Interview: Mel & Sam

Cover story: Two halves of a whole idiot Sam Andrew and Mel O’Brien discuss eshays, Boomer dads and ADHD

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 5 minutes
34083 large
Mel & Sam
Photo by I Got Shot By Charlie
Published 07 Feb 2024

Mel O’Brien and Sam Andrew met through the University of Melbourne Music Theatre Association while studying and they instantly clicked. “I booked this workshop for the show that Sam had written and I remember being like ‘Oh, this bitch is clever’,” says O’Brien.

“I saw this bitch perform in a variety night and I went ‘That’s the most hilarious person I’ve ever seen in my life’,” says Andrew.

From there, a beautiful mess was born. It was during their first coffee together that they realised their similarities. “We just started chatting about the creative projects that we wanted to be doing and we realised that we had similar goals and we went ‘wait a minute, let’s do a show together’ and then No Hat, No Play: The Cabaret was born and we wrote it fully on Zoom during Melbourne lockdown,” says Andrew.

This first cabaret was a little more hinged than what’s expected in their upcoming show HIGH PONY. “Our first show was a pretty easy access point for anyone to come to our stuff,” says O’Brien. “All you needed was to have gone to primary school in [Australia], which was almost everyone, to find this funny.”

Since this first show, they’ve grown into their unique senses of comedy. “As we’ve gotten more confident in our voices we’ve been like ‘Hmm, can we pull off a sketch where there’s a mythical wizard on The Spirit of Tasmania who is stuck in a curse on the ship and he has to find someone who looks like Emma Stone and turn her into a balloon animal?’ – just the wackiest shit that we back and we find funny,” says O’Brien. “Our shows have gotten progressively more that way and it’s inspired from things that happen around us.”

“We find Australian characters that take things really seriously that don’t need to be taken very seriously hilarious,” says Andrew. “Our niche, or things we love, are like Boomer Dads, people with random jobs that they care so much about, we love nostalgic throwbacks, we love writing for the girls, the gays, the theys, we love writing stuff that’s queer, we write a lot of sexual content because we’re pretty bold and empowered in our sexuality.” 

Mel & Sam photo by I Got Shot By Charlie

Although the pair have gained a following through their online presence and television appearances, the stage is still their most authentic expression. “If you like the personality of what you see online then you’ll like the live shows but we go more balls-to-the-wall and we’re more unashamedly us on stage,” says Andrew. “There’s nothing that compares to being on a stage and the energy exchange and the way that we riff with an audience. We’re live bitches at heart.”

“Performing within [online] guidelines is such an interesting thing to do and that’s why the live shows are so unashamedly like ‘this is actually fully us’,” says O’Brien.

The magnetism and synchronicity between Andrew and O’Brien is something truly special and makes for a hectic, fast-paced show, but it is niche. Andrew acknowledges that although they frequently see the “9-5ers regular people working Muggle jobs” come to their shows, they “literally and kindly won’t go to the next show, but they can say ’that’s done well it’s just not for me’.”

“We’re really aware, our stuff isn’t for everybody, [but] it’s so good for my heart and soul to write stuff that’s authentically me as opposed to slotting into some cookie cutter like ‘Ah, I’m the fat funny girl I guess in this show about whatever’,” O’Brien says. “It’s really empowering to have your own voice and make your own stuff for that reason.” 

The frenzied approach to their live show is anything but accidental. In a time where attention spans are decreasing, there’s a market for their hard and fast style. “[Andrew] has ADHD and my psych has just said ‘I think you might have ADHD’ and we can provide for that, that’s how our brains work,” says O’Brien. “We love things that are snappy and piecey and weird”

“I j’adore sketch comedy but every now and then I’ll think ‘that sketch should have ended a minute and a half ago’,” says Andrew. Keeping this in mind, the duo have created ‘palate cleansers’ within HIGH PONY to keep the pace and break up their seven-minute ballads.

Their musicality is a huge part of their live performances and something the pair pride themselves on. “We have a gorgeous music theatre ballad that’s sung by two eshays who want a career change at the age of 14, they’re like ‘I gotta get out of this job, man. I wanna be a florist’,” says O’Brien. 

“We’re both music nerds with music degrees and we care a lot about music and genre and world building – even the wackiest stuff that we do it’s always done with a beautiful brushstroke of musicality,” says Andrew. “We always want our musical worlds to be really well done. We definitely bring that and inject that into our work.” 

Andrew and O’Brien have no plans to slow down with a new show in the works for Melbourne Comedy Festival, and their first international trip to Edinburgh Fringe later this year. “It’s a beautiful combination and we plan on doing this for the rest of our lives,” says Andrew. “We will be in an old people’s home, tinkling away at one of the old out of tune pianos going ‘What should we write about this year?’”


HIGH PONY, Gluttony, until 17 March