Adam Hills – Stand-Up Comedy Reviews

As The Last Leg has just been celebrating its 10th anniversary, and I’ve recently written about their 2012 Christmas special and co-host Josh Widdicombe’s stand-up comedy shows, I’ve naturally rewatched some of the great stand-up shows by Australian presenter Adam Hills as well. From the many shows he’s done over the years, there are a few DVD releases that I own, along with a TV programme I recorded and an earlier gig I’ve watched on Youtube. There are lots of other clips of him online as well of course, a few of which I’ve added here where relevant, but my reviews are of the complete shows I’ve watched.

As on The Last Leg, Adam’s friendly and caring persona comes across well in these shows, as he uses his interesting anecdotes and very funny jokes to impart a positive and supportive message about living your life to the full, without being preachy or patronising. Plus he can get away with being a bit ruder than on TV. There are some jokes or stories that are repeated across different shows, including his experience of going through security at airports in America & Beijing with his artificial leg, which comes up in nearly all of them it seems, but the vast majority of the material is new each time. And he really enjoys interacting with the audience, so he sometimes gets completely derailed when he chats and messes around with people before he gets into his scripted routine. It keeps things interesting for him, as well as making it a unique show for the audience each time.

The other great thing about Adam’s shows is that he always has a sign language interpreter on stage with him, either Leanne Beer when he’s in Australia, or Catherine King when performing in the UK. And the 3 DVDs I own all have an option for the interpreter to be displayed on screen for the entire show. It’s fantastic that people with hearing difficulties get to feel fully included in this way, and it also adds extra value for other audience members, who get to enjoy some of the jokes twice when they learn the signs for the naughtier aspects. Indeed, Adam often has a laugh by getting the interpreter to sign rude things or represent different accents. Leanne and Catherine are both very good sports, and Adam kindly refers to his interpreter as the star of the show at the end. The DVDs all have options for subtitles as well.

So with all that said, let’s run through each of the shows…


Characterful & Joymonger (Online)

This gig combines two of his earlier shows into one 90-minute performance. It was filmed at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne and released on DVD in Australia a long time ago, so I don’t own it in my collection. But I’ve been able to watch a copy on Youtube, which is low quality and split into parts, but it’s good enough.

Among the wide variety of topics in the show, Adam talks about Canadians, his favourite words in other languages, gay people adopting children, tampon adverts, being a godfather, misuse of the English language, his gran mishearing a Christmas carol, an amazing carrot, a man who collapsed at the Edinburgh Festival, a flight with an aborted landing, Steve Irwin’s death, an Irish law about underage sex, the Glasgow Airport terrorists, an old lady buying a baguette, celebrity sat-navs, The Queen being falsely portrayed as walking out of a photoshoot, a cheerful Nigerian cab driver, and renewing his driving license with an artificial foot.

As for banter with audience members, he talks to a 12-year-old boy about rude words, a guy who met a lady in London and moved to Australia with her, and a man who had a prostate exam done by his best mate. And he finishes the show by dancing on a car roof.

Inflatable (DVD)

This first DVD in my collection was also filmed at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne. As well as subtitles and signing, it also gives the choice of stereo or 5.1 surround sound, which isn’t necessary for a show of this nature, and later DVDs only provide stereo, but it’s nice for those who want the choice I guess. There’s no scene selection menu here (which later DVDs do have), although there are still chapters you can skip through during the show.

The show opens with an animation of a man trying to blow up balloons faster and faster before they get popped, sometimes with multiple incarnations on the screen at once, all set to a fun rock version of In The Hall Of The Mountain King.

In the show itself, we discover that it’s being filmed on Adam’s 40th birthday. There are a few long-time fans in the audience who have been to several of his shows, and he gets a card from one of them, Maria, who has seen him 81 times in the past 3 years. Another lady also comes on stage and does a sign language version of the Happy Birthday song on the audience’s behalf, as it was still deemed to be copyrighted so they couldn’t sing it without paying (nowadays that’s no longer an issue as it’s in the public domain). Adam also gets a big, bulky guy and his much smaller wife up on stage, after noticing the contrast between them.

