Rob Lloyd is a comedian, actor and David Tennant impersonator.
Rob Lloyd is an Australian David Tennant look-alike who performed Who, Me, a Doctor Who tribute comedy, at the Melbourne Fringe Festival and Armageddon in 2011. Rob Lloyd talked to Nalini and Edward Haynes at the Dandenong Pavilion in November 2011.
Nalini: Our first encounter with you with was Who, Me. How did you get into sci-fi?
Rob: Sci-fi for me started when I was a kid, when I was really young, and seeing Star Wars. Star Wars for the first time is what I really remember. Star Wars and TV shows when I was a kid growing up in the 80s: there was a plethora of sci-fi related animated shows and toy ranges that had created these TV shows specifically to sell their wares. Autobots, Thundercats, Silverhawks and all these lines and lines of action figures from sci-fi shows that really sparked my imagination when I was growing up in country New South Wales. I can still remember going round with the action figures and acting them out when I was at primary school and imagining myself on different planets and flying spaceships. Much more enjoyable than actually thinking being trapped in a small town miles away from anything else. It felt a bit like Tatooine but it wasn’t as cool. No moisture farms.
Nalini: Did you have any friends that were into the same stuff?
Rob: Yeah, it was mostly me and my brother. We did a lot of stuff together, sharing our action figures and acting them out. I did have a couple of friends who went on the sci-fi bent together, especially in high school. Our group of friends solidified to a group of six, so we were sort of like the dirty half-dozen. My best friend and I liked drawing together, so we drew our favourite characters from comic books or TV shows, sci-fi films… It was a big part of our nerd escape from all the bullies and the political drama that is high school. It’s always good to try and step away from that and try to focus on who’s your favourite Ninja Turtle, what did you really think of Batman Returns and stuff like that.
Nalini: In some ways Facebook isn’t different from high school.
Rob: Exactly. It’s become the computerised form of high school. I’m 33 and I’m still in this high school mentality because of the Facebook phenomenon which freaks me out.
Nalini: So how did you get into acting?
Rob: Star Wars inspired me into acting. I remember when I was in kindergarten or year one, we had a drawing project about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I remember specifically not wanting to be an actor, I wanted to be in Star Wars and I kind of knew that was an option: like being in films and movies and stuff. I remember drawing a picture of me being chased by an alien with a blaster from Star Wars and I remember acting it out and thinking this is fun.
It wasn’t until end of year seven we got our subject choices. Up until then everything was compulsory, then we got a list of subjects and we could choose electives. I saw drama there and I realised that was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. From grade eight onwards I pretty much focused on performing, so I got involved in a local amateur acting group. My year eight teacher was in his final year of teaching and he was the head of the amateur theatrical group. His name was Mr Gordon, he was one of my biggest influences when I was a kid. He pretty much directed me in my first five or six productions. A lot of the rules he taught me about acting I still follow now.
I was in a country town, there were not a lot of options there. Every time I got an opportunity to go to Sydney for the holidays, where my dad’s family were, to do workshops with NIDA or anything like that was a way of getting out of the small town. It all really started when I was a kid but it really took off when I was in high school.
Nalini: Why drama and not comic books?
Rob: I like drawing a lot, but I realised I enjoyed looking at pictures and drawing them as opposed to going off on my own. I can draw my own characterisations but they are very limited. The opportunities with acting were a lot more exciting, there were a lot more ranges of things for me to do and explore. I knew the limitations of my drawing but I like the fact there was a lot more scope with acting: there was comedy, there was drama, there were all these exciting new things. Every drama class I did even at high school with only an English teacher who kinda liked acting, there was something new I could learn. I still did art way up to year 12 and I enjoyed that as well and still enjoy drawing a little bit, but every workshop I did, every class I did with drama, something new came out and that really, really inspired me.
Nalini: That’s great. Then you left the rural New South Wales for the rural city.
Rob: Yes. I moved from a small rural town of Dubbo to a larger rural town of Wagga Wagga. There’s a funny process when you finish year 12, there’s a thing called The Rounds that all drama students do. They finish high school and they audition for all the big acting schools in Australia. Through this time I met a lot of the same people from all different parts of New South Wales because I’d done regional drama camps, I’d done state drama camps, I pretty much did it every year, much to my parents’ bemusement. They said ‘you did one that’s enough’, I said ‘No, no, I need to go back every year because of the community and the experiences and it’s my oasis away from Dubbo.’
Nalini: And they supported you in that.
Rob: They did. They understood the acting stuff and they were really cool about it, but in year 12, it was my final year at high school. I’d just got back from an excursion to Sydney for art and the next day I had to leave to go to regional drama camp for five days and mum just freaked out. ‘Why are you going? You’ve been for four years in a row. Why do you need to go for another year? You’ve got year 12. I don’t get it.’ I said ‘I just need to finish this off. This is my last year, I need to go.’ She didn’t get it but she let me go anyway. The Rounds is where you go to audition for Charles Sturt Wagga, Charles Sturt Bathurst, Napean, NIDA, VCA… Pretty much all the auditions are around the same two week period. So you just go from NIDA to Wagga to VCA and all these auditions around Sydney and just outside. And you’d see the same people all over the place, then you go away and you either get a call-back or not and then you get your offers. I was on the shortlist for Napean, I got into Bathurst and I got into Wagga. The Wagga course appealed to me most because it was an acting course focused on screen acting as well as stage acting so there was a lot more variety. I was there for three years doing the acting degree and I stayed for another year to do my Dip Ed.
Nalini: And you fell in love with Doctor Who while you were there.
