Janet McLeod - The Connector From Down Under

August 2, 2021

Photo Credit

Janet McLeod

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez

2021 Summer Vacation Series

Destination - Melbourne, Australia

The world is in the midst of a host of debuts, including the blinding sight of faces that haven’t seen true sunlight for many months, poking out of doors and taking the cautious first steps back into the great outside.
It’s only fitting that we debut something of our own for the podcast: the 2021 Summer Vacation Series. While we’re in no way on vacation, the theme speaks more to that most summer-y of concepts, traveling to new places near and far. Many of our guests are local to Austin, but during the pandemic we had the honor of “hosting” comics from around the world on our Isolation Comedy series, and the Vacation Series is our way of bringing them back for the full Comedy Wham interview treatment.

Right out of the gate, Janet McLeod wants to be helpful.

From the moment our conversation began, she mentioned the website "Time and Date Converter" to keep track of different time zones, something she's found invaluable as the host of online shows booking comics from around the world. McLeod's genetic predisposition to be helpful is exactly how we connected originally. I was part of an international Facebook group meant to connect comics from around the world looking for online shows, and McLeod was an eager helper to me book several amazing Australian comics like Ryan Coffey, Dane Simpson, and Rusty Berther (look them up, they are amazing).

The other reason that McLeod and I connected is her attention to detail. As she rattled off the names of some of the international comics she's booked on her show (names yours truly would never dare utter without weeks of careful study), her attention to the correct pronunciation of her international guests is part of how she makes you feel at ease. She cares to get it right. McLeod's love of comedy began watching televised sketch comedy shows and, you guessed it, connecting with her schoolteachers by rattling off catch phrases or impressions from the show. And at less than 15 minutes into our conversation, McLeod self-declares "I'm a connector, I love to connect people." Even so much that at one point, New Zealand comic Cal Wilson declared McLeod as the fairy godmother of Melbourne comedy.

I'm a connector, I love to connect people.
Janet McLeod

As for her experience with performing comedy, McLeod felt that her wardrobe lent itself to outward theatricality and let her break out of her shyness. Eventually, moving from her hometown of Ballarat to Melbourne, she was observing a show from backstage when the emcee voluntold (credit to Nkechi Chibueze for this turn of phrase) her to perform a brief standup set. Many times her early performances were closer to one-woman sketch performances. I would have very much liked to have seen McLeod's performances with the inflatable chair (you can listen to the podcast to hear her hysterical play-by-play).

As we shift to how she began to connect with the global comedy scene, she attributes a lot of that to her attendance at the largest festivals in the world - Edinburgh Fringe, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, and JFL Montreal. She notes that the comedy world is smaller than we realize and it doesn't take much to be connected by 1 or 2 degrees of separation to any given comic. Do you hear that Jerry Seinfeld? Open invitation to be on our podcast, over here (no car or coffee necessary)!

Her own current performance style was born out of being handed an opportunity to take over her friend's show who sadly passed away. Among the lessons she's learned are the importance of working with nice people and hearing different perspectives on stage.

If you think America is going through turmoil when it comes to the recent spike and management of the COVID outbreak, McLeod explained the confusing and frustrating state of affairs in Australia in its handling of the virus. After spreading herself thin with live shows, she pivoted to online shows and ultimately began producing online corporate trivia events which helped her sustain herself financially and creatively. As she admits, she "uses Zoom as an entertainment platform." She admits it's an imperfect format, but it is a format she has adapted and thrived with. She loved the aspect of helping other comics have fun with the online platform as well.

McLeod says "...one of the great things from last year, one of the things that I enjoyed being able to do was to help comedians gain that confidence...and find a way that comedy would work in this sort of a platform." The online platform will stick around, she predicts - whether someone is homebound due to physical limitations or social anxiety, the world of online comedy has made it possible for all of us to enjoy comedy from the comfort of home.

One of the great things from last year (2020), one of the things that I enjoyed being able to do was to help comedians gain that confidence.....and find a way so that comedy would work in this sort of a platform.
Janet McLeod

As McLeod grapples with the Australian state and federal government's handling of COVID (including limited access to vaccines), she will continue to work online and bide her time until she can return to live performances. The good news is she is well equipped, from 3 different cameras, to multiple lighting optins, to her stellar energy, she's ok with the status quo for now. She had a sneak peak of the post-COVID comedy world by attending the Adelaide Fringe Festival was a phenomenal reunion and she realized how much she missed live performance, but recognized the hard work that goes into making it safe for everyone to return to comedy.

The good news is McLeod continues to be incredibly well-connected to the global comedy scene. For her, "the connections I've made have been part of my toolkit of survival." We're happy to have borrowed something from that toolkit last year and look forward to one day connecting with her in real life.

Want to know more about comedy in Melbourne, Australia?

Janet's mentions and recommendations for comics to check out from Melbourne or larger Australia include: Cal Wilson, Tim Minchin, DJ Andrew McClelland, Ethan Cavanagh, Oliver Clark, Dane Simpson, Jude Perl, Reuben Kaye, Geraldine Quinn, Kirsty Webeck, Claire Hooper, and Ivan Aristeguieta.

If you're in Melbourne, Australia Janet, recommends that you check out the handful of comedy clubs in town and there are 3-5 standup comedy shows each night. Similar to most developed American comedy towns, you can see everything from bar shows, to club shows, to large theater shows. We won't comment on whether this is similar to other scenes or not, but McLeod likens the Melbourne scene to a giant dysfunctional family - full of camaraderie, but brimming with hilarious oddballs.

Janet can be seen and heard:

  • Planet Janet Trivia Events
  • Local Laughs - returning soon!
  • Cinema Fiasco with Geoff Wallis - returning soon!
  • ABC Local Radio's Overnights With Trevor Chappell. She's on every second Tuesday at 2.30am (local time which late mornings in the US).

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Janet McLeod