Three things with Rhys Nicholson: ‘You get to an age where meat thermometers become life changing’

Rhys Nicholson has a vision for his upcoming Melbourne International Comedy festival show: zero mention of the pandemic.

“I mean, who wants to talk about it?” he says. “There’ll be so many comedy shows, I reckon, that will be [titled] like ‘Blah Blah Gone Viral’, or some shit like that. And it’s just like, can we not talk about it? For just a little while? We’re living it. I would love just one aspect of my life to not involve talking about fucking Covid.”

But the pandemic did bring one useful object into Nicholson’s life: a meat thermometer. Like many of us, the comedian got very enthusiastic about cooking during lockdown. It even became a point of social connection. “Some friends and I started a Facebook group called Dinner Club and literally all we did is send each other photos of what we had for dinner that night,” he recalls. “It was so grim.”

Here, Nicholson tells us about the life changing powers of this thermometer, as well as the story of two other important personal objects.

What I’d save from my house in a fire
Two rings that I wear – one is my engagement ring, and the other is an heirloom my father gave me that was his father’s, and his father’s father before him. I have a joke in my standup about how it’s been passed down to all the men in my family and I’m the closest thing we have to a man right now. It’s the first thing that came to mind because I’m always just terrified of losing it. Like, a ring is such an easy thing to lose and I can’t be the one, in a hundred years, who loses it.

The engagement ring I got because I proposed to my partner, but I did it when I was really drunk in the middle of the night and didn’t remember it the next day, so I didn’t have a ring or anything like that. But my partner is a much better person than me. So one day a few months later, I had taken off the heirloom ring. My partner grabbed it, took it to one of our best friends, Lisa, who is a jewellery maker, and got her to measure it. Then he got the engagement ring made without my knowing and proposed to me on the top of a mountain. So he’s a real nightmare of a person! What a dick.

My most useful object
This is a potentially boring answer, but I have a meat thermometer that you Bluetooth into your phone. I know that sounds so stupid. But you put the thermometer into the meat and leave it there, then there’s an app on your phone which tells you what the temperature is on the inside. You can set an alarm to go off when it gets to 58 degrees or whatever, without you having to constantly go and check it all the time.

It’s weird when you get to an age where things like that become life changing. If you told me when I was 22 that I would be interested in meat thermometers, I’d be like “that sounds very depressing. I need to change the course of my life so that doesn’t happen”. But here I am, and it’s made my life a lot better.

In the last couple of years, I’ve really tried to get better at cooking. It seemed to really kick off in the pandemic. Throughout the first lockdowns, I put on a tight eight kilos in six months, all from being deeply carnivorous. And that seems to be the magic number – everyone seems to have added between eight and 10. No one was like, oh, I put on three.

The item I most regret losing
A few years ago, I was heading to the airport in Auckland at 6am and realised I didn’t have my passport with me. I was coming back to Australia and was going to land and go straight to shows. It was too late to cancel them and my agent was calling people in a panic. It was the most useless I’ve ever felt in my life.

But I got to the airport in Auckland and explained to a very nice Kiwi that I didn’t have my passport. I’m not exaggerating this in any way, he said, “no worries bro, let’s call Canberra”. Then a man in the airport called Canberra, I showed them my licence, and they let me on the plane! So it turns out if you’re ever in New Zealand and still have your licence, you can still get home. It’s up to the airline, which is wild to me. Air New Zealand were just like yeah, you seem like you. And they didn’t even find any of the heroin that I had!