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March 18, 2011 / Siobhan Argent

Felicity Ward (comedian): Interview


Published March 2011 by Beat Magazine

There’s a good reason why Felicity Ward’s new show is called Honestly; it’s got something to do with a giant pair of novelty scissors and a promising date at a restaurant. I promised not to pass on the rest of the story, but I fear that Ward’s more likely to give away the punch line than I am.

‘I shouldn’t even be telling you this, but…’ she begins, and for Ward it seems to be a familiar phrase that’s only going to come up more often with her new show. After attempting to base Honestly primarily on her year recovering from an anxiety disorder, it ended up morphing into what she does best anyway—straight stand-up, Ward-style. She says after experiencing setbacks as a result of the disorder last year, she came up with the idea to stage a stand-up show around it after talking to fellow sufferers. While it’s more of a minor theme for the show, Honestly is still intended to make people affected by anxiety disorders feel a little less like alone.

After success at Edinburgh Fringe, previous Melbourne International Comedy Festivals and work on Spicks and Specks, Thank God You’re Here, and The Ronnie Johns Half Hour, Ward is a sketch comedian who made the leap to stand-up and found audience criticism more difficult to bear, particularly because she didn’t have the armour of characters and costumes to protect her from the onslaught.

‘People would hate the characters when you’re on a sketch show’ she says, but when she did stand-up the feeling was more along the lines of ‘We don’t hate a character, we hate you!’ It can’t be all that bad, though; Ward’s had her fair share of plaudits, including Edinburgh Fringe Nominee Best Newcomer and 2008 Melbourne Fringe Festival Most Outstanding Newcomer.

Honestly is really ‘just an hour of me having a good time’, and she is careful to emphasise just how much she is looking forward to doing this particular show. She notes that if you’re going to do a show over and over, it needs to be a show you’re going to like. Performing the same routines over three or four months also makes it interesting to see how jokes fare over a long period of time, and while some jokes ‘just kill for two years, sometimes they’ll just die for no reason’. If she’s in a good mood but it’s a bad night for stand-up because a roomful of people aren’t laughing at her jokes, Ward almost makes her own fun watching herself crash and burn.

‘There’s this theory that if you touch someone, whatever they feel about you, good or bad, gets passed on,’ she says. She likes to think of that when she tells a joke that doesn’t work, because ‘it’s funny telling the next joke just to see how much more they hate you,’ she laughs.

There’s a clip of Ward in Edinburgh a few years ago, telling an interviewer that she mistrusts her own instincts and does the exact opposite of what they tell her. She ends up re-qualifying that, saying ‘I shouldn’t listen to my common sense; my instincts are good’. I think I agree, considering her common sense once told her it was perfectly fine to eat hash cake an hour before a comedy improvisation workshop. It was funny to her; not so much to her fellow participants.

So while her common sense might not be super-reliable, her instincts probably are. They’ve gotten her this far; the last day of the Comedy Festival marks three years to the day that she first did stand-up comedy. And honestly, that’s a pretty good record in stand-up comedy by anyone’s measure.

Felicity Ward’s show Honestly will be showing from 2-24 April at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. For more information, see http://www.comedyfestival.com.au.

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