Tall Tales and True

Even the show has a funny name! It’s called, Afternoons Tonight and it takes the bizarrely hilarious from James Valentine’s ABC talk-back radio gig and morphs it onto the stage in front of a live audience. And it’s coming to Perth as part of the Perth Comedy Festival kicking off in April!

“Our radio show has a mid-afternoon time slot in Sydney so by that time I reckon everyone’s heard more than enough on aeroplane crashes and State politics. I look for something that’s lighter and different so I ask myself, ‘what’s out there that’s interesting and funny?’.”

“And the answer to that has just got to be people!”

“There’s nothing stranger than the human race. Some of the radio conversations we have are truly bizarre. You’ll never believe the way some people live their lives! What I’ve done for the theatre show is play about a dozen of the greatest callers we’ve ever had and we have a conversation with the audience about what we’ve just been listening to. There’s some pretty weird stuff out there and no shortage of people who are keen to talk about it.”

“What happens next is that the radio conversations spark people in the theatre to tell their own stories. And they’re often even more bizarre!”

“It’s the individuals with the strangest stories who are just busting to tell everyone else!”

Speaking proper

James, it seems, was born to speak on radio. His polished articulation is in the genes and reinforced at an early age.

“My mother taught elocution lessons in Ballarat, a small regional town in NSW, and she spoke very precisely. In fact, she was able to enunciate the ‘h’ in ‘what’. Back in those days they actually had public speaking competitions with more lovely, rounded vowels than you could poke a stick at.”

“Needless to say, I didn’t speak like that in primary school! But it did mean that when I started getting a few radio jobs I knew how to use my voice.”

James didn’t start immediately in the broadcast sector. After leaving school he went to Melbourne University and studied music with the saxophone as his instrument of choice.

“I don’t think my parents were too shattered when I didn’t go down the law/medicine pathway. Anyway, I was the youngest so by the time my parents got to me they were exhausted. My brother did law and hated it!”

“My first love was jazz, lots of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I was a classically trained saxophonist, did all the exams and probably ended up as a bit of a jazz snob. But I soon realised that all the best paid gigs were in rock’n’roll so I teamed up with some great bands like Jo Jo Zep and was earning $1500 a week!”

Rock’n’roll lifestyle

“Then I joined a band called The Models and we’d be on tour for months at a time. It was a lot of fun but the drugs and alcohol can be destructive. It can become a normalised lifestyle quite quickly and that’s not a good thing at all. The Rolling Stones do all this in private jets and French chateaus but we were doing it in Flag Motor Inns. It was crushingly dull! I did have a period of excess for a while and emerged intact but, sadly, some others were unable to rein in their consumption.”

There’s a little less music and a lot more conversation in James Valentine’s working life and he loves every minute of it!

“Both the radio show and its theatre spin-off have got a lot of life left in them. Bringing the show to Perth will be interesting because this will be the first time I’m playing in a place where I’m totally unknown as a broadcaster.”

“Trust me, it’ll be great!”

Afternoons Tonight goes in some highly unpredictable directions. We’ll open up a discussion on something such as, is it okay to snoop on your kid’s phone? ‘As often as you can and don’t let them know!’ said one audience member.”

“Sometimes I’ll come out on stage with a dishwasher. Apparently there are one hundred different ways to stack one and some people feel very strongly about the best way to do it! There’s also a story that I’ve dubbed, ‘Eric the Breast Feeder’ and I’m not going to say any more about that.”

“You’ll have to come along to the show to hear how it turns out.”