Interview: Chris Turner

Musician and comedian Chris Turner discusses nurturing childhood aspirations, in adults as well as kids

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 4 minutes
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Chris Turner
Photo by Michael Scott Evans
Published 07 Feb 2024

Chris Turner is chatting over a video call from his studio when an enormous furry interloper purrs across the screen. “This is Colonel,” he says. “He’s a ragamuffin; a mix of ragdoll with Maine coon and English short hair. They’re friendly and doggish. They’re also massive.”

Turner wants to talk about how the music in his new comedy show is connected to the very room he’s speaking in, but the studio is also special to his magnificent cat. “This is one of his favourite rooms because it’s from Covid-times when I was doing virtual shows. It’s a soundproof booth. It’s covered in carpet because it’s soundproof. He loves to come in here, climb up the side and get stuck at the top.”

Regrettably, Colonel doesn’t climb the walls today. Instead he’s the soul of discretion, burying his head into the crook of Turner’s elbow for the rest of the call. 

It’s been eight years since Turner was in Adelaide. Originally from Manchester, UK, he’s now based in New York. In 2022, he became the first comic to perform a Las Vegas residency with Cirque du Soleil. “America has expanded my comedy horizons,” he says. “I was able to do freestyle rap in an environment that appreciated it and understood it.”

As a comedian, Turner is pleasingly hard to categorise. His shows can be thoughtful, silly and musical at the same time. Performing to Fringe audiences, comedy clubs and Vegas draws on all of his skills. “When I’ve done shows in Vegas you have to hit them with the razzle-dazzle. But I’ve also toured in Vegas, to comedy clubs, where it’s more about storytelling. My last show, Vegas Baby, was nominally about being part of Cirque du Soleil while having a newborn baby.”

Fatherhood continues to inspire the two shows he now brings to Adelaide, a musical comedy Childish (in which Turner is joined by a live band) and The Family-Friendly Stand-Up Show. “The jokes in Childish about fatherhood are coming from both sides,” he says. “It’s more about what it is like to be a child and what it is like to have parents. I talk about my dad and about his dad… I’m aware not everyone has a kid but everyone has been a kid. And our dreams, the things we wanted to be, seems a better way to talk about it.”

There’s recognition, gratitude, in Turner’s voice towards the encouragement his dad gave him when he wanted to pursue music and comedy. “My dad didn’t do what he wanted to do. He worked in a petrol station because his dad owned a petrol station and said ‘I’ve bought a second petrol station. You’re running this petrol station now.’ So my dad left school at 15 to run a petrol station. But he was instrumental, driving me to comedy shows, because he’d say ‘You should become a comedian’.”

And it’s the encouragement, not the specific dreams that Turner hopes Childish explores for both adults and children, whatever their hopes or whatever they’ve ended up doing: “It’s not a trite message, to be like ‘follow your dreams’. Because maybe you didn’t follow the path you wanted. I’m saying you can still remember the things that brought you this kind of excitement when you were a kid.”

Turner knows what adults can learn from children. “I’ve done ten years of family-friendly comedy shows. Ten years of crowd work asking kids what they want to be.” He also knows The Family-Friendly Stand-Up Show will have the more discerning crowd. “It’s harder to make kids laugh in a show. It took me a while to learn the type of jokes they want. Kids don’t like cracker jokes. If you ask a kid to tell you a joke it often won’t make sense. They love anti-humour. They’re a tough audience.”



Childish, Gluttony, until 17 March

The Family Friendly Stand-Up Show, Gluttony, until 17 March