Hard work makes Tommy Little an “overnight success.”
It's taken years for comedian Tommy Little to get to the point of two TEN shows on at the same time.
At just 28 years old he is busy with two Network TEN shows, This Week Live and A League of their Own -including the hosting role on the latter.
But while he may be the network’s “man of the moment” the truth is he’s been working hard behind the scenes and on the comedy circuit to get to where he is today.
Little even performed 104 stand-up shows before he got his first pay cheque. But comedy wasn’t his first choice: that was to be an NBA basketballer, rapper or actor.
“My dream was to go to a Drama School and I started doing things in high school. They had programs where if you were interested in Drama you could go to the College of the Arts and do taste-tester courses and I just hated it. I think you got told ‘Before you learn to speak you must learn how to breathe again,'” he recalls.
“I have no doubt it produces good actors but that would drive me insane.
“Even when I wasn’t doing gigs I would spend time in the (comedy) clubs just checking it out.”
Fast-forward to his current career with TEN and managed by Token, Little is surprised by how many people were showering him with praise for scoring a gig on This Week Live.
“Even before it had gone to air and before anything of A League of their Own has been seen people were saying ‘Congratulations on all the success’ and I hadn’t done anything. We’d been working on all the shows behind closed doors but nothing had aired,” he says.
“So it was really just people saying congratulations on getting a job!
“I thought ‘You haven’t seen anything? It might be shit?’
“It’s funny this thing of ‘Now you’ve made it’ when I’ve actually been working on both these shows for a long time, building them up.”
Be careful what you wish for. Little has had to juggle a frantic schedule of appearing on This Week Live in Melbourne and recording A League of their Own in Sydney at the same time, which has even led to two weeks absence on the former. But he embraces the heavy workload, despite it impacting on his social life.
“If you’re questioning ‘Do I actually want a life?’ I always just think ‘Or I could not be doing this’ and that idea is horrendous,” he notes.
“With both shows happening at the same time, I wasn’t seeing anyone in my private life. It was the thing I always wanted. I love doing Comedy and I would look at Hughesy and think ‘He’s doing Breakfast Radio, he’s doing a TV show’ and then I’d see him at stand-up shows later and think ‘That’s heaven!’ to create content all day. But as soon as that happens you realise it comes at such a huge sacrifice to your relationships and private life.
“But the only thing worse than that is not doing any of it.”
His This Week Live schedule begins with a 10:30 meeting on Thursdays to plan stories and sketches, then a Monday meeting to pitch news items. Tuesdays see more refining and by 10:30 Wednesday mornings everything goes onto a white board to finalise the best items.
Little says he is too young to remember The Panel in any detail, Working Dog’s chat show which aired in the same timeslot on TEN. But he maintains that the team of Tom Gleeson, Meshel Laurie and Dave Thornton, is finding their own voice. The show was certainly praised for the chemistry between the four presenters from its first episode.
“We all genuinely, despite our comments on air, like each other. We also have the same goal: we’re funny people who want to make a funny show. I know that sounds like a simplistic thing, but I genuinely think it’s a rare thing with these collaborative projects,” he says.
His acting ambitions were also recently revived with a guest role on ABC’s The Time of our Lives as the love interest for Claudia Karvan’s character.
“How good was that? I feel like that should be the start and the end of an acting career. I feel like making out with Claudia Karvan is a good gig. ‘And we’re done!’”
Yet he still has ambitions. Like many comedians before him, Little is a fan of the Tonight show format and hopes to one day front his own.
“I’m a huge Letterman fan. Old (Johnny) Carson tapes are amazing. I’m pretty cliché in this. And I’m a big Conan fan. But I don’t think I’m ready for a Tonight show just now.”
Given the similarities, I can’t resist asking how often the word Rove is mentioned to him?
“Too often!” he laughs.
“I get the ‘new Rove’ a lot, which is lovely. It’s really nice to be mentioned in the same breath. I grew up watching Rove and he’s fantastic.
“I guess we have a thing of ‘we kind of look the same.’ He’s done a lot of TV but I’m just starting.
“But I just need to concentrate on doing stuff that’s in my own voice.”
McManus, who is also represented by Token Management, even filled in for Little on This Week Live when he had to film A League of their Own.
“I even said ‘As long as you don’t get someone who looks exactly the same as me but is more successful!’ And they got him! The one person….!”
A League of Their Own, based on a UK series, premieres next week with Little joined by team captains Pat Cash and Eamon Sullivan.
“It’s a big, dumb, funny family sport and comedy show,” he enthuses.
“The UK show is on cable at 9:30 and is quite blue. But it’s such a big show that to make it here and get the kind of audience to justify the spend we wanted to make it accessible for everyone.
“We ask a lot of questions, but essentially they don’t matter, they’re just a jump-off point to talk some rubbish and find out more about the athletes on the show.
“The first show has basketballer Lauren Jackson, wheelchair marathon racer Kurt Fearnley, Pete Helliar, Lehmo, Pat Cash, Eamon Sullivan.
“We have a stupid quiz, make a ridiculous amount of jokes, and then get them involved in physical games and make them look like a bit of an idiot.”
So with two shows on TEN, Little looks like being around for some time, so long as the network and audiences support them.
“With both these shows, I genuinely think there’s good stuff. But people just need to find them. So I just hope they stick around for them.”
This Week Live airs 9:30pm Wednesdays on TEN
A League of their Own airs 7:30pm Mondays on TEN