Tom Gleeson's parents were never keen on him choosing stand-up comedy as a career.
"They used to worry about me and I'd always say to them 'Look, comedy is my day job. TV is just something I do every now and then, same with radio. But you know what? I've always been a good live comedian so as long as there's a crowd I've got a job'," he tells Weekender, laughing.
"And suddenly there's no crowd. I didn't think there would be a time when there was no audience. I never predicted that."
Gold Logie winner Gleeson, the host of ABC TV's Hard Quiz, was one of many entertainers hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic this year. He had to pull the pin on his award-winning Lighten Up tour and suddenly found he had a lot of time on his hands. Perhaps a little too much for his liking.
"It's been great to tour again because I started to realise that doing a show is how I make sense of the world," he says.
"I see something and think it's a bit weird and then I go onstage and ask the audience if they think it's weird, too. And they laugh and I'm like 'Phew, it wasn't just me'.
"Performing in front of an audience is part of the way I process information. I have been untethered from audiences for seven months and I've been left alone with my own opinions bouncing around in my head and I don't think it's a good thing. My wife is happy I'm back on stage, that's for sure."
Listen Up was written prior to the pandemic and won the Best Comedy award at this year's Adelaide Fringe. It was a case of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" for Gleeson.
"A big part of the show is about putting hard times behind us, and that's because we'd just endured a summer of bushfires," he says.
"Every time I'd see an audience I'd say 'Isn't it good to get together and have a laugh and put all this behind us?'. So the show, if anything, has become even more necessary. The concept of lightening up has become a necessity as opposed to a frivolous request."
Rather than using the pandemic to anchor the show, Gleeson uses it as a prism through which he views the world and current events: "I didn't want the show to be dragged down by it [COVID] but at the same time I wasn't going to make the show pure escapism."
He still delights in sticking it to the commercial networks, gleefully sharing on social media this month that Hard Quiz had beaten The Block in the ratings game.
"During the Logie campaign I went on The Today Show and pointed out that of all the Gold Logie nominees, I had the highest rating show with Hard Quiz. And all the Today Show hosts laughed uproariously and thought I was joking," he says.
"It made me realise that people just don't know. So if we were ever going to beat The Block, which we did, you bet I was going to point it out."
Catch Tom Gleeson's Lighten Up tour at Civic Theatre Newcastle on November 28. Support act is Justin Hamilton. Tickets are on sale now.