Comedian Nath Valvo on Tiffany Haddish, 'Triathlon Cody' and being the nice guy

It's the day after Nath Valvo made his American stand-up debut, opening for his friend and fellow comedian Jen Kirkman at a show in Brooklyn, and while the Australian comic should be on a high all he can think about is the lecture he got after a recent performance in Montreal on the state of his bum from Hollywood star and headliner Tiffany Haddish​.

"She's really funny and has amazing stage presence," Valvo says, "but she gave me a 10-minute lecture about my white-boy butt, and that I have no butt and she couldn't get over how I have no butt, and asked me how I could have such limited booty, and told me I needed to start doing squats and told me that one day my boyfriend Cody will be really unhappy with me if I don't."

Comedian Nath Valvo's career has begun to accelerate in recent years.

Photo: JAMES PENLIDIS PHOTOGRAPHY

The pair were hanging out backstage, where Haddish had been talking with all the comics on the high-profile bill at the Canadian city's comedy festival. The Girls Trip star, who has been slaying every talk show appearance she's made in the last year, had a camera crew in tow. Valvo doesn't know if the lecture will ever turn up somewhere, but he did get an Instagram selfie with Haddish that had his fellow local comedians congratulating him. Call it a draw.

"What I've taken away from doing Montreal is a gym membership and an eating disorder, so thank you Tiffany Haddish," says the 34-year-old, who swears he hasn't done any squats since to augment his glutes.

There's a chance you'll be hearing more about the encounter in a future Valvo show. The comic, whose career has begun to accelerate in recent years with accolades such as a nomination for Best Newcomer at the influential 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, draws heavily on his personal life for his performances, which he delivers with a mocking self-importance that can sideswipe audiences with its hilarious selfishness.

"I write my stand-up to have characters on purpose and I want the people who see my shows each year to remember who they are. I think that makes it so much more enjoyable and relatable," Valvo says. "Making it as specific and personal as possible it connects with more people. Plus I have a few very interesting people in my life so I should milk that to pay the rent."

The mainstays in his sets are his parents, Giuseppe and Lynn, and Valvo's boyfriend, Cody. The latter is the subject of extended piece from Valvo's present show, Show Pony, that's become his calling card. In it Valvo describes how Cody – "awful name, great guy", begins Valvo, his affected tone deliciously dismissive – began training to compete in a triathlon, a pursuit that required Valvo to suffer through being a supportive partner and spectator.

It's a terrific riff, but its success has boomeranged back on Valvo. Cody, who isn't involved in the comedy scene, kept training after completing his triathlon, and recently his coach told him that if he wanted a laugh he should watch a funny online clip. It was, of course, Valvo's routine, and Cody had to confess that it was about him. It turns out in triathlon circles Cody is famous – as "Triathlon Cody" – and Valvo is not ready for that.

"I'm not happy because he's already so lovely and charming and hot that he already gets so much attention from me in real life, so I don't need him coming into my comedy circle," he says. "I'm way too insecure for Cody to become well-known."

The wellspring of Valvo's humour – which he exaggerates with snippy, charming asides and an urgent stage energy – is his jealousy. Obsessively written over months, Valvo's material can comically object to most anything or anyone, with the laughter coming from the recognition and not the criticism.

"I'm jealous of people who can let go and be in the moment and enjoy hobbies instead of overthinking everything. A good way to handle my jealousy is to tease them relentlessly," Valvo says. "Teasing fit people is fine because fit people are hotter than us naked, and they're going to live longer than us. No one is saying I feel sorry for the triathletes in that video.

"The limit is that I have to be the loser most of the time," he adds. "I feel uncomfortable about doing humour about someone if they're losing in the story. I'll try and flip it so that I lose somehow. I would never get on stage and punch down on someone, because actually that's not nice."

Nath Valvo is at Giant Dwarf, Redfern, on August 25.

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