Finance Work My first job: Dave O’Neil, comedian

My first job: Dave O’Neil, comedian

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When I finished high school, I went to teacher’s college. I finished my course in primary teaching, but never ended up teaching. I did the rounds and went, ‘I don’t want to do that, too hard’.

So I got a job as a field officer with the Victorian Red Cross. I had been a volunteer for the Red Cross since I was young. As a field officer I would drive around and give talks about the Red Cross and take training sessions.

I was very young at the time, just 20. I used to work in an office with two other people and they were young uni graduates like me.

We used to do stuff like go to meetings with volunteers and maybe once a week we would drive to a regional area to give a talk to the local volunteers and stay overnight. So I got to know Wangaratta, Mildura – all those rural areas.

Dave O’Neil as a young man. Source: Supplied.

Actually, I got my taste for public speaking at the Red Cross because a lot of officers didn’t like doing it. But I would always put my hand up for it. I used to put jokes in the talks and work off the crowd.  I loved doing it.

No hecklers, but someone once collapsed and had a heart attack while I was talking, which wasn’t great. The ambulance was called and they were OK in the end.

I liked the job because I was doing something good. Working for a charity, at least you’re doing something that helps people.

I’ve always loved what the Red Cross do. My twin brother, Glenn, still works for them as a consultant. He’s an overseas aid worker and assesses the programs they’re running in places like Afghanistan and Syria.

It makes my job seem rather trivial. He’s the good twin, as we always say.

Working for the Red Cross was a great experience, but being in an office and getting there at 9am was hard for a young man like me who was going out every night. I used to live in a share-house in the city with five other people and we would just go and see bands every night and then go to a nightclub afterwards. I was in a band, Captain Cocoa, so I was gigging a lot too. I used to photocopy the band posters at work.

I remember one time we had a meeting with other charities and the CEO of the Red Cross was sitting there and I was nearly falling asleep. I was really struggling and when someone asked if there were any more questions, the CEO said, ‘Yes, just one. What did Dave do last night?’.

I made some really good friends working at the Red Cross. We’d go out on several day jobs together and it was good fun. Occasionally we’d go to a conference in Sydney and Adelaide. For a 21-year-old to get flown somewhere and put up at a hotel, it was pretty exciting stuff, you know?

I was working for the Red Cross for two and a half years. I left when I got a job at a private PR company. I had been doing a public relations course part-time and someone offered me a job. I did a year there before I got sacked. That’s when I became a comedian.

Dave O’Neil is appearing at the upcoming Brisbane Comedy Festival (Feb 25 -March 23) and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival (March 26 – April 20).