Funny man Kevin Kropinyeri is a lot of things to a lot people. To his family he is a proud father, son and partner. To others he is a hard working MC, sports fanatic, former class clown and community leader. Kropinyeri is a prominent member of the Ngarrindjeri Nation and knows first-hand the everyday hardships that Indigenous Australians face.
But to most of us he is the likeable larrikin, with a razor sharp wit and impeccable comic timing, who will be showcasing both as the MC for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow.
“Growing up I’d always have the family laughing around the dinner table. I’d always pick on the ones I loved,” he smiles. “At school I always found myself in the principal’s office looking silly, always trying to get a laugh – but I never thought I could make a career out of it!”
Kropinyeri’s manner and measured delivery allow him to get away with saying just about anything, and he uses it to his full advantage. “My material is definitely inspired by friends and family, whether it be an uncle or an aunty,” he says.
Fans of his will know that Kropinyeri’s loyal partner often features in his routine, and not always in the most flattering light, but from all accounts she is his biggest fan. “I am happily attached,” he says lovingly. “She’s been a real supporter of my career. She’s been my best friend for years and she’s taken a week off work to come and tour with me.”
He assures me that his humour is always taken in the spirit in which it was intended – and although they are often the butt of his jokes, his family are his biggest supporters. “I did a show last night and a lot of my family from South Australia travelled two hours up river to come and see me perform. These people are where my stories come from. All my jokes are inspired by real life characters – and they couldn’t be happier.
“Actually my two oldest daughters are very funny girls,” he continues. “You only have to be around them for 10 minutes and they’ll have everybody laughing – but they have no desire to get up on stage. I don’t think any of my children will follow in my footsteps.”
Kropinyeri found national fame as the winner of 2008’s Deadly Funny, a competition to find Australia’s finest Indigenous comic, held as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Judges found him to be the clear winner, as his commanding, larger-than-life stage presence demanded everyone’s attention.
Since his win the former South Australian, now Sydney-sider, has performed at festivals all over the country. He is a regular on the comedy club circuit and on television. He can be found MCing at community events and is a regular performer at the Deadly Awards, appearing six years in a row to a packed Sydney Opera House.
The former youth worker was the toast of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival this year with his show The Bald and the Beautiful alongside up-and-coming comic Andy Saunders, and most recently completed another leg of the highly acclaimed and much-loved national tour, featuring the Aboriginal Comedy All-stars. “The show is so polished!” he says excitedly. “It’s a great production, aside from the comedy – and the comedy is killer as well. It’s really slick.”
Despite his laidback demeanour, Kropinyeri is arguably one of the most hard-working entertainers in the country. He continually strives to bring fresh new material to the audience, a part of the job he takes quite seriously. “I do have a process when working on new stuff. Every 12 to 18 months I’ll have a completely new show.
“I’ve got a circle of great comic friends that I bounce ideas off,” he adds. “Friends that I trust – but sometimes I don’t want to give too much away . . .”
Kropinyeri plays his cards close to his chest when I ask about his returning role as MC of the upcoming leg of the Comedy Roadshow Festival. “The touring kicks off in Bendigo on the 25th of May, and I can’t wait! It’s going to be a great show – there’s a lot of talent in the line-up.”
He will be joined by a revolving cast of comics including Becky Lucas, Guy Montgomery, Ivan Aristeguieta, Bev Killick, Rob Hunter and Tommy Dean (checkout www.comedyfestival.com.au/2016/season/roadshow2016 to find out who will be playing in your neck of the woods).
All in all, I guess you could say that Kropinyeri is a bit of a rockstar. He lives out of a suitcase for much of the year and is in constant demand – however, that’s a label the humble Aussie bloke is not totally comfortable with. “A rockstar? Not with this body!” he jokes. “But it absolutely does pull on the heart strings when I can’t be home as much as I should be. But you’ve gotta pay the bills, and I’m so fortunate that I’ve got a job that I love,” he says with all sincerity.
“It’s true that I get paid to do something I love, but it’s hard work and you have to make sacrifices to continue to achieve.” Call him what you will, Kevin Kropinyeri is a world-class comic and an Australian success story.
Written by Natalie Rogers
Who’s Touring Where?
Aireys Inlet, Bendigo & Colac
MC Kevin Kropinyeri
Ararat & Warrnambool
MC Kevin Kropinyeri
When & Where: Aireys Pub, Aireys Inlet – May 29, Ulumbarra Theatre, Bendigo – May 25, COPACC, Colac – May 28, Ararat Performing Arts Centre, Ararat – June 1 & The Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool – June 2