I wonder if it is possible to have dual cult and mainstream success? Adam Hills would seem to suggest it is. The popular, international, TV comedian has a devoted core following of hardcore fans.
The name of the show is the clue – Happyism. Hills isn’t normally mean or negative. Each performance loans some of his energy and charisma today the audience. Watching Adam Hills perform on stage is like being recharged.
Hills has a prosthetic leg and many of his jokes are drawn from the life experiences that brings him. This is all part and parcel of the Cult of Hills. It’s also a force for good and for change. There is nothing better than having a great time, laughing until your eyes water while also enjoying the feel good factor of knowing that you are helping the kids in the audience avoid being pricks when it comes to talking to or about disabled people.
Happyism is also loaded with cultural tolerance. Jokes point out how stupid racists are and encourage the audience to accept immigrants. There’s no preaching here, this is done with a small degree of subtly and plenty of humour.
There is plenty of audience participation in Happyism. I’m not sure it counts as standard comedian – on – crowd banter, though. I hope it’s not misplaced but I trust Hills not to pick on or embarrass anyone in the audience. I sense others feel the same way, at least that would certainly explain why the banter back from the audience is so relaxed, so comfortable and so good. This makes for a better show.
There is a show in Happyism. After spending a good while chatting with the crowd Hills makes a joke of reassuring us that he does have prepared material. I suspect Hill prefers the chat to the routine. On balance, I think his interaction with the audience is the funniest part of the show because he’s clearly enjoying himself. Some of the routine you might have heard before from earlier shows, but this isn’t a repeat, this is just a recap on important parts of his life that have gone onto influence his thought. In fact, Hill even prefixes some discussions with “you might have heard this story before”.
That’s another reason why I toy with the word “cult” to describe Hills’ success. Some of these life events and the stories around them are transforming into a “mythos” around the man.
Sounds far out?
Happyism is the name of the religion he’s created.
It’s a great religion. Touch the frog and all that. We didn’t get onto the fact that Hills had been inspired by his granddad to convert to this religion untill a few minutes before the end (we over ran, Hills often over runs). I had all these thoughts about the mythos of Hills in my head, squeezed in there alongside the laughter, long before the origin of the word Happyism was revealed to me. When he shared the story it all made perfect sense.
Does any of this matter? Probably not. What matters is that I had a whale of a good time.