Claire Hooper is one of those familiar Australian faces of comedy that makes you squint at the TV, trying to remember where you have seen her before. The answer is basically: Everywhere. From her own quirky brand of stand up shows and regular appearances at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to TV stints on Rove, The Sideshow and Good New Week, there has rarely been a year in the last ten where she hasn’t appeared on our screens.
This year saw her co-host The Great Australian Bake-Off with fellow comedian and Brisbanite Mel Buttle, a slight change of tack but one which ended up paying off in comedy gold. Back in her usual milieu, in January 2016 she will be appearing alongside a steallar line up of her fellow comedians in Laugh Your Pants off at Jupiters Casino. Natalie O’Driscoll spoke with her about her comedic journey so far.
Early into your career you described comedy as your “dream job”. A fair way further down the track, would you still describe it that way?
Absolutely. Although technically it’s my ‘reality job’ now. But I am still grateful. It’s such a creative and interesting field, every day is different, and it’s bought me a pretty little house and a pretty little husband so I’m a lucky man.
You’ve worked with some of Australia’s best known comedians. Who are your favourites?
Ok. But so we’re clear I’m only agreeing to pick favourites because you’ve got a gun to my head. Tom Gleeson would be one of them, especially when he’s working up new jokes. I saw him walk onstage the other night immediately after losing his phone down a hole in the side of the stage and turn that information into an incredibly funny opening five minutes. Who else? Tom Ballard, Cal Wilson, Celia Pacquola, Lawrence Mooney, Ronny Chieng. And of course I spent ten weeks this year working with Mel Buttle on Bake Off and loved every minute of it. She’s a bloody joy, she is. But there are another thirty or so on the list. It’s an amazing industry in that you can be a fan of so many of your co-workers.
Tell us about The Great Australian Bake Off! How did it all come about, and how does working on a show like that compare to comedy programmes and stand up?
I still remember getting the call that I was going to screen test for it. So excited. I’m a flat out huge fan of the British series. When they cast me opposite Mel (did I mention she’s a joy?) I was like ‘these people have great taste’. And the experience itself was even more fun than expected. I absolutely loved being on a non-comedy show for a change. It’s an honour to be the comic relief. Lots of pressure though! The producers would just point a camera on Mel and I and say ‘now you guys say something funny’. We didn’t always manage. Lucky there’s editing.
You and your comedy have been described as “outrageous”, “self-deprecating”, “cheeky” and “endearing”. If you had to choose three adjectives that encompassed your comedic style, what would they be?
I’ve just made my husband pick three words for me: “Pays the bills”. That’s all he gave me.
The world continues to change, in positive ways, for women. What changes for women have you witnessed or experienced in comedy from when you started to now?
I feel really optimistic about my daughter’s ability to achieve the prime ministership. But honestly, I feel like the last few years in comedy have been a bit of a plateau for women. Only the other day I had a perfectly lovely woman look me in the eye and say, in a friendly voice, ‘I don’t really like any female comedians’. I’m hoping what she meant was ‘I don’t really know any female comedians’. It’s a bit heartbreaking. Look back at the 80s, when Wendy Harmer was hosting the Big Gig, and female stand ups were thick on the ground. What a wonderful time! Thirty years later and Australia still doesn’t cast female comics as hosts. I can only think of Julia Zemiro on Rockwiz. Oh, hang on, there’s Mel and I hosting Bake Off. So, well, baby steps.
You can catch Claire at Laugh Your Pants off on Friday 8 January at Jupiters Casino. Tickets via ticketek.com.au