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Comedy Moments: Hardy's here to stay

In the first of a new monthly series, comedians reflect on the business of making people laugh. This week, Aussie stand-up Matthew Hardy on the culture shock of bringing his act to Britain

The area where I was raised in Melbourne, Australia, could best be described as like a cross between Happy Days and Twin Peaks. Picture Richie Cunningham discovering a dead person wrapped in plastic and you get the idea. Coming from a nation where our previous Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, made the Guinness Book of Records for his beer-drinking abilities, it has to be said that Australia's class system is not quite as engrained as it is in the UK.

In Australia, choosing subjects to interest an audience was simple. Observations on gambling and getting into bar-room brawls usually did the trick.

Arriving in England at the tender age of 22, fresh from my parents' shadow, I realised a white-bred suburban background was not quite the perfect preparation.

Unlike Sydney, with its Gay Mardi Gras, or Alice Springs and its largely black population, my 'burbs mind-set wasn't ready for landing in liberating London. I was no redneck, but when propositioned by a gay black bloke upon first stumbling into Soho, it was as if I'd experienced an alien encounter!

Political correctness was not to the fore in the minds of my mates. Benny Hill has yet to suffer a backlash in Australia. So, as creature of an environment which finds a lady with big boobs carrying jelly down a flight of stairs to be very, very funny (to this day, I am unashamed to admit), my original stand-up routine received a baptism of fire.

Occasionally, if I happened to smile at the right time, I'd survive at clubs such as Up The Creek in Greenwich, where they wondered whether I was for real.

In other situations, appearing before the beautiful people of Jongleurs, for example, they weren't having any of my suggestions that a kangaroo shagging a koala constituted an inter-racial relationship.

Culturally, I sense that in England there are too many people in too small a space. Yet that is the very reason why I first flew in. London is more alive than a newborn baby - the creative placenta. It fertilizes the mind.

Once, I couldn't get into The Comedy Store, as a paying punter. Now I perform there with the audience in the palm of my hand. And if all the middle-of-the-night, homesick phone calls mean that maybe I might eventually write one line which Richard Pryor would be proud to call his own, then it'll have been a move worth making.

Matthew Hardy is performing at Jongleurs throughout February