can think of...
Yeah, you’re right. I am the best. I couldn’t agree more.
Actually, I see that you’ll be performing in the Garden this year, which is quite a step up from last year.
I’m very excited to be in the Garden, in my gated community of burlesque people and circus performers and food trucks.
At least you’ll always have a variety of tasty meal options surrounding you.
That is honestly a big issue. I keep being like, well, what I need to do for Adelaide is to not go god damn insane. I’m gonna stop eating quite so many Zambreros and hopefully cook at home at least for lunch. It’s gonna be an uphill struggle.
As every Fringe is. I think I was a shell of a human by the end of last Fringe, and I wasn’t even performing. I was just working and reviewing every day, thinking about how I haven’t eaten a vegetable apart from potato in four weeks.
Yeah, ‘cause last Fringe I was doing two shows and that’s really come back to haunt me because of how fucking stupid that was. I was doing one show at Tuxedo Cat and one show at the Producers, and their off days didn’t overlap so I never had a day off. Except for one occasion where luckily, coincidentally, no one turned up to my show so I had a day off then. But it was just this gruelling schedule of being onstage for two whole shows and doing spots at night and all of that in completely un-airconditioned rooms in 45 degree heat.
This year I’m staying with a bunch of people who not only I like, but I’m very excited to see their shows, like Demi Lardner and Michelle Brasier. Having that good environment around you is essential.
And it gives you the motivation to get through those hectic times?
Yeah, and hopefully my jealousy of their mental composition will fire me onto new heights of neuroses and anxiety [laughs].
Which you can then channel into artistic endeavours!
Exactly! What I’m picturing is one of those diagrams of how the water from the sea is evaporated and travels across the land then rains down which brings it back into the sea. But it’s mental illness and it’s going up into my mind. And then manifesting as terrible performances which go back into my mind— anyway.
So what shows can you recommend during Adelaide Fringe?
A lot of the Producers I really like. I just wanna plug them ‘cause they’re so good. Marcel [Blanch-de Wilt] runs a really good place.
A tight operation.
A very beautiful, beautiful tight operation. Just a nice tight boy. That was no good. Uh...
I’m looking forward to seeing the following people: Kate Coates, her show is called Blerp and she’s on at the Producers. She’s a Sydney improviser and comedian who stands at 6”2. She’s a powerful blonde lady. Looking forward to David Quirk. He’s like, the best. Looking forward to— what’s their fuckin’ na— oh yeah, 3's Comedy, which is like three Melbourne dudes, Peter Jones, Adam Knox and Luka Muller. I saw Luka’s show last year and he’s so funny and considered and Adam Knox is one of my favourites, and Peter Jones is beloved by everyone.
I’m also looking forward to seeing my bald friend Lewis Dowell. I’m really excited to see my idiot bald friend Lewis Dowell. He’s perfect, he’s very very good. But also, he’s a complete fucking idiot.
Okay, well I’m going to let you go now.
Oh, before you go can I plug my first ever fan account?
What! You have a fan account?!
Yes. The Instagram is @tomwalkeriscute. My social media [handle] is @tomwalkerisgood but tomwalkeriscute is my first ever fan account and I don’t know who runs it.
I think you’ve made it as a famous person now. You have your own following of people on social media who think you’re cute.
I am cute! Sorry!
Bee Boo will take place at The Spare Room at The Garden of Unearthly Delights from 19th February to 17th March. Purchase your tix here!
Header image via Adelaide Fringe