Apart from that, Adam also talks about meeting acting PM Julia Gillard on a flight, how deaf people sign different countries, the politeness of Dutch people, Hare Krishnas, Starbucks, having his appendix out and a prostate exam, a heavy night’s drinking, becoming a dad, what he’s learnt about life from doing stand-up, stories he was told by a forensics guy about a farmer and a drug-addicted couple, and how you can inflate or deflate people around you when you’re alive and after you die.

He also talks about being at the Beijing Paralympics, including the metal detector story, a joke he wanted to make in the opening ceremony that was censored, the jokes disabled people make about each other, and the inspiring sight of Chinese swimmer He Junquan with no arms doing the individual medley.

There are a few extras on the DVD as well, mostly consisting of material that was cut from the main feature:

  • Adam’s Friend – This 7-minute clip shows the routine by his Tasmanian support act Hannah Gadsby, who talks about trapped miners, being a lesbian, being a bit overweight, and not having enough flesh on her feet. She’s not as good as Adam, so I wouldn’t want to see a full show of hers, but she’s ok.
  • Adam’s Sealed Section – In this very funny 17-minute extra, Adam brings a lady on stage who sells sex toys, as he’d met her at a previous show and wanted to get her on the DVD. So she brings along a paddle that a man pretends to spank him with, a rabbit vibrator with diamantés on it, anal beads, blueberry flavoured lubricant, and a small blow-up sheep. And of course there’s added fun to be had with the sign language accompanying all of that!
  • Adam’s Boyband – In this 9-minute scene, Adam gets a few guys who work in IT up on stage to form a nerdy boyband called The Backslash Boys, showing them how to pose and do a simple dance routine to I Want It That Way. He’s done this kind of thing at some other shows too, including one of his appearances on Live At The Apollo.
  • Adam’s Audience – In this 7-minute feature, Hannah chats with some audience members before and after the show.

Stands Up Live (TV)

This show was filmed at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, as a Christmas special for Channel 4 in 2012, following Adam’s success with the launch of The Last Leg that year. It ran for an hour and a half, but I recorded it and edited out the adverts before copying it on to DVD, so my copy runs for 70 minutes. It’s on one of the discs that I created to celebrate the London 2012 Olympics & Paralympics, and I’ve previously written about the sports-related programmes I recorded as well. The audience here includes some Team GB Paralympians, Australian tennis player Pat Cash, and Adam’s Last Leg co-hosts Josh Widdicombe & Alex Brooker.

Some of the material Adam does is reproduced from the earlier shows I’ve mentioned, but then not everyone will have seen it before, especially if they had only become aware of him through The Last Leg at the time, and it is some of his best stuff. Some of the repeated routines include the signs that deaf people have for different countries, how the English love heckling Australians when beating them at sport, his stories from the Beijing Paralympics, how to do different accents in sign language, and his grandmother’s misinterpretation of a Christmas song.

But apart from that he also talks about how pessimistic we were as a nation that we would muck up the London Olympics, camp gay priests, the questions and heckles he’s had about his artificial leg, his experience meeting the Queen & Prince Philip at the Royal Variety Performance (which he briefly recounted again yesterday during The Last Leg’s tribute episode for Queen Elizabeth II), talking to his favourite pizza shop owner in Australia, and working with strippers (during which he discovers there are two gay deaf strippers in the audience!). Plus he picks a guy at random from the audience (Jared Oliver, a project manager at London Bridge station) and attempts to make him feel like a rock star, with a James Brown style moment where the audience applauds, cheers and chants his name. So all in all it’s a lot of fun, and there’s quite a bit of material that isn’t on the DVDs I already own that make it well worth keeping.

Happyism (DVD)

This 80-minute show was filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, and begins with Adam going into the audience, where he meets a 12-year-old called Josh, and he finds a couple who gave him a monkey suit at a previous show, which leads to a story about how he tried to prank his daughter with it.