Rob: I was a latecomer, yeah. I fell in love with Doctor Who in my first month of being at university. University is meant to be a time where you experiment, it’s your first time out of home. A lot of kids out of high school were out drinking every weekend, they were coming in on Monday saying ‘Oh I got so smashed,’ and I just didn’t get it at all or anything about drinking when I was in high school. I was frantically studying as hard as I could because I just wanted to get out of there as soon as possible.
We graduated and we went straight into our exams. My final exam was the art exam and the day after I had my first audition for NIDA, so pretty much as soon as I finished high school I was already looking to get out. When I got to Wagga it was great. I was out of home for the first time. I was 17 and meeting like-minded people, people who were nerds. When you’re at university and you’re doing drama, you’re like ‘let’s see what radical clothes I can wear, this is what it means to be an artist. I’ll wear flannelette shirts and velvet jackets, that’s really cool’. No, it isn’t cool. Flannel and velvet go together – no they don’t. You need to learn from your mistakes.
I met Al. Al and I instantly got along. I met him at my Bathurst audition a couple of months beforehand. He made me laugh. We met each other on the first day at Wagga. He was born on 2 April 1978; I was born on 3 April 1978. We were pretty much the same age, the same build, the same look and we had the same interests. He was from England so he had his accent and he had all his stories; his mother used to be an actress and she was in an episode of The Persuaders, so he’d had a very exciting dynamic interesting life. His parents had met and fallen in love and she stopped acting to marry him and then moved to Australia. My parents were teachers and I was from country New South Wales and now I’m here…but your life is exciting. I’m a country boy. So we made a connection and he introduced me to Doctor Who.
I talked about this with my director when we were working up Who, Me. As a kid I always wanted to know where I was with a show when I watched it. I couldn’t just come in and start watching it without knowing the background, so any TV shows in the 80s that had a prologue at the start, like Knight Rider explained ‘this is a man who does this for this reason’ I’m like ‘okay, right, I know what’s happening now.’ So Doctor Who, because it was so big, I said: I don’t know who this companion is, and what are they doing, what is this Doctor… I needed someone to sit me down and explain everything from the start and that’s what Al did. He explained everything and I went: now I can watch it, now I know the history of the character, I know who each doctor is, I know who every companion is, I know the back story of the production crew, I know everything about it now I can start. I don’t know why I do that, some sort of slightly obsessive nature in me that wants to know every detail before I start watching it. That’s like with Star Wars, I loved it as a kid, when I first saw it was before they added the episode four for the cinema release so it was just Star Wars. So when they added the Episode IV: A New Hope I’m going like ‘oh crap!’ And then they started talking about the prequels. I’m going ‘okay yeah, I wanna know, but oohhhh…’ It was really exciting until episode one came out, then…
Nalini: Not so much.
Rob: Not so much.
Edward : Mesa thinks –
Rob: Yeah, mesa thinks he should have stopped at episode six.
Nalini: One of the things out of Who, Me, that I remembered most vividly is your description of a sci-fi party.
Rob: That’s one of our happy accidents that just came out through the rehearsal process. It’s just a tangent that we went off on and the structure of the show reshaped so we didn’t have it in there. Scott said ‘No, we’ve got a have it in there.’ We put this part of the show in and the people who are fans love it because it’s funny and it’s true and because it’s a cliché. A lot of non-Fans like it because they can see the dynamic, especially because we’re all painted with the same broad brush, like we’re all nerds. The little dynamics and diplomatic relations that all the fandoms have… I mean I only scraped the surface. All the little intricate little parties and groups that are set up within this whole fandom that is nerds. I like that part very much. People enjoy that part, they can see a bit of themselves. It’s our own little community, it keeps us going. We have our own little backstabbing, we have people who think that they’re better than others. And sometimes the lines cross: what if I am a Buffy fan but I also like Firefly but I also enjoy Star Trek as well and I do the cosplay thing as well? There should be more of it.
Nalini: It’s part of that post-modern culture, a bit of everything.
Rob: Yeah, a bit of everything, no segregation. Nerd-dom needs to spread out.
Nalini: How did you get from Wagga Wagga to doing these productions in Melbourne?
Rob: When I moved to Wagga, my intention was always to move to Sydney. I was going to be a serious actor and I was going to do legitimate acting, fourth wall acting, John Hurt, the next Robin Williams, I was going to be the next Dustin Hoffman. I was very focused on doing that but in my first year we had to do singing. Our singing teacher was quite delusional and she booked us in to be part of this massive choral performance up in Sydney. A couple of us didn’t want to go, so our head lecturer said ‘While they go to Sydney, the rest of you need to do something else.’ At Wagga there was The Voices Festival, where they have all these events happening: singing and speaking and poetry recitals.
Waitress: can I get you anything or are you happy just to sit?
Rob: No, we’re fine thank you. Oh, um, that was very presumptuous of me. No, we’re fine. I don’t want anything else. Put that in the interview: ‘Robert Lloyd was very presumptuous. I actually could do with a piece of cake but he cut me off. Arsehole. No wonder he only does solo shows.’
But yeah, The Voices Festival had an annual theatre sports competition. I did improvisation a little bit in high school, but I never really got it because I was so focused on being a serious actor. Anyway, I formed a team with a group of guys who didn’t want to go to the singing convention and we did the workshops, that sparked my interest. I went: ‘This is exciting! You can create characters, stories, off the top of your head and there are these games and formats.’ I found a joy in that.
