Eddie Perfect is one of our most diversely talented creative minds. He’s written for the stage and screen, as well as worked in a variety of roles as a singer and actor.
One of his earliest loves was musical theatre, in particular a 1970 production which taught him about the various precise functions a piece of music can have.
“I remember when my dad brought home a CD player for the first time and I went down to Brashs and bought Stephen Sondheim’s original Broadway cast recording of Company. That was a very nerdy musical theatre thing to do.
“Stephen Sondheim was one of my teachers even though it’s from a very long distance. The song that really captured my imagination was ‘The Ladies Who Lunch’. It’s a very funny, cynical, dry older woman character, played by Elaine Stritch. She’s not much of a singer, but by god she can act through a song. It’s really a dark, bitter, twisted tribute to herself.
“What I loved about it was there was a lot references in it that I didn’t understand because they were very American, or very New York. It’s about these aimless women who are filling their lives by going to optical art classes or a matinee or a Pinter play. They were interesting concepts and references that really opened up my brain.
“But what I really loved about it was how the storytelling sort of wound its way around to really being at first a critical song about specific aimless groups of women, to being very much about criticising herself.
‘Here’s to the girls who just watch, aren’t they the best… Another reason not to move, another vodka stinger.’
“It’s about her alcoholism. About how easy it is to be detached and judgmental and I just found it so surprising, and so powerful. I just found it a triumph of lyrics, character and content and it really sort of laid the bedrock for how I think about writing for characters.”
Those characters have ranged from singin’ n’ sextin’ cricketing heroes to conservative pollies spitting some wicked verses, as well as racists who don’t know they’re racists (like in Eddie’s song ‘Some Of My Best friends Are Aboriginal’).
“It’s fun to go in there and write a song from that person’s perspective. It’s very confusing to people, even if you give a very clear introduction, there’s something that’s very unsafe about talking about Indigenous/white relations in Australia, because we have this shame that’s just underneath the surface.
“I think that’s where comedy is one of the great art forms. Across the developed world, I don’t think that comedy gets the credit it should, because there are some really heavy things that you can only talk about in comedy. No one wants someone standing on a soapbox in a toga screaming earnest prose or poetry, that’s an ordeal.
“All the greats from Oscar Wilde through to Moliere, they had this ability to show people themselves and allow themselves to laugh at it. I think that is really the only way you can get away with it.”
Hear more about the song that changed it all for Eddie Perfect on Don't Look Back.