He’s notoriously referred to as one of the great sledgers of the game.
He’s quick with a joke, but more than just a funny bloke. He plays the guitar, can sing like a rockstar, and has created what’s boldly proclaimed to be ‘the greatest musical of all time’.
Musical sports satirist Denis Carnahan is back in town later this month after his successful 2018 campaign that included a homecoming show from the local performer.
Carnahan will back up from last year’s efforts when he brings his one-man show, Rugby League: The Musical to The Street theatre on Saturday 27 July.
In the midst of a season teeming with headlines, Carnahan tells Canberra Weekly he tries to steer away from the more serious off-field misconduct, instead setting his sights on the game’s broader tropes and the silly stuff.
“Rather than being about scores and winning and losing, it’s much more about the narratives of coach whispering and dancing naked on tables,” he smiles.
Carnahan says the reason the NRL is so ripe for parody comes down to the drama and narrative that accompanies the game itself.
“In rugby league there’s such an important community level to it, but when it gets up to the big show, A, it sucks all the money out of the community levels, and B, it has to be entertaining.
“I think because of television and because of entertainment … it’s so dramatic, and people get so caught up in the drama. I know if the Raiders lose I sulk for a week.”
As a Canberra Raiders tragic who’s lived in Sydney since the 1990s, Carnahan says cheering for the Green Machine helps him stay connected to his hometown.
“If you’re in a pub and there’s another Raiders fan, then you’re best mates.
“It may turn out that he’s from southside and you’re from northside and if you’re in Canberra you’d be sworn enemies, but you’re in a pub in Sydney watching the Raiders,” he says.
The musical is divided into acts, each presented by a new ‘host’, Carnahan’s caricature of some of the game’s biggest personalities.
He’s also accompanied on stage with a screen playing film clips that espouse any required knowledge for his songs.
Carnahan believes having a sense of humour is more important for audience members than an intimate knowledge of football.
“There’s plenty of players who come, but it’s not really aimed at them. It’s aimed at fair-weather league fans. People who might watch Origin and loosely follow a team.
“A lot of it isn’t necessarily character based … I’ve had musical theatre people who didn’t realise that the caricatures were of actual people, and they’ve loved it.
“It is off-Broadway and it is a little avant-garde, so there’s a lot of room to explore.”
With a long, established career as a professional musician, Carnahan has had a love for musical satire from a young age.
He would dress up and busk in Civic as a way of following in the footsteps of his idols, the Doug Anthony All Stars.
“When they became world famous and left I started busking, I would play guitar and put on little costumes … which is almost exactly what I do in this show,” he says.
His musicality, combined with a lifelong love for all things sports, makes perfect sense of his entirely original concept that is Rugby League: The Musical.
Denis Carnahan will perform Rugby League: The Musical 2019 at The Street Theatre, City West, 27 July 7.30pm; thestreet.org.au