Felicity Ward arrives for her first Byron Bay comedy show direct from Edinburgh Festival where she has just presented her new show that deals with anxiety and mental illness called What if there is no Toilet?
Felicity has also made a documentary about mental illness for Australian television – this multi-award winning, Australian stand-up comedian, comic performer, writer and actor is not afraid to push boundaries.
Why were you drawn to stand up comedy?
I wasn’t, I was pushed. It was an accident that went horribly wrong and now I’ve made a career out of it.
What have been the challenges for you along the way?
Same ones as always: how do I eat a mango in front of someone I like? Will anyone notice if I’m wearing more deodorant rather than having a shower? Why are people in London obsessed with wood finish linoleum?
Is it tougher being a woman in comedy do you think – how have you experienced this?
I’ve never been a man so I can’t really say.
Why did you make the decision to relocate to the UK?
Three parts – wanting to improve. One part – Tony Abbott.
How has working the UK circuit broadened or changed your onstage schtick?
I’m not sure I had a schtick before. Maybe that’s what I’m missing. Maybe I need a dog and bow tie and some ‘my wife’ jokes. I could be The Travelling Hetero-Lesbian.
What prompted you to do a show around anxiety? Where you’d lose bums on seats because of the stigma of mental health/ depression etc?
I was writing mental illness material for a documentary and there seemed to be such a wealth of ideas to draw on. And it always feels better when a risk pays off, than when a safe bet pays off. I didn’t think I’d lose bums on seats, but I did hope I’d draw a pretty specific crowd. That definitely happened at Edinburgh Fringe. It was tops.
How was your show received? What were some of your more outstanding reactions?
I didn’t know I could have this much fun talking about mental illness. People really seemed to get on board with the idea.
There were moments of course when audiences felt a little tense and my job was to make it so funny they forgot they felt uncomfortable talking or hearing about it. I had a woman write to me on FB to say that after seeing the show she booked in to see a doctor and was writing the message from the waiting room. That was pretty moving. My only intention writing this show was to make people laugh; that’s all I wanted to do, and that was hard enough to get right. So anything else that comes with it is a bonus.
Wouldn’t it be true to say that most comedians have some lived experience of mental illness – whether narcissistic, depressed, anxious, neurotic… is it part of the job description perhaps, that little bit more that helps take you the extra mile?
Nope. I don’t think it is true. There has been a study that says we display psychotic personality traits, but that doesn’t mean we are psychotic. It’s just noticeable because our job is to make people laugh, and non-comedians usually have trouble contemplating how someone funny in nature could ever be sad or perplexed.
How do you work up to your set?
In a lather of sweat, prayer and stupid faces.
What should we expect for your show here in Byron?
Relief! It will be great to be in Australia again where I can have a swim before I do a gig!
Joined on stage with Ellen Briggs and Mandy Nolan as MC. Byron Brewery Monday at 8pm.
Tickets: 6619 0529 or byronbrewery.com.au.