JIMMY “Giggle” Rees says it’s amazing to think that the preschoolers he’s been entertaining over the years are now teenagers, and some as old as 17 and 18 come up to him to say “hi”.
The hit preschool program he hosts, “Giggle and Hoot”, is celebrating a decade on the ABC this year. And later this month, Jimmy Giggle will be appearing at the Oh Baby! Canberra Baby and Beyond Expo.
Jimmy, 32, says “Giggle and Hoot” was created by the ABC which wanted the show to be full of fun and laughter, and came up with the name “Giggle and Hoot”.
He was living in Melbourne and was one of the 5500 applicants who sent in an audition tape for the role of “Giggle”.
At that time, he was studying media and arts at university, working at a pub and dreaming of working in TV. Growing up, he’d always loved performing musical theatre, especially the funny roles.
“I really enjoyed studying TV production at university, both behind and in front of the camera as well as drama. But I thought that drama was a bit too serious at times!” he says.
“I had met my [now] wife and she encouraged me to go for it. I quit my job, got an agent and the opportunity arose to apply for the ABC,” he says.
“It was my first go at it and I got a job!
“Getting the job was amazing. I am forever grateful to the ABC for taking a chance on me.
“Jimmy Giggle has a giggle at everything. The show is all about fun, laughter and companionship. The two characters want to have fun in a loving and nurturing way.”
Jimmy says that over the years “Giggle and Hoot” has got crazier and their voices even higher pitched.
“The director would keep saying ‘keep the pace up. Imagine this is the first time ‘Giggle and Hoot’ has ever done this or sung this song’. That’s when the voices got higher and higher as our energy and excitement grew,” he says.
The show was always very clear to not talk down to the kids.
“We don’t slow it down [for the kids] as there are lots of actions to help them to follow along,” he says.
Jimmy knew that “Giggle and Hoot” was gaining popularity when in one of his first appearances at a shopping centre in Eastlakes, Victoria, 2000 people were queueing to have the chance to meet him.
“It was a wonderful reception and all we ever hoped for and more,” he says.
Jimmy became a dad four years ago to Lenny and he and his wife Tori welcomed twins Mack and Vinny eight months ago. The family now lives on the central coast of NSW.
“Becoming a parent didn’t change my performance but changed my emotional connection to it, especially when I go out and meet kids and their families,” he says.
“I see parents juggling multiple kids. Before kids, I couldn’t think of anything worse than waiting in line with kids [to meet Giggle and Hoot]. But now I know how it feels to want to do anything for your kids and if that means waiting in line so you can see them smile, you do it.
“And it feels great to make a special memory for them.”
A key aspect of the show is “Giggle and Hoot’s” lullaby (by Lior) and bedtime routine.
“One thing you can count on is the kids watching the show go to bed around 6.30pm-7pm. So the nighttime routine was created to help them get ready for bed,” he says.
“It’s incredible, I get so many comments about the lullaby, and many parents use it as part of their routine.”
Jimmy will meet patrons and pose for photos at the Oh Baby! Canberra Baby and Beyond Expo, Thoroughbred Park, October 26-27.