Adam Hills and the Par­a­lympic con­ver­sion

The Aussie co­me­dian tells of his love af­fair with the Games

Life & Style Weekend - - READ - BY Chris Lees In Rio de Janiero

THE pas­sion Aus­tralian co­me­dian Adam Hills has for the Par­a­lympics is ob­vi­ous af­ter talk­ing with him in the press cen­tre in Rio de Janiero.

Hills is there film­ing his Last Leg in Rio com­edy show for Chan­nel 4 in the United King­dom.

“Af­ter see­ing the Par­a­lympics in Bei­jing, I had the

Par­a­lympics con­ver­sion that ev­ery­body has,” he said.

“It’s been an in­ter­est­ing pro­gres­sion for me. In Bei­jing, I got it, I was clearly in love with it. I hung around a lot with the Aus­tralian team… I just went and watched ev­ery­thing and the team kind of took me un­der their wing and I was com­pletely hooked.

“Then Chan­nel 4 asked us to cover Lon­don. But then af­ter Lon­don a whole dif­fer­ent pro­duc­tion com­pany took over, so pretty much the en­tire staff here have never seen the Par­a­lympics … so it’s been amaz­ing watch­ing them be­come in­fected, it’s like a virus.

“You sud­denly see some­one wax­ing lyri­cal about goal­ball or one-legged high jump and you go ‘oh you’ve caught it, you’ve caught it.”

The show be­gan at the Lon­don Par­a­lympics in 2012.

“I think what hap­pened was the head of Chan­nel 4 wanted to do a bit of a Roy and HG type of things,” Hills said.

“She is orig­i­nally from Aus­tralia, so she’s very fa­mil­iar with Roy and HG, she wanted to do a late night ir­rev­er­ent com­edy show and Chan­nel 4 had the Par­a­lympics.

“Orig­i­nally I was asked to host a high­light show … but when they saw me do stand-up at the Par­a­lympics they thought maybe this could be some­thing else.”

Hills said the show be­came a bit of a cult hit in Lon­don.

“Then they said do you want to come back and talk about the news ev­ery week and we said ‘not par­tic­u­larly but we’ll give it a crack’.

“I think now we’re back at the Par­a­lympics do­ing what we do, it’s where we should be.”

Hills was born with­out a foot and wears a pros­the­sis, so has more per­spec­tive than most when it comes to the Par­a­lympic Games.

One thing peo­ple might not know is that af­ter Bei­jing, Hills was ap­proached by the Aus­tralian team who asked him what sport he was good at.

He told them he used to be a ten­nis coach and they said wheel­chair ten­nis could be an op­tion.

“They said ‘if you want to do this, great, but you have to be in a wheel­chair all day ev­ery day for the next four years be­cause you have to learn how to use a wheel­chair prop­erly,” Hills said.

“I was mak­ing Spicks and Specks at the time and I said ‘I just don’t think I can’.

“Ja­son Hell­weg, who was the Chef de Mis­sion of the Aus­tralian team, said ‘the best thing you can do for the Par­a­lympics is tell peo­ple about it.

“So four years later in Lon­don he re­minded me about it.”

Hills said he was asked when he was a kid to try out for the “dis­abled games’’.

“If they had am­putee ten­nis I might have done it be­cause that’s what I loved, and I said ‘no I’ll go to Wim­ble­don’,” he laughed.

“There’s a lit­tle part of me that looks back and re­grets it and there’s a big­ger part of me that thinks maybe there is some­thing I could do here, maybe I could do wheel­chair ten­nis.”

Hills said he felt a con­nec­tion with the ath­letes com­pet­ing at the Par­a­lympics.

“Most of th­ese peo­ple, I’d say, don’t think of them­selves as dis­abled,” he said.

“The more I watch it, the more I kind of re­alise there’s no such thing as dis­abil­ity. By that I don’t mean any­one can do any­thing, what I mean is we’re all peo­ple, we’re all hu­mans.”

Hills said we should not be say­ing there was no such thing as dis­abil­ity.

“But we are all peo­ple, and we all have dif­fer­ent lev­els of abil­ity, and I guess that’s a bet­ter way of look­ing at it,” he said.

“My daugh­ters wouldn’t con­sider me dis­abled, they just say ‘daddy has got a ro­bot leg’.”

Hills said the best thing about the Par­a­lympics was that it was “hero­ism with hu­mil­ity”.

He said some ini­tially found it hard to com­bine com­edy with dis­abil­ity. “I didn’t be­cause I al­ways knew what you could get away with be­cause I’ve been talk­ing about it on stage for ages,” he said.

“What’s in­ter­est­ing for me is we used to ask for all th­ese is it okay ques­tions. We’re get­ting a lot this year but it’s more about the sport.”

Hills said watch­ing the Par­a­lympics slowly changed how peo­ple looked at those with a dis­abil­ity.

“It’s a shame it’s only once ev­ery four years be­cause it’s like a two step for­ward, one step back type thing,” he said.

“Ev­ery four years the Par­a­lympics en­light­ens one coun­try at a time.”

In terms of ac­tu­ally mak­ing the show in Brazil, Hills said it had been tough to be­gin with.

He said just get­ting com­edy pro­duc­ers up to speed with an ac­tual sports show had taken a bit of do­ing.

In terms of ac­tu­ally see­ing Rio de Janiero, Hills said he re­ally hadn’t done any­thing.

“It’s funny be­cause I did this in Bei­jing as well but I’m all right with it be­cause I can come back to Rio any time, but the Paras are only ev­ery four years,” he said.

“I’m get­ting about five hours’ sleep ev­ery night, my voice is go­ing, I’m not drink­ing, I’m just go­ing out and watch­ing sport ev­ery night.”

Asked to name his favourite sport, the an­swer is in­stan­ta­neous – wheel­chair bas­ket­ball.

“There’s a sneaky chance I might get to present a medal at one of the events, and I’ve re­quested the marathon,” he said.

“I texted Kurt (Fearn­ley) say­ing ‘they’ve asked me to present a medal, I want to give it to you, which event?’ and he wrote back say­ing the marathon.”

Af­ter this, Hills said he would go back to Lon­don and have a short break be­fore do­ing a stand-up com­edy tour, film­ing more of the Last Leg and then do­ing the same again next year.

Most of th­ese peo­ple, I’d say, don’t think of them­selves as dis­abled. The more I watch it, the more I kind of re­alise there’s no such thing as dis­abil­ity. By that I don’t mean any­one can do any­thing, what I mean is we’re all peo­ple, we’re all hu­mans. — ADAM HILLS


RJ Mitte, So­phie Mor­gan, Jonathan Ed­wards, Clare Bald­ing, JJ Chalmers, Adam Hills, Arthur Williams, Rachael Latham, Ade Ade­pitan and Lee McKenzie in Rio.


Spain and Aus­tralia com­pete in wheel­chair bas­ket­ball at the Paralympic Games in Rio.

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