Well, it seems the path to success in the United States for Australian comedians is clear: get your arse onto Conan O’Brien’s talk show:
“YOU’RE a very strange fellow,” said Conan O’Brien after watching Aussie comedian Sam Simmons perform a stand-up routine on his talk show on Tuesday.
The five minute set was an opportunity of a lifetime for the 35-year-old funny man from Adelaide who now has a real chance at cracking the lucrative US market.
The former Triple J radio presenter only moved to Los Angeles in June and was invited onto the popular late night show after Conan’s talent scouts saw him perform in Montreal.
“I got picked up in a limo which was weird,” Simmons told news.com.au.
“I had to get my content approved but they (the producers) were amazingly supportive, like I’d never be able to do this stuff on TV in Australia. I sent them an initial script and they said to me, ‘yeah it’s good but why don’t you do your weird stuff?’ And I was like ‘really?’ They just told me to go hard and represent myself.”
Simmons impressed many and confused others as he joked about Vikings riding sheep and used an audience member as a prop.
“It was so fun and the energy was amazing,” Simmons said.
“Conan said he’d love to have me back. He was just so supportive of having something different on the show.”
First Rebel Wilson, now Sam Simmons – don’t nobody let Conan know about Hughsie or we’ll have a comedy drought on our hands over here.
Of course, on slightly closer examination we discover that the only source to date for Conan’ love of Simmons is Simmons himself. But why would he lie? After all, he did appear on the show and Conan did seem to enjoy his work and it’s not like talk show hosts spend their days pretending to like things they don’t really like.
Put another way, after Rebel Wilson spent years talking herself up at every possible opportunity and eventually managed to get herself a television series out of it, why wouldn’t you do exactly the same thing? After all, clearly his “talking shit about how Australians don’t ‘get’ me” approach didn’t really pay off in Australia:
I was just over in Edinburgh and was widely embraced but I think in this country, it’s Hughesy or nothing – but I can understand it because he is a funny bastard. I suppose I am the only one who does (this type of comedy) in Australia. I guess that’s a good thing. I am, at least in this country, a bit of an innovator when it comes to doing the absurd whereas over in the UK it’s quite commonplace to do this sort of stuff 
The first episode [of Problems] is really f—ing out there,” he says. ”It’s anarchic, subversive and dark. Lazy journalists are going to say, ‘It’s like The Mighty Boosh,’ but it’s nothing like the f—ing Mighty Boosh. That’s what they’ll write, though, because we can’t get our head around absurdism in this country.” 
In Australia, I’m a weirdo,” he adds. “In the UK, I’m a colonist ‘trying’ to be absurd and emulate the Brits, but in the States I am just me. I know that sounds kinda negative, but they don’t have a cultural cringe or a sporting rivalry – they just enjoy who you are.” [August 2013]
Yeah, we never really did embrace Simmons in this country, did we? Sure, he had that regular segment on jTV and then he had that 12 part, five minute per episode series The Urban Monkey and then he had his own half-hour prime time sketch show Problems plus regular gigs on Triple J plus that live stand-up DVD and a whole bunch of panel show appearances, but yeah, we never really got our heads around his act*, did we? He was just an obscure weirdo. With a prime time sketch show.
The strange thing is that while all these offbeat Aussie comedians (Jason Gann, Jim Jeffries, Rebel Wilson) are currently making it big-ish over in the USA, it’s not exactly like American pop culture is known for its wall-to-wall embrace of the offbeat. Sure, there’s loads of small corners where lots of strange stuff is happening, but Simmons isn’t talking about getting an Adult Swim series while Wilson is off making indie arthouse films: these are comedians whose acts are supposedly about them being edgy and different but who are being embraced by Conan O’Brien, former Tonight Show host.
[yes, we know that he was the “edgy” Tonight Show host who got shafted for Jay Leno. We also know his career since then has not been on an upward swing.]
Perhaps the thing to pay attention to here is the way that O’Brien managed (briefly) to juggle being seen as something of an edgy comedian while getting to host The Tonight Show. Perhaps the real story here is that he’s a television producer who can – or maybe just thinks he can – package offbeat material to the mainstream in a way that just might click.
Wilson’s sitcom Super Fun Night (which O’Brien produces) seems to be doing a pretty good job of sanding off whatever rough edges Wilson may have once had while not exactly shitting the bed ratings-wise just yet; who’s to say a Sam Simmons’ sitcom wouldn’t be a smash hit lighthearted romp about a nutty zookeeper and a bunch of lovable kids?
Fuck knows he’d never be able to do that stuff on TV in Australia.
*Actually, considering his live act does seem to occasionally involve him being a bit of a dick towards the audience perhaps all those interview quotes were just an extension of his act – delivered “in character”, as it were. But to prove that we’d require some examples where he broke character, and looking through the correspondence we’ve had with him over the years we couldn’t find anything like that.