We did the competition to a sold-out crowd of about 400 people in a local theatre in Wagga. Professional improvisers came down from Sydney to defend their titles because it had been happening every year. It just blew me away. Our first game, I was so excited, none of us listened and we almost bombed out in the first round. Then we clawed our way back and we made it to the final against the professional team. They pulled out a game that none of us had trained for and we’d never played before. They got massive points for that. The final game was a classic game that we chose. I created a character for the scene and I got a standing ovation. It was my first ever standing ovation and I was 18 years old and 400 people standing up and giving us a round of applause. We lost but that’s when I went ‘this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’ I met the Artistic Director of the local theatre company and he pulled me aside and said ‘I want to train you up and another person to take over theatre sport stuff’ so they flew me up to Sydney and started training me.
I was learning to improvise as a performer as well as learning how to teach impro. That inspired me. I did that for about three years. A friend of mine and I formed an impro group that became a musical comedy group called FreeFall. I did that in my final year of acting. I deviated away from the traditional way of acting, the fourth wall method of American acting, where you go and you get an agent and you get a job as a waiter and you wait for a call and you do acting classes. Theatre sports and improvisation opened me out to companies, Co-op groups who can go out and create their own theatre while looking for acting work as well.
My third year at uni was great because they couldn’t fail me. I could actually stand on stage and I wasn’t incompetent but I wasn’t really listening to their specific view, I could do whatever I wanted. It was great. So I stayed for another year and we did more stuff with FreeFall. Shaun was from Melbourne and he said Melbourne was the home of comedy in Australia. There are venues everywhere, there are comedy festivals, so he said we should try that. So we decided to move to Melbourne in 2000 and we hit the ground running.
We started off in Wagga doing hour-long shows; when we got to Melbourne, they said, ‘You’ve got a five-minute spot.’ So we had to cut material, we had to take songs and work on tightening everything up. While I was doing that we met other people who were doing the comedy rounds, other young up-comers who have gone on; Lawrence Leung, Charlie Pickering, Cam Knight, Andy McClelland, even Madeleine West, all started doing stuff as well at the same time; it was a really exciting time in the early noughties, all of these young comedians coming together at this time.
I was given the opportunity to help out at the Comics Lounge which was a new venue that opened in about 2001. They had an impro night on Sundays but the guy who ran that did it for about 3 nights. He left after three weeks of working with this company. The guy who ran the Comics Lounge sat me and my friend Beth down and said, ‘Either you guys continue running impro night or I takeover and do whatever I want.’ So that’s how I started The Crew. I was running my own impro company at the same time as I was doing Freefall comedy stuff and we were doing festival shows and it just carried on from there.
I did a little bit of extra work here and there, but that was more for money and experience. It kind of depressed me doing extra work so I found more fun in going out and producing my own work.
Edward: that’s where you get your energy from.
Rob: Yeah. You have to produce and publicise and direct and cater and all that kind of stuff on your own. It’s only been in the last couple of years I’ve been able to get other people in to help direct, produce and all that other stuff, but I’ve always worked with other people, I love working with other people. I love the joy of going to do an impro show: you hang out with people, share ideas and you jump on stage and feed off other people and the audience, but I’ve never done a solo show before. Most people I’ve worked with in impro have been doing solo shows since they were 18 or 20. They’ve been doing 45, 50 min shows of stand up, finding what works. I’d been doing nothing but impro or group shows for 10 years. That’s why I did A study of Scarlet last year, my first ever solo show. I just want to see if I could do it: if I could stand on stage for an hour and entertain people.
Nalini: Was this the science show that was on last year?
Rob: My shows are dealing with obsession, so last year it was about Sherlock Holmes, because Sherlock Holmes was a big part of my life in high school. A Study of Scarlet was the first Sherlock Holmes story I’d ever read. I fell in love with it, I’d read all the books and I loved Sherlock Holmes as a character. When I moved to university that’s when Doctor Who took over. I always had my sci-fi connections but when I went for trips in high school I always had a Sherlock Holmes novel to read with me. So that was my first show, but I didn’t put in comedy, I did it as a drama. There were little bits of comedy in there, but it was me acting out the first Sherlock Holmes story in an hour, and telling little stories about my obsession throughout. The challenge this year was to do a solo comedy show this year for an hour and see if I could make people laugh on my own for an hour as opposed to improv which I’d been doing with other people for nearly 15 years.
Nalini: I think you succeeded. [smiling]
Edward: You certainly threw yourself into it
Rob: Yeah, well that’s the way I’ve been performing ever since I was a kid. Completely wholeheartedly, physically, emotionally, verbally… It was great. It was good doing the season of Who, Me at Melbourne fringe first. The majority of people who came to see it at the start were non-Who fans, so I had a lot of people who were kind of interested in Doctor Who or extreme fans who brought a lot of friends and family along.
It wasn’t until the last two or three nights of the season that the hard-core Doctor Who fans came along. That changed the dynamic of the show completely: that prepared me for Armageddon with 400 people. All hard-core fans, so the key moments in the show at the start where I do my bad stand-up, where you’re not meant to laugh, doing it in front of 400 Doctor Who fans who were clapping and cheering at every punchline: they actually got these jokes. When I do my interpretive dance piece, everyone was clapping because they recognised each of the doctors. At the Melbourne Fringe people had no idea what I was doing, they just thought it was funny seeing a man doing interpretive dance. I’ve had to explain to a lot of people it is each doctor’s death. Some of the hard-core fans that came and saw it at the festival picked up on one or two things, but at Armageddon everyone got every single one, which was an amazing experience. It was a wonderful day. I kept saying it was a special day and my wife said that I sounded a bit special myself. She said to stop saying that. I said, ‘Incredible, can I say that instead?’ She said awesome, but I say that about everything. So she said, ‘Okay, say it was incredible.’ It was a lot of fun.
