It's not every day a stay-at-home mother from semi-rural New South Wales decides to launch a career into stand-up comedy. Yet here I am, in all my jam-making, yoga-pants-wearing, wobbly-thighed glory, bringing the funny.
Performing at the 2016 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
I'm sure my husband is convinced that I go on the road to escape the madness at home. Who wouldn’t? Being a full-time comic must be one of the few occupations on the planet slightly less hysterical than being a mother of small children, with some striking resemblances I assure you.
For example, when it’s ninety seconds to show time, like every other living soul that’s come before me in this role, I contemplate the same question: what the heck have I got myself into? Half of my face is numb and I start to involuntarily dribble. My left hand is feeling shaky and weak. I check my lower half for the fifteenth time to make sure that, yes, I am actually wearing pants, and I send up a prayer for a friendly reception. And that’s just waking the kids up for breakfast.
But despite what my husband thinks, I do have a few other reasons for hitting the road for laughs. As a professional muso, I missed entertaining audiences while I was hunkered down for the best part of a decade, cleaning pee off the floor and trying to figure out how to make broccoli not look like broccoli.
I've also been through some fairly tough stuff in recent years. In 2011, we lost our two-day-old baby boy to a rare brain abnormality. Eighteen months later we were expecting our Rainbow Baby*. When I went for a routine check-up at thirty-four weeks, we discovered she had passed away in utero; a tragic accident. Since then, I have battled severe anxiety, depression and PTSD—conditions which only exacerbated the strain of already living with a chronic illness (Fibromyalgia) and caring for my ageing parents who live with us.
Okay, so maybe I do perform comedy to escape a little. But mostly I do it because I know what it’s like when life crushes you beyond reason. And, as I discovered in the pit of my own grief, the gift of laughter, fleeting though it may be, is tremendous (as is a $200 gift voucher exclusively for the purchase of Tim-Tams, FYI). There is indescribable elation that comes from the feeling of laughter when you are in the darkest, deepest pit. It doesn’t solve your problems or pull you out, but it triggers an anticipation that one day, even if it’s a day far away, you might actually be able to experience joy again. That, my friends, is hope.
So here I am, doing everything I can to bring that hope to others. It may sound a little cheesy, but hand on heart I can tell you that is what this career of mine was born of three years ago. I love bringing the funny to anyone who needs it, and my favourite fan letters are the ones from people struggling through the quagmire of life, telling me just how much they needed a good laugh.
Left to right: Me, Harry, Isa, Allison and Michael
So now as I wrestle with the temper tantrums, vomit stains, heckling and ludicrous noise levels (and I am actually talking about backstage before a gig), I relish the challenge of performing stand-up. There has been no better training ground for the pressure of Australian show business than being a mum. And never underestimate the power of the underlying threat that every situation is potential fodder for Mum’s shows. You may have cheek, kid, but I have an audience.
*“Rainbow Baby” is the term used to describe a baby expected after the loss of another child.