As told to Elisabeth Marie
With an encyclopaedia’s worth of joke-book jokes stored in his brain and an insatiable appetite for attention, Jason Chong discovered his love for making people laugh at a young age.
In the early 2000s, Jason was on a gap year overseas and his mum would send him newspaper clippings to keep him abreast of happenings back home. One of these clippings was an advertisement for a comedy school at Comix Comedy Cellar with Dave Flanagan – Jason tucked it safely with his passport until he returned to Australia.
Two decades later, Jason is making people laugh for a profession – he was named Adelaide’s comedian of the year in 2009 and continues to appear regularly on radio and television while touring the world with his award-winning live shows.
Now, he sits down with CityMag to talk about his family, 24-hour bakeries, figure skating and his rescue dog, Ziggy.
CityMag: How did you get into comedy?
Jason: I loved watching stand-up on television and tried to start my comedy career in the classroom. I was a cult hit, but my written reviews weren’t great. I went on a gap year after university and my mum would cut out articles from the local paper and send them to me. The two I remember were for when Shaun Rehn was traded to the Hawks, and the other one was for a stand-up comedy school run by Dave Flanagan at Comix Comedy Cellars. I kept that one in my passport ’til I got home, and then called the number and signed up.
Tell us your best joke.
It’s not mine, but: Q. Why did they arrest the crab? A. Because he kept pinching things.
I got that joke in a Christmas cracker one year and it is legitimately hilarious. If you don’t agree, I will fight you, and if you win, I’ll send you that crab to clean you out – he’s a good mate of mine.
Describe the most important people in your life.
One is a five-foot-six Caucasian female estimated early to mid-30s. Brunette, brown eyes, dimples and a scar at the top of one ear.
The other is a two-foot female with thin brown hair, blue eyes for some reason, and chubby arms and thighs. No scars or blemishes, however, she is missing most of her teeth and stays up all night screaming like a junkie.
I wouldn’t dare submit either of their weights for publication.
Further to those descriptions, the first is my wife and the second is our daughter. My wife and I are about to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary, and writing that is the first time I’ve realised how close it is and I should get onto it quick smart. Over that time we’ve taken turns supporting each other while the other is chasing their dreams, we’ve cared for each other’s families, and we’ve done what we can when the other has lost a parent. We’ve also laughed ’til we have a headache and a bit of pee comes out, we bake extravagant cakes for each other’s birthdays and we’ve been on several international adventures.
The kid is good too, I suppose.
Tell us about one of the best moments of your life.
When we started house hunting, my wife arrived at an inspection before I did and came out to meet me with the hugest grin on her face. She led me through one of the most insane houses I’ve ever been in. It had seven different types of flooring – tiles, floorboards, multiple carpets, lino, cobblestones and more – each room seemed to be from a different time period. There was a fish tank in the stairs you could only get to from the room behind it and we opened the wrong drawer and found someone’s ashes. There was wood panelling – oh my golly gosh was there wood panelling. In the kitchen there was a ship’s wheel and, when you turned it, some of the floor slid aside to reveal steps to a cellar. The whole house felt like an escape room built by MC Escher, but for Bill and Ted. By the time we were done, we both had huge grins on our faces.
It was bonkers and we could totally see ourselves living there. We put down an offer but didn’t get it. It was a year of open inspections before we could put an offer in for another house. Sometimes I drive by that house and scowl at the people who live there now.
What do you love most about Adelaide?
The thing that I love most about Adelaide is that it is where my favourite people are. My friends and family and all my best memories are here. I can afford a house with a backyard for our dog, in a radius of the city that would make Victorians shake with anger and jealousy – and that makes me very happy. I can travel for 30 minutes and be in a place I’ve never been before, instead of at the end of my street like if I lived in Sydney.
Also, there are numerous 24-hour bakeries and the importance of that should never be understated.
What photograph do you value the most?
We have a rescue dog called Ziggy. He’s a staffy cross with a boxer or ridgeback, so he’s got a staffy head and legs like a supermodel. Once he was prescribed tablets at the vet and I said “Oh no Ziggy, you need handsome pills” and the vet got legitimately angry at me and said, “he does NOT need handsome pills”. So yeah, he’s a handsome boy.
We did a photoshoot with him for a fundraiser for the [Animal Welfare League] where we got him. Stupid, handsome Ziggy looked so good in the photos it ended up costing us hundreds of dollars. My favourite is the one where his tongue is half out but somehow bunched up in a wave. He looks like an idiot, but still manages to be handsome – just like his dad …
What would you recommend to people visiting Adelaide?
Apparently, I have a reputation for taking people to the Bakery on O’Connell. I didn’t realise that was my go-to tourist attraction until I took someone there and they mentioned someone else had told them I’d done the same and they were wondering why I was so obsessed with it. Do they do merch? I’d totally buy a Bakery on O’Connell tea towel for my visitors. But not for myself – I opened a kitchen drawer a couple of weeks ago that was full of new tea towels. I had no idea they were there. I thought we had maybe six tea towels, max. Turns out we have hundreds of them. In fact, if anyone comes to Adelaide, they should visit my kitchen and grab themselves a tea towel. I’ll write “Adelaide” on it in Sharpie if they want. $4 each, two for $6.
Tell us about your favourite hobby.
After lockdown, I started taking ice skating lessons with the goal to play ice hockey (I’m in my 40s so it’s safe to assume this was some sort of a mid-life crisis). Turns out the lessons were for figure skating, so I learnt to wobble around in a circle and graduate to bending down, picking up imaginary leaves and gracefully throwing them in the air – luckily that was only for a term and then I started ice hockey training. It’s expensive and I’m terrible, but I played a season, scored a goal and still have all my teeth. It’s been harder to get on the ice with a new baby, but I’ve bought synthetic ice tiles and a goal at home so I can practise and I’d love to get back onto a team soon.
Describe the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Adelaide.
You want me to plug a restaurant, don’t you? Well, you’re about to be disappointed. One Fringe, I was doing a live internet chat show. On the first day, there were loads of technical issues and I was super stressed – at 4pm we were about to start and I hadn’t eaten all day. It was creating havoc with my personality.
One of the guys who was helping with the show – his name is Hard Core Damo – came up to me and said “I brought you some lunch” and gave me a sandwich and a pear. This was not your grandpa’s sandwich and a pear. HCD made the top 100 of Masterchef one year and is a sorcerer in the kitchen. It was the creamiest sandwich and the ripest pear. Until then, I hated pears, but I devoured this one like we both knew it was the last song at a Blue Light Disco. It was exactly what I needed at the exact time I needed it, and I nearly named my daughter Hard Core Damo in his honour.
What songs do you have on repeat?
I recently discovered ‘Use Me’ by Bill Withers. I cannot believe I’ve lived my life without hearing it before. That riff is so juicy.
I also heard a soul version of ‘Jealous Guy’ at a Cat Empire concert years ago, sung by their then-tour manager Elana Stone. It was pure joy, but I thought it was a one-off. Turns out it was based on a version by Donny Hathaway and when I stumbled across that one day I almost cried with happiness. It’s excellent.
If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, there’s an Adelaide artist called Dankmus who takes samples from the “Golden Era” episodes and makes electronic music from them. They’re excellent and they make me laugh a lot. My favourites are ‘Put it in H’, ‘Think Unsexy Thoughts’ and ‘Children Who Are Wrong‘. Dankmus, if you read this, I love you and I hope you never get sued.
Also, TOTO’s best song is ‘Rosanna’ and if you think it’s ‘Africa’ then you need to start thinking for yourself.