Focus on: The Listies

One of our young critics, 10-year-old Lauren Hunter, grills Australian duo The Listies, and finds them on fine, silly form

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The Listies Make You LOL
Published 22 Jul 2017

The Listies are Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins, an Australian comedy double act who have been bringing children's shows to Edinburgh since 2008. Their style is silly humour – like putting fart noises over classical music. But their big comedy influences are legends who can make kids and grownups laugh, like Monty Python. This year their show has face texting—which is making emojis with your face—and some disgusting underpants. 

Talking over Skype, Matt and Richard are in an underground red room with what looks like the abstract paintings I learned about during an art project at school. The two bounce off each other: Matt is more philosophical and Rich more lighthearted. But as I found out, it is the opposite when they write their shows. As Matt says: "Richard always wants the show to be really educational, and I always want the show to be really silly. So lots of our shows come out of that argument."

The pair met in 2002 when performing in a play called Just Disgusting. They always wanted to be children's entertainers. This sometimes means they upset people who don't like laughing. People who find classical music very elegant can't bear to listen to their trumpy track: "We got interviewed on ABC, which is like the Australian BBC," says Matt, "and they asked if they could play one of our songs. So we said 'Yes, play this one.' They played half of it and then switched it off."

To stop people getting upset, they make sure people know what they are getting themselves into from the moment they see The Listies' poster. As Matt explains: "If our picture was of us wearing big black turtlenecks, performing Shakespeare, talking about feelings, then people would give negative comments." I checked their Fringe programme photo and no-one should be confused – they are definitely mucking about. Richard adds: "Our shows are always rated S for silly."

The two agree that children's entertainers are taken less seriously than other artists sometimes. Fortunately, both their parents love what they do. "We've been all over Australia, we travel, we've played Sydney Opera House," says Richard. And Matt's mum beams with pride: "She collects all the newspaper clippings, laminates them and hangs them on the wall."

They are always on the road, often amusing themselves by looking for Australian animals. I ask if they like koalas and Richard said he couldn't eat a whole one. Matt makes sure I know this is a joke: "Just to be clear, we do not eat koala bears."

When in Edinburgh they also live together – their favourite place to stay is near the Meadows, where they would have to make do with squirrels. With them spending so much time in each other's pockets, they are bound to have arguments. So I ask them if they had ever had one. Matt is very honest and says, "Yes, we have." 

Luckily their arguments are never too devastating. "It's been 10 years since we've been doing The Listies," says Richard. "If we had an argument so bad we were going to split up, it would have already happened." 

Matt agrees: "Plus, arguing isn't always bad. Agreeing and disagreeing is how you create."

Richard finishes: "And we always hug and say sorry."