Comedian Rhys Nicholson reminisces on ‘bogan’ family Christmas ahead of show with bestie Joel Creasey
When Rhys Nicholson reminisces on Christmas they recall a time of cold meats, Monopoly and communal naps.
But things are a little different these days, with the 33-year-old comedian spending every second festive season right here in Perth.
With bestie — fellow comedian Joel Creasey — and husband Kyran both calling the west coast home, the RuPaul’s Drag Race host says December 25 spent in Applecross or Shenton Park is quite different to the Nicholson Newcastle Chrissy they were used to.
“Growing up in Newcastle I would describe my family as um, you know, we’re bogan,” they said,
“And that’s alright, I’m proud of that. We’re beach bogan people.”
Used to “quite big” Christmases, Nicholson added, “All the kids learnt how to peel prawns at a young age and then the teenagers would play a game of Monopoly that would go for like 5 hours and end in violence.
“The adults would get p…ed and start dancing to like, AC/DC.”
Realising their family Christmas was unique, Nicholson reflected on a favourite pastime.
“After you have the big meal and you get really sleepy, we would do this thing where all the mattresses from all the bedrooms would be dragged into the lounge room and everyone would just have a nap,” they said.
“Kyran’s family — they’re an incredible family — they’re a little more, let’s say, refined, than us.”
Having been with Kyran and his “refined” family for 12 years, and having known Creasey for 15, Nicholson is fairly familiar with our once sleepy city.
“I genuinely love Perth,” they said.
“I never really spent much time there before Kyran and I got together and now I do Fringe World there… it’s one of the best Fringes you can do.”
But Nicholson admits they used to think of Perth as “another universe”.
“You guys know it’s a great place and I think it’s pretty rare in Australia… it’s kind of like this God’s country. People are so proud — no one’s proud to be from Newcastle, I mean, we should be.
“I did a tour with drag queens for (RuPaul’s) Drag Race recently and the Americans were just talking about how much they loved Perth.”
With WA’s capital now a trendy hotspot — one Nicholson says has “its own personality” — it’s only fitting that they’re heading west with Creasey for the duo’s second annual Christmas comedy show.
Dubbing it “Karen’s by Candlelight”, the comedian says ‘Rhys and Joel’s Family Christmas’ is “organised family chaos”.
“Last year was a line-up show, this year is a variety show,” they said.
“There’ll be stand-ups doing their acts, there’ll be music, but we’ll also have special guests and interviews.
“The first 20 minutes of the show is us just chatting and being dumb.
“Not everyone can have a nice Christmas because maybe they don’t have a great relationship with their family… so come and get blind with us and watch celebrities on stage do dumb things.”
The comedian said if last year’s show was anything to go by, this year’s will be “f…ing wild”.
“It was really nice last year after our first show because we were nervous. We get on well, but that doesn’t always translate to like, showbiz,” they said.
“Joel is such a good presenter and you know, he’s done a lot more TV than me so he’s kind the control in the show, he keeps things moving. I’m like, the f…ing chaos.
“All we’re trying to do on stage is make each other laugh, which I think always works because it means we’re not fighting for punchlines.”
The hilarious pals have been in the comedy game for a while now, something Nicholson says is a testament to their friendship.
They met at the tender age of 19, a time when queer comedians took centre stage.
“He had moved to Melbourne from Perth, and I’d moved to Sydney from Newcastle,” they said.
“It was the dawn of Hannah Gadsby, Geraldine Hickey and Tom Ballard, and Josh Thomas was kind of our leader.
“Joel and I were like the version of each other in our city. I was the Sydney Joel and he was the Melbourne me.
“We’ve always had this kind of sisterly relationship.”
But when the pair take the stage on December 7 at The Astor Theatre, Nicholson says preparation is key, kind of.
“We always want to know how it starts and how it ends. But we don’t really work out what happens in the middle.
“Last year when we did the show in Perth we had Joel’s mother’s choir. F..k that was wild. About 25 women in their 50s and 60s backstage dressed as Christmas trees… surreal moment for me.
“We prepare by relying on each other… we just know that we’ve got each other’s backs.
“Joel and I have this great relationship, the least nervous I ever am on stage is on stage with Joel.
“I would never say it to his face, that man doesn’t need any more confidence… but secretly he’s the nicest person.”
So when the Chrissy show is all wrapped up — what can we expect from Nicholson and his best bud?
“We grew up in that same era of television… that late 90s early 2000s of Australian TV where it was kind of chaotic, like Newsweek and Thank God You’re Here,” they said. “We want more TV to be like that.”
The comedian says TV at the moment is all competition and reality, which “has its place”.
“But I wish we had a chat show… a Graham Norton kind of thing,” they said.
“There’s so much good talent… it’s like can we start making TV with people who want to be in television and not influencers?
“Joel and I were both very lucky that we both had comedians throw the ladder down for us… we can do that for other people as well, I think.”
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