Making kids giggle is a real hoot

James Rees is coming back to where it all began.  When he takes the stage at Frankston Arts Centre later this month, the man better known to thousands of Aussie kids as Jimmy Giggle will be revisiting his old stamping ground for a second time.

“When I came back to Frankston a couple of years ago (with Giggle & Hoot), nostalgia hit me right in the face.  I thought ‘Wow, this is where I first performed in a Peninsula School production and now my name’s on the door’.”

James was born in Frankston and was 18 months old when his family moved to Mount Eliza. He went to St Thomas More, then Padua College for a year before following his older brother, Tom, to Peninsula.  “I think it shaped a lot of what I do now.  I loved playing sports and got into the drama too.”

James’s love of performing began early. “Dad filmed us a lot. He had a little camcorder and loved to take videos of all the family at Christmas time and all that, and sure enough me and Tom were planted right in front of it for the majority of it. And Dad encouraged it. We’d act out little plays and puppet shows, and he nurtured that creativity in us from a young age.”

However, he credits his wife, Tori, for giving him “the kick up the bum” he needed to turn his passion into a career.  They met when they were both working at the Canadian Bay Hotel in Mount Eliza.  “She said, ‘Well, if that’s what you want to do, you’ve got to pull your finger out and just go for it’.”

His chance came almost immediately – in 2009 the ABC was auditioning for its new children’s channel ABC3; while he didn’t make the final round, James’s audition reel was handed to the casting director for a new kids’ show called Giggle & Hoot.

“I never looked back.  I was prepared to have a little bit part in a little drama and that’s it.  It was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome!’ 

“The character of Jimmy Giggle was a spin-off of my personality, really. I kept adding things, and I was free to add things if it fitted that character.  If I’ve got a new idea (I can say to the producers) ‘Well, Jimmy Giggle would do that because it’s me.”

Seven years on, Giggle & Hoot shows no signs of slowing down, which suits James just fine. “I love doing it and all the things that come with it. It’s really sweet; it makes kids happy. I do have other aspirations but at the moment I’m not thinking about that.  I love the show too much. I’m having a great time and I’m just riding the wave.”

Giggle & Hoot’s Magical Christmas is at Frankston Arts Centre on Monday, December 19, at 11am and 1pm.  Details: 9784 1060/