No one is more surprised at Luke McGregor's stage and television success than the endearingly awkward comedian himself.
It's certainly not something he aspired to growing up at Glenorchy, a suburb of Hobart identified in a 2015 nationwide report (Dropping Off The Edge) as having "entrenched locational disadvantage".
"When I was younger I found Tassie tough. Although it wasn’t really Tassie, it was more the area that I grew up in," McGregor said.
"I didn’t fit in that well. I think my childhood was kind of standard with a little extra pepper because I had big red hair and bad teeth and braces. I guess I was a middle-ground kid. I wasn’t really that popular and I wasn’t really that hated. I tried to be invisible. But I did start to muck around in class a bit as soon as I discovered that I could make people laugh."
He found himself on the "naughty table" and school reports had a common theme: "Luke could do better if he applied himself."
"Nothing really grabbed me growing up. I liked learning but I didn’t like studying very much," he said.
McGregor has had the last laugh. He now films his popular television series Rosehaven in his home state and is a regular guest on programs like The Project and at comedy festivals. His ability to make you cringe one minute and laugh out loud the next makes him unique in the world of stand-up, where rude and crude is the norm.
It's not that McGregor has any philanthropic objection to rude and crude. It's just that he's no good at it, he says. His on-stage persona is simply an extension of what he's like socially. What you see is what you get.
Before comedy, McGregor worked in a superannuation call centre.
"I started on the phones and ended up being a performance analyst for the company. Then I quit in 2012, just before my five-year long service leave," McGregor said. "I must admit, I miss working with spreadsheets."
As we chat McGregor is trying to find his sunglasses. They're prescription, you see, and not cheap. I ask if they are on his head. There is a long pause while he checks.
Stand-up comedy came about when McGregor accompanied a friend to a Raw Comedy night.
"I tagged along for support. Someone didn’t show up and I was a bit tipsy so I thought it might be fun," he explained. "I didn’t have anything to lose. I’ll keep doing it for as long as they let me."
A shy and unashamedly anxious man, McGregor has had to work out strategies to deal with on-stage nerves. He focuses on what he wants to share, rather than what he has to lose: "These days the fun of stand-up overpowers my fear of it."
As for acting, it also happened by chance.
"I got asked to do something off the back of comedy but I have never been asked to play anything other than a nervous redhead," he said, laughing.
"I'd love to take on a more serious role, like the leader of a bikie gang, but I don't think anyone would let me."