It would be fair to say that comedian and Wonthaggi native Marcus Ryan is a man of few needs. For example, he sat at our table at Phamish barefoot and at times stretched out across multiple chairs. That’s the kind of laid back – but worldy – guy that he is. He’s easy pleased. He has simple tastes. Just don’t ask him for his drinks order before you’ve given him the menu.
When I’m boring I’ll eat cereal, but I do like its diversity. I like having a big fry up. I also like pancakes and I like smoothies. Breakfast to me can be any time of day though.
I have been at Phamish for a good 40 minutes, busy as a bee, before I’m joined by an impressively sweaty-but-not-smelly Ryan. He has just run Albert Park Lake, more than once.
The name of the establishment is confounding. Neither of us thought that people still used ‘ph’ instead of ‘f’. In fact, Ryan says it reminds him of phlegm, and we all know that’s not something you’d really want to put in your mouth. He also has some mild irritation at the waiter, who doesn’t give him a chance to sit down before trying to take his order, but he is smiling. Probably at the quality of the company he is about to keep. He has the kind of dimples you want to put your whole face in. I am immediately charmed and think about having Marcus Ryan for breakfast instead of pancakes.
It is some time shortly after that that I realise he is not wearing shoes. That’s just how comedians roll in St Kilda. The other way they roll is with joke telling.
“People always ask me to tell jokes,” he says, and I remind him that I didn’t ask him to but get the feeling he might be about to tell me some anyway. I’m from Adelaide, and he has a full basket of Adelaide jokes to try out. We are bonding over being from places that aren’t Melbourne. We are country folk in the big city.
Being that I met Marcus Ryan on Twitter, I want to know what he thinks about its use in comedy.
“I was in Aberdeen, a few years ago, and Twitter must have just started because I wasn’t aware of it, and some guy in the front row – a big guy with a Mohawk, he stood out – and he was on his phone. I talked to him during the show, you know, why are you on your phone, texting? And he said ‘no, I’m tweeting!’ and it turned out that he was from the BBC on some radio show in Scotland and he tweeted watching Marcus Ryan. He actually likes me, and I thought that was nice, but I was like ‘what’s Twitter? That’s not a thing!’ He was kind of reviewing me as I was doing it, and I thought that was a bit weird.”
I think it’s weird too. I also think it’s weird that we haven’t talked about the meal we came to enjoy. “So, Marcus,” I say to him, because that is his name, “is breakfast the most important meal of your day?”
I like the vibe that’s down in this area. I’m very transient, as a lot of the people are here as well. It’s got a cool, relaxed vibe
“No.” We sit in an awkward silence for a few moments while I ponder how quickly I can wrap up the interview, before we laugh like old chums and he offers to elaborate. “No, because as a comic – as an athlete -” How we laugh! “As a comic, also known as someone who sleeps in, sometimes I don’t eat until afternoon. I love breakfast. Maybe it is important. Because I’ll eat breakfast any time of day,” he says, and I agree that the all-day breakfast is an important Melbourne institution. “Because I love a … when I’m boring I’ll eat cereal, but I do like its diversity. I like having a big fry up. I also like pancakes and I like smoothies. Breakfast to me can be any time of day though.
By his own admission, Ryan has never eaten corn fritters, and I watch him scour the menu for something new and exciting with which to impress me (he says this whilst laughing, but I am certain he’s being genuine). He seems comforted by the fact that I had corn fritters only yesterday, and I am obviously a woman of fine taste.
The volume of rocket upsets him. “I just want to push it all off,” he says, like a kind of rocket genocider. He further laments the fact that he didn’t order the extra ham side, but cracks his poached eggs open and watches as they dribble across the plate. It is clear from his first bite that he is in fritter heaven. “Taste it!” I taste it. It is indeed delicious.
“I like the vibe that’s down in this area. I’m very transient, as a lot of the people are here as well. It’s got a cool, relaxed vibe – if it was in the city it would be suits, and that’s not really my style.” He breaks into a smile. “I’ve never eaten out in Wonthaggi … because there’s nowhere to eat out in Wonthaggi. There’s a Big W. We had fireworks for the opening of the Big W, and they don’t even have fireworks for New Year’s Eve. There’s a couple of pubs, and the desal plant is there.”
Suffice it to say that Phamish – and St Kilda – is a different world altogether.
“If your breakfast was a person, who would it be?” I remind him that this is the kind of hard hitting journalism I was trained to do at university.
We have a brief moment of laughing about Bette Midler, because we’re at the beach and she was in a movie called Beaches and her name is a bit funny.
“What kind of answers do you normally get?” I tell him I’ve never asked it to anybody in my whole life. “They teach you that as well, don’t give them any clues. Okay, Animal from The Muppets. The rocket was like his crazy hair, and then he has a red face, and that was the chutney. And it was a little bit different, it was a new experience. I like to try new things – let’s have a sweet corn fritter, I thought.”
That’s the sort of thing that happens at Phamish. The salty air invites you to go crazy and wear sarongs and spend all of your pocket money at Luna Park. Though the breeze is crisp, we find ourselves giddy with delight at our collective breakfast experience. And so, new menu item under his belt and with his hat in his hand, Marcus Ryan gives a small bow and heads off to do something much less interesting.