Tim Fitzhigham is not just a comedian, he’s also a record breaker. Over the years he’s developed an obsession for recreating some of history’s most outrageous contests and trying to beat them. So far, he’s managed to beat the near-400 year old record for paddling a paper boat down the river Thames, and has crossed the English channel in a bathtub. Tim’s new show, Gambler, investigates the plausibility of history’s most ridiculous bets.
Your wikipedia biography mentions that last year you were nominated for the ‘Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt’ award, what did you do to get that?
Malcolm Harding was a legendary maverick, and there’s a few awards at the Edinburgh Fringe named after him. He used to do things like steal a tractor, then drive it naked into another comedian’s show. He died tragically by falling into the river Thames- the award was started by his family to remember him. I was nominated for accidentally breaking several bones in trying to complete these bets, I hope Malcolm would’ve approved.
So what’s the basis of the show?
I did some research on the history of ridiculous gambling. There was an age that I don’t think we’ve really gotten back to yet, of people just betting on everything. I chose a list of the ten greatest bets, just to see if they were actually doable. Some of them sounded impossible, just in terms of the physical time and effort involved . We also tried to work out who would’ve won, we know one bet another each time so it was also to see which person was right.
Did they all end up being possible?
You’ll have to come see the show to find out exactly, but we did more or less manage them all.
Have you done any shows here so far, if so how did they go?
Not yet no.I’ve been doing some radio this morning which is lovely, but I noticed today that my first show premieres on the anniversary of Robert Falcon Scott’s death.
I’m not familiar, could you tell me more about him?
Robert F Scott was responsible for one of the great heroic disasters in history. He led a team in the race to get to the South Pale, only to discover that the Norwegians had made it there first. He died on the way back but he’s sort of revered in England as being incredibly noble for having died on the way back from his failure.
That does seem like a very English sort of hero.
Oh absolutely, that’s the top three. It’s right up there in the most important English achievements- cricket, rugby, and eventual failure.
Have you found any similarities between Australian and English betting culture?
There’s quite a bit yes. I think with this show I’ve locked into an inherently Australian ideology-’go on mate, give it a go’ sort of thing. I’m very British, but that’s the sense I get from some of my Australian friends. There’s that game I’ve played called two-up, which is very much a part of Aussie culture.
It’s actually got a weird by-law, where it’s legal to play and place bets on it on ANZAC Day, but no other day of the year.
Yeah, exactly that sort of thing.
One of the most ridiculous bets I ever heard about was between two men at a Gentlemen’s club, who bet some huge amount of money on which of two raindrops would get to the bottom of a window first.
I do actually use that one. It’s a game of skill to be honest, which window to choose, home ground or away ground. I had a list of people willing to help me with some bets, the sort of ne’er do wells I hang out with. Top Gear’s Richard Hammond was betting against me, as well as Steve Davis who was the world snooker champion. We had a bet where one person had to run from London to Dover ,which is about 160 miles, faster than the other can draw one million dots. That’s a bizzare bet at it’s very best. It’s like a rally for punctuation. There are so many weird things from history, there was a great age of gambling. There’s another example where a lord bet another lord that a third will vomit into the hat of the fourth lord. That’s exciting, so I’ve picked the ten weirdest. And all the disasters from trying to actually make them happen comes from that.
There’s a few bits and pieces explaining the bets on your website, how much of that footage is in the final show?
People in the audience aren’t convinced, so that’s what the video footage was for. If I’m on stage telling people I was in a supermarket and somebody fell over people are convinced, but if its me at a horserace in a lycra bodysuit, racing horses then people won’t believe you straight away. At that point, here’s some video to prove it. Enjoy the ridiculousness of the spectacle. The show is funnier if people believe that.
Now that you’ve gone through ten of the most insane bets, are you finished with gambling?
I don’t think I am finished with gambling yet, there is more to do. I don’t want to be addicted, but there’s something exciting about it that I’m not willing to give up yet.
Tim’s show ‘Gambler’ runs from 29 March – 22 April at The Victoria Hotel on Little Collins St. For more information and ticket sales go to the Comedy Festival Website.
Words: William Godfrey