If you think you’ve seen everything live comedy has to offer, you haven’t heard of Darren Lever. In his upcoming show Man vs. Wildlife v2.0 he’s putting it all on the line; his humour, his political leanings, and even his limbs.
Part standup show, part environmental wakeup call, he’ll be bringing his unique blend of stylings to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival in early April. There will be wild animals, wilder comedians and (hopefully) a lack of grievous bodily harm. Eager to chat before he ends up in the ER, we pulled up a chair for Lever himself.
The next Steve Irwin or just another masochist? Darren Lever’s untamed take on comedy in Man vs. Wildlife v2.0 is a breath of fresh, native air.
HAPPY: Hey Darren, how are you? What are you up to right now?
DARREN: Right now, I am feeding some milk to an endangered animal called a Squirrel Glider, a small possum that glides from tree to tree; at the same time I am searching the internet for ‘best ways to concentrate while bottle feeding a Squirrel Glider’… zero results.
HAPPY: Man vs. Wildlife v2.0 isn’t really your average comedy show. Where did you have your light bulb moment to bring life-threatening animals onstage?
DARREN: Well, my first idea was to have a bathtub full of box jellyfish that I would bathe in for the start of the show, however during the rehearsal process I died five times, so that idea was scrapped due to logistics (do you realise how expensive flights from ‘the other side’ are?). No, the main reason I had the idea to use these animals was to hopefully show people that they aren’t these scary, life-threatening, horrible animals that their reputation would suggest, but rather amazing creatures that have incredible beauty that may not be apparent at first, but when you open your eyes you’ll be amazed at what you find out. You still need to be careful though; just like you need to be careful when walking under coconut trees… they kill more people each year than any Australian animal!
HAPPY: How did its first incarnation land?
DARREN: The first incarnation of Man vs Wildlife was to happen at Melbourne Fringe a fair few years ago, it never ended up eventuating as I had a small ‘workplace incident’ which meant that I had to have surgery on my hand. I guess my workplace incidents are slightly different to most people’s but lets just imagine that you work in an office and the photocopier jams so you go to pull the paper out and the photocopier lunges out of the water and grabs you by the hand and ‘death rolls’ to try to rip your hand off…. Ok it was a crocodile not a photocopier… but photocopiers do that too I’ve been told, that’s why I avoid office environments altogether… just in case a photocopier jams.
HAPPY: What’s your favourite (and least favourite) native Aussie animal and why?
DARREN: My favourite Aussie animal is the Saltwater Crocodile, hands down (poor choice of words really considering my past injuries). Easily my favourite because they are quite prehistoric. The ‘Salty’ has been around for 4-4.5million years (that’s the earliest fossil found to date) but they estimate that they could have been around for a lot longer, anywhere from 6-12 million years ago. I love them for so many reasons. Not only because they are so ancient, but they have one of the strongest bites of any animal on the planet at nearly 3700PSI (to put that into perspective that’s over three times the closing pressure of the brakes for a semi trailer), yet the mothers can use those stupidly powerful jaws to gently crack open one of her eggs to let her baby out if it’s struggling. Amazing animals. As for my least favourite animal… I like to find the beauty in everything when I can, however everybody has something they’re scared of… I just happen to be scared of sea stars and sea cucumbers… give me a room full of crocodiles and snakes over a room full of sea stars any day!
HAPPY: I notice you’re quite ambiguous about which animals you’ll be bringing onstage this time… afraid of spooking some potential guests?
DARREN: Well I do like to keep a little bit of intrigue and mystery in what I do, I wouldn’t want any spoilers. But I can definitely confirm that there will be a crocodile, possibly a bird, maybe a marsupial… it all depends on the animals, if they’re not feeling up to being on stage, I certainly won’t force them, their welfare is my number one priority. But I can assure you that animals can be quite the prima donnas. If you thought Kanye had some strange backstage demands, try dealing with a cranky croc or a possum that insists on fresh flowers to nibble on every night… such divas!
HAPPY: Aside from the fun and games, there’s an educational and environmental slant to this show isn’t there? What are some of the issues you want to bring to our attention with Man vs. Wildlife?
DARREN: Absolutely! In fact a part of every ticket that is sold will be donated to a wildlife conservation program. So just by buying a ticket, you’re already helping to make a difference! But, the main thing I’d like everyone to take away from the show is that, although it seems like all doom and gloom with the environment right now, there are simple things that everyone can do that may seem small and insignificant, but if everybody made minor adjustments in their choices, it makes a huge difference. For example the simple act of placing plastics in the recycling bin, or avoiding plastics wherever possible, has a massive positive impact on the environment. And it’s not all about saving animals… I’m not sure if you noticed this but we live on the same planet as these animals so even if you don’t want to save the animals, think about saving yourselves!
HAPPY: How does an educational, animal-centric show become ‘adults only’?
DARREN: I’d demonstrate for you right now but I’m sure it wouldn’t get published! I work with children and animals every day and yes the children love the animals, which is great, but this show is aimed at adults to try to change some older minds about the unique wildlife we have! Plus this show is as much about comedy, and the insane journey that got me to where I am now, as it is about wildlife conservation. There’s music, storytelling, stand up comedy maybe even some magic… who knows what will happen on the night! There’s definitely something for everyone. Oh I should probably mention that there will be rude words coming out of my mouth hole occasionally… and possible a bottom gets seen… no guarantees!
HAPPY: After all this, I’m sure anyone coming to your show still doesn’t have too much of an idea what to expect… what’s your number one tip for the audience to prepare themselves?
DARREN: My number one tip for preparing for my show is to run 5km to the venue, bathe in some warm honey, sprint back to where you started… then go home and have a shower because why the hell would you come to a show drenched in sweat and sticky honey you weirdos!
Apart from that, just come with an open mind and be willing to go wherever the night takes you. I want you to enjoy the show any way you can… even drenched in sweaty honey why the hell not? Come for the crocodile, stay for the laughs!
Want to see Darren potentially lose his hand again? Catch all the details of his show below, and head here to grab your tickets.
Man vs Wildlife v2.0 – Melbourne International Comedy Festival
The Melba Spiegeltent
35 Johnston St, Collingwood
4 April – 8 April
Running Time: 50 minutes
$15 Concession/Tightarse Tuesday
$20 Full Price
$60 Group of 4