Australian comedy legend Steve Hughes talks music, comedy, mental health and a new show

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Australian comedy legend Steve Hughes talks music, comedy, mental health and a new show

The heavy-metal comedian is back. Back in Australia, back to performing and back with a new show that sounds like it’s going to be as divisive as ever. He’s doing a run of shows around the country starting in early May, so we had a chat to him about a bunch of stuff, from his love of music, his mental health, and his new show. He had some pretty strong opinions on the whole lot. Strap in…

First up, on music:
I got into Iron Maiden in 1982, I went and saw the number of the beast tour and it fucking blew my mind and I just became obsessed with metal… I was just always looking for the heaviest music I could find. Started to tape trade back in the day in the early ‘80s. I’d write to Metal Forces, those English mags… then Kill ‘Em All [studio album by Metallica] came out and I just went ‘That’s. Fuckin’. It.’

I’d played drums before I got into metal; I used to know these two English guys when I was like 15, and there was one who sort of played guitar, and one who sort of played bass. I went ‘well I want to play,’ so I got a drum kit. One of the English guys was really interesting, we’d sit up and watch those fucking music shows all night. He was really into punk… But he hated metal. But then I saw Run To The Hills [Iron Maiden] on TV and went ‘Ah, fuck. I’m hooked’. I met Mick Burke at school… and we made Slaughter Lord.

On transitioning from music to comedy:
I always was into comedy too. I can still remember a day when we were sitting around listening to Bonded By Blood by Exodus [1985], Hell Awaits by Slayer [1985], and then a Bill Cosby record… Metals heads generally have a good sense of humour, they’re funny people. Well, I mean who doesn’t like laughing?

Music is fucking great; I love it more than comedy… But bands are fucking hard. I thought if I did this [comedy], I don’t have to deal with anyone else. I started gigging in Sydney and went ‘Okay, well I’m alright at this.’ I’d always wanted my bands to go overseas but it was hard getting it to happen, I thought ‘well now I don’t have a band, so I’ve got to do something.’ I just packed up and went ‘right, let’s go to fucking England.’ And the rest is history. Then I got ensconced with being in Europe; to an Australian, it’s like being in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – tons of fucking work, big tours, and every fucking band you’ve ever wanted to see.

On his hiatus and mental health:
I just basically had a fucking burnout; worked too hard, taking drugs… Not like an addict, sometimes not for fucking weeks or months, but pile that on top of working nights for thirty years, with 60-70 day tours, not getting breaks, not enough sleep, eating fuckin’ muffins at a servo at midnight, drinkin’ four cups of coffee a day, driving, travelling, getting on a plane, changing time zones, not getting enough sleep and not dealing with underlying trauma from my childhood which I should’ve fuckin’ dealt with. It just kind of sits there and builds up over decades until finally that kind of coalesced.

I had warnings; my body and brain gave me warnings over the years. ‘Here’s a little taste, oh, nah we’ll fix you again’. And I thought ‘oh yeah nah I got away with that’. Well, one day you won’t get away with it, and that day came, and what a c*nt of a day it was because it went for years. So best to heed the warning of your brain and body if they decide to give you a little ‘ah, I’d sit down and have a look at yourself if I were you!’ I’ve learnt the warning signs now.

[As for] performing, I’ve been doing it for so long now, and I love it. If I feel good, I just get back into it no worries. I’ve realised I can’t live like Lemmy [AKA Ian Fraser Kilmister, Motörhead]. There’s only one Lemmy. ‘Take a break Steve! Eat some spirulina and play some golf!’ But I don’t like golf… ‘yeah, but you’re gonna die!’

Lastly, on his new show:
This show, it’s, well like I fuckin’ said 12 years ago doing comedy when political correctness started going mental, you know, you better watch out for this fuckin’ stuff, this is really fuckin’ bad! The worst thing is as soon as I have a fuckin’ breakdown at the end of 2013, everyone starts waking up to it. I’m like Venom, who invented thrash metal but didn’t get any of the fuckin’ glory because Metallica kicked their arse afterward.

I’m going to approach it from all those angles: feminism and the LGBT’s and the fuckin’ political correctness and people running around thinking they can close everybody down for talking because you don’t agree with them.

I mean, we had the militant vegans chaining themselves to trams yesterday in Melbourne! They’ve turned fuckin’ vegans into vigilantes. Jesus Christ, these people were sitting around drinking spirulina and eating tofu and now they’ve all gone militant. Hippies might have always been outliers, but they certainly didn’t form vigilante groups when I was growing up. They just sat in the bush and played bongos and ate fuckin’ salad… and took a lot of drugs. They’ve turned everybody into a victim group, haven’t they? They’ve armed them with the flaming torch of vengeance against the evil white man. So, I’m like, well, we can’t have this, this is ridiculous!

Funny thing is, I’ve always been a kind of lefty my whole life. I never gave a fuck if you were gay or from another race, I didn’t give a shit. But now people have gone mental. So, they have to have some jokes written about them because I know they get very upset about jokes… Which really, they shouldn’t be. So yeah, we’ll be tackling that lot.

Catch Steve on Saturday, May 18 at Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne. Tickets from or

Written by Liam McNally