Rhys Nicholson and Joel Creasey have been best mates for 15 years, but rarely get to perform side by side. “Because they will never put two gay people on a show together for some reason,” Nicholson deadpans. “Who knows what might happen? A wormhole will open!”
This year, the duo braves the wormhole with a second iteration of Rhys & Joel’s Family Christmas, a touring show Nicholson jokingly describes as “a reaction to Carols by Candlelight”. The comedian, actor and RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under judge hopes the festive variety shows will become an annual tradition – and a yearly chance to spend quality time with fellow comedian Creasey, whose loaded schedule includes gigs as a Nova radio broadcaster and Eurovision host.
Think of it as an ode to “a chosen-family Christmas”, Nicholson tells Broadsheet. “It’s loose, it’s chaotic, and we’re going to have surprise guests.” Audiences in each city can expect comedians, musicians and drag performers onstage, plus “the weirdest local celebrity we can find”.
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The show is the first touring production from Comedy Republic, the Melbourne theatre and bar Nicholson co-owns as a “very loud silent partner” with husband Kyran Wheatley and former Triple J presenter (and former housemate) Alex Dyson. The 150-seat venue is a place for established stand-ups to trial new material and for up-and-comers to revive shows between festivals, Nicholson says. Also, “We just wanted to make a space where people are getting paid.”
It won’t host the Melbourne leg of the Family Christmas tour – that honour goes to the much larger Thornbury Theatre – but Nicholson plans to perform their Comedy Festival shows there next year. (“I get a good rate!”)
As tongue-in-cheek as it may be, the show is dedicated to the festive spirit – something Nicholson has strong thoughts on. As a veteran of many (lovingly self-described) “bogan Christmases”, they have now developed their own yuletide protocols. For one thing, if you’re ever invited to their place on December 25, do not BYO unsolicited food.
“I recommend people stop doing Christmas where everyone brings something, because it ends up like a buffet on a fricking cruise ship. Like, Donna’s brought her bean salad she makes every year and it doesn’t go with anything else.”
Instead, Nicholson proudly plans and cooks the whole meal when hosting. This cuts down on awkward food combinations, and – the way they describe it – allows them to maintain semi-fanatical control over their guests’ palates. Plus, they say, it’s a win for introverts. “If you do all the cooking it gives you an out from the conversation for the whole day.”
How about guests bringing drinks? Here, too, Nicholson sees potential danger. “You know that thing when you’ve bought some wines for a dinner party, and then people bring their own wine, and you start to feel obligated? ‘We have to drink this wine first.’ And it’s like, no, I fricking made a plan. There’s a trajectory to this evening. And they’re like, ‘Oh, should we open mine?’ No, no, we shall not! We will drink that when we’re watching Youtube clips in the lounge room at 11.30 because I don’t know how to make you people leave!”
Nicholson’s strong food opinions can also be found in their newly released book, Dish: Spiels, Scoops, Emotional Outbursts & the Occasional Recipe, which touches on topics as wide-ranging as roast chicken, fetishes and anxiety.
“It’s a book of essays with recipes in them, and they’re quite silly. Some of them are real – things that I actually like making and things that I think people should know how to make … But then some of them are what I used to eat when I first moved out of home, recipes for depressing meals with essays attached.”
Rhys & Joel’s Family Christmas tours Wollongong, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne from November 30 to December 12. See dates and venue details at Comedy Republic.
This article first appeared in Domain Review, in partnership with Broadsheet.
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