Nalini: Do you find you get energy from your audience?
Rob: Yes. I had performances of Who, Me where the audience wasn’t as energetic, they were enjoying it, but they were older audiences who were going ‘yeah, that’s okay. No don’t do the pop culture references, tell me more about you.’ So when I tell stories about myself that’s what they want to hear. Normally a lot of comedians and performers get freaked out if the audience isn’t with you and isn’t on your side, if they’re not vocally laughing all the time. You can build up a bit of a trauma if there aren’t a lot of laughs and instant appreciation from the crowd. This show has really taught me to be a bit more patient, so if they’re not laughing straight away, they’ll get something else in time. On the Armageddon day they were so high energy, they were eager to show that they understood, it just helped so much with the flow of the show. It added another 5 min because of the cheering and applause and laughter. That’s always a good thing, when you have to wait, for pauses in laughing, that’s always a good sign.
Nalini: When Doctor Who started again, what was that like for you?
Rob: It was great. The dark times went through pretty much all the 90s and the noughties. There were little bits of information of things happening like the novelizations picked up, the Doctor Who Magazine kept going for 15 years but had nothing new… Review the same episode again… ‘Let’s interview someone and get the same anecdotes again…’
Then they did Scream of the Shalka, which was the animated series they put on the net with Richard E. Grant. That built up a bit of interest but not as much as they thought. Then six months later it was revealed that Russell T Davies and all that stuff, which was so exciting.
Worst of all was six months later I didn’t have an internet connection so I had to wait for it to be screened in Australia. I was going to internet cafes and looking up online for audience feedback before I’d seen it. I had a friend in England at the time that I hadn’t spoken to for months. The first time I spoke to him I said, ‘Doctor Who’s starting up again – would you tape it for me?’ He’s never let me forget I did that. I’ve apologised to him profusely. But then series two started, and that’s when I was invited to Who Night so I could see it the day after it was screened in England. It was just amazing to have it back.
I felt so far away from it. There was this massive cultural explosion in England and I always felt far away from it. It was like a party was happening on the other side of the street, I could see it happening but I had to stay home and finish my homework.
Rob: Yeah, I know, the story of my life. Then when it came to Australia it was on and the momentum was building and there was excitement but it wasn’t until the Tennant era until the female fans grabbed hold of it especially and made it their own and made him their own.
Nalini: You bill yourself as the David Tennant lookalike, you do the eyebrow, you’ve obviously got in front of the mirror and practised, so what was that like for you?
Rob: Yeah. Work the eyebrow. Work the hand thing. Work the quizzical pose, work the chin back a bit…
Back in the old days of Doctor Who they did a couple of publicity shots but it wasn’t a big thing. You go into the studio at the start of your run, they’d take a couple of shots, a couple of publicity photos here and there. Nowadays they saturate the market with photos, especially with Tennant’s three or four-year era, he was photographed so many times. So much stuff for the visual dictionaries, DVD covers, CD covers, independent books, posters, action figures… So many images of him and there are only so many poses you can do. The eyebrow was used over and over, there was the hand… He didn’t really cross his arms that much, that was Eccleston, but you just see it all the time. He was going eyebrow, eyebrow, eyebrow, hand, hand, eyebrow, eyebrow, hand… Okay triumphant look, depressed look, quizzical look, humble look, all the same thing. He has this category of looks. He is only human. He can only pose so many times. Supermodels just do one look, they just look pissed off all the time and they get millions of dollars. They’ve got it easy. But an actor in a sci-fi show, Doctor Who especially… Sanctuary or Star Trek it’s the same pose. It’s that dignified noble warrior look. With Buffy it’s all the same look, it’s the ‘oh, I’m so deep and sorrowful but there is a little bit of hope’. With Doctor Who, you’ve got to change your poses every single time. So Tennant was using 150 million poses and now poor Matt Smith has to do the same thing. Crap! Just stand, now jump, now run, now look confused, now look aware, now look self-conscious… You do feel a little bit like a performing monkey. People say: ‘You look like David Tennant, can you raise the eyebrow?’ and then they lose their shit. And I hate myself a little bit for doing that.
Edward: You obviously have some fun with it.
Rob: We were working on the show and trying to figure out the best way to do the Tennant stuff. We thought of having the prosecutor deal with it, that turned out to be a good way to go. Rather than having me there talking about it, you have this alternate personality. I think that’s the only way I could have dealt with it, by having me yelling at myself, calling myself a consumer whore. A whore for the masses, I really like that. I like the fact that I get to yell and scream at myself, saying I’m nothing, I’m lost, I don’t have a personality of my own. It’s getting back at myself for all the whoring I have done with my Tennant lookalike.
Edward: With regards to Who, Me how many people are behind-the-scenes?
Rob: We’ve expanded it a bit this year. Me and Scott Gooding, we’ve been friends for years, we did A Study of Scarlet together, just the two of us. We co-devised the story. I don’t sit down and write a script. We chat and record everything, then I take the best jokes and the best bits that we come up with and structure it into a script. This year we brought on a couple of other people. Scott McAteer who I’ve only known for about a year and a half, but he is a huge Doctor Who fan so he’s very helpful being an outside eye drama nerd. Laura Milke I brought on as producer. Laura produced The Hounds; she was manager and producer and she is amazing.
For this production I wanted to get as much exposure as I could. For A Study of Scarlet last year I hardly did anything, we threw out a couple of press releases and we did really well. We sold out our one and a half week season. But this year I wanted to broaden it, especially because it’s Doctor Who. Doctor Who is known better than the Melbourne Fringe Festival. We had a lot of people coming up to us who said they’d never heard of the fringe festival before but they saw my article in the Herald Sun, or they saw my article on the Doctor Who fan site. That was a big coup for us, being on Doctor Who news. My massive full-screen picture and the whole press release was plastered on the Doctor Who news page.
