By Luke Voogt
Doug Chappel has said that comedy transformed him from being homeless and “hanging out with the wrong crowd” to working as a counsellor for disadvantaged youth.
The “classic western suburbs guy”, according to friend and fellow comic Dave O’Neil, now has five degrees and is applying for a PhD.
“I just love performing,” he told the Indy recently.
“Comedy changed my life.
“I’ve hung around with some shady characters – (comedy) took me away from that negative lifestyle.”
But, more importantly, comedy introduced him to “people who believed” in him and encouraged him to go to university.
He recalled being an unemployed youth when his friends urged him to get up on stage for first time at a St Kilda comedy gig.
“I thought ‘I’ve got nothing else going on’ so I thought I might as well do comedy,” he said.
“I jumped up and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Finding out that comedians got free drinks at gigs was extra motivation, he added.
He went on to perform for troops in Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan, which he described as “rewarding” gigs.
“Anyone that dedicates their life to defending others – that is a noble thing to do.”
He was at a base in Afghanistan on 11 September 2014 when soldiers were expecting a rocket attack.
But one of them told him not to worry as the insurgents were “terrible shots”.
“I look at this building and it’s got these holes in it,” Chappel said.
“I said ‘isn’t that where we’re sleeping?’ He said ‘yeah but what’s the chance they’re going to hit it twice’.”
For years he has helped out homeless youths with fundraising and now as a provisional psychologist, having experienced their struggles himself.
Chappel will perform at Geelong RSL on Saturday 29 April alongside fellow comedians Dave O’Neil and Brad Oakes.
He was down in Geelong over Easter visiting his wife’s family and reckoned he had a done more than 100 shows in the city.
“I’ve got half my family up in Geelong.”
Dave O’Neil’s in-laws also live in Geelong.
“I’ve certainly been down G-town a lot to because of my wife’s connections,” O’Neil said.
“My mother-in-law is a massive Cats fan.”
He looked forward to poking fun at the former pier restaurant Smorgies, the waterfront Bollards and Geelong Grammar School.
“They asked me to come to gig once to raise money for their rowing shed,” the former public school student said.
O’Neil will perform at the RSL fresh from his sell-out show at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.
“Sure, I’m in a small room but that doesn’t matter,” he said.