He also gets a 19-year-old American lady called Carrie up on stage, during a routine about American confidence, to sing her national anthem with him. And there are several references to America during his act, as he talks about US comedians and performing his own comedy over there, his airport security experience after 9/11 (a repeat from previous shows), how he made a fool of himself on Chelsea Lately when they wanted him to be mean about Megan Fox, and performing at the Montreal Comedy Festival with The Muppets (which is a delight to watch and he’s since appeared with The Swedish Chef again at London’s O2).

Apart from that, he also talks about Canada’s politeness, Air New Zealand safety videos, Australian slang being adopted in other countries, the noise of the Australian accent, words that are offensive in some places but have a different connotation in others, meeting the Dalai Lama at a rock gig, wanting to make his daughter laugh, and wise words from his grandfather. And he concludes the show with the aid of a gospel choir, who join him to sing a silly song called Touch The Frog, in relation to his experience with The Muppets.

There are a few extras on the DVD as well:

  • Live At The Apollo – A 10-minute appearance he made on the show in 2009, where he talks about funny American names, growing up in the 80s, gay people in the army, and once again he repeats his stories about airport security and the jokes disabled people make about each other.
  • Edinburgh Comedy Fest Live – A 4-minute set where he humorously critiques a book called Edinburgh: Picturesque Notes by Robert Louis Stevenson, which doesn’t appear to be very complimentary about the city.
  • The Best Thing I Saw At The Paralympics – This 4-minute clip repeats the routine from the Inflatable show about armless Chinese Paralympic swimmer He Junquan, but illustrates it with a little animation.

Clown Heart (DVD)

This is another 80-minute show filmed at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. There are no extra features on this DVD, other than the sign language option, but the show is very good anyway. Adam is sporting red, white and blue hair in this one as well, after losing a bet with the British Paralympic team over whether Australia or Great Britain would win the most gold medals in the Rio Games. He also explained that in another Live At The Apollo performance.

Again there’s quite a bit of enjoyable audience interaction here. To begin with, he tries to see who has the sexiest accent, and gets some people on stage to pretend to do an intro to a porn film with those accents. Then he meets an 11-year-old boy who wears a blade, plays wheelchair basketball and dreams of being in the Paralympics. So to give him a taste of what winning might feel like, Adam gets him up on stage so he can win a race against him, after which he’s given a real Paralympic gold medal from Rio to wear for the rest of the show by Adam Duggleby, who was the pilot guide for visually impaired cyclist Stephen Bate. It’s a lovely gesture.

Adam then gets into his main routine, talking about trying to be healthier in his 40s, how having children causes disagreements in his relationship and has changed his views on life, how to talk about death with his daughter, and being silly – i.e. having a clown heart – in the face of death, including his Dad’s passing from leukaemia.

The last part of the show is very different to his previous ones, as it’s emotional whilst also continuing to be very amusing. Following on from the talk about his father’s passing, he shows a video about a Naked Tuesday photo shoot he did with a cancer sufferer called Craig Coombes a few years earlier. At that time Craig knew he didn’t have long to live, and therefore it was one of the more fun things he wanted to do before it was all over.

So it was with a great deal of pride that Adam then brought Craig out on stage to a huge ovation, showing that he’d defied the doctor’s predictions, and Craig was given a few minutes to do a bit of stand-up material of his own about living with cancer. The show then closes with a song Adam wrote called In Your Face Cancer, during which he, Craig and a fellow cancer sufferer called Russ (who Craig had met purely by chance at this particular show) all strip down to their underwear. It’s a funny yet poignant performance. And it would appear from Craig’s Twitter account that he’s still going strong and stripping off. Good on him!


So that’s it, I hope you enjoyed that rundown of the shows by Adam that I’ve been watching. He is one of my favourite comedians, as he’s very funny, does a lot of work for charity, and is just a thoroughly nice bloke going by everything I’ve seen of his. So I’m glad I’ve got some of his shows in my collection.

Author: Glen

Love London, love a laugh, love life. Visually impaired blogger, culture vulture & accessibility advocate, with aniridia & nystagmus, posting about my experiences & adventures.

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