For Armageddon we had other people come in as well. Karina took care of merchandise. She set up before the show started, she directed people in and sold merchandise afterwards. I was there for another half an hour after the show for the merchandise. I like doing that, it develops that company and community feel. And that’s why I’ve added all these other characters on stage as well. Standing on stage alone is still new to me, so I want as many safety blankets as I can. Just like Linus from Peanuts. So yes the company has expanded a bit which is cool.
Nalini: In Who, Me you showed photos of your wife Karina photo bombing you. Was this before or after you started dating?
Rob: This is after. We’ve been going out for about three years, and she found a brochure for Armageddon 2008 I think, when Seth Green and the guys from Robot Chicken came out. She showed it to me and I said ‘What’s this? Conventions – yeah, I went to one in high school.’
She said, ‘Awesome, we’ve got to go.’ I wasn’t sure but she said this would be really cool. So we went along and I went in civvies: I went in a regular shirt and jumper. I just tried to blend in and Karina’s like ‘why aren’t you wearing one of your nerd shirts?’ I’m like ‘Oh, no, I’m far too old and mature for this.’ [miming smoking a pipe] I don’t even smoke, I know…
So we went along and the guys from Robot Chicken were cool, there was some dickwicks from Twilight, and we went into see that because Karina’s got a guilty -know I won’t say that, she’ll kill me – my wife actually watches Twilight and she’s read all the books. They had Cameron Bright there, and he plays a bit part, and he was horrible. He was a self-indulgent little shit, he’s is like ‘oh god, I’m cool, you think I’m cool, right?’ And all the girls go ‘Yeah, you are so cool.’ This beautiful little 12-year-old girl stood up to ask a question, and she asked the most amazing question ever. Any actor would kill to have this question asked. She said, ‘If you could play any role, any character in books, TV shows, whatever, who would you play?’ Karina and I said that’s just fucking gold. Maybe he’ll get this one, maybe he will be able to redeem himself in our eyes. He went, ‘I don’t know – maybe I could play myself. I’ll play myself in a movie.’ Karina and I went ‘That’s it, we’re out of here.’ We saw the 12 year old girl – her soul died.
Apart from that, Armageddon was fun. Karina said we should go again. Next time we wore nerd shirts and people commented on them. Karina said I should wear my Tennant suit. Karina, her family and my family got me the Tennant suit for my 30th birthday. She said I had to wear it. I said if I wear it everybody else has to go in costume as well. So we did that at Supanova in 2011. Karina dressed up in her True Blood outfit so she had the Merlotte shirt and the apron, and her friend Domi went in her Harry Potter outfit. I had my camera. Everyone asked for photographs with me. I said yes if I could get photographs with them. It wasn’t until about halfway through the day that I realised Karina was giggling after every photo. In every single photo she was photo bombing. It was absolutely fucking hilarious. So I love looking back at those photos and see the different expressions and how Karina pushes her way in. Some people look back and they see Karina in their photos. They’re like ‘Oh my god, it’s a perfect Who, Me photo – it’s got Rob and Karina in the background!’
Karina hasn’t coped well with being part of the show. She is my good luck charm. After the show finished people were getting up to leave, and the people getting up in front of Karina were like ‘Oh my god, oh my god, his wife was in the crowd! She was behind us the whole time!’ Karina’s like: this is not cool. She doesn’t like being the centre of attention.
Nalini: What does the future hold for you?
Rob: We’re doing Who, Me for Adelaide Fringe. We’re also taking my science/comedy show, The Science of Doctor Who, which premiered in November. We’re definitely doing Who, Me for the Comedy Festival for a short season so people who have missed it can see it. We’re trying to push to do an independent season and tour around Australia and I’d love to take it overseas, love to take it to Edinburgh for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.
It was really good at Armageddon: they had Sylvester McCoy and my favourite companion Louise Jameson. I love her so much. She is the same age as my dad but I still tried to snog her. No, I didn’t. I was talking to her and I kept thinking to myself ‘I could kiss you, I’m going to kiss you, you’ve got a beautiful face.’ I was nerding out but I was there with Scott, so he pushed me aside and he took over. He got Louise Jameson’s card, bastard. And she was saying ‘Don’t just do Edinburgh, there is also the Brighton Festival,’ and she was telling me all these other locations to do the show.
There’s a famous story about a guy called Toby Hadoke who is a Doctor Who fan and an actor: he did Coronation Street. He did a show for Edinburgh Festival a couple of years ago called Moths Ate my Doctor Who Scarf. It was a big hit, a massive hit. A lot of Doctor Who actors came to see it. He was commissioned by BBC7 to record it on CD. Louise Jameson voiced his mum, it was narrated by Colin Baker. Toby is now writing for Doctor Who Magazine and he does commentaries for the DVDs. He got a lot of exposure talking about his story of Doctor Who and his obsession with Doctor Who. He started out when he was a kid. I spoke to Louise about that in how Who, Me is the Australian version of Toby’s show. She was interested in it because he’s done really well.
It was really good to talk to them about the show as opposed to asking the same questions: what was your favourite story? We all know her favourite story – it’s The Sun Makers. How was your relationship with Tom Baker? We all know the story of her relationship with Tom Baker – he was a bastard to her, and when she started to nark up, that’s when he had respect for her. So it was really good to talk to them and get encouragement to take my show overseas. As big as Doctor Who is here, it’s nowhere near as big as in England where it comes from. I’ve always wanted to go to Edinburgh; I need to do Edinburgh at least once in my life. Hopefully England, Australia, New Zealand and Canada: they’re the big Doctor Who countries.
