It’s all Jeff Dawson’s fault – when Mandy Nolan started writing a weekly humour column for the Byron News, JD approached her. ‘He said, “I didn’t know you could write.Why are you writing for the Byron News? You should be writing for us”, and he was right – my politics were much more aligned with The Echo so I jumped ship.
I was really grateful for the News giving me a start so I could get poached by The Echo. I told Jeff I couldn’t just go across and duplicate the same column so I took on the job as entertainment editor with a weekly editorial which became The Soapbox.’
Twenty years later, Nolan is about to publish her book The Full Mandy, a collection of her best Soapboxes and she asking the ‘crowd’ to help her fund it.
Echo journalist Eve Jeffery got Mandy in a headlock for a taste-of-her-own-medicine Q&A.
Has the tone of the stories changed over 20 years?
Absolutely –I think as I have got older I have got more political and more outspoken. I can’t bear injustice and I feel its my duty to use my privilege to raise the bar however I can. I am still funny but I often prefer to write more serious pieces. They get the most response.
Do you try to keep a balance of frivolous and serious?
Yes because people don’t want to be bludgeoned with righteousness. Nor do they want to be bored with triviality. I try and keep a balance. I have an ironic view of life – thats my filter, so most things I see are funnelled though that.
Is there ever a week when you just don’t have an idea or is there a queue?
Never have had a week without an idea. I always have too many. I have to choose generally between what to go out with. I have written one and then something I am more passionate about occurs and I write a new one.
There are a lot of responses to your columns, both supportive and not – how do you deal with those ?
I love people coming up to me in the street and saying ‘I love your column I read it every week’.
I do realise in The Echo there are even readers who don’t like The Echo who will open the paper to read my column. I am proud of that. There are also readers who hate me and can’t stop reading me. I am proud of that too.
I get a reaction. I feel that is the duty of what I do. I stir conversation and action. I just got off the phone from an older lady who was facing homelessness and through my column I have found a benefactor and possibly something that could be very exciting.
I don’t mind people hating me – I still attract angry woman-hating white supremacists who think I’m a white apologist. I make those people angry. They tell me I am fat and ugly and wrong.
They clearly don’t have a leg to stand on and after 30 years as a comic that just washes off.
Do you think it’s only a publication like The Echo that could publish your brand of Soapbox?
Yes. I have never been censored. I swear, I have outrageous views. I cause people to come in and abuse the receptionist. I have lost advertisers. I have on occasion almost incurred a court case. I love The Echo and I totally appreciate what it means to have an independent voice in the media. They are disappearing. You don’t have to agree with every opinion to realise the value is in having a paper that exists outside of a media monopoly.
Do you have another 20 years of Soapbox ahead?
Yes I certainly do. I will only stop if people stop reading. If I lose readers and become irrelevant its my duty to hand the space on to someone else.
The COVID baby
‘I pulled this book together – which is 100 of my best columns because so many people over the years have asked for it and I never had time to do it. I have previously published four books and this time I thought I should self publish as I feel like its a smaller audience – it’s us.
‘During the COVID lockdown I had a chance to pull my work together and create the self-publishing project. I love the work I have chosen – it tells another story of our Byron Bubble – what was happening, what we cared about, what we pushed up against, battles won and battles lost.
‘It’s about love and irony and pushback and development and tourism and mothering and feminism and hot mums on Instagram.’
Mandy says that she would be super appreciative of any donation – but $30 gets you a signed copy of the book The Full Mandy.
‘But if anyone donates $1,000 I promise to give them the real Full Mandy!’
Found out more at: www.gofundme.com/self-publishing-the-full-mandy.