People always ask “did you always know you wanted to be a comedian?” and to this day I’m still not even sure if I am one.
But what I do know is that whether it was constantly being sent to the principal’s office from Year 1-12, getting kicked out of three Hebrew schools in the lead up to my bar mitzvah, or learning that my dad got suspended for pulling his pants down and mooning his vice principal in his basketball jersey that said “Zucker” on the back, mucking around and getting into trouble has always been deeply embedded in my family DNA.
We never did anything malicious, just little things like prank calling a substitute teacher from the back of the room in year 8 and arguing with her for 15 minutes about the “35 pizzas being delivered to the classroom upon her request".
Or there was the time I egged the house of the girl I liked because I thought that would show her how much I liked her (epic slay).
Ultimately, everything was just for a laugh.
So yeah, I guess if you look at all of this, mixed with the fact that I was always wearing the most accessories in every sport I played, then yeah, I guess I always have been the world’s greatest comedian. [Insert winky face here.]
Tim Robinson performs at Second City Chicago, 2010
When I was 17, I saw Tim Robinson perform in a show called Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies! that absolutely rocked my world.
Tim did this character where he played a guy with overly dry salivary glands who had to keep squirting water into his mouth or else he was going to die and I literally blacked out from laughing so hard.
I signed up for improv classes when I got home that night, kicking off what was arguably the most pivotal moment in my artistic career.
Philippe Gaulier comes to America, 2013
I moved out to Los Angeles when I was 18 to be a star (obvs) and was bouncing around between acting schools, music lessons and improv classes for the first two years I was out there.
I was lucky enough to land a job at Sacha Baron Cohen’s production company, Four By Two Films, and while I was interviewing for it, I found out his old teacher Philippe Gaulier was coming to town. I didn’t know anything about clown or Philippe but I thought it would probably help my chances of getting hired if I took this guy’s class, so I signed up.
I don’t remember much about the ten-day workshop I did with Philippe, but I remember being absolutely blown away in the first 20 minutes watching the way he worked with people. The way he gave feedback and spoke about performance was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was euphoric and I was immediately sold.
I told Sacha that it was my dream to work for him but I also really wanted to study in France with Gaulier. He told me to get the fuck out of LA and learn from Philippe, so I did.
The UK Embassy in Prague, 2017
Zach & Viggo – the double act I am part of, were invited to perform at the UK Embassy in Prague at an exclusive afternoon event for Prague Fringe. It was a super posh gathering for the local sponsors, investors and festival directors, and the festival explicitly told us not to do anything crazy… Which we had no plans of doing until they told us not to.
We dedicated our entire set to telling Brexit jokes, taunting all of the expats about how they would have to leave their comfy lives in Czechia and go back to their dreary lives “paying taxes” and “giving back to their local communities” in the UK.
At the height of our set, I told the ambassadress that it was my dream to get naked in a government building and begged her to let me streak across the embassy gardens.
After a relentless combination of batting my eyelashes and asking nicely, the ambassadress gave us the OK – I stripped down and bolted through the gardens screaming “Brexit!” waving an American flag with my pants around my ankles, as the festival director (who was playing along) chased after me.
After the gig, one of the other festival directors pulled me aside and said, “I was worried you would behave, and I'm glad you didn't,” before handing me a glass of champagne, shooting me a wink, and heading back into the embassy.
Gaining the respect of Lucas Tamaren and Thumpasaurus, 2018
I’ve been lucky enough to work with a funk-punk band called Thumpasaurus for the past eight years.
We’re great friends, we’ve done loads of shows together, I’ve co-written, directed and produced their music videos, and even booked them as the first band to play at the world’s largest COVID test site during the pandemic. But it wasn’t until 2018 during the Edinburgh Fringe when I did my character Jack Tucker for the first time that I actually gained their respect.
In classic Zucker fashion, I was booed by around 400 people who didn’t realise that I was doing a character – the audience started throwing bottles at me, one person rushed the stage and took a swing at me, and the set culminated in the crowd chanting “kill yourself”. Fun!
As I braved the dangerously rowdy crowd, I saw the boys watching from the wings in awe. I did it. I finally got them. Our relationship changed after that night and they finally started to trust me… for now.
Lucas is currently scoring my new solo show and his sister Carlye has introduced me to multiple people as “his best friend” so no take-backs.
Jack Tucker Adelaide Fringe Opening Night, 2019
After two previews full of friends who gassed me up into believing I had made the greatest show of all time, I decided to let press into my opening night of Jack Tucker: Comedy Standup Hour at the Adelaide Fringe. It was an absolute disaster.
The audience was completely silent for the first 35 minutes before people started walking out. I made the mistake of thinking everyone was on my side and said something along the lines of “if you want to go, now's your best chance,” after which, half the audience seized the opportunity and started packing their things.
I ran down the aisle to try to play with the punters who were leaving, at which point, audience members in the front section got up and started filing out through the stage-exit, leaving me trapped between two lines of justifiably disgruntled audience members eager to get out.
We finished with a whopping 19 walkouts on the night, 29 on my opening weekend, and 75 for the entire festival. Oh, and we also received a two-star review from the biggest publication in town.
Weirdly, since then, Jack has gone on to be my most successful character, and I have a slew of five-star reviews from performing the show at the Edinburgh Fringe. But if that ever gets close to going to my head, all I need to do is close my eyes and remember that room in Adelaide, slowly emptying as I stood on stage.
Zach Zucker: Spectacular Industry Showcase plays at the Soho Theatre until Saturday 21st January, sohotheatre.com