Nalini: It looks like Doctor Who is taking off in America too. They’ve even got the Doctor Who bar, with the TARDIS and everything. You haven’t seen that?
Rob: No. I’ve heard of the Doctor Who Experience but I haven’t heard of the Doctor Who bar. Where’s that?
Nalini: It’s in Brooklyn. They have the mural on the wall, and the TARDIS is bigger on the inside.
Rob: Excellent. Well Craig Ferguson who does The Late Late Show, is keeping up the Doctor Who tradition in America. He has a TARDIS on his desk.
Nalini: And Neil Gaiman gave him a vegetarian haggis which he put in his TARDIS.
Rob: Haggis. You saw that one as well. I love the man-love between those two. They met for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and they were tweeting the most tweetiest tweets back and forth and now he came back. They have this bromance developing, I love that. I love the romance that Craig Ferguson has. He has so much energy and passion. His love for Doctor Who as well. Matt Smith has been on three times, Karen Gillan has been on twice. Neil Gaiman has now been on twice. I loved when Craig goes on these massive Doctor Who spiels, and then he turns to the audience and says ‘You don’t know what the hell I’m going on about do you? And then he says fuck it, and he keeps on going. He talks about Doctor Who and he’s just allowed to do it. He is trying to build it up as much as possible.
Nalini: In Big Bang Theory, Sheldon is watching Doctor Who at 6:30 in the morning.
Rob: That’s right, or as he likes to call it ‘Doctor why bother’ when he wakes up early and is trying to set it all up with Penny sleeping on the couch. That made me very happy. She is sleeping over and he says, ‘well I’ve already missed the first 14 minutes of it so it should be Doctor why bother.’ I like that. So America is picking up Doctor Who as well. American fans got into Torchwood and then discovered Doctor Who which is kind of a backwards way of doing it.
Nalini: Even Community did Doctor Who.
Rob: Yeah, Abed mentioned K-9. And what was it? Inspector…
Rob: Inspector Space-time. Yeah. They did a parody of 2001 A Space Odyssey right at the end when the guy sees himself as an old version and then he becomes that, it’s an amazing section with the monolith there. Then Jeff starts to see himself as Pierce. Then he becomes an older version of Pierce, that made me lose my shit. I laughed so hard. I was such a film snob at that moment.
Nalini: Are you going to be making Who, Me available on DVD?
Rob: A lot of people have been asking that. We filmed it for Armageddon and it looks really great. And we filmed closing night of Fringe Festival as well but that is just on one camera so we won’t be using that. It’s going through all the legal rigmarole as well. It’s a good show that people can watch again and again. A lot of people want to buy it. But it’s also the case that I want to keep doing it live, so people will still come out and see it as opposed to people saying that they don’t need to come out and see it because they’ve got the DVD.
Nalini: Do you think that would be their attitude rather than ‘I’ve got the DVD so I want to see it live?’
Rob: It could be that as well. Stand-up comedians are a lot more hesitant to be filmed because once people have seen it, that’s the material, it’s been done. They can’t do that material anywhere else because it’s been filmed. With Who, Me it’s different because it’s an actual show, a story with a narrative. I’m much more inclined to film this and sell it as opposed to stand-up material. It’s just trying to get through all the legal rigmarole of what images can I use, what sounds can I use… I have to find lawyers… We might have to choose a different piece of music for the interpretive dance but I love that piece of music because it’s from Tron Legacy. Once we clarify all the legal ramifications it’d be really interesting to film.
I’d like to film it differently. I’d like to film different sections on different nights. Film all my stuff on one night and film all the prosecutor stuff on a different night and we’d cut it so it looks like different characters there as opposed to just having me turn my head. The ultimate dream would be to film it with a whole cast. Wouldn’t it be great if I could get David Tennant to play me and I could play the prosecutor? I think it would be great to have David Tennant play the role he was born to play: Robert Lloyd. Let’s see how this mainstream career goes for you David Tennant; let’s see how Fright Night goes for you, David Tennant. David Tennant playing me, Robert Lloyd, and me playing the prosecutor screaming at David Tennant saying you’re nothing like David Tennant.
Nalini: Well, if it gets picked up by the BBC that’s a possibility.
Rob: Well, that’s the thing – I want to whore myself out to the BBC as much as possible. I made a point of showing how much Doctor Who means to me. I like the fact that it’s a different type of story than British people would have seen. They don’t know how Aussies live in country New South Wales and how something they take for granted could affect people in a completely different part of the world. That’s what I’m trying to go for, showing the Australian part of my story – Strayan! How Aussie did I sound? Strayan! Part of my story. Crikey! I didn’t have the classic cliché of hiding behind the sofa, I didn’t have the thing that every Doctor Who fan has; they go, ‘I watched it as a kid hiding behind the sofa, it scared me, that music freaked me out.’ I didn’t have that. I came to it when I was 17 when I knew the sets were horrible, I knew the costumes were bad, I knew some of the supporting actors were not good, but I also knew a lot of the actors were of a really high calibre doing an amazing job. Some of the scripts were absolutely beautifully written and when directed well they just shine for what they are. That suspension of disbelief. I remember chucking on an episode at university, not a very good one – it was Time and the Rani – and within the first 30 seconds everyone else is laughing saying it’s so ridiculous, it’s so stupid. I said you’re training to be actors and you don’t have that suspension of disbelief? I got very superior then: ‘So you want to be actors but you can’t suspend your disbelief and look at it for what it is. Oh. Surprises me. Oh.’ So I was a superior nerd for that little bit there.
