“The show is loosely about the life advice you get from people, but it’s advice you should already know”: Harley Breen chats about life, and remembering to stop and smell the penguins.

5 years ago
Stacey Waters

Now and then you should take some time to just stop and smell the penguins. At least that’s what Harley Breen would like to encourage us all to do during this years Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Pop Culture-y’s Stacey Waters was able to have a chat with Breen about his upcoming show and the different factors that contributed.
Harley Breen

Smell the Penguins is Breen’s tenth solo show, and with a decade of experience under his belt we questioned whether or not there was still a challenge in coming up with new material constantly. “Ten times around the roundabout, the funny farm,” he said. Breen was very upfront, admitting that self-doubt plagued him every time it came to writing a show. “It can be a struggle, each year that I get to the November time, I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to be a comedian, and I’m a complete shame.” It was with a tone of amusement that he noted, “If somebody wanted me to explain how to write a show, I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

The unique title of the show, even by comedians’ standards, is Breen’s own play on the idea of stopping to smell the roses, “Stop and smell the roses, slow down and enjoy life, which is bullshit advice and unhelpful. It’s just as absurd to say stop and smell the penguins.” The title came about though, we discovered, during the filming of a commercial on Phillip Island for the Australian Motorcycle GP, which Breen plays the character of ‘Phil Island’ who is an ambassador for the race. “During the filming of the ad, I threw open a window and I went ‘Ah, smell the penguins’…didn’t make the final cut. My manager thought though, that’s a funny show title.”

Harley Breen as 'Phil Island'
Harley Breen as ‘Phil Island’

According to Breen the title of the show is incredibly relevant to the material. “The show is kinda loosely about the life advice you get from people, but it’s the advice you should already know. And I don’t know anything.” When questioning whether the show was almost about ‘life-hacks’ he was quick to shut down that idea, “No, it couldn’t be further from that. It’s still running in the lines of how I do my stand up, rather autobiographical. Being a single dad and raising a five year old, while trying to be in business.”

“It’s about life surprises, going through a divorce and trying to find love,” he stated, “What happens when your life changes and you’re not expecting it.”

With a huge range of popular solo shows behind him, and ten years in the business, Smell the Penguins is sure to be an entertaining night. As Breen put it best, “I know what I’m doing, buy a ticket, come and check it out.”


Smell the Penguins is on at Melbourne Town Hall from 24th March to the 17th of April as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.


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