Interview: Comedienne Emma Zammit on Waltzing Jimeoin; “He was the reason I wanted to do stand-up”

After 30 years of doing comedy all around Australia, famed comedian Jimeoin is finally embarking on a tour on his own terms.  With his new program Waltzing Jimeoin (screening now on the Ten network), the loveable larrikin is surrounding himself with some of the industry’s funniest performers and performing stand-up wherever the roads of Australia take him.

Joining him on one of his many ventures is Brisbane-based comedienne Emma Zammit.  Having tightened her comedy antics in Sydney and Melbourne, following her stand-up writing course, Zammit has made a name for herself with her (not always suitable for work) musings on parenthood and everyday life.  Having only recently finished filming her episode, our own Peter Gray got to chat with the comic about how she became involved with the show and how it was to work with the very person that inspired her to start performing comedy.

Going off the first episode of Waltzing Jimeoin, the show very much has that air of spontaneity about it.  Sometimes there’s the feeling that these comedy shows are staged or scripted, but this felt incredibly natural.  Is that quite true to how it felt?

It really was.  When we sat down for our little chats wherever we might’ve been – and we surfed together, and I hilariously taught him yoga – but our conversations were never presented with pointers.  It was just him and I talking about different things as we were going about.  Very unscripted and very natural.  (Jimeoin’s) quite inquisitive, so it was a great few days.

Your episode is based in Noosa?

Yes.  I was in a camper trailer.  The other episodes he’s been in swags and tents, so we spoke about that.  He’s a very good skater, so he carries a skateboard around with him everywhere (too).  We picked out our surfboards together, and I’ve never surfed before in my life, and in this shop we decided to do a “dummy run” (with the boards) and I fell flat on my face (laughs).  Trust me, that’s not scripted at all! That’s not something I want on TV.  It was such a great experience though.  Out in the water it’s just him and I because there were no cameras out there, so it was quite amazing.  He’s like a father teaching me how to surf.

Is Noosa an area close or special to you? Was it your choice or something Jimeoin decided on?

He was quite interested in it because he hadn’t be able to explore there when doing gigs.  There was a whole thing around the fact that he’d travelled by himself for thirty years.  Being a comedian is quite isolating.  We’re all friends but I haven’t seen some of my closest in a year.  We all go to these amazing places to do gigs, but you never really get the opportunity to see what you can actually do in the day.  He was really interested in Noosa because he’s always done gigs there but never experienced it with someone.  I live in Brisbane and I’ve supported him a few times, so he asked me to do (this Noosa) episode with him.

I saw one of your stand-up shows, and you were very open about the fact that you had two kids under two and “what a fucking great idea that was”…

(Laughs) Sorry, I’m very sweary.

No, don’t apologise.  It’s the type of comedy I really respond to because it just seems so conversational.  It never comes off as foreign material, it’s your life and you’re willing to talk about it.

I’m glad you appreciate it.  I’m definitely someone where who I am on stage is who I am off stage.  I can probably let go of myself a bit more on stage, but a lot of my (material) is stories about my husband.  I’m a very storytelling type of comedian.  My husband and I write a lot of jokes together.  He’s really quite funny and he thinks of a lot of great premises, and we shape it together and then I take all the credit (laughs).  Everything I say on stage is truth, and really quite therapeutic for me.

When it comes to Jimeoin, I remember his show from the mid-90’s and thinking “The Detachable Toe” was one of the funniest things ever.  Was he someone you followed very early on?

Oh, absolutely.  There was something on television for the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and he did this cooking show with Bob Franklin.  It was a five-minute sketch, and I think even Glenn Robbins made an appearance, and it’s the most basic humour but, and I promise you this, because it sounds like I’m making it up, but it was the reason I wanted to do stand-up.  It’s the one thing I always go back to watch because it is so funny.  Even over the weekend (with Jimeoin) I’m thinking how great it is to be learning from him.

Did Jimeoin reach out to you when it came to being involved?

I supported him on a gig on the Sunshine Coast, and he was talking about the show.  He asked if I ever wanted to do an episode and I said “Oh, well, I think I’m busy” (laughs)… I stalked him the next day because I thought “Oh maybe he’s had a couple of wines and doesn’t remember”, thinking like a crazy ex-girlfriend.  He spoke to me about it and it just steamrolled from there.  He’s got such a great diverse group of comics on this show.  We all have such different backgrounds and experiences, and I think that’s what’s a really cool point of difference for this show.

COVID obviously shut down the arts and entertainment industry, but people are consuming media more than ever during these lockdowns and I think there isn’t quite the realisation that the programs they are watching and the artists involved need support to keep this cycle moving…

Absolutely.  The arts and entertainment industry has been so severely impacted.  We’re losing dancers and directors and producers and comedians who should’ve stayed in this industry for life, but just couldn’t do it anymore.  We are losing such a large part of our history, because it’s just not a supported industry.  I think it’s taken for granted.  Imagine if we were going through a pandemic in the 1980’s, we’d all be “Hungry, Hungry Hippo” experts.  We’d have nothing! We’d be “Twister” freaks.  But we do this show because we love it.

Waltzing Jimeoin is currently screening on Channel 10.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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