Ewen and I came up together. Pretty sure we did our first festival the same year, in the same pub. We were up for the Billy T the same year, the first year, when he and Cal won it.
He was a cheerful, generous spirit with a glint in his eye and a voice hoarse from making an effort. An outgoing raconteur who clearly liked people. You don’t become a marriage celebrant if you don’t like people. He was comfortable in his own skin, always smiling, always leading with a joke or a jibe. I see him in the Billy Connolly mould, only you suspect Ewen has an easier time with his public.
Early on we were booked as a double bill in Invercargill. I felt out of my element (sorry, Invercargill) and to an extent so did he, but he took the lead and made sure we both survived it. He was a guy who decided his mission was to crack you up, and he didn’t over-complicate it.
His success was his authenticity. He was playing a character, in costume, but he was living the character too, like a total method comic. His jokes were crafted and unapologetic.
Recently we both did a line-up show for Amnesty International. He was closing the show, and I made a point of going out front to watch him, from the audience point of view. He has a unique way of planting himself in front of the mike stand, legs wide apart, with a totally open stance, almost a Superman stance. I wanted to observe the sheer confidence of the man, to see what I could learn. Huge laughs from the crowd, thunder-cracking belly-laughs. I found myself nodding my head at his skills, and just going, “YES!”
I only hope his passing doesn’t create bad publicity for weed. He was such a top bloke.