Edward: Did you say that you’re performing regularly at the moment?
Rob: Every Friday night. I perform with the Big Hoo Ha at the Portland Hotel. They’re an improv group from Perth. Their players have moved over here and they’ve set up a Melbourne version. I ran The Crew for six years. Then I started doing comedy shows on my own; we did Hound of the Baskervilles, we did Every Film Ever Made, and I went onto solo stuff.
The opportunity to work with Hoo Ha come up a year and half ago and I’ve been performing with them ever since. It’s great on a Friday night, especially after a long week of school, just to vent and go down with them and perform. And get back to what I love doing which is just making shit up off the top of my heads. Heads? Head. So every Friday is pretty much down at the Portland Hotel, improvising with really solid improvisers and really talented people. This is my way of trying to keep fresh, try to create new characters, new storylines, and connect with an audience. Just keeping my brain operating so I don’t go stale and stagnant. (The Big Hoo Haa is now moving to Thursday Nights at The Portland Hotel in 2012).
A couple of years ago I wasn’t doing stuff for the Hounds, I wasn’t doing improvisation, I was just working on A Study of Scarlet. I was meeting for A Study of Scarlet once, twice a week and that’s all I had of rehearsal – once a week for about five months. Karina sat me down and said you’re not coping are you? I said no I’m not. I used to be performing two or three nights a week, sometimes four times a week. Karina could never really get why I was out so much. When she saw me when I wasn’t doing anything…
Nalini: You were dying inside.
Rob: Yeah. She said I needed to be doing stuff. Then Hoo Haa started up. So now she’s aware of my need to get out and perform as much as possible.
Nalini: It’s part of who you are.
Rob: It’s really weird. A lot of people say what you do isn’t who you are, it’s just what you do. I used to say performing is who I am. And that six-month period really showed me that it is part of my blood and it’s what I need to do to keep myself fresh and going. I’m not doing it for any other reason; this type of show you put on for the pure essence of a performer entertaining a crowd. You’re not going to try to get a leg up in the industry; you’re not going to try to be noticed, to be spotted; you’re just out there to have fun. You leave your professional brain at the door and you start creating and you go into the playground and have fun. In many ways performers are still children and I’m still very much a man-child. I don’t have a playground any more: I can’t go because apparently I’m creepy. Whatever. I can’t go on the jungle gym. I can’t go on the monkey bars. I can’t go down the slippery slide, with that static electricity thing that hurts your arse. I can’t do that now because I’m 33 and it puts the kids off apparently. So I stopped doing the playground. This is just a gag: I don’t actually go to playgrounds. So yeah, my playground is the stage to keep myself fresh and happy.
Nalini: With regards to hoping to work with the BBC and getting David Tennant to play Rob Lloyd, what are your thoughts on Mighty Otakin and his animated version of Doctor Who?
Rob: This is new to me. I love finding out new stuff. I just gather it from other people.
Nalini: Mighty Otaking was a fan artist of Doctor Who, and he’s done some anime, and now he’s taken his anime off-line, and he’s working in a super-secret BBC production and nobody’s guessed that it’s Doctor Who. It’s still to be announced. But in January 2010 someone was saying they think it’s going to be a major animation of Doctor Who. I watched an animation on YouTube by Mighty Otakin. It has Jon Pertwee’s voice, and the Master’s voice. Where the voices have been taken from the original series and subtitled in Japanese. Where the voices are new, they’re spoken in Japanese and subtitled in English. My favourite bit is where there is this woman in little shorts and a little top with a shirt over the top. The doctor just looks at her and told her to put some clothes on. Beautiful.
Rob: It should have been done in the actual show. That’s probably Peri.
Nalini: It was Jon Pertwee’s voice.
Edward: It was captured from an old episode of Doctor Who.
Rob: Really? It’s probably from the Demons where there is the part where he says to Jo, put some clothes on. That’s great. I’ve never heard of this, I’ll have to find it.
Edward: Did you put a link on Dark Matter’s page?
Nalini: I’m not sure. It was late last night while you were trying to get me off the computer so we could go and watch some TV. I linked this image of Doctor Who as manga and I was saying I could really see Doctor Who as anime, then somebody told me about Mighty Otaking.
Rob: A lot of the doctors have those rigid lines and a lot of those strong character features that are so anime-esque. Tennant has a very anime look, but also Troughton and Pertwee. A different style of anime.
Nalini: One look at the doctor in this artwork and I could see it was Jon Pertwee.
Rob: That’s great. Now I’ve got something else to look up; that’s good.
Nalini: It featured the Cybermen and the Daleks and their actual voices, and the Brigadier.
Rob: Excellent. It would be good if they could get him to animate more of the lost episodes like they did for The Invasion and what they’re doing for The Reign of Terror, animating the lost episodes with the soundtrack and the voices. For the fans we love the lost stories, like it is a six parter but two of them are missing, so they animate the missing two episodes and put it out as a DVD.
Nalini: Nearly 20 years ago we managed to get hold of a couple of Doctor Who stories that hadn’t completed production. They had some film, some scenes as written dialogue and some voice-overs it was a whole mash up of stuff to create the whole story. One of the stories was Tom Baker, where he was poling along the river.
Nalini: There was another one from one of the really early doctors. I was into Doctor Who from *clears throat*
Rob: [snob-voice] from a young age?
Edward: A very little age.
Nalini: My first Doctor Who memory was when I was about three, hiding behind my uncle’s chair.
Rob: Oh wow. You have got the cliché down pat. That’s awesome.
