After making it through 260 days of cumulative lockdown, longer than any city in the world, comedian Tommy Little is just one of many Melbournians excited to leave his house. Chatting to the 36-year-old in the first week of moderate freedoms for vaccinated people, he was ready to make the most of it…even if the reality of heading to the pub was underwhelming.
"It's not as joyous as you'd remember it being," Tommy tells TV WEEK.
"There's not enough people to be a vibe. I went with my housemate to a beer garden and after an hour, it started raining because of the Melbourne weather. We looked at each other and said 'let's go home, this sucks.'"
The Project star was the first to admit that the long restrictions were hard on his mental health, especially after a break up.
"I was living with a partner but that didn't go well. She's wonderful but we didn't go well. Then I've been living with my housemate," he explains jovially.
"And it sucked. I thought I was going to achieve so much having more time on my hands but I didn't. All I did was drink myself into a stupor."
While Tommy wanted to spend his free time writing material for upcoming shows, he couldn't muster the punchlines.
"My brain turned to mush. I wasn't experiencing all the wonderful things that life had to offer and I didn't have any motivation to write stuff," Tommy reveals.
"My comedy is quite happy, you know, when a lot of that joy has been sucked out of that existence… I found it hard to be fun."
The media personality has been looking forward to the release of his latest special, I'll See Myself Out. Filmed after Melbourne's first lockdown while Tommy was on a brief tour, the comedy special acts as a chance to "forget that COVID ever happened."
And now, after another hiatus from the stage, Tommy is itching for a chance perform to in front of a live audience.
Describing his time on stage as a "meditative experience", it's where the comedian feels most at home.
Thankfully, he's still been able to host The Project alongside his dear friend and radio co-host, Carrie Bickmore during the pandemic.
"Carrie is one of my best friends, and so is Hamish McDonald," he says.
"Everyone else on there, we're close friends too. Like, we'd all go out and have a drink. I think we're one of the only shows on TV that people genuinely like each other."
Occasionally, Tommy admits that his wisecracks on live TV can cause a bit of a headache for the head honchos, something he talks about at length in his latest comedy special. But it doesn't mean he's going to stop bringing his iconic humour to the newsroom.
"I think the bosses struggle with the way I do it. I just try to say the funniest things I can," he admits.
"But while I joke about what I can and can't say from the knuckleheads upstairs, they've supported my career for the last ten years." Tommy's position on The Project is an important one. Surrounded by journalists like Waleed Aly and Lisa Wilkinson, he knows how important it is to shine light amongst topics that can be upsettingly dark.
"I think The Project makes news more accessible for people who don't want to be depressed when they watch the news. News can be overwhelming and the reality is that there's horrible things that happen in this world every second," he explains.
"If we can break that up and show some good stories, you can watch news, get important information, have a good time and not finish the show feeling like 'what is the point of it all because this world is a horrible place.'"
If you or someone you know has been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, help is always available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14.