First published with The Courier –

Ballarat teacher Justin Hayward doesn’t have the typical ‘first day of school’ photo with his children.

Instead his wife snapped him pretending to be on the phone laughing, as he stands next to his exasperated daughter.

“Last year I stood next to them looking at my watch because I was running late,” he says.

‘Hap’ Hayward is not just a school teacher; he’s a comedian who reached the Raw Comedy competition finals about two years ago on his debut.

“I used to write songs and they were very sad, so a housemate started calling me ‘Happy Hayward’. It was born to be used for comedy, but it took me 20-odd years to use it.”

Despite being a school teacher for 12 years, he has always had a secret desire to do stand-up comedy. It wasn’t until he was about 43 he decided to give it a go.

So what was the trigger?

“A midlife crisis, I reckon,” says Hap Hayward.


He described his first time on stage as incredibly frightening.

“I think I know the attraction of stand-up comedy now. You are in the depths of your fear but once you start it is almost the opposite feeling.

“You start to feel an exhilaration with the first few laughs you get. It’s just such a great feeling: from one extreme to another. I think it’s a bit like extreme sports for some people.

“But I love it. I’ll hate it beforehand and love it straight afterwards.”

Hayward doesn’t regret it took him so long to give comedy a go.

“In many ways I’ve always felt that you come to a place at a certain time for a reason. All my life experiences now make me comfortable enough to share them through comedy.

“I don’t think I would have had that same feeling in my 20s or even my 30s. But I think now is the perfect time to not care so much about failing.”

For some, teaching and comedy might seem worlds apart, but Hap Hayward finds links.

“When you’re a teacher you have an audience every day, and a pretty tough one at that,” he says.

As an English teacher, he loves words and he loves storytelling – aspects both transferable to comedy.

“I do love storytelling. Any one of my friends and family members could be a comedian because we are always telling stories to each other and we are always laughing at each other,” he says.

“You get a lot of laughter out of family life. You have to laugh at yourself and each other.

You can see Hayward at Hap Hayward’s Guilty Pleasures, a mixture of trivia and comedy, at The Eastern Hotel in March.