Nalini: Yep. And the scene that I remember is Unit.
Rob: I’ve learned the bad side of being a Doctor Who fan and knowing so much. I met up with a friend, her and her sister came to see my show. Her sister is a huge Doctor Who fan, this one not so much. And they grew up with Doctor Who as kids. One of them said she had a teddy bear that she named Aggedor from the Doctor Who story.
Nalini: Aggedor from the Monster of Peladon!
Rob: Yeah, but this is the thing: she said Aggedor was from her favourite Tom Baker story. I said actually it’s a Jon Pertwee’s story, The Monster of Peladon and also the Curse of Peladon. She got really angry at me saying, ‘You just destroyed my childhood memory, okay. I thought that Aggedor was in a Tom Baker story.’ No, it was a Jon Pertwee story, sorry. So that’s a bad side of being a Doctor Who fan, you correct people and you destroy their memories.
It’s that whole ‘the memory cheats’, you remember certain things – there’s a great quote from Russell T Davies, I’m paraphrasing obviously, he said what he wanted to do with the new series of Doctor Who is create a homage to Doctor Who of what people thought was Doctor Who when they were growing up. Everyone has their own memory of what Doctor Who was growing up; they remember certain images, certain tones. He wanted to take that time and recreate that as opposed to doing a direct rip-off. He wanted to create what you remember, but not what you actually saw. And that’s what you get with Eccleston’s first year. And they carried that on as well with Tennant. All the hallmarks of Doctor Who. It is what Dr Who is although it is not actually what you saw.
Edward: I want to see more of John Sims as The Master.
Rob: That’s what really annoyed me. I’m there going: he’s only going to be in it for two episodes. Sound of Drums is incredible. Series 3 is my favourite stories ever. I love it. Scott Gooding my director and friend had a massive argument with Richard Watts who is a series two fan. As fans do, they had a showdown: series 2 versus Series 3. The best episodes. They’re going through each episode. Scott is going okay Smith and Jones okay, blah blah blah, Daleks in Manhattan horrible, blah blah blah, Human Nature, Family of Blood, Blink, Utopia, Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords, six episodes in a row, perfection, thank you, good night. That’s what fans do. We argue and complain and show how big our information is to each other.
Nalini: Have you seen the spoofs on the Internet comparing hard-core Christians to sci-fi nerds?
Rob: I have not seen that, no.
Nalini: It’s quite entertaining. There is no difference.
Rob: No. Not at all. No. This is how it is, this is what I believe… I loved the morsels of stuff you find on the net. This is what the fans have been crying out for: the Internet and YouTube especially. It’s the perfect place for fans to get together, film what they need to… There’s been an explosion. They can put on their fan fiction stuff, their fan videos, all that type of stuff and share it.
Edward: And you’ve got Who fans everywhere.
Rob: Yes. I want to run with it as much as possible. Fans tell each other, they pass the message on. On the second Wednesday at the Melbourne Fringe we had a group of women come in their 40s and they loved the show. They said their husbands were coming the next week, and they’d bring the kids. The swearing is not too bad. So the mothers came on the Wednesday, the fathers came on the last Friday and they brought the kids as well. I found out that they were all Doctor Who fans and they met when they were kids through the Doctor Who fan club back in the 80s. So they met and fell in love as teenagers in the 80s, they married and grew up and had kids. Then Doctor Who came back and so now they’ve got the kids into Doctor Who, so they’re old school Doctor Who fans and they’re breeding new Doctor Who fans. It’s an awesome story, you can’t write this shit. It’s incredible.
One of the dads said to me, ‘Here’s my son, he is a huge Doctor Who fan. He wants to be an actor. Do you have any advice?’ I’m no-one to give advice, so I asked ‘What type of performing do you like?’ He is like five or six years old. He said he liked comedy. The only advice I could give is just to do what I did which is watch as much comedy as possible. Silent movie stuff, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s… watch everything, learn from them. The best way to learn is to watch and then do it yourself.
It is great to see the different generations. Because Doctor Who started in the 60s and went to the 70s and 80s, it was gone through the 90s but now it’s back, you can have grandparents, parents, grandkids all follow it. I love that stuff: it’s 50 years of history. And the stories are just as fresh. I don’t really watch that much Doctor Who now because I just don’t have time. I collect them all. I watch them here and there, but I mostly listen to the audios. The missing adventures from the 60s. I listen to those all the time in my car.
My current Doctor is Troughton. I’ve just listened to season one. It doesn’t exist, it’s just all in audio. So I’m listening to Power of the Daleks, Highlanders, Macra Terra, Faceless Ones, so I’m listening to those, not watching, just listening to all of them. Now I’m going through his second season, which is just great. 45 years ago nearly 50 years ago, and Faceless Ones has some really fresh ideas. I was listening to a William Hartnell story, The Savages, which I’d never listened to before. It was Peter Purvis’s last story. It’s classic science fiction, very much like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, but it is still stuff that is done nowadays. It’s this timeless nature of Who, which I love. Especially with the audios you don’t see the wobbly sets, you just hear the actors’ voices. You hear the atmosphere, the music, it’s really amazing stuff. And it’s timeless, so kids nowadays can listen to it and it’s entertaining. And they are. Kids are going back and watching classic Doctor Who and falling in love with it.
Nalini: I think the BBC’s got audio productions down to a fine art, and they have now for decades.
Rob: Especially with The Big Finish, they’re producing great stuff as well with The Lost Stories.
Nalini: Yes, Santa Claws [not misspelt] will be filling our stockings with Doctor Who this Christmas. Thank you for talking to Dark Matter.