Once upon a time, the algorithm served me a popular video that showed a man using archispeak to describe the glass facade of a building. It was, as they say, “too real.” The archispeaker was the Australian Nick White, a “silly gay comedian based in Melbourne,” who became popular for his videos on TikTok and Instagram (399,400 and 136,000 followers, respectively, as of press time) in addition to his stand-up sets. A sliver of his material is about buildings—White has undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture and worked in the field before pursuing comedy fulltime—but more of it, like his “that” coworker character, was inspired by the annoyances of office life. “I’ve always been able to observe people, pick out their worst traits, and reenact them,” he told me when we spoke recently, ahead of his upcoming tour.
AN: I saw on LinkedIn that you studied architecture. How did you get interested in it?
Nick White (NW): I used to play The Sims every day from the age of 11 until 17. I was obsessed with houses and how people lived. If there were new houses being built in our area, my dad would take me to look at them. I drew a lot, and I still draw a lot.
I studied architecture at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane for both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I enjoyed it, but during my second degree I realized I wasn’t so much interested in architecture as I was in people and what space means to them. Placemaking was more compelling to me.
I started comedy after I finished my undergraduate degree. I entered my second stand-up competition, and I made it to the semifinals. I was like “Oh, now what?” It felt a bit weird. During my master’s I decided I wanted to be a comedian, which is great because I had just studied architecture for five years. Yeah.
I still graduated, though. I got my first job in architecture. It was horrible. I was there for three months and then I was at another office for about a year so. After I started doing stand-up consistently, I was like, “This is what I really should be doing.” Like, it just felt right. I enjoyed architecture, but it always felt like I was playing a character; it didn’t feel authentic. If someone asked me to explain something, I felt like a fraud.
I moved to New York when I was 25. I worked at a cafe for a bit and then worked at an architecture firm for about two years. But I also did a lot of stand up. By this by this point, I was just like, “I’m gonna be a comedian, no matter what.” The office where I worked was a small design-build firm, and it was perfect for me because I was there with one of my best friends. I got to be myself and be funny and there wasn’t too much pressure or responsibility. I was the only one that could use Revit, so sometimes there was a question like, “Nick, can you do this?” And I was like, “Yeah, but that’s a pretty big ask, so it could take a few days…”
I moved back to Australia in 2021 and worked at a firm in Sydney for a year-and-a-half. Then, I finally quit to do comedy full time.
AN: What was architecture school like for you?
NW: We had crits, and I hated them because I would just cringe at myself. I was always friends with the quiet, nerdy kids before, but in architecture school I became friends with interesting people from all over the city who had different backgrounds and were really creative. Then I found out I could make them laugh, and it made me a lot more confident. I was like, “Oh, I’m making all these cool kids laugh; I thought I was only funny to the nerds.”
AN: A lot of your comedy comes out of workplace situations. How did you develop this set of characters?
NW: I’ve always been able to observe people, pick out their worst traits, and reenact them. The first character that took off was the one that goes “doo, doo, doo.” It took off, and then my coworker from New York said, “You know, you always used to do that to me.” It has always been my social dynamic to go in and out of character. I even do the voice when I’m giving directions when driving. Even sometimes when I was working from home, I would talk to myself in character and say, “You just need to draw a line. Yeah? Amazing.”
AN: Did you have moments during your master’s degree when you would do a character? Did it show up at all?
NW: Yes, but I would never do it in a serious context. I would never do that for a crit; I was like, “Okay, I have to be normal.” But in front of my friends, it was different.
AN: You’ve done a couple videos where you make fun of the way architects talk. There’s one where you’re pretending to present in front of a Windows login screen. Can you talk about those videos?
NW: I filmed that one at the last day of my job. I always used to take the piss out of stuff, and then we were having drinks in the office and I was like, “Oh, I have an idea.” I just stood up and asked if someone could film me.
With every presentation I’d sit in on, I’d hear my boss talk about some high-level thinking that went into blending this facade into the urban fabric, and I’m like “What are you talking about? Are we all hearing this?” I was cringing. As I mentioned, talking about architecture feels fraudulent for me. It’s a passion for many people, but not for me. Still, I observed and absorbed it, and now I can just do the voice anytime, anywhere—I can go into this architecture character and dissect anything. I feel bad because a lot of my old coworkers and even a few of my old bosses follow me and they probably see these videos, but there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just funny.
It’s crazy that I can get up on stage in front of 300 people and not be nervous, but if I had even an internal call with a coworker and I had to explain my design decisions, I would panic. I don’t doubt my humor, but I would always doubt myself in architecture.
AN: I noticed you have a tattoo that seems kind of architectural. It looks like a north arrow or something. Can you tell me about it?
NW: I studied abroad in Prague during my third year of school, and it was the best time of my life. Then I got my first tattoo, which is about my experience there. I designed it myself; I drew it in AutoCAD. There’s a break line, which means that this experience will just continue indefinitely. I am pretty proud of it.
AN: Do you still think about architecture?
NW: I don’t go out of my way to read about architecture or look at it. I follow a lot of architecture accounts and occasionally click on an article. But also, I can’t wait to be rich enough to build a house.
My background sets me apart as a comedian, and people find it interesting, which is surprising. A lot of people ask me, “Did you work in architecture?” And when I say yes, they’re like, “That’s crazy.” There isn’t anyone else like that, although I know Prue Blake, another comedian in Melbourne, who’s an urban planner. She still works in town planning part-time.
I’ve been thinking about how I can integrate comedy and architecture. Maybe it could be like an interview series or some funny content related to architecture. We’ll see what happens. I haven’t really explored this—I haven’t even told my manager yet—but I have some ideas that could be the start of something.
AN: What are you working on now?
NW: I’m preparing for my Teenage Dream tour. It kicks off in Adelaide in March and then continues to Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, and Perth. I’ll also likely perform in the U.K. and New Zealand later this year.
I also want to keep making my online content. Things evolve organically, and new characters come up. As mentioned, I’d love to create an architecture-based series, whether it’s sketch or an interview or something like that. My priority at the moment is the tour, and once that wraps up, I can see what is calling me for the second half of the year.
AN: What kind of feedback and interaction do you get when posting your work on TikTok?
NW: I love doing characters and sketch stuff, so it has been a really good outlet for that. I love my fans, and it’s sick when they come to my live shows. I know a lot of people feel the pressure to go viral, and I’m lucky that I enjoy it and my characters translate to that medium. It’s great when fans get into the lore of the characters and then they comment something specific that I mentioned in a video from ages ago. It’s a passion for me; I just love what I do.