Wagga Wagga comedian Dane Simpson has lost his voice, but not his sense of humour.
“It’s not COVID, I swear!” he says through a scratchy throat.
“I did 44 gigs in Adelaide and then going to Melbourne and doing 75 gigs was crazy.”
Though going from a hectic month performing his award-winning show ‘Didgeridoozy’ at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to the Wagga Comedy Fest next month, Dane says he’s excited to be working again.
“I’m back. This is my job. I haven’t been able to do it and I don’t know when the next thing will hold us up,” he says.
The show picked up the Best Comedy Weekly Award at the Adelaide Fringe in March and received rave reviews for its mix of storytelling, gags, music and a healthy dose of Aboriginal culture.
“Didgeridoozy. It says what it is on the packet. It’s got to do with the Aboriginal instrument, but it’s ‘doozie’; it’s just fun and silly,” he says.
While in Melbourne Dane also had the opportunity to work with aspiring young comics, hosting the grand final of the national Class Clowns competition.
“You’ve got to be in school, do original material and you can do musical comedy, sketch comedy; anything, as long as it’s funny,” he explains.
“We’re just looking for anyone that’s showing potential. We work with them to shape jokes and get some ideas. It’s so cool.”
Dane got his start in comedy competing against other Indigenous comics in Deadly Funny seven years ago and says it was gratifying to later have the opportunity to host events at the festival.
“I lost Deadly Funny in 2015, but I hosted Raw and Deadly Funny last year and that was cool for me because that’s a full circle journey,” he says.
Despite the challenges of the past two years, the popular Wagga performer has remained busy.
He’s committed to building Wagga’s comedy scene, running a regular room at the Que Bar, a ‘Gong Show’ open mic night at Melba’s Bakehouse and events at Thirsty Crow Brewing Co brewery.
But it was a passing comment from Thirsty Crow brewer Craig Wealands that led to “Wagga’s most popular game show”.
The now-iconic ‘Servo Bingo’ became a hit during lockdown, with a growing online audience tuning in each week to play.
It began when the pair sat down at the brewery in 2020 to brainstorm COVID survival ideas. Craig mentioned that he planned to spend the afternoon brewing beer and playing a game called Servo Bingo, which piqued Dane’s interest.
When Craig explained that the game involved predicting which make and model of car would pull into the servo across the road from the brewery it was a lightbulb moment.
“I’m like, dude, this is funny I’m gonna write that show!”
Dane and his wife Eleanor later staked out the servo and planned out the game, complete with bingo cards available through local businesses.
“So we started to run Servo Bingo randomly online because nobody could be out of their house,” Dane says.
“We just filmed this service station. We had like 600 people on our first couple of shows on the live stream.”
Dane’s star has lost none of its shine with a full calendar of shows, events and media appearances ahead.
He’s looking forward to next month’s Wagga Comedy Fest with a choc-a-block lineup of comedy talent including Anh Do, Nurse Georgie Carroll, Michelle Brasier and Luke Heggie.
He’ll once again share the stage with a lineup of special guests for the Dane Simpson Variety Hour.
“I think it’s a chance to get a little bit personal with some of these favourites that we might see around the festival,” he says.
“I can’t say who’s involved in it, but there will be some familiar faces from Wagga too.”
The Wagga Comedy Fest is on from 9 to 11 June. For tickets, visit the website.